This match would have been top ten easily if it weren't for the flat finish and subsequent follow-through of the program. For those of you who have been reading from the beginning, first of all, thank you. It's been great to document with you these matches, and I'm looking forward to finishing this series. Secondly, I feel that this is the last match with systemic flaws that held it down in the rankings. I look at not only the match itself but everything surrounding it, both before and after. The match itself is good, as is pretty much every CM Punk – John Cena match. It is just that the follow-up was so flawed that it knocked this match down to where it is now.
After his thrilling victory at July’s Money In The Bank Pay-Per-View (one of the greatest cards, top to bottom, in the past decade. Take the three hours and watch it again), Punk "left" the company with the WWE Championship. As a result Vince McMahon organized an 8-man tournament on the Raw after MitB. However, much like a fine roux, the plot thickens – Triple H, the Chief Operating Officer, relieved McMahon of his duties and installed himself as the power behind the WWE. While Rey Mysterio won the tournament, Cena was granted a title match against the luchador the same night and beat him.
After the match Punk made his triumphant return (with new entrance music! Well, not technically new, as Punk used "Cult of Personality" in Ring on Honor, but it was new to the WWE) and a match was quickly made between Punk and Cena at SummerSlam. One last note – on the Raw before the show Triple H announced he’d be the special guest referee.
Main Event Time!
The absolute worst part of the summer of 2011 was the announcing. You had a turd sandwich of Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler and Booker T talking over each other and being insufferable. This was no exception.
For example, early in the match Cena was booed unmercifully. Both Lawler and Booker T had to explain that the crowd was split 50/50 for Cena, when anyone with half a brain could tell it wasn’t true. To be fair to the hapless announcers there’s a good chance Vince McMahon made them say the 50/50 line, but still.
The broadcast crew was plenty bad on its own. There were no less than four different moves misidentified (which aggravates the hell out of me) and the broadcasters spent half the match bickering amongst themselves instead of actually calling the match.
Which was too damn bad, because the crowd started hot and the two wrestlers followed suit. Punk and Cena work so well together and this was no exception. Back and forth they went. Highlights included a nifty springboard dropkick to Cena (who took a few nasty-looking bumps) and some old-school mat wrestling with tons of reversals. The crowd was hot for all of this too.
One of the longtime rules of pro wrestling is that you can’t have a special guest referee without the special guest referee being involved in the match. We had a double countout spot where instead of counting both guys out, Triple H threw both guys in the ring. The two men went right back at it, with cradles and reverse and each hitting their signature spots. The crowd loved all this.
The finish is where this otherwise good match started to fall apart. Punk botched the Go To Sleep finisher and hit Cena in the belly instead of the face. Punk made the cover and despite Cena getting his leg on the bottom rope (generally the only thing wrestling refs ever see) Triple H counted three and Punk was the undisputed champ. This was a completely flat finish that wasn’t becoming such a good match.
If one missed leg on the rope was the extent of this match’s failings it would be ranked much higher. The in-ring action was that good. But, as I’m sure some of you remember, there was worse decision-making on the part of WWE.
For some inexplicable reason Kevin Nash showed up and laid out CM Punk, leaving the "Second City Saint" vulnerable to a Money In The Bank cash-in by the dastardly Alberto Del Rio, who beat Punk in about ten seconds to win the WWE Championship.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Nash tried explaining himself by saying he got a text message from Triple H. Hunter denied sending a message and ended up beating Punk at the next pay-per-view.
And just like that, the (second) "Summer of Punk" was cut off at the knees. Triple H, for whatever reason, hogged Punk’s incandescent spotlight and decided to give himself the rub, despite the fact that he had more or less retired from a full-time schedule a year prior. (It does need to be said that at the end of the day, Vince McMahon, not his son-in-law, is calling the shots, but knowing Triple H’s history of politics, I’m sure he has Vince’s ear on this one). Despite everything else, Triple H is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He doesn’t need to be going over on the hottest guy in the company.
Just a mess of an angle.
Punk would eventually force his way into a title match with Del Rio at Survivor Series, where he made the champ tap out. Punk held on to the title for 434 days, dropping it to The Rock at 2013’s Royal Rumble.
But even as champ, and even as the longest reigning champ of the post-Hogan era, Punk was never really the #1 guy in the company. It was either John Cena, The Rock or both. Perhaps having his heat killed by two middle-aged men at SummerSlam 2011 was one of the many reasons Punk abruptly left the company in early 2014.
So why is this (relatively) high? Well, first and foremost, these are my rankings, and Punk has a soft spot in my heart. The buildup to the match and the match itself was very good, even great. Everything after that final Go To Sleep was bad enough to knock it down in the rankings.
Curtain Jerker’s Star Rating – Let’s say 3 ¾ for the match itself. The flat finish and horrendous follow-up prevent it from an easy top ten spot in the countdown.
Up Next – This next one was a very surprising finish at the time, but his victory was very short-lived.Also in this series: