(Almost) 5-Star Match Reviews: Brock Lesnar vs. CM Punk - WWE SummerSlam 2013

(Almost) 5-Star Match Reviews: Brock Lesnar vs. CM Punk - WWE SummerSlam 2013

SummerSlam 2013 is widely regarded as one of the best SummerSlams of all time because it was a two-match show. It featured two-main-event-level matches that, to this very day, are considered among the best WWE matches of all time. This was the first of the two to take place. It was a brutal, violent brawl tinged with personal bitterness and the desire for vindication after deep betrayal.

Let’s look back now to see if this match really was, and still is, as good as everyone has said it is. It’s the famous singles match between CM Punk and Brock Lesnar from SummerSlam 2013.

As a reminder, I am reviewing Five Star and almost-Five Star wrestling matches as rated by Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer. It goes back to the 1980s and I’m going to pick different matches from different eras to see how they look today. Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here.

The story

At the 2013 Money In The Bank PPV, Paul Heyman betrayed CM Punk, ending a close friendship that has spanned years. Heyman’s justification was that it was thanks to him that Punk was so good. Without Heyman, Punk was not the Best in the World, as he claimed himself to be (laughs in 1990s All Japan).

Naturally, Punk wanted revenge. But there was a snag in Punk’s plan: a monstrous, near-300-pound ass-kicking machine named Brock Lesnar. Brock did what he does best and manhandled Punk, which led to this narrative that Punk couldn’t beat Lesnar.

Thus the stage was set. The Best vs. The Beast.  Punk had two missions going into this match. He wanted to prove that he could beat Brock Lesnar, and he wanted to get revenge on Heyman for his Judas-level betrayal. Fans everywhere hoped that Punk could achieve both goals, but it was definitely going to be an uphill battle for CM Punk.

The match

This match originally took place on August 18th, 2013. It was originally rated ****1/2 stars by the Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer. The match was also rated ****1/2 by John Canton in his review on TJRWrestling as well. Let’s look back now to see how well this match holds up.

The bell rings and Punk charges ad Lesnar but Lesnar carries him into a corner and lands shoulder checks to Punk’s gut. Punk fights out with forearms but Lesnar repeats lands more shoulder checks. The crowd roars with ‘CM Punk’ chants as Lesnar smashes him into another corner and lands some stomach kicks. Punk tries to fight back with some muay thay strikes but Lesnar absorbs them and Biel throws Punk across the ring. Punk keeps fighting back and Lesnar keeps putting him in the corner. Lesnar trash talks and Punk fires back. He lands a big knee to Lesnar’s head and then another that sends Lesnar out of the ring. Suicide dive. The crowd explodes in CM Punk chants.

Punk grabs the steel steps to use as a weapon but Lesnar shoulder checks them into Punk and Punk goes down. Lesnar goes to smash Punk into the steel ringpost but Punk counters and Lesnar hits the post face-first. Top-rope diving double ax handle by Punk. Jumping clothesline from the announce table. Punk makes a beeline for Heyman and just as he’s about to start clobbering him, Lesnar makes the save. Lesnar throws Punk over two different announce tables and Punk lands hard. He tosses a piece of the table onto Punk and stomps on it, driving his weight into Punk’s side. Belly-to-belly suplex by Lesnar on the ringside mats. Punk is getting manhandled.

Back in the ring, Punk kicks Lesnar’s legs but Lesnar drops him with a clothesline. He lands more shoulder checks in the corner and applies a bearhug, but Punk fights out with elbows to Lesnar’s face. Punk charges but eats a knee lift to the gut for his efforts. More hard knees by Lesnar and he takes the time to rub his knee in the spot on Punk’s side where he landed badly on the announce table. Another bearhug. Punk elbows out and goes to the top rope. He dives, but Lesnar catches him and throws him across the ring with a fallaway slam. Lesnar lands a rib breaker and gets multiple two-counts and then applies a chinlock. The crowd remains behind CM Punk as he starts a comeback. Then he pulls a Mike Tyson and bites Lesnar’s ear. Clever escape.

Punk lands a flurry of strikes followed by a diving elbow that knocks Lesnar into a corner. Two consecutive corner knee lifts connect for Punk. He goes for a third, Lesnar counters, Punk escapes an F-5 and lands a roundhouse kick to Lesnar’s head.  Diving elbow by Punk. Lesnar kicks out. Go To sleep. Counter. F-5. Counter. Another roundhouse kick drops Lesnar. GTS attempt once again. Lesnar counters into the kimura lock. Punk tries to punch his way out but Lesnar ignores it and applies more pressure. Punk counters the kimura into a cross armbreaker. Lesnar tries to fight out. Punk transitions to a triangle lock. Great counter sequence. Lesnar powers out by slamming Punk powerbomb-style. Punk keeps the triangle hold locked in. Lesnar looks to be close to tapping. Lesnar goes to power out again. Punk answers with elbows to Lesnar’s nose. Massive running powerbomb by Lesnar. Amazing sequence. Lesnar pins but Punk kicks out.

The crowd firmly behind Punk as Lesnar lands Eddy Guerrero-style Three Amigos for a two-count. Lesnar leaves the ring and grabs a chair, and Punk uses that to climb the top rope to surprise Lesnar. But Lesnar sees him coming and gets the chair up. Punk dives into the chair but Lesnar still suffers a hard impact. Punk smashes the hell out of Lesnar’s back with the chair. He goes for more chairshots in the ring but Lesnar grabs the chair. Lesnar goes to return the favor but Punk lands a low blow. Which is completely legal since this is No DQ. Punk goes to the rope with the chair. Diving press with the chair to Lesnar’s face. Lesnar kicks out at 2.9. Punk smashes Lesnar’s back some more. he raises the chair but Heyman grabs it from behind and throws it away. Punk grabs Heyman but Lesnar grabs Punk. Lesnar goes for the F-5, but Punk holds onto Heyman’s tie for safety. Punk (and by extension Lesnar) starts choking Heyman. Punk escapes the F-5. Go To Sleep! Punk lands his finisher. One, two, no, Heyman breaks up the pin. He lands some weak punches on Punk, who stares daggers at him with an evil grin.

Punk chases Heyman around and back into the ring, but walks into an F-5 attempt. But Punk counters into a DDT. Punk pins. Lesnar barely kicks out. Anaconda Vise. Punk’s trying to make Lesnar tap once again. Heyman grabs another steel chair. Punk sees him coming and cuts him off by stepping on that chair. Punk nails Heyman with a hard punch to the head and then puts the Anaconda Vise on Heyman. Heyman taps instantly but Lesnar smashes Punk with the steel chair. F-5 onto the steel chair. One, two, three! Lesnar wins the match thanks to Paul Heyman.

Winner after 25:19: Brock Lesnar

Brock Lesnar vs CM Punk Video Dailymotion

Review

That was a great match. To this day it very well might still be Lesnar’s best match since his return, if not his best match ever. Punk was great here as well, and he showed exactly why he called himself the Best in the World.

They had a classic David vs. Goliath dynamic going on, with Punk having to rely on clever tactics, surprise, and weapons to match up against Lesnar’s strength advantage. Punk showed his wily creativity by using weapons in different ways throughout the match. And he complemented this by showing an unyielding will to win, which was best shown during that extended submission sequence. Punk refused to tap out to Lesnar’s dangerous kimura lock, and then kept his own submission hold locked in, even as Lesnar powerbombed him as hard as possible. That’s the mark of a great babyface hero: instead of breaking up a submission hold instantly when you take a hit, you power through the pain and keep the same hold locked in because you’re that determined to win. It really highlighted Punk’s valiance, which is why the crowd was so firmly in Punk’s corner throughout the entire match.

It was also appropriate for Punk to go in this direction because it acted as a callback to Lesnar’s MMA career. MMA matches are far more wild and unpredictable, with finishes literally coming out of nowhere. Punk going in that direction made sense because Lesnar had been in MMA, so there was a greater likelihood that Lesnar could be beaten with a random submission hold out of nowhere, even if said hold hadn’t been preceded by an extended ‘limb working’ segment as is common in pro wrestling.

As for Lesnar, he showed more wrestling smarts than he usually does as he targeted Punk’s ribs with surgical precision. From the moment he threw Punk through the announce table until right before the finish, Lesnar attacked Punk’s ribs to wear them down. This made weakened Punk to the point that he could barely mount much of an offensive comeback outside of submission holds and using weapons.

With those two elements came together, the crowd went absolutely crazy. They were fully into this match and made a ton of noise. Their cheering helped make this match feel more exciting, especially when Punk looked to be inching ever closer to a possible win. This wasn’t even the main event of the show, but the live audience reacted as if it was.

And yet, there some things that really bothered me while watching this. First, there was the issue of the No DQ stipulation and Paul Heyman’s interference. He spent most of the match ringside and only interfered towards the very end when Punk was close to winning. And that interference – along with Punk’s responses, which ultimately led to his demise – felt like a cop-out. They structured the match in a way that made Punk look stupid. He was severely outmatched by Lesnar so he had to take advantage of any advantage he could get. And when he finally got one, Heyman either broke it up or Punk got caught up in a momentary desire for revenge that had a much smaller payoff than what he would’ve gotten if he stayed focused and beat Lesnar. If the match was No DQ, why didn’t Heyman interfere much more? And knowing this stipulation, why didn’t Punk try and take out Heyman earlier to make it harder for Heyman to get involved later in the match?

It seemed like WWE booked themselves into a corner. Punk was white-hot as an act and the fans were fully invested in seeing him get revenge on Heyman to regain his lost momentum. But they didn’t want Lesnar to lose the match either. So they went down the cheapest avenue: Punk got some slight revenge by beating Heyman up, while Lesnar got the win in the end.

From a competitive standpoint, it was illogical and silly; and from a creative standpoint, it was lazy and shortsighted. That finish is in the same family as the clichéd ‘wrestler gets distracted by entrance music’ trope that WWE brings up way too often. Punk looked to have the match won before he turned his attention to Heyman. If Punk really wanted to take a shot at Heyman, he should’ve done more to make his Beast tap out, which would’ve completely thrown Heyman’s argument that Punk was only the best in the world because of him out the window. But in the end, Punk sacrificed long-term gains for short-term revenge that didn’t matter. Yes, he made Heyman tap out and the fans popped for a moment. But Lesnar stood tall in the end, and so did Heyman.

Final Rating: ****1/2

I don’t think this match has gotten any better or worse with time. It was great when it happened, but I don’t see it as a genuinely historic epic. Although both Punk and Lesnar fought hard, I think this match was handicapped by its own stipulation. WWE booked this match in a way that didn’t take full advantage of the No DQ parameters, and that supposed selling point of the match only really paid off in the final five minutes. Sure, there were plenty of brutal chair-shots. But neither Punk nor Lesnar really made the most out of their situation. It’s weird. It’s as if they were both limited by the stipulation and didn’t make the most of it at the same time.

And yet, this match had something for everyone. If you like seeing a no-nonsense monster of a man throwing his opponent around like a ragdoll, you’ll find plenty of that here. If you like weapons-based violence, there’s some of that here too. And if you enjoy seeing someone that previously got screwed over get their revenge on the person that betrayed them, there’s some of that as well…though, not as much as you might expect.

Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here. Thanks for reading.