By Evan Rivera, Columnist
The Summer of Punk back in 2011 was in fact and is still today looked at as one of the most controversial yet best angles ever to take place in Pro Wrestling and in a long time for the WWE. It revolved around CM Punk, a talented yet overlooked wrestler working for the WWE. The reason why this angle was so “hot” in a way was because Punk took the proverbial ball and absolutely ran with it- and knocked it out of the park for good measure. He expressed his displeasures with the company that he had been working for, for 6 years at the time. He had voiced out on backstage politics, his position in the company, and his position on the card.
This promo would elevate him to heights many didn’t see coming. It would successfully be the start to the Summer of Punk. His WWE contract was expiring after the 2011 Money in the Bank PPV and he was hellbent on leaving the company and he would also be leaving with the WWE Championship, as he would go on to beat John Cena in an absolute classic.
Punk would later return, and sign a new contract but this time he was a hot commodity and a must see superstar. He would essentially now, become the face on those collector cups, the signature and programs, if you will. His run after his legendary Pipebomb promo in 2011 would be remembered until even this very day, and he would become the company’s top star from 2011-2013.
He became everything he deserved to be and would no longer be underlooked. However, when people look at this monumental time in 2011, wrestling fans fail to really dissect whether or not CM Punk really tore down the business with this angle.
The Summer of Punk in 2011 was looked at by many as being a astonishing angle, which it was. However, although CM Punk beat John Cena twice in a row on PPV main events, this angle could of been booked way differently and
better. I’m here to disprove the Summer of Punk in 2011 as being the absolute best angle in CM Punk’s career and to show why really
this angle was not as great as it looked like. There was one that exceeded it. Back in 2005, a small but up and coming indy promotion, Ring of Honor would have the privilege of running one of the best angles and storylines ever in pro wrestling and probably their best, ever. The Summer of Punk 2005 would carry the same dynamics and motives as the Summer of Punk 2011, but would differentiate in quality.
There is absolutely not a dull point in the Summer of Punk 2005 and it’s booked smoothly. That Summer of Punk was hot from the start to the end, where 2011 fell apart after CM Punk lost the WWE Title to Alberto Del Rio (Alberto El Patron in GFW) and then ended up losing to Triple H. That killed all of Punk’s momentum when Punk was the hottest thing in the business. It was a pretty horrendous booking decision, although it was pretty much out of the hands of Punk.
The Summer of Punk 2005 pretty much started with the feeling that Punk would be leaving and joining the WWE and Austin Aries, than ROH World Champ would go over in this match. Boy were we wrong!
CM Punk would win this match and threaten to leave ROH with their World Title. He would sign his WWE Contract on the title belt. What once a honorable man of ROH was no more. He had
turned on all of the fans, the the guys in the back, and thus discredited ROH’s moral values and principles. Their Code of Honor, if you will. How could we really blame Punk though. He was a “snake” and we were suspended in disbelief.
The moment when Punk beat Aries, which was supposed to be a sad final encounter was a hard one to digest. The IWC and the smarks went crazy that day because it was thought that Punk was going to the WWE.
CM Punk showed his ability to get his superb storytelling over, which was apparent in the Summer of Punk 2 but he was only able to show that for a bit until he jobbed to Hunter. Between the first two- four weeks of the Summer of Punk in ROH, very worthy contenders like Jay Lethal, Roderick Strong, and Christopher Daniels would try to go and capture the title that they held so dearly to their hearts.
CM Punk was the dishonorable World Champ of ROH that everyone wanted to beat, but none could come close to accomplishing that feat. Punk did a great job of showing that he was almost an elusive champion, as although he was their top heel, not one face could really shut up Punk. Perfect booking here to keep the angle highly entertaining, and not halt any type of momentum, which respectively, would not happen in the 2011 angle.
Del Rio beating Punk, a botched attempt at a match between Kevin Nash and a loss for Punk at Night of Champions to Triple H would essentially kill the angle
The reason I argue that the Summer of Punk 2011 was not better than the Summer of Punk in 2005 is because all it really has over it is the mainstream attention. The Summer of Punk 2011 had the Pipebomb, and Punk’s 2 wins over Cena, winning and retaining the WWE Title in each match. It was broadcast to millions of people and got buzz from people who didn’t even watch the WWE or weren’t familiar with the current product and brought them back into it. I see why it’s looked at as better, because it was on the highest platform it could possibly be on, inthe WWE.
That’s completely reasonable, but when you look past the start and middle of the Summer of Punk, the ending is pretty ridiculous. Punk was never able to really regain the steam he had with the angle and it ended being buried by Triple H. It was an illogical decision by the WWE to have Punk lose to HHH, even by interference. The Summer of Punk 2005 had an angle that kept you glued to your seat.
This one had a pipebomb as well, but it wasn’t as much of a staple as the Pipebomb for the other Summer of Punk was. The surprise win over Aries and the signing of his WWE contract was what really stuck in people’s head. It was the reason why Daniels, Joe, Strong, Lethal, and Gibson wanted to take the title off of Punk. The title wasn’t the focus of this angle, as all they wanted to do was knock off the dishonorable scumbag of ROH, Punk.
The company in which they treated with so much pride and dignity was held hostage by a lousy and two faced man. This angle was controversial, but not so much to the extent of the Summer of Punk 2. It wasn’t so much of a headline in the “real world”. The emphasis was strictly on the wrestling and the best booking of the angle. The Four Corners elimination match that Gibson ended up winning was what I felt was great booking. Each man came out looking awesome, and the odds were ever so stacked on Punk.
Gibson returning later in the match all beat up from leaving earlier, it was the total sign of honor, especially when Punk thought he had everyone beat. Although somewhat not part of the Summer of Punk, the Cabana vs Punk match was the ultimate ending and goodbye.
Very sweet ending to an angle like this with everyone coming out from the back and pouring Pepsi on Punk. Awesome moment in ROH History. Punk’s awesome display of his character play in ROH was the true Summer of Punk.
His ability to get this angle over and make people get genuinely invested into the overall story was incredible. All he used to get his other angle over was just one really great promo. Fair enough, but this one was stacked with more moments. It’s generally something a few guys can do. The Summer of Punk 2011 cannot compare to the simplicity yet superb complexity of this angle at the same time. Yes it was on a smaller stage, but the quality of this angle stands out and beats the WWE “reboot” by a long shot. I will take a perfect beginning, middle, and end with a hot turning point rather than a super hot start the fizzles out near the middle. Look past the mainstream attention that the 2011 angle got, and you will undisputedly see why the Summer of Punk in Ring of Honor is better by a long shot. It’s a beautiful angle for the true fans of wrestling, the niche ones. We can look past the 2011 angle, but it’ll simply go down as the best or most memorable angle of Punk’s given the attention it got worldwide.
For business inquiries (columnist positions, podcasts, etc), Evan Rivera is reachable via email at firstname.lastname@example.org