In July 2014, just weeks after his contract with WWE expired, CM Punk declared his retirement from professional wrestling. Punk’s last appearance on WWE television was at the January “Royal Rumble” event where he remained in the contest longer than anyone else, only to be eliminated near the match’s conclusion by Kane. Fans in Eastern Iowa and worldwide have almost certainly seen the last match of a top star of twenty-first century wrestling.
While that battle royal looks to be Punk’s final sojourn into the squared circle, the man born Phil Brooks left an indelible legacy on professional wrestling through his fifteen year career. Whether it was in IWA Mid-South, Ring of Honor, ECW or on the main WWE roster, CM Punk became a star wherever he worked. He held the world titles of all four aforementioned promotions and even earned the moniker “the longest-reigning WWE Champion of the modern era” from WWE for his 434 day run with the WWE title.
His modern appearances might be limited to seventh inning stretches at Cubs games and commentary on AMC’s “Talking Dead”, but Punk’s wrestling career features numerous highlights. This list covers five of the best moments in that long career.
CM Punk vs. Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio
Early in his career, CM Punk was a regular for Ian Rotten’s IWA Mid-South promotion. During his run with that organization, he held both the promotion’s Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight titles. He battled several local stars of note for the belts, including Chris Hero and his longtime friend Colt Cabana, but the highlight of his time in IWA was a three way dance where he defended—and retained—the belts against both Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero. Check out the highlights on Youtube or watch the full match on “The Best of CM Punk in IWA Mid-South Volume Two” at Highspots.
CM Punk vs. Raven (Raven's Rules Match)
The feud that really put CM Punk on the radar of many wrestling fans was his epic Ring of Honor battle with Raven. The feud was meticulously built, the active legend Raven still battled to overcome the demons of alcoholism and drug abuse while the nefariously straight edge CM Punk thought the addict needed to be beat down and removed from Ring of Honor. This led to some brutal showdowns such as the Raven’s Rules contest. Watch it in full on Youtube.
Money in the Bank at Wrestlemania XXIV
While CM Punk was truly the breakout star of ECW, it wasn’t until “Wrestlemania XXIV” that it became clear WWE was ready to push CM Punk as a true top talent in their promotion. In his second battle for the briefcase in the brutal Money in the Bank match, CM Punk won a shot at a title of his choice. He would repeat the feat the next year. To this day, Punk remains the only back to back Money in the Bank winner in WWE history. See highlights on Youtube or watch the full match on WWE Network.
The Pipe Bomb
The moment that changed the trajectory of CM Punk’s career came out of nowhere and it wasn’t a match. Ostensibly still the leader of the mediocre New Nexus, Punk left his crew behind when he went to confront John Cena, a man that he would face at “Money in the Bank” for the WWE title. Punk sat down on the stage and cut a promo that changed the direction of WWE in this decade. The legendary pipe bomb promo rejuvenated CM Punk, brought him millions of new fans and changed the WWE into a more reality based enterprise. Watch the whole speech on Youtube.
CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan
“Over the Limit” isn’t the greatest WWE pay-per-view ever. The actual main event of the show was an abomination featuring John Cena battling John Laurinaitis in a no disqualification match that Cena actually lost. But the WWE championship match on the show gives twenty-four minutes of bliss just a few minutes beforehand. Daniel Bryan, already a past World champion, was allowed to challenge CM Punk for the WWE title. And the result is a masterpiece between two amazing stars and the top moment of Punk’s 434 day reign as WWE champion. Watch it on Youtube or WWE Network.