WWE: Looking Back on CM Punk vs John Cena at MITB 2011

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 21: Professional wrestler John Cena rings the NYSE opening bell at New York Stock Exchange on August 21, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 21: Professional wrestler John Cena rings the NYSE opening bell at New York Stock Exchange on August 21, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images) /

With Money In The Bank, 2021 in the proverbial can, we look back on CM Punk versus John Cena from Money In The Bank, 2011.

It just may be regarded as one of the greatest rivalries to ever come to fruition at the Money In The Bank pay-per-view, and although that is arguable, it can’t be denied that the build-up and the tension going in was palpable, and could be felt by wrestling fans both old and new.

All these years later, we take a look back at the events that led to the match, the match itself, and its lasting legacy in the wrestling industry.

A build-up for the ages and setting the scene

Maybe the WWE Universe was reminded of a different era and for many reasons, but the main reason was that the WWE championship was in danger of being taken away from its home.

Previously this had occurred when Alundra Blayze appeared on WCW TV with the WWE Women’s title and threw it in the trash.

By July of 2011, CM Punk’s contract was up and he was threatening to leave and potentially with the title. He was suspended but reinstated once John Cena demanded that he, himself would walk out if Punk wasn’t reinstated to face him for the title. Vince agreed, but added the stipulation that if Cena lost, he’d ultimately be fired.

Vince, in order to secure that Punk would stay with the company, publicly apologized to him and Punk, not one to not make use of an opportunity, made a list of demands for a new contract…preposterous in nature, of course, but I must admit, I have always wondered what a CM Punk ice cream bar would have tasted like.

After John Cena interrupted the proceedings, Punk tore up Vince’s contract and if he defeated John Cena in their sanctioned match, he’d be leaving, and with Vince’s WWE Championship in tow.

I don’t know about any of you, but it was Blayze I thought of when this feud got underway, and I heard the title hitting the trash can over and over again, as I watched the action unfold all those years later, and in a different era to boot.

The scene was set and perhaps what ended up actually happening wasn’t at all what WWE fans or wrestling fans, in general, had ever expected.

Punk’s attitudinal dominance in a then docile industry

CM Punk had acquired quite a bit of momentum by that point. Having started in the company in 2006, he had racked up a lot of experience at Ring of Honor, TNA, and the independent circuit, establishing a pretty serious following upon his arrival in WWE.

He didn’t establish the favor of the Universe from the get-go, but the build was slow yet steady. Remind anybody else of that bald-headed, goateed son of a…?

It does for me, but I digress.

Punk made some pretty brash statements on the mic and it was only after a particular tirade—labeled “the pipe bomb”—that a certain disgruntled portion of the WWE Universe appreciated him in a new light. After all, he was the response—the perfect response—to the wholesome attitude or rather message delivered by one John Felix Anthony Cena.

It was the perfect time to bring these two powerhouses together and what better event than at Money In The Bank of that year when Punk’s contract was to come to an end?

Cena breaks

John Cena actually made a return to WWE at this past Money In The Bank, a whopping ten years after the event we’re celebrating in this article, and perhaps that’s very appropriate.

Cena had quite a few issues getting over with the crowd by that point in his career in 2011. He had also had some trouble with booing crowds earlier and of course later—particularly during his feud with The Rock. This was especially so with the 18 and up a crowd of the male portion of the WWE audience. Honestly, that has always confused me, but perhaps that’s not the point of this piece.

Regardless, he was the perfect member of the roster to challenge the force that was Punk, his followers in the crowd, and those watching at home, as the drama unfolded after episode and episode of Raw, leading up to the event.

Punk claimed that Cena had lost the position of “Underdog” he always claimed to liken himself to, and instead of the Red Sox, he had now become the establishment…he had now become the New York Yankees.

It was that moment that resulted in the usually composed John Cena letting go of his emotions and strike out at Punk, thus later resulting in Punk’s tearing up of the aforementioned new contract.

The message delivered here was that Punk had gotten to the man that couldn’t be touched…he had broken John’s resolve and Cena had struck first.

The match itself

The event was in Chicago…so, of course, the crowd was for Punk, and they made that quite obvious from the beginning.

The undertones of the match had already been established long before the bell rang…long before the ring was set up right there in Punk’s hometown, and perhaps long before Cena went through the motions of his morning workout, analyzing his plans for the match ahead.

This was like nothing either of them had done before, and the future of the WWE championship hung in the balance.

Blow by blow, the match was probably one of Cena’s best. I personally would put it up with the epic matches Cena had with Edge—countless matches throughout his career—Randy Orton, and Shawn Michaels. Now, that’s saying quite a bit of Punk, but please…look back on Punk’s time and his rise in the business…doesn’t he deserve that recognition?

He sure does and this feud and match definitely prove that point extremely well.

It looked good for Cena as the match progressed, but he failed to capitalize on his most classic moves and Punk managed to get to the ropes while in John’s STF submission hold. Cena just couldn’t seem to get the job done, Punk was way too slippery. Punk countered the same move a few moments later and ended up getting John in a submission all his own. Punk also kicked out after Cena executed his Attitude Adjustment.

The match had delivered on all counts and kept the audience guessing until the final bell; the fact that Punk would be leaving the company in the air around the ring like a cloud of thick smoke.

Finally a pinfall, and to the shock of everyone in attendance, Punk secured the pinfall after connecting with the GTS and escaped into his hometown crowd of Chicago having won the title and taking it to only God knew where.

The word chagrin doesn’t properly encompass the look on Vince’s face after the match, the chairman trying to do everything in his power to keep the title in WWE; he even tried to get Alberto Del Rio to cash in on his Money In The Bank contract, but to no avail.

The result: the WWE Universe and the platform that was the WWE and its championship were in question.

On working with Cena, Punk has stated: “I always liked working with John because again, it was easy, and I think that John was almost kind of glad somebody else came in and forcibly, like took the reins…”

He also stated in the same Starrcast interview (where the above statements were made), that John Cena was always open to his ideas, so it was always great to work with him.

This obviously shows in the end result, which in wrestling, is the match itself and how it’s digested by the fans in the moment and as time goes on, and in this case, the match is definitely heralded as one of Punk’s most epic as well as John’s.

dark. Next. John Cena returned at WWE Money in the Bank

A lasting impression

Perhaps it was one of the greatest feuds in the PG era. Perhaps it wasn’t. But it can clearly be said that something was set in motion and unfortunately halted before it could gain the proper steam it was destined to achieve, but perhaps, more on that another time….