CM Punk's "Extreme" milestones
When CM Punk faces Chris Jericho in a Chicago Street Fight at Extreme Rules, the goal of the WWE Champion will not be to vindicate his status as the world’s best wrestler, as it was at WrestleMania XXVIII. Rather, The Straight Edge Superstar’s objective will be to punish the boundaryless Jericho, who has tormented Punk nonstop since losing their hard-nosed mat classic at The Show of Shows.
If Jericho is truly the thinking-man’s wrestler that he claims to be, he’s already formulating a defense for what will undoubtedly be the angriest Punk the WWE Universe has ever seen. And if he’s not doing just that, then Jericho is likely overlooking a few key facts.
For one, this year’s Extreme Rules will be held at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill. Not only The Second City Saint’s home field, the Allstate Arena was also the site of Punk’s historic, post-pipebomb, WWE Championship win over John Cena last year.
Maybe more important than the venue, however, is the event itself: Extreme Rules. Several of Punk’s finest WWE moments occurred at either Extreme Rules or One Night Stand, which preceded Extreme Rules as WWE’s annual hardcore pay-per-view.
His record at the events isn’t unblemished: Without being pinned or submitted, Punk lost a five-Superstar fracas in 2008. Last year, as the leader of The Nexus, Punk dropped a competitive contest to Randy Orton. Overshadowing that pair of defeats, however, is a longer list of victories, each representing a major milestone on Punk’s path to becoming the cream of the WWE crop.
Let it not be forgotten that Punk’s first matches on WWE TV were actually as a member of the relaunched Extreme Championship Wrestling. Punk’s potential to be a breakout star was recognized from the start, and he was courted aggressively by rival stables The ECW Originals (a collection of key players from the legendary Philadelphia bingo hall) and The New Breed (a faction representing the reincarnated ECW brand).
After a brief spell with The New Breed, Punk eventually sided with the old-school renegades, teaming with Tommy Dreamer and The Sandman to defeat New Breeders Matt Striker, Marcus Cor Von and Elijah Burke in a Six-Man Tables Match at One Night Stand 2007.
Perhaps most significant about the victory was that it was Punk who sealed the deal, suplexing Striker off the second ropes onto Burke, who was lying on the table. Although Punk stood out as his squad’s lone member to have never competed under the original ECW banner, The Straight Edge Superstar more than carried his weight in capturing the W.
Towing a Bulldozer
Leading into Extreme Rules 2009, Punk – whose Money in the Bank victory at WrestleMania XXV guaranteed him a title shot – was riding a wave of momentum.
Pitted against the 6-foot-4, 350-pound Umaga, however, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Punk very much appeared to be fighting an uphill battle. Making matters worse was the match stipulation, Samoan Strap Match rules, which seemed to favor The Samoan Bulldozer in every conceivable way.
A specialty of the agile monster from the Isle of Samoa, the Samoan Strap Match saw the two combatants tethered together at the wrists by a length of leather, which Umaga and Punk inevitably used to a blistering effect. Victory could only be attained by dragging your opponent to all four corners of the ring.
The size difference posed a major problem for Punk, who repeatedly found himself on the losing end of tugs of war with Umaga. The Samoan Bulldozer flung Punk from pillar to post, jarring The Second City Saint’s internal organs with one vicious slam after another. Despite the beating, the headstrong Punk remained competitive and staged an improbable comeback that would make any underdog smile.
With three corners already crossed off his list, Punk faced a fierce battle in trying to tag the last corner. By then recovered from Punk’s earlier onslaught, Umaga held his ground before charging full-steam Punk’s way. Much to the WWE Universe’s collective surprise, the savvy Chicagoan used Umaga’s momentum against him, scooping up his massive body for the GTS. After connecting his knee with Umaga’s face, Punk fell into the final, fourth corner for the win.
The result represented an upset in the WWE scene of 2009, but Punk’s work that night was far from over, as Jeff Hardy would soon learn.
In the main event of Extreme Rules 2009, World Heavyweight Champion Edge and longtime rival Jeff Hardy competed in a trying ladder match in which both Superstars risk life and limb in the pursuit of championship glory.
The hard-fought contest could have gone either way, but in the end it was Hardy who was left holding the title.
Whereas Hardy viewed the moment as one to be relished, Punk saw it as a prime opportunity to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase. Lying in wait, The Second City Saint sprinted to the ring, handed his briefcase to the referee and made his intentions abundantly clear as he waited for the war-torn Hardy to get to his feet.
Two GTSes later and Punk began his second reign as the World Heavyweight Champion.
A hairy scenario
By the time Extreme Rules 2010 rolled around, Punk had assumed the role of leader of The Second City Society, a group of straight-edge devotees who pledged allegiance to Punk and Punk alone. The Society’s mission was simple: to convert other Superstars to the substance-free lifestyle championed by their leader.
One of the Society’s first targets was Rey Mysterio, who had become a thorn in Punk’s side by eliminating The Straight Edge Superstar in an Elimination Chamber match, costing him a Money in the Bank qualifying match and beating him in a singles bout at WrestleMania XXVI.
The stakes were raised, however, when Punk put his hair on the line for a match against The Master of the 619 at Extreme Rules. A loss would signify the end of Punk’s mane, which at that point in time seemed as much a part of The Second City Saint package as the triple-star trunks, Pepsi tattoo and kick pads.
The bout provided its share of awe-inspiring exchanges, chief among them a stunning Asai Moonsault by Mysterio and a reversal of Punk’s GTS into a lucha-pure hurricanrana.
As Punk has demonstrated time and time again, he rarely goes into a match without a strategy in mind, and his Extreme Rules outing against Mysterio would be no different. In the bout’s final moments, a mysterious, masked ally of Punk appeared from beneath the ring to discretely slip a chair into the squared circle while the ref’s back was turned.
The official spotted the chair before Punk could weaponize it, but the referee’s vigilance played right into the Society’s plan. As the distracted official removed the chair, the masked assailant planted Mysterio with a face buster on the floor, making The Ultimate Underdog easy prey for a Punk GTS.