It was just last week when I ranked CM Punk’s ten worst feuds in his WWE career, so here I am returning with this look at the best feuds of CM Punk’s WWE career.
CM Punk’s career in WWE spanned over seven years from the time he debuted in ECW in 2006 to when he left the day after Royal Rumble 2014. During his WWE career he was a face, then a heel, then a face, then a heel again and finally he ended up as a face in his final WWE days. Punk was in both roles at different times because he was so talented in either role that WWE considered him a wrestler that they valued a lot.
Here’s a look at Punk’s ten best feuds in WWE with an apology to John Laurinaitis. I’m only kidding about that, but Punk’s Laurinaitis impression was always funny!
10. John Morrison
When CM Punk spoke about Morrison on his DVD release many years ago, he spoke about how he really didn’t like a lot of their matches on the ECW brand because their styles just didn’t mesh. I always felt he was a little hard on himself for things like that and that their matches were always pretty solid. I wouldn’t say there were any classic matches, but they were certainly better than average wrestlers.
On the September 4, 2007 edition of ECW TV, there was a match where Morrison defended the ECW Title against Punk in what was billed as a “Last Chance” match meaning it was the last time Punk could challenge for the title. Punk ended up winning and it drew a huge reaction. It was probably one of the better moments in WWE’s version of ECW.
They didn’t wrestle too much when Punk became a regular on Raw/Smackdown while Morrison ended up leaving the company in late 2011. It would have been nice to see more matches between them just to see how well they would have done, but it just didn’t happen again.
9. Randy Orton
Punk wrestled Randy Orton a lot during his WWE career, but it’s their 2011 rivalry that really stood. Punk was in the heel role while Orton was a babyface. It was a good pairing because both of them were former World Champions who really didn’t have anything else going on.
Their match at WrestleMania 27 was a very solid midcard battle that Orton won in memorable fashion. Punk went for a springboard clothesline, but Orton avoided it and hit the RKO for the finish. It was a tremendous “out of nowhere” type of finish.
They met again at Extreme Rules 2011 in a Last Man Standing match that Orton also won. There were other matches on television over the years, but they were not as epic as some of Punk’s matches with other big names. Overall, I’d say the rivalry was pretty good for sure, not necessarily great either.
8. The Rock
When The Rock agreed to have three matches during his return in 2013 we didn’t know who they were going to be against until CM Punk attacked him in the summer of 2012 on the 1,000th episode of Raw. That’s the first Raw where WWE made Raw a three-hour show officially. That attack set up a heel turn for the babyface Punk, who was the WWE Champion at the time.
On day 434 as the WWE Champion, Punk lost the title to The Rock at the 2013 Royal Rumble. It was something that most of us knew was going to happen because Rock’s win set up a WWE Title match with John Cena at WrestleMania 29. Even though The Rock winning was obvious, some fans were upset by it because Punk deserved to be in the main event of WrestleMania 29 and he wasn’t mainly because WWE wanted to do Rock vs. Cena again.
It was great to see Punk wrestling The Rock and their promo duels were fantastic as well. Punk’s epic “box with God” promo was one of the best of his career.
Their match at the Rumble and the rematch at Elimination Chamber were both very good and some might even say great. Rock wasn’t the talented worker that he was ten years earlier. He was more of a different kind of wrestler. Age slows everybody down at some point in our lives, plus he was just too muscular to move around that well. It was still a solid feud and a rivalry that showed how talented Punk was even against all-time greats like The Rock.
7. Brock Lesnar/Paul Heyman
Punk’s main rivalry in the second half of 2013 (when he was a babyface) was with former manager Paul Heyman. Punk only had one match with Lesnar at SummerSlam 2013, but it was so great that it was one of the best WWE matches of the year. If they had two or three matches, then this rivalry would definitely be higher.
Here’s part of what I wrote in the review of their SummerSlam 2013 match:
It was an outstanding match that holds up very well five years later. I like that they made it a No DQ match because it allowed the smaller Punk to compete with Lesnar. It also made sense to do that stipulation because Heyman was so involved in the match. Punk got his payback against Heyman at the PPVs that followed this one. According to the Wrestling Observer after the show, both guys received standing ovations from their peers in the back when they went backstage. They deserved it from the fans and from the guys in the back as well.
While Punk only wrestled Lesnar once, he did go on to feud with Heyman in rivalries against Curtis Axel and Ryback. Both of those feuds were disappointing and made it onto the “worst feuds” list. It’s just too bad that Punk never got to wrestle Lesnar again.
6. The Undertaker
The CM Punk match with The Undertaker at WrestleMania 29 was a classic. I doubt there was anybody that thought Punk was going to win, but that’s fine. Punk did everything right as a heel. Punk even pushed the envelope by utilizing the death of Paul Bearer to bring heat onto himself. Was it going too far? Probably, but I assume they all felt like Bearer was a pro wrestling character at his core anyway, so he might have been okay with it. The Punk/Undertaker match was one of the best of 2013 as Punk showed again that he was able to work with the biggest names in the business and that he was the “best in the world” just as he said he was.
That wasn’t their first feud, though. They battled in the fall of 2009 when Punk was the World Champion. He ended up facing off with Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match at the appropriately named Hell in a Cell event and Undertaker left with the World Title. It wasn’t really a memorable feud at all.
Even though Punk was a loser in his rivalry with Undertaker, he was still successful in terms of proving he could compete with one of the biggest legends in WWE history.
5. Chris Jericho
This could have been called the “best in the world” feud when their rivalry began in 2012. Jericho came back to WWE as a guy that called everybody a wannabe and he targeted CM Punk, who was the WWE Champion, because Punk called himself the “best in the world” just like Jericho was known to do.
It was a feud that fans were excited about because Jericho was one of the best performers in WWE (especially from 2008 to 2010) and then when he left, Punk stepped to the forefront as the best performer in the company.
They did a long build to their matchup at WrestleMania 28 with each man stating why they felt they were the best. They made a lot of great points. It led to an entertaining match at WrestleMania that Punk ended up winning clean. Some parts of the story were cheesy like when Jericho accused Punk of having alcoholics in his family and trying to say Punk liked to drink alcohol even though Punk is straight edge. It just didn’t work that well.
What was great about their match at Extreme Rules 2012 was that it was a completely different kind of match compared to WrestleMania. They had a brawl with weapons where they put their bodies on the line and put on a match that I enjoyed more than the WrestleMania match. Punk, the babyface, won that one too.
Both of their major matches were really good, but perhaps the hype was a little too high because they didn’t deliver a match of the year contender. It was still very good overall, though.
4. Daniel Bryan
Following Punk’s 2012 rivalry with Jericho, the next man up was Daniel Bryan. It was the feud that the internet wanted to see because they were considered the two favorite wrestlers among internet fans. They also had a history that was about a decade old.
Seeing them on the big WWE stage at Over the Limit 2012 was an awesome sight. They had a classic match there that was arguably the best of the year. There was a creative finish to the match with Bryan applying the Yes Lock to Punk and it was countered by Punk, who won via pinfall right before he tapped out.
They ended up having some other PPV matches too although they weren’t as great as the match at Over the Limit.
When CM Punk thinks about his 2012 rivalry with Daniel Bryan, he likely remembers all of the great matches they had just like we all do. It was also a time in Punk’s life where he got to work with his future wife AJ Lee, who was the on-screen girlfriend of Daniel Bryan at the time. Lee’s character wasn’t shy about kissing a lot of different guys, including Punk.
It would have been great to see heel CM Punk against face Daniel Bryan (in 2014 after Bryan was the WWE Champion while Punk was out of the company) because that would put the two of them in their best roles.
3. Rey Mysterio
When CM Punk was at his absolute best it was usually in the role of a heel. His 2010 rivalry with Rey Mysterio was the perfect kind of feud for Punk because Mysterio has only been a babyface in his WWE career.
Punk was leading the Straight Edge Society at this point and with the likes of Luke Gallows, Serena and Joey Mercury at his side, he had gained a lot of power. Fans hated him not only because he would say that he was better than them, but because he had backup that would always watch his back. Punk was this cult-like leader that didn’t really care about anybody other than himself.
The defining moment in the feud happened on Smackdown when Mysterio was in the ring with his family and Punk walked out there to sing happy birthday to Rey’s daughter Aaliyah. He called Rey a coward right in front of his family. Punk was exactly the kind of despicable heel that you don’t always see in wrestling. The good guy/bad guy lines were drawn really well. That’s why it worked so well.
Their feud lasted for over three months with matches taking place at WrestleMania 26, Extreme Rules 2010 and Over The Limit 2010. Mysterio ended up as the winner of the feud when he shaved the head of Punk to embarrass him. It was the right kind of payoff for a story that didn’t have a title involved, nor did it need one.
Punk thrived in so many roles in his career and in this one he was the bully that ultimately was shut up by the hero. It’s too bad the Straight Edge Society didn’t get to last longer because this version of the Punk character was so much fun to watch.
2. Jeff Hardy
Prior to the CM Punk feud with Jeff Hardy in the summer of 2009, Punk was considered a very good performer that could have good matches regularly, but he wasn’t seen as a true top guy. By the time the feud was over, he was headlining a major show like SummerSlam 2009 because of how incredible his performances were. It’s not like WWE went into the Punk/Hardy feud thinking they were going to have the feud of the year and it would main event over whatever the likes of Cena, Triple H and Orton were doing. They earned it and they deserved it.
What was great about the feud is that Punk ended up going from a stale babyface into the heel role that he’s always been better at. There were so many cool moments like when he turned heel after weeks of build up or when he dressed up in body paint the way that Hardy did as a way to mess with him. It made fans want Hardy to absolutely destroy Punk.
After CM Punk cashed in Money in the Bank at Extreme Rules 2009 to become the World Champion, he turned heel. From there, they had three more PPV matches that saw Hardy win by DQ, then he won the title back and then Punk was able to get it back at SummerSlam 2009 in a TLC match that was the best match they had. One more cage match followed and that was the end of Hardy in WWE.
This feud made Smackdown the top show during that period in 2009 because of the work of these two guys. They weren’t just having incredible matches. The promos were terrific also because Punk was a straight edge guy living a clean life while Hardy was all about living on the edge. The fact that they were total opposites personality-wise made them better in the ring together too.
If Hardy never left WWE in 2009 they probably would have had more matches together because the feud was just too good not to go back to it again. It’s a shame that we only got to see them battle for about three months because they could have created many more awesome memories.
1. John Cena
It was a no-brainer to say Cena was Punk’s best rival because without Cena none of the stuff that Punk did in the summer of 2011 aka the “Summer of Punk” would have mattered as much. If CM Punk sat on the top of the ramp to deliver that “shoot” promo against WWE and somebody other than Cena was in the ring then maybe it wouldn’t have felt as special as it was.
When Punk challenged for the WWE Title at Money in the Bank when we thought his contract was legitimately expiring it meant a whole lot more because Cena was his opponent. That’s the value of Cena. He was on a level that nobody else was on in that era.
The Punk/Cena match at Money in the Bank 2011 in Chicago is basically wrestling perfection. It’s hard to find crowds that want to see one guy win so bad in his hometown and in a situation like that. Every time it looked like Cena was going to win, the fans absolutely hated it. Punk kept on fighting, though. When he eventually won and left with the WWE Title it was one of the greatest cliffhangers in wrestling history. A lot of things went right that night. Good luck capturing that kind of magic again.
They had plenty of other great matches too. The match on Raw from February 2013 was fantastic. It was one of the best matches in Raw history that was simply a pure wrestling match between these two men that had awesome chemistry. They had other matches on TV as well as at SummerSlam 2011. That SummerSlam match is also underrated just because it had to follow Money in the Bank that summer. I like their Night of Champions 2012 match a lot as well.
Punk and Cena provided us with plenty of great memories we can look back on fondly. I think it’s fair to say that they really did have one of the best WWE rivalries ever.