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TNA Reportedly Make A Play For CM Punk

October 14, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

TNA Wrestling are not ready to roll over and play dead yet. With no TV deal in place past 2014, the company recently made a bold move. A move was made that could have majorly shaken up the pro wrestling landscape.

According to a new report in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, TNA made a play to bring back CM Punk. Dave Meltzer reports that TNA were hoping to bring Punk in and use him as a chip in closing a television deal.

For whatever this is worth, TNA, through an intermediary who is friends with C.M. Punk, made a play for him just like they did for Alberto Del Rio several weeks back. The idea pitched was a huge deal to be the top star of the company and money similar to Hogan, with the idea he could be their flagship guy and if he signed now, could help them broker a stronger television deal.

Meltzer reports that Punk declined the offer and has no interest in returning to pro wrestling whatsoever. The timing of the move comes a few months before TNA’s extension with Spike TV is scheduled to run out. You have to give TNA some credit for going for it, yet I can’t seriously believe that they thought they had a real shot.

This isn’t the first move that TNA has made recently at an ex-WWE superstar. TNA reportedly reached out to Alberto Del Rio immediately after his contract was terminated with the WWE. Del Rio reportedly turned down their offer as well. I don’t know if these are desperation moves, moves simply for public relation purposes, or some kind of delusional strategy on the part of Dixie and company.

What is interesting to me is that they let Sting and Hulk Hogan walk due to money issues, yet were willing to spend even more money on Punk. Meltzer reports that Punk’s deal was for more money than Hulk which would have likely made him the highest-paid star in TNA history. I’d also assume that Del Rio’s figure was somewhere in Hulk’s range. TNA could have kept Hulk and used him in these television negotiations, yet expenses were cut. Hogan could have quite possibly got a better deal to return to WWE anyway, but they didn’t even make a serious play according to reports.

I speculated months ago that TNA could make a run at Punk. I thought that TNA or even ROH could make a deal with Punk which gave him ownership in the company as part of the deal. It would have been a one-of-a-kind deal in 2014, although points in a territory were common place back in the territory deals in regards to wrestler deals. I envisioned a scenario where Punk would be a player-owner, similar to what Paul Heyman wanted (booker-owner) but that isn’t happening.

I am not sure what TNA felt they could offer Punk that he couldn’t have gotten if he stayed in the WWE. A better schedule for sure, but the pay couldn’t have been comparable. Plus, Punk is astute and well aware of TNA’s television troubles. Imagine the egg on Punk’s face if he did agree to a deal with TNA and they couldn’t reach a television deal for 2015.

It’s hard to rationalize what TNA’s real motive was here. Why would a company make a high-dollar offer to someone like Punk with no deal in place? I would think that their time would be better suited trying to get a deal done as opposed to chasing an elusive prize they had virtually zero shot of signing.

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CM Punk: Where do you stand?

October 13, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

Ah, CM Punk. In the ring, few could match him for his skill, innate charisma and penchant for creating memorable moment after memorable moment. Outside the ring, it seemed the Straight Edge Superstar was also in a league of his own when it came to the size of the chip on his shoulder.

If we’re to believe everything we’ve read about Punk chastising fans, ‘taking his ball and going home’ when denied a WrestleMania headline spot, and generally being a bit of a diva, Punk’s attitude away from the squared circle is hardly the stuff role models are made of.

Yet fans stood firmly behind their man. After all, once the clock struck clobberin’ time, the former WWE champ could go, and boy did he ever. Rarely was there a time that Punk’s appearance on a pro wrestling show didn’t give us something to talk about.

Even now, months after his supposed retirement, few wrestlers -retired or not- are able to keep the Internet buzzing like the man born Phil Brooks. Crowds still break out in ‘CM Punk!’ chants in arenas across the US, optimistic armchair bookers still fervently plot his big comeback, and his every public appearance still generate headlines by the truck load.

Take the recent news, for example, of Punk’s backstage appearance at an Ohio Valley Wrestling show. Though he was apparently there to watch his buddy Cliff Compton capture the company’s top prize, the bigger story emerging centered around the OVW roster being told not to bother former indie star.

Such rumors have since been rubbished, in particular by 502photo, a Reddit user who claims to work for OVW’s production team, and who insists that the roster were told no such thing. Rather, says our supposed man-in-the-know, the OVW locker room opted not to bother their guest out of respect.

Still, such rumor-squashing came a little too late for some fans, who by that point had already flocked online to either dismiss Punk as an arrogant so-and-so far too big for his britches, or else jump to his defense as a man simply trying to enjoy a quiet retirement.

Which camp were in the right? That’s not for this fan to say. Instead, let’s look at the argument from both sides, shall we?

In defense of Punk
On the one side of things, we have the Punk fans (some might even go so far as to call them apologists), who are always on call to jump to the man’s defense.

In this camp, we get the argument that Punk has always been perfectly justified in his somewhat less-than-exemplary attitude. If wrestling fans have been browbeaten, mocked, blocked or otherwise felt the wrath of CM Punk, it’s only because they deserve it.

As fans, they say, Punk owes us nothing. We paid for a ticket or a PPV stream to see him perform, and he gave us what we paid for, and that’s as far as the fan/performer relationship need ever go.. Heck, some fans haven’t even paid a cent to watch the man in action, so what right do they have to demand his time and attention, let alone take to the web to criticise him?

Nope, CM Punk’s only obligation to us wrestling fans was to deliver on WWE programming and at live events. After that, he owes us zilch.

Besides, we all know somebody who has met Punk and found him to be perfectly charming, pleasant and accommodating to fans. Rumours of his negative attitude have been greatly overstated.

What’s more, because he consistently delivered, and never took time off to make movies or play in a rock band, he absolutely deserved a Wrestlemania headline spot, and was totally justified in jumping ship when that wasn’t on the cards.

Punk was there, week in, week out, when all these part-timers were off doing other things, and they got to come in and steal his big moment on past ‘Manias? That’s not fair.

Then this year they want to dump him in a pointless match with Triple H, who would only bury him anyway because that’s what Triple does? No thanks! If we were Punk, we would have left too.

As for this whole Ohio Valley Wrestling incident? Look, Punk is effectively retired. He has no obligation to anybody and can pretty much do whatever he pleases. Wouldn’t you hate it if you went to hang out with a friend and were constantly being pestered? Of course he deserves to go backstage to a professional wrestling show and not be bothered by anybody. Whether he, the bookers, or the roster themselves insisted on it, it’s perfectly justified.

The other side:
Flipping the proverbial coin, we find Punk’s harshest critics, those quick to bash him for every move that isn’t a GTS.

Without the wrestling fans, his naysayers insist, Punk wouldn’t be where he is today. Yet we’ve all heard stories about him being rude to fans, blocking them on social media and being something of a **insert your favourite expletive here**.

Seriously? How ungrateful can you be?

As for WrestleMania, Punk just came across as a huge mark. Whilst he was busy complaining about part-timers bagging the main event spot, didn’t he stop to think that Wrestlemania might actually draw a bigger buyrate (and thus a bigger payout for Punk himself) with the likes of The Rock onboard than without?

Quitting just because WWE wanted to book him in a match with Triple H was silly too. The Game is still a huge name, and going up against one of the most influential men in the company would have effectively guaranteed a marquee match. Maybe not the main event, sure, but a money match nonetheless.

Besides, wouldn’t a real pro have made the best with what he was given, rather than packing up and going home?

In the case of his recent backstage appearance at OVW, it really doesn’t matter whether the rumours are true or not. If a big name superstar dropped by and didn’t at least say hello to the roster when Punk was on his way up, wouldn’t he have been one of the first to blast them? Others paved the way for Punk’s success and no doubt offered him some advice along the way. Isn’t passing on what you’ve learned the right way to do things in pretty much any industry?

The verdict
We could go back and forth all day on this, but there, in a nutshell, are the main arguments most fans seem to have when it comes to CM Punk. The big question then, is where do you stand? Hit up the comments box below and let me know!

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No CM Punk, No Daniel Bryan, No Roman Reigns: Who Steps Up in the WWE?

September 30, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

Like many other wrestling fans, I am at a loss over the lack of superstar talent in the WWE right now. The reuse of wrestling angles, the misguidance of the Authority program, the lack of a tag team division at the moment and the disrespect shown to Randy Orton has me scratching my head of late. Maybe that is why it is past 2 am and I am writing this to you now. Or maybe I need some hobby to keep interest past midnight like SLEEP.

The WWE is about to embark on what appears to be something new for John Cena. While there needs to be a new challenger to Brock Lesnar and the WWE World Title (Randy Orton), the 15-time WWE Champion twists in the wind, waiting for another destiny. With the crop of current talent that still includes Bray Wyatt, Sheamus, Cesaro, The Miz and Dolph Ziggler, it will be the two of the younger minions in the company who will do battle with the WWE’s cash cow – John Cena.

Can both Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose take the money maker over the edge?

As fans, we never want to see our favorite stars get injured and lose time from the ring. We never want to see our heroes leave the company due to injury or retirement and when they do, we are all too quick to try and replace them. We hope out loud that Dolph Ziggler becomes Shawn Michaels or Randy Orton becomes as good as his father was or that Chris Jericho becomes Roddy Piper.

In a perfect world, those wrestlers move right into place and the world carries on as if nothing ever happened.

No one has replaced Ric Flair and no one has become Harley Race. I think the WWE has a while to go until someone can actually replace the wrestling greats we grew up watching at noon on Saturdays.

But in reality, if there is no CM Punk, No Undertaker, No, Roman Reigns and no Daniel Bryan wrestling in the company at the moment, who in the hell or the WWE for that matter, takes the stick and moves forward.

Sting has not “arrived” yet and the thought of Wyatt winning world gold left the building when the hourglass ran out of sand. This is a sad time for the WWE. It needs Rollins and Ambrose now more than ever.

The question remains, however, can two young and exciting superstars coexist with a crowd favorite, the most recognized WWE superstar ever, and still get over. Cena is not the easiest guy to work with and we all know when it comes to changing stripes, The Champ has a hard time playing with all the kids in the sandbox.

Facts are facts.

Cena once said that CM Punk was the only wrestler in the company that was worthy of being in the same ring as him and the only one who could give him a solid match. While it was a huge statement, almost cavalier (ok, totally cavalier), it may have been true. Matches with The Rock were awful. He and Orton put on a great show. Daniel Bryan’s matches with Cena have been very good. But for now, who else is going to give him a push to put him over in some regard?

It must be both Rollins and Ambrose.

For all the talent these two have, they have to give more. Ambrose could actually take the Punk character (the voice of the voiceless) and run with it. Rollins could be another Edge – if not better. The WWE is drowning in poor storylines (Rusev vs. Everyone) and the Divas with Bella vs. Bella and Paige vs. AJ can only get you so far.

It all falls on Ambrose and Rollins. If the two former mat mates can produce as much with Cena as they do against each other, then the WWE can feed off of the adrenaline for the remainder of the year until the Royal Rumble. If not, then the company will have proven once again that it has destroyed something great – Ricky Steamboat and Randy Savage great. That cannot be recaptured, but it sure can reused, repackaged and redistributed so it looks fresh.

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My WWE Mount Rushmore

September 10, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

Before I get into the guys who are in my Mount Rushmore, I need to breakdown why certain legends are not represented.

I grew up watching WWE in the 1980’s, starting with WrestleMania 1. Somewhere during the greatest era in wrestling history, my priorities changed and I stopped watching. I had a vague idea of what was going on but I had zero emotion invested in the product. Thanks to the WWE Network, I know exactly what I missed. Without question, I recognize Shawn Michaels as the greatest performer in WWE history. Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock are biggest stars this company has ever seen. The Nature Boy Rick Flair is a 16-time champion and the only two-time WWE Hall of Famer. For pretty obvious reasons (not watching their careers play out live), these Hall of Famers do not have a place on my WWE Mount Rushmore.

Hulk Hogan

The first and most obvious member of my Mount Rushmore is the Immortal Hulk Hogan. As a kid growing up and watching wrestling in the 80’s, I looked up to Hogan. He was the face of the company and dominated the WWE Championship. Everything he did was geared towards kids and of course I loved it all.

I vividly remember watching King Kong Bundy hit avalanche after avalanche and splash after splash on Hogan during a Saturday Night Main Event. I truly believed he was seriously injured, if not dead. Then, like the God I believed he was, he came back and defended his WWE World Title against Bundy at WrestleMania 2.

His amazing comeback victory over Hercules after surviving the backbreaker rack, programs with Macho Man Randy Savage, Ultimate Warrior and of course Andre the Giant made him larger than life.

Even today when I hear “I Am A Real American”, the little kid inside of me still gets a little excited. Hulk Hogan will always have a special place in my heart.

CM Punk

Next on my list is CM Punk. This is the one that I know people will question the most. I’m fully aware that he’s not in the top four of greatest WWE superstars ever.

Here’s a cliff notes story that will explain this. At some point in 2010 I was flipping through the channel guide and saw that Monday Night RAW was on so I decided to stop and see what they were up to. A few minutes into the show, a small, soft guy with a bunch of tattoos came out and started talking. I was immediately sucked in. I can’t remember exactly what he was talking about but I was hooked. I had absolutely no idea who he was but I wanted more and had to see what he was all about. I credit CM Punk with singlehandedly bringing me back to wrestling. With as much as I have enjoyed my time watching wrestling again, I am extremely grateful that he was on TV that night.

When it comes to in-ring performers, his skills do the talking. And when it comes to talking, he’s the best I have ever heard. There have been so many promos where I couldn’t tell if he was being real or not. His famous “Pipe Bomb” on RAW will go down in history as one of the greatest promos of all time.

Punk always stayed true to himself and I love that about him. Outside of the persona, he’s one of the best in-ring workers I’ve ever seen. This applies to most people, but outside of Hogan, I haven’t seen anyone hold the WWE Championship longer than Punk. That was a truly historic streak. All of that combined, Punk will always be an all-time favorite of mine.

The Undertaker

Someone that should be on everyone’s Mount Rushmore is The Undertaker. I will never forget seeing him debut at Survivor Series in 1990. At that time, I had no idea what was going on and didn’t recall anything like him before. He is the true definition of one of a kind. 24 years later and we still haven’t seen anything like him. His size, athleticism, look and ability to always keep in character and never let that go, makes him one of the greatest of all time.

How he went 21 years undefeated at WrestleMania is simply amazing. Just the fact that he was able to perform at that many WrestleManias is an incredible feat.

In addition to all of that, there is no one in the history of wrestling that has a better entrance than The Undertaker. The moment the gong hits, I immediately get chills. No one in the history of the company can ever come close to topping what he does every time he comes to the ring.

Unfortunately, I was not able to see the bulk of his career but I was there for his debut and I will be there for his retirement and without question amazing Hall of Fame speech.

Brock Lesnar

Finally, the Beast Incarnate Brock Lesnar rounds out my WWE Mount Rushmore. I did miss his meteoric rise into the WWE, but I am very much aware of what he did. Has anyone ever made such an impact on the WWE in that short amount of time? None that I can come up with.

Don’t forget, I’m a huge MMA fan and when I heard that Brock Lesnar was trying to become a fighter I thought it was a joke. I knew he was a stud collegiate wrestler, but there’s no way he was going to be a successful professional fighter. He ended up winning the UFC Heavyweight Championship. I know this is a wrestling thing but him kicking ass in the UFC makes him very special.

I don’t think there was anyone more excited than me for his return. When he showed up on RAW and hit John Cena with an F-5, I knew I was seeing something very special. I watched all his destruction in his first run online and I am very much enjoying his second run in the WWE.

Just like his first run, he made an impact bigger than anything anyone can ever imagine. Despite losing a couple times, he was still so dominating in defeat. I will never forget the night that he defeated The Undertaker at WrestleMania. I absolutely hated the idea that someone like Brock was the one to break the streak. But as time went on, it really grew on me and I fell in love with the idea. Then, as I predicted, he beats – no he destroys John Cena to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. I never thought I would see a day that Super Cena would get dominated like that.

He hasn’t had a long career, but I can’t think of anyone who has made a bigger impact. With the combination of him and Paul Heyman, Brock Lesnar is arguably one of the greatest wrestlers in the history of the WWE and that’s why he’s made my WWE Mount Rushmore.

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CM Punk Moves on With his Life With No Regard of Your Approval

July 28, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

You know those writers that see an interview or read a headline and it just compels them to go off and bang away on their laptops to get their thoughts on the subject down as soon as possible? Sure you do. You’re a pro wrestling fan. That’s why you’re reading this, right? And you yourself obviously read this particular headline so you know what this piece is about. Now it’s very likely you’ve heard more about CM Punk in the past few days than you perhaps ever wanted to. If that’s the case then you should know you’re about to hear a lot more.

Again, you read the headline. Oh, just so you know? I’m one of those aforementioned writers. And no, I just couldn’t wait to get this out. So now you get to join in on the fun. Yay for you. For anyone that saw The Best in the World’s recent red carpet interview, it‘s clear that his head is in a very good place right now. Punk looked great, he sounded great and his composure was that of a man at total peace. There was no drama on his face and no stress in his voice. Punk was more at ease and more himself than we have seen in a long time. This was Punk at his most rested and most happy. And I don’t know that we’ve ever seen that.

So why is that? Why did Punk look 10 years younger and healthier than we have ever seen him? Well, he’s not getting dropped on his back every night now, that’s a start. These guys may be trained to take physical abuse but it does take its toll eventually. And the crazy road schedule does not help either. Being separated from family and friends for the majority of the year is something that many cannot even fathom. Living out of a suitcase from one hotel to the other is even more unimaginable.

Try sleeping a regular schedule every night of the week when your body hurts and you have to be up at the crack of dawn to catch a flight. The eyes tend to get heavy when they do not close enough. All of this equals one very obvious truth; CM Punk no longer looks like a WWE Superstar. He now looks like a regular guy, a self-professed jerk that is just enjoying life and having fun. That’s who he is now.

And while it may be hard to take, the thing is Punk doesn’t need you. He really never did.

It’s a lot to process, I know. But if you really think about it, the whole thing makes perfect sense. Since the night that he dropped the pipe bomb on Monday Night Raw back in 2011, fans have heard the same mantra repeated over and over again. “WWE needs Punk a lot more than he needs them.” We all knew it. We all agreed with it the first time we heard it. It made a lot of sense as it not only referenced the incredible popularity explosion he was enjoying but it also alluded to his attitude.

And Punk’s attitude has always been screw you, get out of my way. Now there’s a T-Shirt idea. Oh wweshop.com?

But now our knowledge of Punk’s attitude seems to have faded away. It’s like we have forgotten who he was and replaced him with ho we wanted him to be. The CM Punk that he became in 2011 was a more PG version of his heel character. Yes he was sarcastic and yes he was egotistical but that was all for the camera. Punk understood the fans were the ones that ultimately made him a star, he knew they respected him and he respected them.

With that being the case, he checked his character at the door. He may have become the company’s antihero and bucked authority at every turn, but he did so with a not so subtle wink to the crowd. Punk had a way of looking into the camera and with a smile, he was saying “yeah, I can’t stand most people but don’t worry; you and me? We’re cool.”

But the problem is, it wasn’t true. That wasn’t him. It was never him. Punk was likeable and played to the crowd because he was a babyface and that’s what he was supposed to do. He worked us as much has WWE ever worked him and at the end of the day, no one has any right to complain about it. Professional wrestlers are paid to lie and that’s exactly what he did.

Even as a heel, Punk was loved and respected for what he brought to the table and what he meant to the fans that supported him. They booed him because they were playing along. They knew he was having fun and they were having fun right along with him. But he didn’t care then, either. Punk had a job to do and he did it. And honestly? He didn’t care if you approved or not.

See a recurring theme here? Doesn’t it just make you hate him? When you look at Punk now, especially in the context of that red carpet interview, doesn’t it just feel as though he’s laughing in your face? Well, it shouldn’t. The fact is he won. Punk left at the top of his game and he didn’t look back. CM Punk leaving WWE is akin to Michael Jordan leaving the Chicago Bulls in 1999, except Punk is being a real jerk about it. Maybe Punk isn’t Jordan, maybe he’s Dennis Rodman. Maybe he’s something else altogether.

Right now CM Punk is just happy. And he really doesn’t care if you are or not.

Tom Clark is a WWE Featured Columnist & Consultant for Bleacher Report, a Contributor for JBL’s Layfield Report and a Contributor for Whatculture.com

Follow Tom on Twitter @tomclarkbr

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CCB Extra – Hot Topics: Stephanie McMahon, Brock Lesnar, CM Punk, Lana, and More

July 25, 2014 By: Category: Podcast, WWE | Pro Wrestling

Freelance writer and published author Chris Illuminati and the CCB’s own Eric Gargiulo talk about all of the latest pro wrestling news and hot WWE rumors. This giant one-hour plus podcast also touches on a lot of old school wrestling with plenty of talk about the wrestling Eric and Chris grew up watching in the 1980s. The list of news and rumors covered in this podcast are…

  • WWE Battleground results and reaction
  • WWE RAW and the big angle featuring Stephanie McMahon getting arrested
  • The controversy surrounding Lana and Rusev’s promo at Battleground
  • Sting in the WWE, will he wrestle, and against who?
  • The future of Brock Lesnar
  • The booking of Stephanie McMahon and Triple H
  • Paul Heyman’s promo on RAW
  • Where is Vince McMahon?
  • John Cena’s longevity as a babyface
  • Rumors regarding possible legal action the WWE may take against CM Punk
  • And much, much more.

This podcast topped out at around 67-minutes. Check back soon for more podcasts from Chris and Eric!

Check it out and let us know if you want to hear more podcasts like this one in the future. Subscribe the CCB Extra podcast on iTunes at – https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/camel-clutch-blog/id787421073?mt=2

Chris Illuminati is a published author and freelance writer and can be followed on Twitter @ChrisIlluminati.

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CM Punk’s Retirement Writes the Final Chapter in Champions’ Saga

July 18, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

Now that the Cleveland Cavaliers have won the LeBron James Sweepstakes, the biggest question in sports and sports entertainment may center on whether or not CM Punk will “un-retire” and return to the WWE. According to multiple sources, it looks like “Straight Edge” superstar and arguably one of the top three draws in the company, is official off the roster. This doesn’t necessarily make him a free agent like the former Miami Heat star, it just makes him someone who has hung up his boots for the last time.

The timing of Punk’s retirement has been offset as of late by the return of AJ Lee, Punk’s wife as of about a month ago.

Punk’s contract with WWE officially came to an end on Thursday. Punk hadn’t appeared on WWE television since January, and he’s finally been moved to the alumni page of wwe.com. Both sides have been quiet about Punk’s departure, but the former WWE superstar seemed to address the situation with a tweet on Tuesday (July 15).

“Nope, thank YOU. Thanks for all the help and support through the years. Health and happiness above all. Don’t ever take any s— from anybody,” Punk said on Twitter.

The timing of Punk’s “retirement” comes when the WWE is wasting away in its own form of purgatory of sorts. Daniel Bryan, the biggest draw in the company, is out of action with a neck injury, with no time table set on his return. The writers have worked to bring along talent in Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Bray Wyatt and members of the Family, but have not been willing to put the World Title on anyone else but defined talent like Bryan or Randy Orton or the current WWE World Champion, John Cena.

Other talent has been left to twist in the wind (Cesaro), move on to the tag team ranks (Cody Rhodes) or has given up on their potential (Dolph Ziggler, Damien Sandow). The WWE needs a plan and needs it now, and cannot expect veterans to come back like Chris Jericho or The Miz to save what is left of dying story lines.

A story on christianpost.com (http://global.christianpost.com/news/cm-punk-retires-from-wwe-superstar-moved-to-alumni-section-of-wwes-website-123473/) states that “The wrestler known as CM Punk has officially retired from the WWE. Rumors have been rampant about his departure since he abruptly walked away from the organization in January, but now things seem to be official.”

The story also states that. “The WWE moved Punk from its website’s section of active wrestlers to the retired section. Fans immediately noticed the change and took to social media to discuss what it meant for Punk’s career. The fan-favorite also took to Twitter to thank fans for all of their support over the years; it was perhaps a swan song for all those who continually chanted “CM Punk” at WWE events.”

Punk is a seven-time world champion, having held the ROH World Championship and ECW Championship once each, WWE’s World Heavyweight Championship three times, and the WWE Championship twice.

He won the World Tag Team Championship (with Kofi Kingston) and the WWE Intercontinental Championship, making him the 19th WWE Triple Crown Champion and the fastest man in WWE history to achieve this feat, in 203 days. Between WWE and Ring of Honor (where he is a two-time World Tag Team Champion), Punk has won a total of 11 championships. He won the 2008 and 2009 Money in the Bank ladder matches (the only wrestler to win the match twice), and the 2011 Superstar of the Year Slammy Award.

Punk is also titled in the company as “the longest-reigning WWE Champion of the modern era”, having held the title for 434 days from November 20, 2011 to January 27, 2013. Punk is officially recognized as the sixth-longest reigning WWE Champion of all time and the longest reigning champion of the modern era.

As a fan, I hoped the fact AJ won the Divas Title in her return would signal the return of Punk. I was mistaken. Now, the WWE must figure out a way to keep true to the idea of promoting newer talent to move the company forward or there is no chance opportunity for the younger talent become successful with veterans continually running the show.

Follow David on Twitter @davidlevin71

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AJ Lee’s Return Ramps Up WWE’s Need to Acknowledge CM Punk

July 03, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

Maybe I am in the minority here, but I am not convinced that AJ Lee’s return to WWE is completely “best for business.”

Her surprise return Monday night definitely is a shot in the arm to a dragging Divas division. And – just maybe –putting the Divas title back around her makes sense because you always want your top-name performer to sport the gold.

But on the other side, AJ’s return is only going to ramp up the “CM Punk” chants from the crowds. And sooner or later, WWE is going to have to publicly address them, whether or not they want to.

After all, that is his wife who is wearing the Divas title. Not his storyline wife…his real-life spouse.

Maybe that is cracking open the door for a possible Punk return. Lord knows the WWE Universe would eat it up.

But he says he is done with wrestling. That’s not stopping his wife from getting back into it.

To top it off, AJ seems to be all over her crazy-girl phase. No high-pitched screams. No thousand-yard stares. The skipping still is there, but it seems to have regained the reflection of a child-like innocence, not the psychotic break of a modern-day Baby Jane.

When AJ was around, the Divas division had become fun to watch. She is not the truest wrestler in the division – that distinction still belongs to Natalya. But AJ connects with the crowd in a way that none of the other Divas seem to do.

You possibly could include the Bella Twins as ones who can connect with the crowd. But they do so in a Hollywood glamour, unapproachable style. AJ, however, comes across approachable, as the next-door neighbor you might wave at over the fence or hang out with at a neighborhood block party.

She certainly moves the needle in terms of being a charismatic champion.

Thankfully, her arrival and Monday night victory brings an end to the dreadful Paige experiment as Divas champion. In my opinion, Paige was rushed into the top spot way before she was ready. But she offered the ideal storyline “out” for AJ to step aside, get married and get some much-needed rest.

Skills-wise, Paige had all the makings of a good champion. What she may have lacked in personality, she made up for in ring moves. Her combo of a Scorpion leg lock and chicken-wing lock was one of the most original finishing holds I have seen in a long time.

But you cannot succeed as a top champ on skills alone. That is why we refer to wrestling as sports entertainment.

As champion, Paige was not entertaining. As champion, AJ was very entertaining.

I just have a feeling that WWE may have waded into waters they did not intend to navigate.

Ever since his abrupt departure earlier this year, Punk has been the 800-pound gorilla in the room for WWE. Maybe they think they moved past all this on that night last March when they played his entrance music, only to have Paul Heyman come out.

Since then, the Punk chants have become a staple at WWE televised events. They may not start the show and may not end the show, but you know they are going to come sometime.

And they do, usually during matches where the audience is bored.

That’s all changing with AJ’s return. As soon as the first few notes of “Let’s Light It Up” blare across the sound system, the chants will start … and continue throughout her appearance.

And they likely are not going to die down as long as AJ remains active on the roster – or Punk finally makes some kind of appearance. He now is claiming he is retired, but think about it. Have you ever seen anyone completely “retire” from WWE? Even Edge and Shawn Michaels make appearances on the show despite the maladies that forced them out of active action.

Meanwhile, the Punk chants are going to continue. And WWE has only two choices to deal with this.

Come to some kind of reconciliation with Punk. Or invest in a whole bunch of noise-cancelling headphones.

Bill Atkinson is a frequent contributor to Camel Clutch Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @BAtkinson1963.

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WWE Half-Year Predictions For 2014

July 01, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

There is still plenty of time to go in 2014 as we cross the halfway mark. Thus far it has been one of the least predictable years in recent memory. What other shockers and/or surprises await the WWE Universe? Let’s dust off the crystal ball and see if the rest of 2014 will be full of just as unpredictable.

If you were to make predictions at the start of 2014, I would have missed out on some of the bigger stories of the year. Would you have predicted that Daniel Bryan would ascend at WrestleMania only to lose the title due to a legitimate injury? Would you have predicted that Seth Rollins would be the one to turn on the Shield and unite with Triple H? Would you have predicted that the Shield going over Evolution twice? Would anyone have predicted that CM Punk would walk out and retire within the first 30 days of 2014? Maybe you would and maybe you wouldn’t but it is fair to say that most of the big stunners were missed.

Dolph Ziggler will get a push - The pressure is starting to mount. Recent reports reveal that Ric Flair has gone to management and suggested they push Ziggler. The voices are growing and the sounds of fan support get louder and louder every time he is in the ring. He is hands down one of the most talented guys they have inside the ring and rarely if ever has a bad match. Why he isn’t utilized more is one of wrestling’s biggest mysteries. I think it happens, not at the top, but more mid-upper mid card by year’s end…at least I hope it does.

CM Punk will not be back - I think it is time to close the door and throw away the key. If Punk ever comes back it isn’t going to happen for awhile. We have all heard the different theories on why he walked but have yet to hear it directly from the horse’s mouth. Punk’s colleagues continue to predict his return, yet those who know him best say otherwise. The irony is that Punk probably walked at one of the most inopportune times during his WWE career. With Daniel Bryan out, Cena stale, and the new crop of babyfaces not quite ready for the top spot, he would have had the run of the kingdom up top if he stuck around. He knows that and the fact he’s still not here tells you he doesn’t care. I think the next time you see him in a ring will be on some indepdent show for charity or having fun with his friends. It won’t be in a WWE ring.

Kurt Angle will be back - Punk may not be back but I am betting that Kurt Angle will be back. I will be the first to admit that this is more wishful thinking than anything else. The WWE have a new class of young stars ready to ascend to the next level. Unfortunately what they don’t have are many established veterans to put them over and give them that stamp of approval. Angle provides that in and out of the ring. Angle’s outside of the ring troubles are certainly cause for concern and those issues will likely be the only thing that prevents his return. He is still one of the most entertaining personalities in the business and when he is on in the ring, he is on. It all boils down to how big of a gamble the WWE want to take on him. I think they go all in!

Dean Ambrose will make a bigger imapct than Roman Reigns - It is no secret that Roman Reigns is the “chosen one” to become the next John Cena according to numerous reports. Yet it would appear at this point that his biggest threat is coming from his old Shield teammate Dean Ambrose. In the few weeks that Ambrose has gotten time as a singles, he has consistently delivered the best promos among the wrestlers in the company, only second overall to Paul Heyman. In the ring he has more charisma and versatility than Reigns and has more of the tools to produce long, main-events on the special events. It is going to be real interesting come December which is when we’ll have an idea who is being positioned for the WrestleMania spot. As of now all of the money is on Reigns. The more I hear Dean talk and the more I see him in singles action the more I think that could change.

Daniel Bryan will not have another WWE title run - This isn’t much of a bold prediction but it appears that Bryan won’t be stepping back in the ring any time soon. The decision has yet to be made as to whether he will need a second surgery so I am basing this on Bryan coming back without a second surgery needed. I think the ship has sailed on Bryan and the WWE are moving forward with Reigns, Ambrose, Rollins, and Wyatt which leaves Bryan out in the cold. The Yes Movement was lightning in a bottle and you can already hear the chants getting softer. The WWE finally has their out and Bryan was never their guy. This isn’t to say that Bryan won’t get another title run in 2015 or 16, I just don’t see it happening in ’14 if he does return to the WWE rings.

Bray Wyatt will be a top babyface - The booking of Wyatt has been one of the strangest WWE creatives in awhile. He was pushed to be one of the top heels of the company yet he’s been booked like a babyface. This all came full circle at Money in the Bank when he received one of the biggest reactions upon his entrance to the match. I will be the first to admit that I missed this one. I never expected a character like this to resonate with fans but I am dead wrong. The people absolutely love him. Reigns not only has to worry about Ambrose nipping at his heels, he has to worry about Bray. I predict Bray goes full-fledged babyface by year’s end and goes into the Rumble as one of the top five favorites.

Prince Devitt and Kenta will not live up their potentials - The news is out and it appears that these two international stars are WWE bound. The WWE are scheduled to hold a press conference to announce the signing of Kenta in a few weeks. Does this sound familiar? These guys are both two incredibly talented wrestlers but that was outside of the WWE. I think the track record is pretty clear on how these kind of international stars fare in the WWE. They don’t do well. The only guy to break the mold in recent years was Rey Mysterio and he had a fresh coat of WCW seasoning on him. Maybe they live up to their potentials down the line but I think that these guys have a ton of hard work ahead of them to do so. It won’t happen this year and it may not happen at all which is a damn shame.

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Paul Heyman Says CM Punk Was Unhappy For A Year

June 26, 2014 By: Category: WWE | Pro Wrestling

The retirement of former WWE star CM Punk continues to stir conversation in the world of pro wrestling. Punk’s former manager recently spoke on the subject and while he was not surprised at Punk’s retirement, he is surprised it didn’t happen sooner.

Paul Heyman continues to be the only person who is close enough to Punk to give any real insight as to why the former champion walked out several weeks before WrestleMania. Many in and out of the industry continue to ponder and offer their opinions, but Heyman is one of the few offering up first-hand details of the sudden sabbatical.

Heyman recently appeared on his former ECW employee Chris Jericho’s Talk is Jericho podcast to discuss a variety of issues in a lengthy, yet highly entertaining interview. One of the many topics discussed was CM Punk and according to Heyman, the biggest surprise was how long it took for Punk to grab his ball and go home.

He was unhappy. He had enough. He couldn’t take it anymore… A year before he walked these was daily conversations of, ‘I don’t think I’m going to be able to take this. I’m not sure how much longer I’m going to be here. I don’t know how much longer it’s going to be before I just decide to go home.’ I’m surprised it lasted that long…

Every day with him was an exercise in him finding the balance to simply continue on and find the passion he needed that he to do it. And I think what happened was he walked in the day after the Royal Rumble and he couldn’t find that passion. He couldn’t convince himself or persuade himself, ‘OK, whether I’m happy or not this is about the performance, my legacy. It’s about I take pride in what I do. And whether I’m happy or unhappy when I go out there I’m going to be the best CM Punk I can be.’ And I think somewhere during that day he couldn’t find that.

As logical as this reasoning is, it blows up many of the fictitious conspiracy theories that have been floated out on the Internet as fact. If you were to believe Heyman, and why would he have any reason to lie here, the theories about Punk being upset about Batista coming back, his spot at WrestleMania, his impending match with Triple H, Daniel Bryan’s push, and injuries are all nothing by hyperbole and conjecture.

I don’t think it is fair for anyone that unhappy with their job to stay there when they have the security to leave. However, I still find fault in the way he left. Plenty of guys put him over the last few weeks before he quit as well. I find it unprofessional, especially if you knew you were going to walk at some point, to not repay the favor to those guys and the company in return for all of the guys that put him over on the way up. The least he could have done was give the Shield back a win the night he left on RAW or anyone for that matter.

A lot of people in the industry still can’t fathom the amount of money that Punk has left on the table. Many predict that money will drive him back to the WWE at some point. Quite frankly he appears to be a pretty disciplined guy and I wouldn’t be surprised at this point if you never saw him in a WWE ring. That isn’t to say he won’t pop up somewhere and have a match here and there for fun. I just think his days of dealing with the day-to-day politics that come with being a top guy in the WWE are over.

The entire interview is fantastic. Edge sits in on the podcast and it is more like a conversation between three friends as opposed to a straight interview. Heyman also talks about coming back with Brock Lesnar, being asked to fire CM Punk, ECW, and more. Check out the entire podcast here!

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Top Five WWE Money In The Bank Matches

June 26, 2014 By: Category: lists, WWE | Pro Wrestling

The WWE Money in the Bank match has produced some of the most exciting moments of the last ten years. The glorified ladder match features daredevil heroics, extreme punishment, and intense action. Today I look back and celebrate the top five Money in the Bank matches in WWE history.

I don’t think anyone realized in 2005 when the WWE announced the first Money in the Bank match the significance this match would have on wrestling history. Stars were made, history was written, and memories have been cemented forever thanks to this innovative match. With two new matches around the corner I thought today would be a great time to look back and count down the top matches in MITB history. Since we aren’t quite ten years into MITB I went with a top five as opposed to a top ten. Leave a comment if you agree, disagree, or want to mention your favorite Money in the Bank match memory.

Edge defeats Chris Jericho, Shelton Benjamin, Chris Benoit, Christian and Kane – WrestleMania 21

I can’t think of another MITB match that was more exciting than the one at WrestleMania 21. I think the big difference here was that it was the first. The match just had more intensity and crowd emotion than any other due to the fact that nobody knew what to expect. The match was full of crazy spots that fans hadn’t seen before or lumped into one match. It is hard to replicate the element of surprise that the first match had at 21. Spots like the Benoit diving headbutt and Benjamin running up the ladder had fans stunned in amazement at this new kind of match.

Not that this should be part of the criteria but it also had the biggest impact in regards to elevating a star. Edge won and once he cashed in became an established WWE elite superstar for the rest of his career. No other winner has taken as much away from this match as Edge did in 2005.

Mr. Kennedy defeated CM Punk, Edge, Finlay, Jeff Hardy, Matt Hardy, King Booker and Randy Orton – WrestleMania 23

I liked this match a lot and even though it was one of the longer MITB matches, it kept me interested from bell to bell. Edge and Orton bumped up the star presence here while the Hardys brought a ton of excitement to the match with the anticipation alone of what these guys would do in this environment. In terms of MITB moments, the spots between Jeff and Edge were some of the best in MITB history. Jeff’s jump on Edge is arguably the greatest spot in MITB history. What those guys did alone made this match great, yet it was a great effort from all back at 23, and the surprise winner in Kennedy was a nice touch.

CM Punk defeated Shelton Benjamin, Carlito, Chris Jericho, Mr. Kennedy, John Morrison and Montel Vontavious Porter – WrestleMania 24

I was surprised at how much I liked this match when I went back and watched all of the old MITB matches. On paper it looks pretty average but these guys went far beyond anything I expected going into the match. It did get a little spot-crazy at times but that is to be expected in such a match. Shelton Benjamin really stepped it up here and John Morrison was in his element, delivering a moonsault with a ladder in his hand at one point. Matt Hardy’s spectacular 20-foot Twist of Fate remains the highlight of this match for me.

Alberto Del Rio defeated Rey Mysterio, Kofi Kingston, Alex Riley, R-Truth, The Miz, Evan Bourne and Jack Swagger – Money in the Bank 2011

I debated a bit about the four spot here but in the end I went with the RAW MITB match from last year’s memorable show in Chicago. This match delivered on a lot of levels with the guys going out of their way to give fans plenty of breathtaking memories. Between Evan Bourne’s shooting star press 20 feet in the air, The Miz falling off the ladder, Mysterio and Kofi’s double leap, and Rey Mysterio getting unmasked, this was one of the more fun Money in the Bank matches. The hot Chicago crowd certainly didn’t hurt this one from entering the top five either.

CM Punk defeated Shelton Benjamin, Christian, Finlay, Mark Henry, Kane, Kofi Kingston and Montel Vontavious Porter – WrestleMania 25

I struggled quite a bit with the final spot here. I went back and forth between this one, last year’s MITB match, and the SmackDown match from the Chicago 2011 pay per view. In the end, the MITB WrestleMania 25 match was just too good to leave off the list. Shelton Benjamis was the show stealer in this one giving fans some of the best spots of the night in this match. One moment in particular saw Benjamin leap off the ladder placed in the aisle onto his MITB opponents. Watching these MITB matches reminded me how good Benjamin was and had me wondering why he isn’t the WWE today! Kofi also had his moments, one in particular had Kofi deliver a kick through the side of the ladder and climb the ladder while it was closed. Another saw Kofi run up the ladder and fall into a World’s Strongest Slam. Christian also had his moment hitting an Unprettier to Punk off the ladder. This match had a lot of great moments and is often one of the more underrated matches of the MITB series.

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Top 25 WWE Ladder/TLC/Money in the Bank Matches In History

June 19, 2014 By: Category: lists, WWE | Pro Wrestling

These Top-25 lists are picking up steam, so I’ll take the WWE approach of beating a good thing into the ground. With Money in the Bank coming up, it’s a good idea to look back at two decades-plus of WWE’s greatest ladder matches, and figure out what the best of the bunch truly are. There’s no bad matches to be found here; every entry is rewatchable time and time again. With TLC and Money in the Bank upping the ante of the classic ladder match, this list will cover a lot of ground, and no doubt provide a little argument fodder. Enjoy!

(Note: this list only includes matches which ended with the retrieval of a belt, briefcase, etc. As such, the TLC 2012 match with The Shield vs. Ryback and Team Hell No is excluded. Otherwise, it’d have likely been top ten).

25. Chris Jericho vs. Christian – Vacant Intercontinental Title, Ladder Match (Unforgiven, September 12, 2004)

Edge was forced to abdicate the gold after one of too many injuries in his career, so brother/’best friend’ Christian was called in for the match to fill the vacancy. Jericho suffered a bizarre injury of his own during the match, in which the ladder slammed into his anal orifice (hey, he makes it sound worse in his second book), but ended up winning a fairly lengthy match. In the end, Jericho was merely used to transition to gold onto a flourishing Shelton Benjamin.

24. Kane vs. Big Show vs. Matt Hardy vs. Drew McIntyre vs. Kofi Kingston vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Christian vs. Dolph Ziggler – Money in the Bank Ladder Match (Money in the Bank, July 18, 2010)

Firmly in the ‘let’s shoehorn gimmick matches into the secondary PPVs so that gimmick matches have less meaning’ era, Money in the Bank’s come away unscathed, thanks to the car-wreck spectacles that never get old. In this case, the maiden match of Money in the Bank’s spin-off event hit its mark, with a dose of big man psychology. Show and Kane were natural targets by the smaller competitors, while Show used a custom mecha-ladder for climbing.

23. Dolph Ziggler vs. John Cena – Money in the Bank Ladder Match (TLC, December 16, 2012)

Ziggler put his previously-earned briefcase on the line (stay tuned for that), and, as is modern custom, lost to Cena in several matches on Raw prior to the PPV contest. Just as naturally, Ziggler took his usual laundry list of wild bumps through the course of the match, before winning as a result of AJ Lee shoving Cena off the ladder. That’d be Ziggler’s lone win of relevance over Cena, but Dolph memorably cashed in four months later on Alberto Del Rio.

22. John Morrison vs. Sheamus – Ladder Match (TLC, December 19, 2010)

Forgotten in the dogpile beneath main event-and-celebrity over-focus, Morrison and Sheamus had themselves a nifty little feud late that year, and a title shot at The Miz was at stake. Akin to the Razor/Michaels matches of yore with the larger adversary throwing around the nimble stud, Morrison gradually overcame the odds and won in dramatic fashion after Sheamus attempted to tip the ladder. Sadly, the Morrison/Miz bout is just as forgotten as this great match.

21. Mr. Kennedy vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Matt Hardy vs. Edge vs. Randy Orton vs. CM Punk vs. King Booker vs. Finlay – Money in the Bank Ladder Match (WrestleMania XXIII, April 1, 2007)

Before Damien Sandow came along to look unceremoniously weak in failing in his cash-in against John Cena, there was Mr. Kennedy to lose his briefcase to Edge in a Raw quickie, following a Kennedy injury. The WrestleMania opener had plenty of intrigue, with a host of realistic winners. Jeff’s seated dive through Edge and a bridged ladder is cringeworthy, yet hilarious for the sight of brother Matt encouraging him to do it, then reacting as horror as Jeff lay hurt.

20. Dolph Ziggler vs. Damien Sandow vs. Tyson Kidd vs. Christian vs. Tensai vs. Santino Marella vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Sin Cara – Money in the Bank Ladder Match (Money in the Bank, July 15, 2012)

Another case of a heel being so much fun to watch that the crowd can’t help but cheer for them, the fans in attendance went berserk over Ziggler bumping Christian off a ladder in the end so that “The Show Off” could claim the briefcase. The match also seemed to be a coming-out party for Kidd, whose acrobatics finally had the forum for which to shine. Unfortunately, a torn meniscus sustained early in 2013 would sideline Kidd for almost a year, halting any push.

19. The Dudley Boyz vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. Edge and Christian – WWE World Tag Team Titles, Triple Ladder Match (WrestleMania 2000, April 2, 2000)

The ‘unofficial’ TLC match (the official moniker for such matches wasn’t coined until SummerSlam that year) was the brightest bulb of a shockingly-dim WrestleMania. A quiet crowd most of the night, the fans memorably buzzed for the Dudleyz setting up the table bridge across two ladders inside the ring. Some of the slower spots haven’t aged well, thanks to innovation and improvement, but there’s still plenty of sick spots to marvel at.

18. Edge vs. John Cena – WWE Heavyweight Title, TLC Match (Unforgiven, September 17, 2006)

A bit of a shocker when Edge went over Cena in Cena’s Boston backyard at SummerSlam, but that only meant Edge would return the favor in his native Toronto. The visual of Edge being AA’d off of a ladder through a double stack of tables would remain a fixture in WWE’s “don’t try this at home” PSAs for quite some time afterward. Seems as though out of all of Cena’s frequent opponents, only Edge matches CM Punk in creating consistent greatness with Cena.

17. Jeff Hardy vs. CM Punk – World Heavyweight Title, TLC Match (SummerSlam, August 23, 2009)

Given what a merchandise vessel Hardy had become for a company that loves its multiple revenue streams, it’s hard to believe Hardy would be gone by week’s end, with no return five years later. Punk’s victory transitioned into his tepid feud with The Undertaker, beginning immediately after the match as “The Dead Man” performed a supernatural body switch with a downed Hardy. In 2009, it was astonishing that Punk could win any PPV main event.

16. Christian vs. Alberto Del Rio – Vacant World Heavyweight Title, Ladder Match (Extreme Rules, May 1, 2011)

What a weird time period for WWE. Edge vacates the championship three weeks earlier upon his hasty, very real retirement, and a top contender’s match is made for the PPV. The crowd heavily bought into Christian, and a dramatic finish saw Edge providing timely interference to offset that of Ricardo Rodriguez and Brodus Clay. Christian winning the gold was possibly the biggest pop of his career, so naturally he lost the title to Randy Orton two nights later.

15. Paul London/Brian Kendrick vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. MNM vs. William Regal/Dave Taylor – WWE Tag Team Titles, Ladder Match (Armageddon, December 17, 2006)

Teddy Long punched up this one by adding the Hardyz and MNM, as well as the ladder modifier, seconds before the bell rang, I suppose in an effort to get non-buyers to purchase the show at about 8:23 EST. The match is most notable for Joey Mercury damn near getting his face grafted off in a see-saw spot gone awry, forcing him to wear facial contraptions for a time afterward. London and Kendrick retained in the midst of an 11-month reign the company barely promoted.

14. Daniel Bryan vs. Kane vs. Sheamus vs. Cody Rhodes vs. Justin Gabriel vs. Heath Slater vs. Sin Cara vs. Wade Barrett – Money in the Bank Ladder Match (Money in the Bank, July 17, 2011)

Takes a back-seat to CM Punk and John Cena’s all-timer to close the show, but it holds weight as the match that boosted Bryan into the main event tier where he’d more or less reside ever since. A wellness policy exodus played out as Sheamus powerbombed Sin Cara through a ladder, leading to a stretcher job into thirty days of oblivion for the luchador. Bryan’s victory was fairly unexpected, and the Chicago fans gave him a pop nearly comparable to Punk’s.

13. Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels – WWE Intercontinental Title, Ladder Match (WWE Challenge Taping, July 21, 1992)

The WWE’s first ever ladder match seems very tame compared to the anarchic stunt shows of later years, but two masterful workers in their relative youth put together a dramatic series of ‘near-falls’, with the match more about the drama of the climb instead of insanity. Hart purportedly suggested the match to Vince McMahon, who asked for a demonstration at this TV taping. The match made it onto several video releases, and became a tape-trader’s bounty.

12. Randy Orton vs. CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus vs. Rob Van Dam vs. Christian – Money in the Bank Ladder Match (Money in the Bank, July 14, 2013)

In a roundabout way, this match made it possible for Daniel Bryan to stand tall at the end of WrestleMania XXX, holding two World Titles aloft (although the Rumble was definitely the fuse). The best ladder match in the spinoff PPV’s history began with a hero’s welcome for the returning RVD, and culminated with Paul Heyman turning on Punk, just prior to Orton’s victory, which was confusing at the time, but became much clearer following SummerSlam.

11. The Rock vs. Triple H – WWE Intercontinental Title, Ladder Match (SummerSlam, August 30, 1998)

A year later, Rock was a mega-babyface that transcended the business, while Triple H would be the slimy villain he was born to play. Here, however, was the match that virtually shot both men into the main event for good. In front of a nuclear Madison Square Garden crowd, Rock about blew the domed roof off with a People’s Elbow while Helmsley lay prone on the oddly-yellow ladder. HHH’s win only freed up Rock for the World Title run we all saw coming.

10. Chris Jericho/Chris Benoit vs. The Dudley Boyz vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. Edge/Christian – WWE World Tag Team Titles, TLC Match (SmackDown, May 22, 2001)

A worthy sequel to Benoit and Jericho’s heart-stopping title win over Steve Austin and Triple H one night earlier, an irate Vince McMahon booked the new champs against the TLC Six on free television. WWE Network, assuming it survives the long haul, will eventually have this episode up, as the match is otherwise lost to history thanks to Benoit’s involvement. A shade below the original TLC battles in terms of overall quality, it’s still one of the best ladder matches ever.

9. The Hardy Boyz vs. Edge and Christian – Ladder Match (No Mercy, October 17, 1999)

Hanging above the ring was a bank robber’s sack of cash, and the winner would win Terri Runnels’ managerial rights. If it was believed that the winners would be elevated by association with Terri, the four just elevated themselves with a performance for the ages, becoming made men to varying degrees. Interesting note: Edge came dangerously close to missing the match, as he was almost unable to fly to the show due to a hurricane (he lived in the Bahamas at the time).

8. Eddie Guerrero vs. Rob Van Dam – WWE Intercontinental Title, Ladder Match (Monday Night Raw, May 27, 2002)

Easily the best ladder match in Raw’s history, even if Undertaker and Jeff Hardy’s clash a month later received more company hype, despite it being a dramatic finish to an average match. This match was so good, even a moronic fan running interference couldn’t ruin it. RVD regained the gold, leading into the post-match involvement of Steve Austin, who went after Guerrero, only to be thwarted by a returning, suddenly-heel Chris Benoit; an angle that ended up fizzling.

7. Edge vs. Chris Jericho vs. Chris Benoit vs. Kane vs. Christian vs. Shelton Benjamin – Money in the Bank Ladder Match (WrestleMania XXI, April 3, 2005)

The first of its kind remains the best of its kind. From Benjamin’s hands-free ladder ascension to Benoit German-suplexing Jericho, who was holding a ladder, it’s possibly the most uncluttered Money in the Bank match ever, and one that didn’t overstay its welcome. It’s also arguable that Edge’s eventual cash-in on John Cena was the most relevant of its kind, since nobody had ever seen a cash-in until he did it nine months later. Anything since dilutes the fun to a degree.

6. Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho – WWE Intercontinental Title, Ladder Match (Royal Rumble, January 21, 2001)

There’s a moment of retroactive horror in the body of the match, wherein Benoit goes for his patented headfirst dive to the floor, only for Jericho to wallop him upside the head with a jarring chair shot. If seeing that moment overrides any possible enjoyment you can derive from the art of the match, it’s understood. For the more unmoved, it was a viable candidate for 2001’s match of the year, rivaled by a litany of classics, one of which is to come.

5. Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon – WWE Intercontinental Title, Ladder Match (SummerSlam, August 27, 1995)

Gorilla Monsoon’s first act as figurehead President was to remove Psycho Sid from SummerSlam, and give Razor the shot at Michaels’ gold, in the match they put on the map. Wise choice; it boosted the show into pretty good territory, rare air in 1995. Ramon played de facto villain, smashing Michaels’ knee to pieces with the ladder, before Michaels superkicked him off a second ladder. The botched ending, and Michaels’ tantrum, somehow adds to the charm.

4. The Dudley Boyz vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. Edge and Christian – WWE World Tag Team Titles, TLC Match (WrestleMania X7, April 1, 2001)

From the greatest WrestleMania ever comes the ideal spotfest: accelerated, minimal set-up for the convoluted spots, and the type of chaos that comes from involving a few intruders. Nominee for the best bump visual in ladder match history: Bubba Ray Dudley and Matt Hardy smashing four tables into dust after an interfering Rhyno tipped a painter’s ladder over. Edge and Christian’s win was a bit anti-climactic, but you can’t discount the efforts before then.

3. Edge and Christian vs. The Dudley Boyz vs. The Hardy Boyz – WWE World Tag Team Titles, TLC Match (SummerSlam, August 27, 2000)

Gets the slight nod over its WrestleMania kid-brother for the sole reason of a less rushed ending. Conventional wisdom had the Hardyz going over here in their home state of North Carolina. In defeat, Jeff busted out a frightening Swanton Bomb off a ladder on the floor through Bubba Ray Dudley. The match is also known for an unfortunate double-entendre that Jim Ross made about Edge and Lita that gained new perspective about five years later.

2. Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels – World Heavyweight Title, Ladder Match (No Mercy, October 5, 2008)

Doesn’t stand out, but it should. In fact, a lukewarm crowd is possibly all that kept this from the number one spot. Jericho and Michaels’ hate-filled feud in 2008 came to a head with this match, which was less about cutesy spots, and more heavy on the “I’m gonna kill you” brutality. Indeed, most of the ‘spots’ were Jericho and Michaels trying to make the other suffer, without the need for Rube Goldberg-esque contraptions. An inexplicably undervalued masterpiece.

1. Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels – WWE Intercontinental Title, Ladder Match (WrestleMania X, March 20, 1994)

Like Savage and Steamboat, a newer fan may wonder what’s so special about this match, after seeing many a stuntshow since. For 1994, Ramon and Michaels put together a match just unheard of for the time, and wouldn’t become standard for a few years yet. Michaels took at least five or six crazy bumps off of Ramon’s power-based offense, and the dramatic near-finishes had the MSG crowd buying into every second. It’s still the gold standard.

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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