As WWE celebrates the return of WrestleMania to the New York-Jersey area in 2019, WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon talks about the glorious past of The Showcase of the Immortals.03/16/2018 - 14:00
Dueling Diary: CM Punk and Chris Jericho, Introduction
Nobody wants to be second best, least of all CM Punk and Chris Jericho. But out of the seven billion people on planet earth today, two boast what only one can claim, which is why, at WrestleMania, the staunchest of rivals contend for the right to be undisputedly recognized as the “best” in this world.
Put aside the illuminated jackets and tees with red six-pointed stars, take away the pipebomb tirades and wordy diatribes, and you have two extraordinarily talented athletes. Entertainers. Wrestlers. To either Punk or Jericho, there is no greater purpose than to compete and achieve, which is why the symbolic prize carried by The Straight Edge Superstar is so coveted. Whoever leaves Miami’s Sun Life Stadium with the WWE Championship will subsequently earn the throne so passionately debated over the past several months.
At WrestleMania XXVIII, the world will be watching to see its champion delivered, a competitor who will earn his seat at the zenith of the WWE Universe. But first, Punk and Jericho must navigate the days leading up to the most important showdown of their respective careers – and WWE.com is there to capture it all.
The WrestleMania Dueling Diary gives you the best seat in the house as WWE.com shadows both Punk and Jericho, the squared circle's finest, en route to their main event duel at The Show of Shows.
For five days, WWE.com’s Dueling Diary trail rivals with distinct yet parallel paths that were inevitably going to intersect. First, review the separate yet similar pasts of both Superstars as they converge onto Miami for perhaps the greatest bout in their respective careers.
In April 2006, a relatively unrecognized competitor in WWE territory, CM Punk, toted a tommy gun in one hand while the other clutched the side of a 1940s coach riding down the ramp at WrestleMania 22. Six years before he’d step into battle on The Grandest Stage of Them All to defend the top prize in WWE, the tattooed warrior debuted in the WrestleMania main event … in a way.
The zoot-suited soon-to-be-Superstar rode into the Second City’s Allstate Arena among a throng of gangster hired to herald the arrival of WWE Champion John Cena. Under the brim of a hat, the lip-ringed mock mobster made a humble first appearance as an accessory to the champion Punk would later dethrone in the same building years later.
That night, Punk – in an uncharacteristic shoulder-padded, double-breasted jacket, slacks and slick loafers – exited the grand stage without much notice, slipping into the shadows that he’d have a difficult time finding while in the WWE spotlight shortly after.
CM Punk quickly commanded the attention of the WWE Universe following his in-action debut on the ECW brand in the summer of 2006. Within a year’s time, The Straight Edge Superstar was fully embraced by Land of the Extreme loyalists, propelling Punk to his first-ever title reign in WWE.
On Sept. 1, 2007, CM Punk seized the ECW Championship from John Morrison to commence a new era of extreme and prepare the kick-padded pugilist for even greater heights among the competitors of Raw and SmackDown not long after. Punk’s tenacity led him to treasures like the Intercontinental Championship and World Tag Team Championship, but his earliest accomplishments in the barbed wire-laced brand rooted him as a WWE fan favorite.
Many watching Chris Jericho tango on “Dancing with the Stars” would have a hard time believing that a little more than a decade earlier he’d tangled with the scar-laden rebels of Extreme Championship Wrestling.
Not only did he trade blows with some of the most nefariously dangerous combatants ECW had to offer; a younger, “lion-hearted” Jericho also excelled in the extreme warfare known to take place in bingo halls around the east coast. His first major victory came at ECW Hardcore Heaven on June 22, 1996, where Jericho defeated a rabid Pitbull No. 2 to win the ECW World Television Championship.
The only thing missing from the countdown on the Aug. 9, 1999 edition of Raw was Dick Clark. The entire WWE Universe was glued to their seats to see exactly what would happen when the clock hit “0” after weeks of anticipation. Time finally ran out on the mysterious ticker on the TitanTron and, in sync with the new millennium, Chris Jericho arrived in WWE.
The “Y2J” bug crept into the lifeblood of the WWE Universe and, exactly as he guaranteed during his very first address that summer night, things were “never, evvvver the same again” (ah-gain).
A ladder-top conquest at WrestleMania XXIV guaranteed CM Punk a World Title opportunity at any moment of his choosing in 2008. Shrewd and calculating, the straight edge grappler bided his time to cash in Money in the Bank – the first of two times in his career – on the man who made the contract-containing briefcase famous initially: Edge.
With precision, Punk landed a GTS to commence his inaugural World Heavyweight Championship reign on June 30, 2008. A rare ring technician likened to former World Title holders like Bret “Hit Man” Hart, CM Punk restored glory in the championship long retained by the manipulative, underhanded means of The Rated-R Superstar. Punk’s raw skill and mat talent were lauded by WWE fans even and continued to be even when his less savory acts as The Straight Edge Savior in the coming years targeted and demeaned the WWE Universe. As Chicago’s son vocalized his quite profound beliefs, he only converted more and more denizens to his growing legion of supporters because of his extraordinary abilities. Whether loved or reviled, no one could argue that CM Punk was meant for the top.
“I’ll go be the best in the world somewhere else.” These emphatic words were probably the least incendiary yet most profound spoken by CM Punk during his infamous verbal pipebomb in summer 2011. The resonating explosion of his words was second only to the bigger bang when Punk’s controversial WWE Championship win and title absconding tore open a black hole in the WWE Universe. The Straight Edge Superstar beat John Cena and punked just about every WWE official. Still, for an individual whose only addiction is competition, the biggest “fix” was to re-sign with WWE.
With his speech still reverberating in the mind of every WWE fan and an intrigued audience that extended beyond the WWE Universe, CM Punk returned with one purpose: prove why he is the best. His second straight victory over Cena at SummerSlam established Punk as the Undisputed WWE Champion and dramatically fulfilled the revolution he started months earlier.
The Voice of the Voiceless was heard loud and clear. Punk became widely accepted as the best in the world.
Few Superstars have been deemed the Undisputed WWE Champion, including the likes of CM Punk. Chris Jericho was just the man who did it first.
After the WCW/ECW Invasion of 2001, the WCW and WWE Championships were unified to establish one grand champion. It was at Vengeance where Chris Jericho – perhaps the most unlikely candidate, considering the contenders – bested both “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and The Rock to capture the amalgamated prize of a lifetime. His victory over two veritable WWE legends catapulted Y2J to the tallest height yet, as he made history as the first man to hold the crown of Undisputed Champion.
THE BEST MAN
The first-ever Undisputed Champion succeeded in achieving greater glory in 2008 and 2009 with the World Heavyweight Championship and the Unified WWE Tag Team Championship with Big Show. By July 2009, Jericho had accrued yet another reign to his record number of Intercontinental Championships as well. Soon enough, Chris Jericho uttered a rather bold – yet difficult to deny – declaration that he was “the best in the world at what he does.”
Dressing the part of the distinguished, decorated competitor he asserted himself to be, Jericho took to finely tailored attire and a more deliberate approach to his ring practices. Best in the world? As Jericho notched victories over Rey Mysterio, Batista, Shawn Michaels and others, his self-ascribed moniker became part of the accepted vernacular in WWE. That is, until the Walls of Jericho came tumbling down and the man who referred to the WWE Universe as “sycophantic parasites” was booted out of sight by Randy Orton.
Perhaps it was the “end of the world” for the presumed “best in the world.” For weeks, disturbing, oddly hued videos interrupted WWE programming with imagery of abnormal children and symbolic messaging about the world’s supposed end, which is still unexplained to this day.
On Jan. 2, 2012, the prophetic footage culminated in the reemergence of Chris Jericho, who never fully addressed the chilling montage-like precursors to his return after more than a year away from WWE. Upon further inspection and in light of the WWE Title clash at WrestleMania, perhaps the videos’ allusions pertain to the potential end of CM Punk’s time, on top of a world Punk reshaped by his own actions over the course of the past year.
Though in previous years Jericho’s use of viral videos and cryptic messaging suggested he was returning to “save us,” this time around it seemed the self-proclaimed “best in the world at what he does” had come back for no one but himself.
With Chris Jericho once again in WWE, sports-entertainment suddenly became overcrowded with Superstars claiming to be “the best in the world” – by just one too many. The snarky 140-character exchanges on Twitter between the two before Jericho’s reemergence were about to come to a head as both CM Punk and Jericho occupied the Monday Night Raw roster.
Their long paralleled paths crossed at WWE Elimination Chamber within the vile structure as The Straight Edge Champion’s coveted prize hang in the balance. A roundhouse kick to Jericho’s skull projected the first-ever Undisputed Champion from the Chamber, where Punk not only survived but also prevailed against the likes of several other formidable challengers. That night, the best man won among a party of six, but this would just be the beginning for CM Punk and Chris Jericho.
Destiny would not be defied. The match was simply meant to be. Less than 24 hours after his unsuccessful run-in with the WWE Champion within the Elimination Chamber, Chris Jericho managed to punch his ticket to WrestleMania against CM Punk by winning a 10-Man Battle Royal for No. 1 contendership.
The encounter WWE fans have wanted to see suddenly became reality as Y2J filled a coveted spot in a main event clash at The Show of Shows. Their remarkably comparable backgrounds, ring abilities, charismatic expositions, litany of accolades and experiences in the squared circle made this a dream match from the start. In the ensuing weeks, Jericho tainted their duel’s purity, targeting his otherwise unfazed opponent with personal attacks against Punk’s father, sister and mother, which have drawn out an ire never before seen in The Second City Savior.
Still, all the distractions that Jericho’s aimed to leverage do not change the match, the prize, the mantle at stake at WrestleMania XXVIII. This world is only big enough for one “best” and there could be no better stage to determine exactly who that is.
As the saying goes, may the best man win.