CM Punk surprised nearly every wrestling fan this week by appearing on WWE programming for the first time in 5 years. As Renee Young wrapped up this week’s episode of Fox Sports’ talkback show WWE Backstage, Punk’s iconic ‘Cult of Personality’ theme blared over the studio speakers, and he entered to rounds of applause.
Nobody thought Punk would return to WWE in any capacity, but here we are. So to celebrate, here’s CM Punk’s most iconic and enduring moments.
The Sermon on the Mount
When CM Punk entered the 2010 Royal Rumble at number three, people didn’t expect much of the newly crowned leader of the Straight Edge Society. But then, he eliminated both Dolph Ziggler and Evan Bourne, and promptly began a promo that soon became known as the “sermon on the mount” as Punk preached about the values of being straight edge.
CM Punk vs. Jeff Hardy
CM Punk and Jeff Hardy were two sides of the same coin when they clashed in 2009. Punk, the self-proclaimed ‘drug-free’ superstar went up against Hardy, who had notable issues with substance abuse that were frequently made public. The heavy-handed storyline included some fantastic matches, including a stellar bout at Summerslam 2009 and this fantastic promo where Punk openly mocked the fans and Hardy.
CM Punk becomes a two-time Money in the Bank winner
Becoming a Money in the Bank winner is a rare opportunity for WWE superstars, and winning it allows them a championship match of their choosing. For CM Punk, this chance came around twice, as he claimed the 2008 and 2009 Money in the Bank matches at WrestleMania, and both times, cashed in to become the WWE World Heavyweight Championship — against Edge and Jeff Hardy, respectively. This achievement put his face on the map of the championship scene.
John Cena vs. CM Punk
In 2019, this match still ranks among my favourites of all time, because of the build leading up to it, and the story it told. Punk, the underdog, was facing off against Cena, the face of WWE, in a battle of corporatism and rule-shirking. With Punk’s contract ending, this was Cena’s last chance to capture the gold before Punk left the company with the title in tow. The match ended with one of the all-time greatest WWE moments too, when Punk nabbed the title, ran for the hills, and blew WWE CEO Vince McMahon a kiss on the way out through the crowd.
The formation of the Straight Edge Society
When Punk first began preaching about going drug free and adopting a straight edge lifestyle, he was a madman, not a prophet. But then he was joined by Luke Gallows and Serena, forming a stable called the Straight Edge Society, who brought their straight edge message to the masses with weekly sermons and messages of salvation. The formation of the Straight Edge Society is what elevated CM Punk in WWE, and helped show off his natural charisma and talking ability.
CM Punk vs. Mysterio
At Over the Limit 2010, CM Punk challenged veteran Rey Mysterio to a hair vs. Straight Edge Society pledge match, meaning that if Mysterio lost, he’d have to join Punk’s evangelical club. If Mysterio won, he’d get to shave CM Punk’s Jesus-style hair. While this was a loss for Punk, the image of him screaming, wide-eyed into the camera while his hair is forcibly shaved, is a lasting one. It also marked Punk’s transition into his new, anti-establishment, anti-WWE character.
CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho
CM Punk and Chris Jericho were some of WWE’s most prolific and talented orators, making their feud one of the more exciting and believable feuds of 2012 WWE. Both men just sold their hatred for each other so well, and with multiple twists and turns worked into the main story, this feud and their eventual match was an absolutely fantastic time, and one of the highlights of CM Punk’s wrestling career.
“This is Phil Brooks talking to Paul Levesque.”
In the lead up to Night of Champions 2011, CM Punk faced off with longtime rival, Triple H, surrounding by rumours of a real-life hatred between the two. This helped to fuel a heated promo in the lead-up to the event, where CM Punk declared that he was looking forward to their match because he was going to kick Triple H’s ass. Then he delivered the killer line, “This is not CM Punk talking to Triple H, this is Phil Brooks talking to Paul Levesque,” referring to both of their real life names and helping to shoot this feud into the stratosphere.
CM Punk vs. The Undertaker
CM Punk was one of the last wrestlers to get a great match out of the Undertaker, as the phenom’s wrestling health began to fade soon after. Like many of CM Punk’s greatest moments, this too was fuelled by an incredible and shocking lead-up, particularly because Undertaker’s manager, Paul Bearer, had passed away only weeks before they feuded. While some might call it tasteless, this fact was used relentlessly throughout the feud, with Punk even spilling Bearer’s ‘ashes’ on the Undertaker during an intense promo. The match lived up to expectations, and was just as hot as the words leading up to it.
What list of CM Punk’s greatest moments would be complete without mentioning the infamous Pipebomb? On a seemingly ordinary episode of WWE Raw in June 2011, CM Punk sat on the Raw entrance ramp and delivered one of the greatest promos in recent wrestling history. He spoke of the inner workings of WWE, his frustration with his position in the company, and even went so far as to mention Vince McMahon’s bullying indiscretions before his mic was cut off for dramatic effect. This was great stuff, and an absolutely iconic moment in CM Punk’s history. The ramifications of this promo are still being felt today.
With CM Punk now appearing on WWE Backstage, it’s clear that the relationship between Punk and WWE is changing. Whether that means we’ll see him back inside the ring, or appearing on Raw, Smackdown or NXT is unknown. But when it comes to CM Punk, anything is possible.