(Here’s the link for the match on the WWE Network: http://network.wwe.com/video/v31359911/?contentId=&contextType=wwe-show&contextId=money_in_the_bank )
John Cena vs CM Punk from Money in the Bank 2011 fully deserves to be in the top 10 of the WWE Network’s 100 Best Matches…List. It has all the components of a great match: an incredible build, a blistering crowd, an unbelievable match and John Cena. Of course, I jest about the latter. But I can’t deny he’s been in some great matches. This is probably his best (and Punk’s WWE best). Cena has always tried to outdo his “indie” opponents, and this trend started with CM Punk in this match. We’ve seen them fight before on The List, at #64 (click here for my review), but that was an exchange of big moves. This match is a lesson in psychology, pacing, storytelling and high states.
There wasn’t much to enjoy in the 2011 version of WWE. There was the great feud between Christian and Randy Orton, who also had a great match at MITB 2011. In fact, MITB 2011 is a brilliant PPV in its own right. But I digress. Just think about what headlined WrestleMania 27 that year: The Miz and John Cena! However, in the summer, things truly heated up. It all started with CM Punk. He earned a shot at John Cena’s WWE Championship at MITB 2011. However, on the same night as MITB 2011, Punk’s contract would run out. Punk threatened to walk out of WWE with the WWE Championship if he defeated Cena. This lead to the legendary pipebomb promo. I think it’s right to call this promo legendary. In fact, here’s the link to it so you can hear it for yourself.
There was enough reality in his promo to make you guess whether or not he was allowed to say particular things, such as Vince McMahon surrounding himself with “yes men.” He broke the fourth wall in the most entertaining fashion ever. If WWE ever had poetry, this was it. It was cut off at the very end, when Punk brought up bullying. Even watching it now, it still has potency. Vince ostensibly fired Punk after the promo, but Cena threatened to resign if McMahon didn’t reinstate Punk for the MITB 2011 match. Vince reinstated him only to pledge that if Cena lost, he would be fired. Yes, it’s silly if you think about it, but it made the match have a feeling of a huge, WrestleMania main event. Just think about what was on the line: John Cena’s career, if Punk won he’d leave the WWE and take the WWE Championship to Ring of Honor or New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Few matches of the modern era have a crowd like the MITB 2011 crowd. Not only were they in Punk’s hometown (thus heavily pro-Punk and anti-Cena), but the stakes were impossibly high. Punk came out to a roaring ovation. The crowd almost blew the roof off. They almost blew the roof off for Cena, but with boos instead of cheers. They react to everything, and I mean everything, during the match. The slightest rest hold gets a rowdy reaction. The two wrestlers start off slow, trading holds, but unlike the borefest of HBK vs Bret Hart at #10 (click here for my review), they do enough to make the holds mean something. Things escalate, culminating in Cena suplexing Punk to the outside of the ring. Now, in this rare spot, you usually see the wrestler taking the fall land on their legs. Not Punk: he lands back first in a wince-inducing spot. From that point until the end, it’s something spectacular.
It was the story of an ostensible heel as a hometown favourite who played to the crowd perfectly. It was the story of an ostensible babyface fighting not only the crowd favourite, but the crowd itself. Unlike some matches on the WWE Network’s 100 Best Matches…List (such as Hulk Hogan vs The Rock at #40 (click here for my review)), the match isn’t made wholly by the crowd. The crowd add to the atmosphere, but the match itself is near-perfect. There are obvious nerves from both men, shown in a few near-botches that almost derail the near-perfection on display here. There’s tension from the very beginning, but that tension becomes a heavy pressure on your mind towards the end of the match.
I won’t spoil the ending for those who haven’t seen this match. Suffice to say, WWE ruined the potential of the ending. But that’s a grumble for another time. This is one of the best matches in WWE history. It has everything you want, plus a hell of a lot more. Cena proved himself to be the equal of “indie favourites.” Punk proved himself to be a main eventer. They pulled out all the stops to deliver on the white-hot feud that preceded the match. In a word: brilliant.
VERDICT: 10/10. For one night in 2011, John Cena and CM Punk put on a near-perfect match. Yes, WWE may have ruined the potential of the match afterwards, but for one night, they got it right.
Does this match belong in the WWE Network’s 100 Best Matches To See Before You Die? Leave your comments below!
Click here for my review of #10 Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels (WWE Title, 60 Minute Iron Man Match. WWE Wrestlemania XII)
Click here to view my list of reviews of the WWE Network’s 100 Best Matches To See Before You Die