Ranking SummerSlam #6: 2009 - CM Punk vs. Jeff Hardy

Or…the one where the guy who didn't do drugs was the heel


What makes a great heel?

In-ring work matters. Heels generally "call" matches, so they need to be able to wrestle and guide the other guy/team to tell a good story in the match. Heels need to have both believable offense and be able to sell when the babyface makes their big comeback.

However, as important as in-ring work is, it isn’t (in my opinion) the most important thing a good heel needs. Promos matter more. Heels need to be able to sell the feud. A promo is the easiest and most effective way to get heat on a program.

But it can’t be just any promo. Great heels cut promos with a grain of truth in them to make them effective. Think back to the sublime Paul Heyman promo on the Raw after WrestleMania XXX, when Heyman made Lesnar look like a billion bucks because he told the truth. For another recent example, look at the Authority vs. Daniel Bryan feud that led to the same WrestleMania. When Stephanie McMahon stood there with a sly grin and said stuff like "we own all of this, you work for us" the fact that she was one hundred percent right made it that much more effective and wanted you to see Bryan beat her and her husband that much more.

CM Punk’s promos in the summer of 2009 were much in that same vein. But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves.

At Extreme Rules 2009, Punk cashed in his second-straight Money In The Bank opportunity to beat a wounded Jeff Hardy for the World Heavyweight Championship. Punk beat Hardy at The Bash via disqualification when he roundhouse-kicked the ref. Punk ended up dropping the belt to Hardy at Night of Champions and a rematch was set for SummerSlam. It was later turned into a TLC match a few weeks before the show. Nothing too major here.

What happened next was a bit more major – Punk turned heel, fully embracing his Ring of Honor gimmick of "I’m straight edge, therefore I’m a better person than you." Punk was blurring the real/kayfabe line here with his program.

See, Jeff Hardy had a history of drug abuse which led to his release from WWE in 2003. Hardy had also failed a drug test in 2008 which resulted in a sixty-day suspension. Punk zeroed in on this past, but rather than pick on his (babyface) opponent for his flaws, Punk, like any good heel, expanded the program to include his audience.

This was a great program because it dealt with shades of gray. The guy who had been busted for doing drugs was the overwhelming face, while the guy who never did drugs or drink alcohol or pop painkillers was clearly the bad guy. But it was much more nuanced than that. Hardy was the face because he represented human shortcomings and people’s capacity for forgiveness. Punk was the heel because he kept proselytizing over…and over…and over…again about how much better he was then you, and if there is one thing people hate it is being preached to.

Let’s backtrack to great heel promos. Punk’s during this feud were great because they, like all great heel promos, had a kernel of truth. Quite simply, when CM Punk said "it is easier to be weak like Jeff because you sure can’t be strong like me" he was one hundred percent correct and that fact is what made people want to see Hardy put him through a table. At SummerSlam people saw both men get put through tables and then some.

Main Event Time!

We were "treated" to a mess of a Randy Orton-John Cena match beforehand that about two restarts and killed the crowd dead. Punk and Hardy did a very good job bringing them back. Both guys were over as hell and Jim Ross went out of his way to make both guys look great. Even Todd Grisham wasn't horrible on commentary, which surprised me when I was rewatching this because I remembered him being much worse.

There was a lot going on this match and both guys took some nasty spots. Hardy went for his Whisper in the Wind off a chair into Punk when Punk caught him and dropped him on the edge of the chair in a spot that looked brutal. Hardy returned the favor by catching Punk off his Shining Wizard-corner bulldog and dropping him through a table to the outside. There were no less than half a dozen spots that made me (and the crowd) cringe and pop.

Punk is superb at making you think he's dying and Hardy told the story of a champ determined to inflict as much punishment as possible on this sanctimonious preacher. The two went back and forth just beating the crap out of each other until Punk ended up prone on the Spanish Announce table. Jeff Hardy grabbed a massive ladder, climbed to the very top and as the crowd reached a crescendo launches a Swanton Bomb to a huge pop.


Cool visual. Maybe Hardy is trying to be the Messiah instead of Punk? (via

Hardy got stretchered out as Punk sold death, but Hardy fought himself off the stretcher. He and Punk made their way to the top of the ladder where they brawled until Punk knocked Hardy off the ladder and won the title.

The only thing bad about this match is that Punk was more or less fed to the Undertaker. After winning a submission match in an homage to the Montreal Screwjob that fell flat, Undertaker beat Punk three straight times, knocking Punk down into the midcard. Punk wouldn't reach main event status until the Summer of Punk II in 2011.

Curtain Jerker's Star Rating – 4 to 4½ stars. Great feud, great match, weak follow-up

Up Next – This next one was a fitting end to a good feud

Also in this series:

#7 - Angle vs. Triple H vs. The Rock

#8 - Orton vs. Benoit

#9 - Steve Austn vs. The Undertaker

#10 - Cena vs. Orton

#11 - Triple H. vs. Mankind vs. Steve Austin

#12 - Punk vs. Cena

#13 - The Rock vs. Booker T

#14 - Michaels vs. Vader

#15 - Elimination Chamber

#16 - Cena vs. Edge

#17 - Michaels vs. Hogan

#18 - Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar

#19 - Hogan/Savage vs. Andre/DiBiase

#20 - Team WWE vs. Team Nexus

#21 - Rude vs. Warrior

#22 - Hogan/Beefcake vs. Savage/Zeus

#23 - Luger vs. Yokozuna

#24 - Hogan/Warrior vs. Slaughter/Mustafa/Adnan

#25 - Diesel vs. Mabel

#26 - Undertaker vs. Undertaker

The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Cageside Seats readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cageside Seats editors or staff.