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Favorite Raw moments: CM Punk cashes in and wins the World Heavyweight Championship

The 25th anniversary of Raw is coming up soon, so this a great time to look back at some of the flagship show’s best moments.

For me, one segment that immediately comes to mind took place on June 30, 2008. I’m going to offer quite a bit of detail in recapping it, because this segment is not one that usually makes the highlight reel alongside the all-time greats like the beer bath.

This episode of Raw emanated from Oklahoma City, one night after Night of Champions 2008, where Edge used help from Vickie Guerrero and the rest of his cohorts to screw over Batista yet again in a match for the World Heavyweight Championship.

This episode also took place one week after a WWE draft. The landscape dramatically changed, with WWE Champion Triple H heading over to SmackDown, and top star Batista heading over to Raw. As a result of Batista’s failure to defeat Edge at Night of Champions 2008, both of the major championship belts were held by SmackDown stars (Edge and Triple H) as the June 30 episode was set to air. Raw was left with nothing. Furthermore, both brands swapped lead play-by-play commentators, with Jim Ross getting drafted over to SmackDown while Michael Cole was moved to Raw. It looked like Vince McMahon was finally moving on from JR as the voice of WWE and moving Cole into that position.

The June 30 episode of Raw kicked off with the audience delighted to hear Boomer Sooner as Jim Ross made his entrance. Ross was here to make his farewell speech in front of his hometown audience, who absolutely loved this man. The crowd loudly booed when Jim Ross talked about embarking on his new adventure on SmackDown. The idea of anybody else besides JR calling Raw just felt wrong.

Ross was a total babyface on the mic here, putting over his great memories of Mid-South Wrestling in Oklahoma City, as well as his deep fondness for his now former broadcast partner Jerry Lawler. He even directed some praise towards Michael Cole’s work ethic, but that didn’t stop the crowd from booing the hell out of Cole, who was replacing Ross on Raw.

JR made a reference to Vince specifically going out of his way to make Jim’s life hell whenever Raw visited his hometown, but he concluded that nothing could put a damper on this opportunity to be in Oklahoma City with his friends and family for his farewell address.

Just as Ross was reminding the audience to eat more BBQ, Edge’s music hit and out came Edge and his Edgeheads (Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins). Edge entered the ring proudly holding up his World Heavyweight Championship, and the crowd completely smothered him with boos for taking over this special moment.

Edge was a SmackDown star who had no business being on Raw. But this arrogant jerk said that when he heard JR was going to give a farewell address on Raw, he knew he had to show up to crash the party.

Edge mocked JR’s hubris for thinking that anyone watching gives a crap about JR or his relationship with Lawler. He capped it off with: “Why don’t you put that in your blog, barbecue boy?”

The Rated R Superstar began extolling his own virtues and said JR now had the privilege to call Edge’s future Hall of Fame career on SmackDown. JR’s signature call of “Stone Cold! Stone Cold! Stone Cold!” would now be replaced by “Edge wins! Edge wins! Edge wins!”

Edge demanded that JR practice saying “Edge wins!” into the microphone, but Ross defiantly dropped the mic on the ring mat instead. Edge continued to mock him as he ordered Hawkins and Ryder to escort JR out of the building, which they did. As Ross left the building, the crowd vehemently booed JR’s mistreatment at the hands of Edge.

Now with the ring all to himself, Edge admitted his ulterior motive for showing up on Raw was to remind everyone of a few things that Raw was missing. Raw had no general manager, while SmackDown was blessed at that position with the amazing Vickie Guerrero, Edge’s fiancee and the love of his life. Raw was also missing the Undertaker, but actually the entire WWE Universe was missing the Dead Man because Edge single-handedly banished him from the company with a recent victory. You’re welcome.

Edge continued bragging with his final point; Raw had no world champions. There was no way that Raw stars like John Cena, Rey Mysterio, and Shawn Michaels would ever get to challenge for his World Heavyweight Championship. Edge specifically came to Raw to tell all of them and all of the fans that unless it’s a draft show, you will never see Edge on Raw ever again.

Hey, the crowd cheered that last line. That’s how much they just wanted this guy out of the ring.

As this despicable a-hole walked back up the ramp with a cocky swagger about him, proud of himself for taking over JR’s farewell address to Raw and delivering his own, there was nothing anybody could do about it. The bad guy won, the bad guy bragged about it, and worst of all now the bad guy was going to get away with it.

Until Batista’s music hit.

Edge froze in his tracks near the top of the ramp and slowly turned around. A shirtless Batista in jeans suddenly appeared, silently staring death into the eyes of Edge. There was no microphone in his hands; Batista was clearly here to kick another man’s ass. Edge desperately tried to run away through the audience but the seething Animal caught up to him and mercilessly assaulted him all around the ringside area. Batista slammed Edge into the barricade, launched him into the ringpost, repeatedly rammed his head into the commentary table, and viciously tossed him into the ring steps.

As the crowd chanted his name, Batista topped off this retribution with a thunderous Batista Bomb in the middle of the ring. Edge was knocked out and destroyed, Batista’s music played, and a satisfying piece of justice had just been served. This was a terrific segment all around. It’s always fun to see the bad guy get his comeuppance for months of disgusting sins.

Batista slowly walked back up the ramp and looked back on the destruction in the ring. And then “This Fire Burns” blared through the arena and out came CM Punk with a referee and a briefcase.

Holy crap, this was actually happening. CM Punk was pretty much the only star worth paying attention to on ECW but the idea of Vince putting a main brand world title on him still seemed unlikely, even though he held a Money in the Bank briefcase. Surely he would be the first guy to ever fail a cash-in, right?

Nope. Here he was rushing to the ring, taking his shirt off, and handing the briefcase off to the ref. The crowd was absolutely losing their minds as Lilian announced that the following match was for the World Heavyweight Championship. The bell finally rang, Edge was barely moving but with his last bit of energy still trying to crawl out of the ring. Punk picked him up and delivered, in my estimation, the best-looking GTS I’ve ever seen from Punk. Edge was KO’d yet again and Punk hooked the leg for the 1-2-3.

Michael Cole excitedly shouts out: “CM Punk is World Champion!”

Jerry Lawler calls it like JR would: “Punk wins! Punk wins! Punk wins!”

There’s an elated fan in the audience holding up a “CM Punk Marry Me” sign.

This whole thing was perfect. It started with a longtime babyface hometown hero offering a bittersweet farewell. That moment was ruined by the insufferable heel who just had to show up to embarrass the old man while bragging about leaving Raw with no world champions. The babyface asskicker who that heel most recently screwed over then came out and delivered an incredible beatdown that the heel deserved every bit of and the crowd had waited forever to see. Then it was capped off by a rising babyface coming out to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase and taking that heel’s championship gold away from him, restoring a world championship to Raw.

Even at the time watching this, I was in my mid 20’s and was the smarkiest of smarks, always trying to think 2 steps ahead of what I was watching, always trying to guess what direction Vince’s booking would follow. And I should have seen this coming. Raw had no world champions while SmackDown had two world champions. That clearly wasn’t going to last for long. Edge was the more vulnerable champ by default because Triple H was the worst and always booked himself to win. The MITB briefcase holder (Punk) was just drafted from ECW to Raw one week prior, setting up an obvious tool to move a title to Raw. Edge sent his backup (Ryder and Hawkins) away to escort Jim Ross out of the building, leaving the cowardly heel without his lackeys who always help him escape as champion. An enraged Batista was in the building. I should have seen this coming.

Yet even when Batista beat the hell out of Edge and left him laying in ring, completely vulnerable to the briefcase holder, I still had no idea the cash-in was coming. The Batista beatdown seemed like a great way to end the segment. The segment had already gone on for a very long time and it seemed like a natural ending. I was also skeptical that Vince would ever book CM Punk to successfully cash in that briefcase. And I was completely caught up in the segment well before Punk ever came out, because JR’s farewell address was legitimately sad, Edge’s heel promo was incredibly effective, and Batista’s assault was thoroughly entertaining. The segment was already damn near perfect at that point.

And then CM Punk cashed in and this became one of my favorite Raw segments in history. This is my favorite cash-in ever and shows that a babyface can definitely win that briefcase and cash it in without looking like a heel. Edge was such a fantastic irredeemable heel that it was a pure babyface move for Punk to cash that thing in on him.

I feel like this one gets lost in the shuffle sometimes, perhaps because Punk’s reign as champ was quickly wasted and ruined by garbage booking. So I wanted to shine a spotlight on it and relive it one more time. It still holds up almost 10 years later. This segment encapsulates why you have to watch Raw. Because you never know which episode it will be when the dastardly heel runs his mouth for a little too long and ends up losing the World Heavyweight Championship in the process.

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