CM Punk shocked the world when he made his long-awaited return to WWE at the conclusion of the 2023 Survivor Series in Chicago, Illinois.
Punk’s return came after he had been fired from AEW on September 2, 2023, following a backstage skirmish with Jack Perry. The world is abuzz regarding whom Punk will face at WrestleMania 39, a decade after he departed WWE in acrimonious circumstances.
When Punk does wrestle again, fans are accustomed to seeing the veteran engage in classic encounters and will hope for many more legendary contests in the future.
This feature looks back at the five greatest CM Punk matches that have taken place to date.
#5 CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan – Over The Limit (May 20, 2012)
Inexplicably the WWE Championship match between CM Punk and Daniel Bryan was not placed in the headline position of the third annual Over the Limit pay-per-view event. That honour went to the silly bout between John Cena and John Laurinaitis.
That fact may have given Punk and Bryan extra motivation to deliver the best bout possible. Their title match was outstanding; one of the finest contests of 2012.
It came as no surprise that Punk and Bryan engaged in fluid chain wrestling throughout, which was interspersed with several big spots and high-impact moves.
The finishing sequence was electric. Bryan reversed a bulldog into the Yes Lock! However, the champion was able to roll over and pin ‘The American Dragon’s’ shoulders to the mat. As the referee counted three though, Punk appeared to tap. That finish set up a further bout between the pair at No Way Out (also including Kane) and Money in the Bank.
It was a tremendous battle, with excellent psychology and action. One of the most memorable matches of Punk’s legendary career.
#4 CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar – SummerSlam (August 18, 2013)
CM Punk had an excellent 2013 inside the ropes and his bout with Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam was no exception. The story of the match was that Paul Heyman had turned his back on Punk, his former friend and sent his most formidable charge, Brock Lesnar to destroy him.
Despite the huge size differential, Punk went toe to toe with Lesnar in a crisp, masterful big man versus little man encounter, which remains one of the greatest matches of ‘The Beast’s’ career as well. The match was No DQ which led to weapons coming into play.
Lesnar counted a GTS into a Kimura Lock on Punk’s left arm. However, Punk countered this into an armbar and then a Triangle Choke. That was a fluid, MMA-inspired sequence which led to huge reactions from the live crowd.
Heyman attempted to interfere but ended up being knocked to the ground by Punk who applied the Anaconda Vice. Lesnar broke this up with several steel chair shots and ended the bout by nailing Punk with an F-5 onto a steel chair.
The match was an excellent mix of submission wrestling, technical exchanges, and brawling. It told an excellent story and had the crowd glued to the action throughout. The contest was superb.
#3 CM Punk vs. Samoa Joe – Joe vs Punk II (October 16, 2004)
CM Punk’s trilogy with Samoa Joe put Ring of Honor on the map in the mid-2000s and each match was different and worthy of classic status. However, it was their second encounter which stands out as their finest ever bout.
For 60 hard-hitting minutes, Punk and Joe engaged in a stiff battle over Joe’s ROH World Title. Punk was the aggressor in the early going, trying to outwrestle his larger opponent. However, Joe would make his comeback and target Punk’s legs to remove his speed advantage.
The match was an all-out war of attrition with excellent psychology and pacing.
The home stretch was extremely exciting as Punk escaped from a Muscle Buster attempt and attempted to nail Joe with a Pepsi Plunge. However, ‘The Samoan Submission Machine’ fought out and blasted Punk with a Fisherman Buster. However, before he could attempt the pin, the time limit expired.
The pair shook hands after the bell.
This match had everything. World class storytelling, amazing spots, high-impact moves, and excellent selling. The bout is well worthy of its iconic status.
#2 CM Punk vs. The Undertaker – WrestleMania 29 (April 7, 2013)
After CM Punk’s epic 434-day WWE Championship reign was terminated by The Rock at the 2013 Royal Rumble, ‘The Voice of the Voiceless’ was out of the WrestleMania main event.
However, although Punk did not headline WrestleMania 29, his match stole the show. Punk became the final victim of The Undertaker’s famed WrestleMania undefeated Streak in a phenomenal bout that ebbed and flowed throughout.
Punk seemed close to winning on several occasions but ‘The Phenom’ kicked out of some incredible near falls. Punk smashed The Undertaker in the head with the urn and when he attempted a GTS, it was countered into a Tombstone. That earned ‘Taker the win and improved his (then) perfect WrestleMania record to 21-0.
Excellent, emotional storytelling, with back-and-forth action and an incredibly smooth and fluid finishing sequence mark this bout out as one of the finest in WrestleMania history.
It was one of Punk’s very, very best too. A triumph.
#1 CM Punk vs. John Cena – Money in the Bank (July 17, 2011)
CM Punk’s career highlight remains his title bout with John Cena at the 2011 Money in the Bank pay-per-view. Invigorated by his famous pipe bomb promo on the June 27, 2011 Raw, Punk rode the crest of the wave into the event and lifted his first WWE Championship.
The match ebbed and flowed throughout and backed by vociferous hometown support, ‘The Best in the World’ overcame outside distractions to reverse an AA into a GTS for the clean pinfall win.
An enraged Vince McMahon attempted to get Alberto Del Rio to cash in his newly won Money in the Bank briefcase but he too was laid out by a CM Punk kick to the head.
As Punk’s WWE contract expired that same night, he walked out of the company with the WWE Title in tow. The excellent storyline faltered from there, but for this night at least, it was magical.
A lightning in the bottle atmosphere, strong action and logical storytelling. This was a masterpiece.
You can watch most of CM Punk’s greatest matches and moments exclusively on the WWE Network.