The History of CM Punk and Daniel Bryan

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May 09, 2012

2002-2005: The Early Years

 CM Punk and Daniel Bryan's long, strange road to the WWE Title

Though they are rarely alluded to on WWE programming, the independent careers of CM Punk and Daniel Bryan have become something of sports-entertainment legend (PHOTOS: PUNK-BRYAN THROUGH THE YEARS). Bryan’s stoic, methodical work as the “American Dragon” has become a holy grail for wrestling purists looking to study the technical intricacies of the sport; his talents were so immense he was christened as “The Best in the World” by wrestling fans worldwide. Punk’s journey , meanwhile, was a model in style and individuality, blending technical prowess with an inimitable attitude that would eventually lead him to change the landscape of WWE with his infamous “pipe bomb” in the summer of 2011.

The two iconoclasts are so closely linked in the minds of many fans that it’s a common misconception they are longtime rivals. “We actually haven’t wrestled as frequently as people think,” Punk said, although he and Bryan both cite a well-known Florida contest between the two – what Bryan called “a 45-minute match in front of about 35 people” – as one of their more unforgettable bouts.

Even in those early days, though, their reputations preceded them to each other. “He was the guy I always heard about,” Punk told, citing Bryan, along with future WWE Superstar Brian Kendrick, as two of the more well-known West Coast competitors among the Midwest crew Punk came up with. “It was really few and far between where you think, ‘Wow, I really want to get in the ring with that guy,’ [but Bryan] seemed to eat, breathe, sleep, dream pro wrestling … he didn’t care where he was, he just wanted to be in the ring.”

For Bryan, it was Punk’s toughness that left a mark in their first meeting, at a 2002 event called the Jersey J-Cup. “[He] fractured his skull,” Bryan told, adding that The Second City Saint was wheeled off to the hospital at the end of the event. “He had to go to the hospital, and that was the first time I ever met him.”

Despite the infrequent meetings, however, Punk conceded there was a general feeling that the two would inevitably collide with the supreme prize at stake: “A lot of hardcore wrestling fans used to say that me and him were going to main event a WrestleMania at some point, and not only were we going to do that, we were going to do it against each other,” Punk said. And while that match is still a pipe (bomb) dream, Punk does admit that “[Over the Limit] might be the first step toward that main event.”

Before this match could even happen, though, there was still one problem: making it to WWE …

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