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Charles (Loss)

[2011-07-17-WWE-Money in the Bank] CM Punk vs John Cena

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This is the most invested I've been in a new wrestling match since Blue Panther lost his mask. The combination of a great angle and the Chicago crowd lead to some amazing heat and that could have elevated a weak match but these two are charismatic enough to let the crowd responses fuel their work. They put together a slow building title match that rewards all of the rising action. I thought some of the early grappling looked good for the most part and was a thousand time better than the weak chain wrestling in the Cena vs Michaels matches. Cena is someone who I want to see taken to the mat more often. Not all of the execution was great but I never felt like my suspension of disbelief was being challenged. The selling and the timing that both wrestlers brought was great and made up for any flaw in the execution. Punk getting suplexed off the apron was the kind of cool bump you don't see much in WWE anymore and added to the match. The nearfalls were great and both men having over submission holds allowed them to get more out of the stretch run.

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WWE Champion John Cena vs CM Punk - Money In The Bank 2011

 

For one month, wrestling was cool again. Much like WWE right before this time period, I had been going through the motions. Sure I watched every single week since Wrestlemania XIX, but I was in funk. Just like that CM Punk woke me and the WWE the fuck up and I have never really looked back having gone to two Wrestlemanias since then. It was because of the Punk angle that I started investing more time watching older footage and now even when the product gets depressing or mundane there is always Piper/Snuka, Islanders/Striker Force, Flair/Luger, All Japan and 8 million other things to be watched. So as I try to remember the 21st century haze that I lived through, I figure what better match to start with then the match that rekindled my love for pro wrestling.

As much as I love WCW, it is like when WWF bought WCW they inherited all their stupidity when it came to booking: random burials, discontinuities, lack of clear direction, last minute booking, and bad finishes but without any of that panache that WCW brought to stupidity. There was usually something charming about WCW's idiocy whereas WWE is just mundane and depressing at times. Well for one night, they got everything right. I loved the dichotomy between the crowd and the announce team. The announce team openly cheering for Cena, Mr. WWE with Lawler openly questioning why the crowd would be loyal to Punk. Cole did an amazing job putting over how colossal this match is. By the time the opening bell rings, even three years removed from the match, this match feels like the biggest match since Rock/Austin at Wrestlemania X-7. The term "big match" feel gets thrown around but it is amazing how colossal the whole event feels. Cena is just so solemn. He is portraying so well from the get go how much pressure he is under and how big the match is. Not to be outdone, Punk's cool swagger reminds you the most dangerous man is the man who does not give one fuck.

 

I do not think this match would work in front of any other 21st century crowd except this one. They were able to take advantage of the natural molten crowd heat deliver a slow-build championship match, which has never ever been the forte of the WWF, except for a smattering of them during Bret Hart's heyday. Both men are very cautious at the outset, which proves under his cool exterior CM Punk does care very deeply about this and his bravado may carry him so far. I like how the pepper in big bomb teases like a Punk roundhouse, Anaconda Vice, FU early to keep everyone on their toes in between well-worked chain wrestling. It is not the best chain wrestling in the world, but it is better than what usually passes for chain wrestling in the WWE. I actually liked how back and forth it was because it really established them as equals. The first transition is brilliant as Cena gets caught going for a home run early and pays via a Punk DDT and then a knee drop from middle rope on to neck. Punk looks to hit a cross-body but it is a bit low and it looks like it could have jammed Cena's leg. Cena kicks out and immediately retreats to the apron to tend to his knee. Planned spot or not, it is brilliant work by Cena.

It is time I bring up my quibble of the match. I really liked the layout, but the execution was sometimes suspect (Punk not landing on his feet on the FU and seeming to be a bit off in general on spots) and the lack of struggle (transitions in & out of submissions) was very noticeable. There was token resistance by Punk before he was suplexed over the top rope all the way to the floor by Cena. The selling and bump by Punk were incredible and were the main focal points of the spot. However, all the details count and maybe it is because I have watched so much NOAH at this point, but you got to sell you don't want to go over the top rope too. Where was the struggle and tease to really build that spot to the next level. The match was almost too neat at some points is all.

 

Even though struggle within a move was not always there. The struggle over the course the match is what drove this. Punk really had to earn his offense to keep Cena down. It really felt like you were watching a star being born because Punk was not backing down. He was never discouraged every time Cena had an answer and he kept pressing. love when Cena knows he is about to get a big heel reaction for something and he just plays it up as it's just Johnny being Johnny. Nothing is a better example of this then when he goes for the Five Knuckle Shuffle and the crowd boos furiously only for Punk to kick him in the head and hit a suicide. What an ingenious crowd pleasing spot! Cena had answers, but Punk kept coming. Then Punk hitting those stiff, stiff knees to the jaw to Cena when he was leaning on the ropes were probably my favorite moment. Neither Cena nor Punk is particularly stiff and that made those knees really stand out. Finally, finally Punk seems to have Cena on the ropes, but again Cena has an answer this in the form of the STFU. I loved Cole cheering for a Cena tap out victory added so much to the atmosphere. Cena hits the first FU, but Punk kicks out, which triggers a big pop. I have to say it, but fuck I hate the catch you midair powerbomb, it has never looked good. The follow-up to second FU with a super FU had a pretty lame set-up. I take it back the best spot of the match is Punk finally hitting Go 2 Sleep only for Cena to roll out of the ring. His expression said it all that. The championship may have eluded his grasp. Vinny Mac and Johnny Ace worried that Punk is edging closer to victory come out as an insurance policy. Given the storyline, you got to do the Montreal Screwjob tease while Punk is in the STFU, but Cena DECKS Johnny Ace. Cena says NOT THIS WAY! Punk says YES THIS WAY when he hits him with a Go 2 Sleep to win the title. Love the Del Rio tease and the blowing a kiss to Vince!

In retrospect, this match is the inverse of the 2013 RAW match. Punk had Cena's number and it was Cena's last hurdle before going to Wrestlemania to face Rock to exercise his demons. In the 2013 match, Cena had to prove to Punk that he was on his level as Punk had an answer for each of his moves, but eventually Cena would "unlock" his moves and go on to finally vanquish CM Punk. In this match, Cena was the King and Punk needed to prove he was on the level of the champion. Punk with dogged determination withstood all of Cena's best shots and finally hit the Go 2 Sleep only for Cena to roll out of the ring. You get the fun chaos at the end and when the fracas ended it was Punk blowing a kiss to Vince hightailing it through his hometown crowd. I would need to watch the 2013 match again, but Im pretty sure I liked the work in that match more. However, this match just has so many extracurriculars to deny it the highest praise. They worked a very novel match in front of a molten crowd with great commentary. It all culminated in a fantastic finish. I know I bitched about a couple things above, but this perfect confluence of match, opponents, crowd and finish overwhelm any minor complaints. *****

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I find this match to be really overrated, IMO. I like it to be fair, it has a good Cena performance and a great atmosphere. But I thought the majority of the match was pretty pedestrian and there are a lot of lulls in action building to the escalation at the end. Halving the length and tightening it up would have made the match 10 times better. Still, overall decent match. ** 3/4

 

Also with all the finisher exchanges, submission reversals and WWE style drama, I don't really see how this is any different from the 2003-2005 Kurt Angle and Shawn Michaels post-comeback matches that cope a ton of hate while this gets praised to the moon. I would be very interested in hearing what the discrepancy is.

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I was interested in seeing this match steeming from the most infamous promos of the last 10 years. Well. Although the "pipe bomb" was indeed quite the fresh stuff at the time (although obviously scripted in its shootiness and far from the nWo era feel of chaos), having Cena doing poop jokes during the contract negociation angle (which was going extremely well until then) was a rough reminder that I was watching a WWE corporate era stuff. Then, the infamous match.

 

Damn. They spend a whole lot of minutes doing a whole not of nothing. Not the best execution. Finally they got it going, but then it's way overlong and most of all it's basically :

 

Also with all the finisher exchanges, submission reversals and WWE style drama, I don't really see how this is any different from the 2003-2005 Kurt Angle and Shawn Michaels post-comeback matches that cope a ton of hate while this gets praised to the moon.

 

yeah, a typical self-conscious epic with counters/finisher kick-out spamming. Which bores me to death. They lost me long before the actual ending. The obvious fact is that the booking and crowd heat is 50% of why it's so memorable. For once, they got it right (although the announcing was quite horrid, including Lawler saying that CM Punk leaving with the belt would make him simply "unemployed"), but of course knowing how the whole thing would end up (Kevin Nash, Punk jobbing to HHH) doesn't help the match at all in retrospect. So yeah, probably a "you had to be there" match. As it is, it's just nothing special and falls into the traps of every big WWE match the era.

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Also with all the finisher exchanges, submission reversals and WWE style drama, I don't really see how this is any different from the 2003-2005 Kurt Angle and Shawn Michaels post-comeback matches that cope a ton of hate while this gets praised to the moon.

 

yeah, a typical self-conscious epic with counters/finisher kick-out spamming. Which bores me to death. They lost me long before the actual ending. The obvious fact is that the booking and crowd heat is 50% of why it's so memorable. For once, they got it right (although the announcing was quite horrid, including Lawler saying that CM Punk leaving with the belt would make him simply "unemployed"), but of course knowing how the whole thing would end up (Kevin Nash, Punk jobbing to HHH) doesn't help the match at all in retrospect. So yeah, probably a "you had to be there" match. As it is, it's just nothing special and falls into the traps of every big WWE match the era.

 

Yeah I guess the heat and booking leading up to the match set it apart a little bit. But yeah the meat of the match is no different from the stuff people hate WWE or Modern New Japan for so it's baffling to me that the people can hate Shawn Michaels WM or Hiroshi Tanahashi matches and yet love this.

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I liked this match, but I feel like the criticisms that New Japan main events receive (slow first half, hot second half) apply to this match as well. It helps that the crowd is insanely hot through this entire match, but the first half felt like they were deliberately stretching for time. That being said, the first half wasn't bad and the second half was great, so all in all it's probably a ****1/2 for me.

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9. CM Punk vs. John Cena (WWE Money in the Bank 2011)

 

Just rewatched this sentimental favorite with my girlfriend (who is not a wrestling fan) and her insight actually helped illuminate some things. For example, Cena by far outworks Punk in this match. Punk is sloppy and Cena is crisp and clean. In some ways, this hurts the match, in others it adds to it. The disparate levels of skill adds to the disparate levels of crowd sympathy. Cena just ended up looking like more of an obstacle to overcome.

 

I find that the second half of the match still holds up incredibly well. The tension on the nearfalls is still incredibly strong as this was before the Cena formula (which I feel came into full being after this match) had been seen so many different times.

 

Even the finish shenanigans with Vince helped aid the tension of things and added to Cena's character work.

 

Speaking of, character is where Punk SHINES in this match. The strikes are okay, the submissions kind of lose, but CM Punk's intensity is palpable. His emotion is etched on his face all throughout and paired against Cena's Ace-like stoicism, only served to cement his place as god-like Chicago babyface. This may not be the best Punk performance but it certainly explains a lot of how over he got at the time.

 

My rating is tinged with a lot of sentiment and nostalgia so take this one with a hefty pinch of salt.

 

*****

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Loved the start to the match. Cena isn’t known for his grappling, the most obvious example of him indulging in that style was his Raw match against Shawn Michaels which isn’t very good but Punk is much better at that than Michaels was so it works here. They even get the crowd to shut up after  a brief “you can’t wrestle” chant by showing that Cena can wrestle when locks on a very nice looking Fujiwara armbar.  There was a nice competitiveness to it which also fit the slow burner match they had. Punk does some really good work on the neck of Cena, locking on a reverse triangle at one point and hitting a nice knee drop off the top rope onto Cena, who was on the apron. Cena was superb also. He really knows how to make full use of his counters, using a suplex to the outside to gain control and looking for the quick win after taking so much punishment prior. Another thing that this match had going for it was that unlike most big WWE matches, they savoured the finishers and big time offence, often building and teasing their signature moves with them constantly countering or finding them way out of them. Always struggling with each other, earning every hold - the Cena count to the GTS when he grabs the leg and locks on the STF only for Punk to reverse it into the anaconda vice, for example. Even the two times Cena hits the AA and Punk kicks out, it feels so special and big. You believed that it could’ve ended the match because they built up to it well. And finally the finish was great. Perfectly sums up Cena whilst making Punk cleavry but capitalizing on a distracted Cena. A true classic in WWE history for sure. ****3/4

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