While Phranchize is busy, we've decided to change out the usual match of the week for a new article on great feuds in WWE, WCW, ROH, TNA, ECW or any wrestling promotion really. There was a discussion about starting with Rock vs Austin, which is totally a top rivalry in wrestling history, but today we are kicking off with the greatest feud in the modern WWE era, CM Punk vs John Cena. They are polar opposites in a major way. One could represent Superman, or even Captain America, while the other is more Batman, or even better, a less menacing version of Bane and a less playful version of The Joker. Punk is an anti hero but also a villain in his own right. Today, we take a look at the feud that was Punk vs Cena, a truly monumental battle over the years that will never be forgotten. Punk vs Cena is the greatest feud of the modern era essentially. Let's get into it.
*New Nexus vs Cena
-I've always felt that the match for WrestleMania 27 should have been Punk vs Cena. For whatever reason, the WWE thought Miz was a better choice to enter in Mania as champion. Regardless, you saw Cena and Punk in a series of TV matches where Cena seemingly came out on top despite the forming of the New Nexus. This isn't as much of a noteworthy piece of the feud, but it is a part of it. This ended quickly and Cena moved on to Miz after the Royal Rumble, but for the first few weeks of 2011, Punk and Cena had their feud really kick off. If you remember, the buildup of the feud was that Punk and the New Nexus were targeting Cena. It came out of nowhere, and in previous one off bouts, Cena had always emerged victorious. In this mini feud, Cena and Punk had interaction in the Royal Rumble and a few singles matches, with Punk coming out with a victory by either DQ or with assistance. After this, the two would go their separate ways, but it wasn't long before they found their way back to each other.
*Money In The Bank 2011
-On June 13th at RAW, Cena and Punk had a pretty good one on one match. Punk left that match victorious (not clean), but he was wrapped up in a different feud and so was Cena. After the June PPV, the feud would finally hit that point that we had been waiting for. The next night on RAW after the PPV, Punk won a solid triple threat match over Del Rio and Rey Mysterio to become the no. 1 contender, he sat down in the middle of the ring and cut a promo (I was there that night). He announced that his contract was going to be done following Money In The Bank and no one really knew what to expect. It would be the next week on RAW that changed everything as we know it. After a John Cena vs R-Truth main event (2011 was a rough time), Punk sat down on the stage Indian style and cut one of the most infamous and greatest promos ever. That night in Las Vegas changed the business forever in many ways. Punk would end up setting the world on fire and making his mission to take the WWE Title known. Over the next few weeks, we saw Punk fired by Vince, reinstated after Cena begged for him to be (I hate this part of the story), and then Cena had his "job" put on the line at the Money In the Bank PPV (another part of the story I hate), which would take place in Chicago, Punk's hometown. On a warm night in July, the landscape of the WWE would change.
For the first time in a while, the WWE had a genuine big fight feel in their main event picture. Cena vs Punk was a main event for the ages. For 30 plus minutes, they threw out their best moves, their best counters, and gave it their all. The finish is one of the most epic finishes in the recent era, as Cena ends up leaving the ring and walking right into a GTS and a pin to lose the match. Some would say Cena didn't lose clean, but considering how the match played out, I'd say this was as close to a clean win for Punk as we would expect. Punk won and took the title away from RAW seemingly, leaving WWE forever... so we thought (well we didn't think that but still).
-Leading up to this huge rematch, we saw a number of interesting things. We saw Punk leave after Money In The Bank, and the WWE ended up crowning a new champion. First, it was Rey Mysterio, then it ended up being Cena. Cena would hold the belt, but as soon as he won the title, Punk returned just a week later after leaving to challenge him again. It was a bit too soon to bring Punk back, but the WWE was off to the races once again leading into Summerslam. The best moment of the Summerslam buildup? Cena and Punk doing their contract signing where Punk utilized a video of The Rock murdering Cena in a promo. This is the most underrated promo of Punk's career as he kills Cena, Triple H, and Johnny Ace all in one to set the tone. Unfortunately, the feud got stalled after a pretty decent match between the two at Summerslam with Triple H as the referee ended with Punk getting the "win" despite Cena having his foot on the ropes. Kevin Nash showed up after and then that began the Triple H and Nash vs Punk feud that made absolutely no sense. Summerslam 2011 was executed horribly and Punk and Cena being mostly kept away from each other during this time was probably the right thing to get the momentum back up.
*The Perfect Contrast
-As Cena and Punk began having a more intense rivalry, we saw them work in a way that many of us hadn't seen in years. Cena was the hero. He was the Hogan of the era so to speak. Punk was the Savage of the era so to speak. Their contrast and shoot from the hip promo styles made for some great moments and the dichotomy was honestly the best in the modern era.
*Rekindling The Rivalry And Punk Heel Turn
-Their feud seemingly died down around the beginning of 2012, as they were kept mostly separate while Cena worked his feuds with the Rock and Brock Lesnar. After that, Punk and Cena had a date with destiny at the 1000th episode of RAW, as they headlined the show in which ended with The Rock running in after the Big Show interfered and set off another chapter in the Punk vs Cena feud when Punk turned heel by taking out The Rock. Punk vs Rock had a date with destiny as well, but before that would happen, Cena vs Punk would rekindle. They would face each other in a triple threat match with Big Show at Summerslam, and Punk would end up getting the victory. Punk and Cena had a one on one match for the WWE Title at Night of Champions, and many people loved this match that ended in a no contest. Whether or not I actually think it's great, the match served its purpose and before we put a close to this chapter, Cena and Punk would have a triple threat match including Ryback at Survivor Series 2012. It was clear that Punk and Cena were the two biggest and every big event seemed to have them linked after the summer began in 2012. Following their 2012 encounters, Cena and Punk would have their final battle, a true classic to finish their feud.
*The February 2013 Classic
-One night on Monday Night RAW, we got to see these two do battle in the main event. The battle was to see who could be the no. 1 contender at WrestleMania for The Rock's WWE Title. For nearly 30 minutes, Cena and Punk went back and forth giving everything they had, until eventually Punk would come up short and Cena would pick up the win. I still say the WWE made the wrong decision, but they're stubborn. Still, much credit has to be given to both men, as Punk pulled out a piledriver, Cena came with an arsenal full of moves, and these two finished their feud off just right with an all time classic match and the best match of 2013.
*The Missed Mania Opportunities
-Truth be told, there are two instances where Mania missed out on the chance to have Cena and Punk involved in a main event match. WrestleMania 27 was the perfect opportunity but they seemed to think Miz was a better choice for some reason. The second chance they had was at WrestleMania 29, when they forced another Cena vs Rock match, instead of the smarter choice of Cena vs Punk, or the best choice of Cena vs Punk vs Rock. That would have been a great way to close out the Cena vs Rock feud, officially close out Punk vs Cena while giving the fans something to cheer for in the main event. A true missed opportunity.
*The Legacy Of The Feud
-When we look back at Cena vs Punk, we have to acknowledge how great the dichotomy worked and how their ring work raised to another level against each other. Cena vs Punk carried the WWE through 2011-2013, and for that reason alone, it is a classic feud. If only Punk and Cena could have got that WrestleMania match. Regardless, if you haven't fully taken the time to appreciate this rivalry, relive it on the WWE Network. Cena found his greatest opponent in Punk and Punk found his greatest rival in Cena. It all worked out amazingly for these two. Thanks for the memories, Cena and Punk.