(Here’s the link for the match on the WWE Network: http://network.wwe.com/video/v31328437)
When I first saw #62, CM Punk vs John Cena from WWE Raw (25/2/2013) I didn’t think much of it. All I remember is Punk’s Piledriver to Cena (which in a world where the Piledriver is banned was a sight to behold) and Cena’s botched Hurricanrana. Cena almost landed on his head! I also remember thinking that it was not a patch on their Money in the Bank 2011 clash. That’s surely one of the best WWE matches of all time? I was surprised at the inclusion of this clash on the WWE Network’s Best 100…List. Of course, the MITB match is near the top (at #9, actually!). So why include this one?
It was a match to decide the Number 1 Contender to The Rock’s WWE Championship at WrestleMania 29. It was not hard to figure out who would win out of John Cena and CM Punk. CM Punk had wrestled (and lost to) The Rock for the WWE Championship on two consecutive PPVs prior to ‘Mania 29. There was little chance they would have the same match headlining an event for three PPVs in a row. Although the Cena/Rock match was billed as a ‘Once in a Lifetime’ event at WrestleMania 28, all signs pointed to an eventual rematch (where The Rock would put Cena over). Cena’s story for the entire year after his loss to The Rock at ‘Mania 28 was redemption for said loss. Cena had never defeated Punk in a singles match before; Monday Night Raw was his night to finally pin Punk.
However, re-watching it, I realised that it was worthy of being included in the Best 100…List (but only just!). It’s not on a par with their MITB clash, but it’s a match of two equals who have fought each other countless times before. They know each other’s move set inside out. This means plenty of reversals and counters that make the progression of the match (if not the ending) very unpredictable. During my first watch, I perceived the match as full of big moves without any psychology or selling behind it. But both wrestlers (even Cena!) sell relatively well, giving the big moves a greater impact. And after seeing the cornucopia of reversals and counters, I can appreciate the psychology and story-telling behind it.
Cena is always at his best when he’s pitted against an ‘indie’ star. He feels the need to prove himself to an outsider (and no matter what, Punk was always considered as an outsider). In parallel, Punk always wanted to prove himself to be a better wrestler than Cena. Both imperatives worked in the storyline and, I presume, in real life. By this match, they’d wrestled countless times, but they still managed to make this one something rather special. The botched hurricanrana dampens the finish, unfortunately. But it’s easily their second best clash, but quite a way away from the heights their MITB match reached.
VERDICT: 8/10. A match with history behind it, and a hefty psychology underpinning the whole thing. It’s full of reversals and counters, making each moment surprising and unique. It isn’t the best match between Cena and Punk, but it’s worthy of inclusion on the WWE Network’s Best 100…List.
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Click here for my review of #63 Sting vs Cactus Jack, WCW Beach Blast 1992)