CM Punk has officially hit the one-year mark as WWE champion. It was one year ago on November 20, 2011 when Punk pinned Alberto Del Rio to win the title and begin one of the longest world title reigns in WWE history.
Punk’s first duties as world champion were to finish up his feud with Alberto Del Rio. It was a weird time for Punk because on the one hand you could sense the excitement around him as world champion yet on the other hand you had a sense of cyniscm as Punk’s last title reign lasted less than a month. Was this the title reign the fans hoped they get in July or would this be another bait and swicth?
Punk entered 2012 feuding with Dolph Ziggler. To me, Punk vs. Ziggler was one of the best in-ring feuds of 2012. Their match at the Royal Rumble 2012 is still one of the top matches of the year and one of the best championship matches in Rumble history. There was no doubt who the winner was that night as Punk pinned Ziggler several times during the match en route to the win.
Punk was in a dangerous spot here as he was being greatly overshadowed by the John Cena vs. The Rock feud. Punk’s feud with Ziggler was fantastic in the ring, but nobody really bought into Dolph as a serious contender. Punk was sliding down a road of nowhere when Chris Jericho finally hit his stride and the two had a marriage made in wrestling heaven.
Punk and Jericho will go down to some as the best feud of 2012. The angle was a lot like the Raven vs. Punk angle from Ring of Honor although Jericho certainly put his spin on it. The promos about Punk’s family were controversial yet it worked. The two had a great match at WrestleMania 28 and arguably the match of the year at Extreme Rules. People like to talk about the John Cena feud as the feud that made Punk and it certainly elevated him. But there were still some fans that had their doubts after seeing dozens of star-stop pushes in recent years. That is why it was so important for him to come out without a loss during the Jericho feud. In my opinion it was his feud with Jericho that allowed fans to take him seriously.
Punk next entered in a dream rivalry for some wrestling fans with Daniel Bryan. For longtime fans of Punk and Bryan, these two guys were on a collision course for WWE greatness. Their matches were excellent but Bryan had been tarnished at the time after a handful of decisive losses to Sheamus. I think this one could have been much bigger but again it was Punk wrestling against a guy that many casual fans felt had no chance of winning. I’d love to see these guys feud again at some point with Bryan pushed a little more seriously by the WWE.
Punk was hurting here. The matches were great but he was starting to look weak. The whole storyline with AJ playing Punk was making Punk look like a sap. Here was this angry, intense wrester going from street fighting against Chris Jericho to being caught in a dumb love triangle. Someone recognized this and luckily for Punk, the storyline ended quickly. If not I have a feeling that Punk would not be celebrating his year as champion.
Punk once again reinvented himself with a slow heel turn against John Cena. Punk and Cena aren’t two guys you’d expect to have especially great matches but they do. They just have great chemistry. The turn peaked with Punk aligning himself with Paul Heyman to form one of the most entertaining duos the WWE has seen in years. Punk went from being a sympathetic hero during the Jericho to feud to the biggest jerk in wrestling in a matter of months. Quite frankly that may be his biggest accomplishment all year.
Punk is wrapping up the year feuding with Ryback in a feud that is far more entertaining than anyone realized. Punk fans groaned when the prospect of seeing Punk having to wrestle the green Ryback came to fruition. Yet several weeks later it is one of the most entertaining feuds in wrestling. Was it a miracle or is he just that good? I think a bit of both.
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