Hello and welcome to the ninth ever installment of WWE Flashbacks. In my last volume, I went back in time to remind you of the Bret “The Hitman” Hart versus “Stone Cold” Steve Austin feud that catapulted both Austin’s career and the beginning of the beloved Attitude Era.
Today, Flashbacks returns as part three of a four part series reviewing the epic rivalry that CM Punk and John Cena have had, and to foreshadow what is to come when they inevitably step inside the ring once again.
At Raw 1,000, CM Punk felt blatantly disrespected by the returning Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. He felt that Rock was trying to steal his spotlight that he had so rightfully earned as one of the longest reigning WWE Champions of all-time. So instead of allowing himself to be walked all over as he had the previous couple of months, he went the route that he had turned to over a year before; he did something about it.
Big Show interfered in his WWE Championship defense against John Cena to grind the match to a screeching halt. Show and Cena had bad blood dating back to Over the Limit when Big Show knocked Cena out and cost him his match against John Laurinaitis. Show did this to regain his job and earn an iron-clad contract stating he could do whatever he wanted. Cena felt Show took the easy way back in. Show was now looking for revenge after Cena’s steel cage and Money in the Bank victory over him, thus causing this chain reaction.
Punk, instead of helping John Cena, simply turned his back and did absolutely nothing. He had fought internally with his morals earlier in the match after Show’s first interference while the referee was down. He thought twice about pinning his rival before opting to do so. Now, The Rock would come to his WrestleMania opponent’s rescue by dropping Big Show and setting him up for The People’s Elbow.
The People’s Elbow however was not to be. Punk rushed back to the ring to give him a stiff clothesline followed by a Go To Sleep. The closing line to end Monday Night Raw came from the mouth of WWE Hall of Famer Jerry “The King” Lawler; “CM Punk has turned his back on the WWE Universe.”
The week following, CM Punk opened Raw by explaining his actions and berating announcer Jerry Lawler for his comments.
He said Lawler was biased and had an agenda, and he was sick and tired of listening to his increasingly worse commentary. He said he hadn’t turned his back on the WWE Universe; he had just turned his back on “a charismatic, larger than life, delusional movie star.” This would result in a rivalry between Punk and Lawler and ultimately a match between the two.
Punk’s attitude at this time was one of a man who didn’t care. He didn’t care about others’ battles. He didn’t care if John Cena was attacked by Big Show or vice versa. He only cared about himself and whether he was closing the show.
Punk, in his best efforts to do just that, interrupted Show and Cena’s number one contender’s bout, leading it to end in disqualification. “The winner of this contest is… nobody. They’re both losers.” Punk stated. New General Manager AJ Lee disagreed though, scheduling a triple threat match between the three at SummerSlam for the WWE Championship.
An angry CM Punk emerged from the back demanding respect from his boss, but she wouldn’t give it to him. He’d later apologize for doing this.
This theme continued when he abandoned John Cena in their tag team match against Daniel Bryan and Big Show. Yet he clobbered Show with his title when he was about to attack Cena and cried disrespect again when Cena refused a handshake.
Cena said his rivalry with CM Punk had always centered around mutual respect, but it was about that no longer. Punk had become that guy to complain week in and week out. Cena had been a world champion ten times over, yet he still has to fight for respect. Who was Punk after one nice reign to demand anything? Was there a new CM Punk or was he just the same guy as he claimed he was? Who was going to walk out of SummerSlam as the WWE Champion? Would CM Punk’s new identity collapse around him into the hands of Big Show or John Cena? Or would Punk notch another defense in his belt along with his many others and grow his already inflating ego?
Many questions were to be answered, but they were not. Instead, more formed. Suddenly, the squeaky clean champion was surrounded by a cloud of controversy.
Big Show felt he was the only threat in this match and showcased that early on after the bell rang and he brought both CM Punk and John Cena to the mat.
Big Show continued his dominance over both his opponents, including Punk who was sporting gear that paid tribute to (or mocked) Bret Hart. Hart had always had the motto that he wasn’t greedy for money, but greedy for respect. Over the buildup to this match, CM Punk made the same thing crystal clear.
A stat to backup Punk’s anger is that after holding the WWE Championship for 274 days as of this event, he had main evented one pay-per-view, that pay-per-view being TLC in December. John Cena was not on the card.
A series of strikes and kicks by both John Cena and CM Punk leading up to an unlikely double team for an attempted suplex would take down Big Show. Show instead shifted his weight and suplexed the two.
The giant was alas taken off his feet with a low dropkick from Punk. With the support of the crowd, Punk remained on the offensive, kicking Big Show with shot after shot to his stomach and one to his head, Show though would get back to his feet despite this. Punk signaled for the Go to Sleep, but Big Show was just too heavy for him. He let his opponent go and was slapped in the chest, immediately falling to the mat afterwards.
Cena looked to out-do Punk, lifting Show for the Attitude Adjustment, but Punk nailed him from behind causing both Show and Cena to fall. Cena narrowly avoided the big man landing on his head. Show would break up Punk’s pin on Cena.
Show went back on the offensive and manhandled the WWE Champion. He crushed his spine with his near 500 pound frame standing on Punk’s much smaller body. Who was to stop the World’s Largest Athlete when he had built up a head of steam?
Show took Cena out of the equation by knocking him out of the ring and continued working on CM Punk. A smart move on Big Show’s part, because the likelihood of him being pinned in a one-on-one scenario was slim-to-none.
Big Show was finally stopped when John Cena hit him with a side-suplex in the middle of the ring. Punk however would intervene in the Five Knuckle Shuffle by clotheslining Cena much like he had done to The Great One.
Punk mocked Cena before going to the top rope to hit his Macho Man elbow. The pin to follow was unsuccessful. Punk tried a kick to Show’s head to temporarily daze him and locked in the Koji Clutch. Show would predictably power out of the hold, but as he reached his feet he was met with a shoulder block from John Cena.
Cena locked in the STF but Show again would power out of the move. Cena leaped off the top rope at Show, but was caught by the monster and slammed down.
Punk lunged onto Show with a springboard clothesline to bring Show to the mat. He connected with three running knees to Show once he reached the corner, but failed with the bulldog.
Cena would come through when Punk couldn’t and nailed a top rope leg drop on Big Show. Punk locked in the Koji Clutch on Show and moments later Cena locked in his patented STF as well.
Big Show tapped to the two submission holds. Both John Cena and CM Punk celebrated in victory but who was the winner?
The referee was just as clueless as the rest of us when it came that question, forcing AJ to come out and conclude the match hadn’t yet met its conclusion. “Restart the match!” she demanded after Punk and Cena pleaded their case.
Show snuck up from behind his opponents and hit a double chokeslam. He pinned Cena but Cena kicked out at two! He tried Punk but got the same result.
Show readied for his WMD but Cena hit him with the Attitude Adjustment instead. Punk tossed Cena to the outside to capitalize on his work; 1,2,3! Punk retains!
To come in part four; CM Punk’s hunt for respect heats up. He officially turns his back on the WWE Universe by mistreating legends such as Jerry Lawler and Bret Hart. He also finds a sidekick to aide him in his efforts. This man goes by the name of Paul Heyman.