Where we still can't get the damn title on him for another 3 PPVs...
So when we left (apologies for the delay btw, it has been a busy few weeks with sibling's nuptials) CM Punk had somehow got shunted out of the title picture and into a title feud with Kevin Nash, which never actually eventuated and then into an overbooked schmozzle of a match with Triple H, which he lost because, well, it apparently is all about the Game (well, it was at the time).
But at least the WWE title picture was in good shape right? I mean, who was Cena feuding with?
There's a part of me that wishes WWE sent a few of its creative minds to have a chat with Paige to ask what about Del Rio she found so interesting, instead of just tut tutting and getting on their moral high horse. Because it's clear that WWE Creative in both his runs had next to no idea about how to sell him to an audience and so just decided in 2011 to throw him in the middle of a scalding hot feud in the hope that he would get lukewarm in the process.
It's not that Del Rio can't wrestle. He is consistently one of the top 20% of the workers that WWE has when he has been in that locker room. But he has always had problems (I will divulge some of these in more detail in an upcoming edition where I look at his whole 2nd run with the company!).
Firstly, while he had a lot of good matches, I struggle to recall a truly great match during his time in the company (feel free to direct me to one). Many wrestlers like Dean Ambrose, for example, are less consistent than Del Rio but when the fire is behind them have the ability to pull out great performances. Del Rio has never struck me as that sort of performer.
And secondly, Ambrose as a character is interesting- interesting enough to survive in throwdowns with AJ Styles and John Cena. Del Rio had come into a blood feud between two faces that were total opposites that both believed they were the best man to hold the WWE Title.
What did Del Rio do to contribute to this except keep harping on about it was his 'destiny'.
And they couldn't even give him a decent run with the title. On the same night that CM Punk lost to Triple H, the WWE decided to make another weird call and give Cena the championship back.
The trouble was that WWE was so scared to give Punk an actual clean win against one John Cena that they kept on flinging people to get between them. On the other hand, they knew that Punk was a new babyface in the making, but because of this clusterfuck of booking, they had to get all of their ducks in order before it could happen.
So instead of closing the Cena/Punk feud with a hellacious Hell in a Cell match at Hell in a Cell...Del Rio gets inserted in again and we end up with a triple threat which once again becomes an overbooked mess of an event when Awesome Truth and Triple H stick their noses in, allowing Del Rio to lock Cena out of the Cell and pin Punk for the win and the WWE Title.
You will notice that since Money in the Bank 3 months beforehand the WWE Title has gone: Cena, Punk, Rey, Cena, Punk, Del Rio, Cena, Del Rio. Eight title changes in 3 months. But at least at Vengeance we could finally get to...CM Punk tagging with Triple H?! Against the Awesome Truth?!
Look, I have nothing against 2016 Miz. I think he is possibly outside of AJ Styles the best asset SmackDown has at the moment in the same way that I think that Chris Jericho is one of the best assets of Raw. But Awesome Truth was an annoying concept that was just done to feed to a makeshift Rock/Cena Tag Team, and the fact that Creative was willing to feed their hottest star into this creative meat grinder rather than actually think outside the box and get someone on the next rung down to be put over a bit by teaming up with the Game shows that the WWE wanted to get Punk onto the screens, they just weren't sure how to do it in a way that would help his push.
And of course Punk takes the pin (albeit due to Hunter being distracted by a Nash attack, but still...). So, if you're wondering our new face of the company went 0-3 for PPVs before he became WWE Champion because creative didn't treat him like a future champion. Instead they seemed to treat him like the wrestling equivalent of spakfilla.
Look, I imagine it isn't easy booking this stuff. And having one Vincent K McMahon second guess you all the time would not be a picnic. But in 2011 the roster was paper thin. Main eventers of earlier years were either retired, part-time or on hiatus and Cena was staler than a month old cruton. It would have taken a bit of thought (and a gentle reminder to Vince that people will watch the Rock return, even if you get Cena to lose cleanly on occasions) but Punk could have been a guy not just to put the title on, but maybe even main event with Daniel Bryan rather than have Cena face Johnny Ace or Big Show.
Because one of the saddest things about this whole thing, for Punk's character as well as Phil Brooks himself, was that for all of his talk of revolution, of pipe bombs and change...Nothing did. Instead WWE got something that was fresh and interesting and chewed it up and spat it out to the point where it was commercialised, easy to understand and removed of all substance (See Wyatt, Bray).
The Summer of Punk was not a disaster in the sense that it stopped Punk becoming a big star. He was and still is one of the biggest modern workers in WWE history. But it could have been so much more. It was an Austin 3:16 moment but WWE- out of fear, politics, conservatism or a mixture of the three couldn't match the potential that this feud had.
So if I had the chance how would book it? I am sorta moving on Greco's turf here but I can't resist having a go.
First off, we have to acknowledge a couple of facts.
1) Punk is the defacto face in this feud. No matter what way you may want to spin it, if we're going to get Phil Brooks to true face of the company status then we have to push him as the guy to cheer.
2) We need supporting acts, but for God sake they don't need to hang around. What we're looking for here is more Dexter than Game of Thrones. A protagonist who we can get behind who suffers setbacks against an array of various characters who then move on when they are defeated.
3) Punk is going to be telling the truth, but we still have to keep our kayfabe relatively intact.
So, essentially we keep everything up to Money in the Bank. That's fine. The Raw after Money in the Bank we open with Vince coming out and addressing the crowd about what happened on Sunday and saying that he needs to act with the best needs of the company at heart. He then calls out John Cena. Cena gives a much shorter and less kayfabe blurring promo where he says that if this is it he can hold his head up high claiming that he never cheated like Vince made HBK do to Bret (we essentially leave out all the stuff about Dwayne, WM 28, Kevin, promising to work somewhere else). Vince takes a deep breath and says that as of today, Cena is suspended indefinitely from WWE programming. Due to this fact, he can not take part in the Fatal Four Way that will take place next week to crown a new WWE champion between Del Rio, The Miz, Kofi and Rey.
While all this is going on Punk is having himself at all sorts of places with the title- maybe watching a Blackhawks game from the box, going on talk shows. And there's skits where Vince tries to blow a gasket with these promoters only for them to ask who is the WWE champion, and Vince will say they haven't got one yet. This can happen on ALL shows, as we've not much time to promote this idea- so Raw, Smackdown, Main Event, etc.
Naturally Rey wins the match, as he did before in the main event and the next week on Raw (2 weeks from Summerslam) he holds a celebration when Vince interrupts and announces his Main Event for Summerslam 2011. Rey Mysterio vs...
Crowd are outraged- the guy was indefinitely suspended and he comes back in 2 weeks and walks right back into a title shot?! Cena gets into the ring with a clearly not impressed Rey and holds his hand out to shake. Rey, hesitates for a second but still shakes.
But then Vince announces that for one of the biggest Summerslams in history it occurred to him that something extra should be done to help describe the magnitude of this match. So he has hired a guest announcer who will also handle the contract signing next week on Raw. Someone who has a history with both men.
Cue This Fire Burns. CM Punk walks out to a massive pop with the WWE title around his waist and Raw goes off the air.
The next week the contract signing occurs and Punk, still with his title (we'll get the commentators to put over the fact that since he's retired from the WWE he can wear it) gets both men to sign before pulling up a chair and deciding to interview them both. He asks Rey how it feels to face a guy who was apparently unemployable 4 weeks ago to which Rey (still peeved at why Cena got the title shot) grits his teeth but answers straight down the middle, saying he doesn't book the matches and John has been a great champion. Punk then asks Cena how does it feel knowing there are two championships in the ring and you don't have either of them. That gets Cena mad and he talks about how he has overcome every challenge and he'll get them both back. Which, of course, gets Rey mad because Cena's talking as if Rey's not even there. So Rey cuts a impassioned promo about how he never thought he'd see the day when John Cena would be such an arrogant jackass. He then jumps on the table and delivers a dropkick which sends Cena flying out of the ring. Cena is angry (more at himself) and Punk waves at him from the ring.
This leads us to Summerslam where a clearly annoyed Cena has his mind off his game which allows Rey Rey to get the early ascendancy and it becomes a back and forth encounter until Cena locks in the STF. Rey scrambles and his foot reaches the bottom rope but the ref doesn't see it, while Punk is screaming at commentary. Finally, Rey taps and Cena begins to celebrate before Punk (after some snide remarks) grabs a mike and gets in the ring calling for the music to be cut.
You just don't get it John-boy do you? Look at the damn replay!! You want to see the difference between you and the rest of the boys back there. It's right on that monitor. Look me in the damn eye now and tell me you're not going to accept that title.
Cena will shrug and say it's not his decision, where Punk will continue
No, it never is John is it?! You just think this magic circus happens around you and it's in your best interest to remain blissfully ignorant as to how that happens. Well I guess if John Cena can't wrestle his way to a title then turning a blind eye while it magically pops on his lap is just as good.
Cena's had enough and he throws a punch, only for Punk to duck and hit the GTS. He then unravels some papers from his pocket and a pen.
See this John? This is what Vince McMahon has offered me to come back. Now I don't think Vince deserves me anymore than Steph or Hunter do. But these people deserve a better champion and a bigger voice. And at Night of Champions, they're going to get one. It's going to be John Cena- darling of the establishment vs CM Punk- the Voice of the Voiceless.
Punk signs the contract, leaves it on Cena's chest and salutes the crowd before walking up the ramp.
The next night Cena demands to know why Punk is back. Vince comes out and tells him that Punk had the title and Vince wanted it back- something which Cena failed to do, but could rectify this time.
But of course at Night of Champions Cena once again loses, and this time clean.
Vince is outraged and running out of options. He then proposes one final match at Hell in a Cell between the two. Punk agrees on one condition- if he wins he gets to design a new belt for the WWE Champion. Vince and Cena agree, but Punk again wins, possibly with some sort of vicious version of his Anaconda Vise with a weapon causing Cena to tap.
Vince then attempts to act like Punk is not the real champ and takes the old belt and gives it to Alberto Del Rio, who begins parading as the 'real WWE Champion'. He, of course loses to Punk at Vengeance but at the end of the celebrating Punk is blindsided by a returning Triple H, who has come to defend the company and get the damn belt back.
And that's how I would (briefly) book Punk between the Pipe Bomb and Survivor Series. Hopefully from there he would have enough momentum to keep going up and up.
And that is article 66! Next time, in the spirit of the current climate, we look at pro wrestling's closest imitation of a presidential campaign.
Article One: Shane has a surprise for Daddy
Article Two: Booker T vs Buff Bagwell and the Temple of Boos
Article Three: Daddy's little Girl Gets in on the Action
Article Four: "WHY AUSTIN DAMMIT?! WHY?