Yesterday, CM Punk fought Adam ‘Hangman’ Page for the AEW World Championship. If he won (I haven’t watched it yet!), It would be his first title win for nearly a decade. His last match as World Champion was in the WWE, at Royal Rumble 2013. His opponent? The Rock! And he managed to drag a pretty good match out of the ring rusty ‘People’s Champion.’
At that point, Punk had been the reigning WWE Champion for 434 days. And in those 434 days, as Punk fought almost every week, The Rock had wrestled a grand total of …once! At WrestleMania 28, Rock fought John Cena in the ‘Once In A Lifetime’ main event. The WWE Champion, Punk was relegated to the mid-card in his title defence against Chris Jericho. He rarely main evented shows as WWE Champion…but even the Royal Rumble match was relegated to make way for his main event against Rocky Maivia.
No doubt about it, there is a true main event atmosphere here. People love The Rock, but there is also a minority rooting for Punk. The crowd rarely have a moment of quiet throughout. And while Rock’s spirit may have been urged on by chants of ‘Rocky’, it’s clear his body isn’t up to the task. Even in the pre-match promo, he’s out if breath. Physically, he has the body of a Greek god…but that doesn’t always translate to in-ring fitness. And it quickly becomes clear that the onus is on Punk to carry the match.
And while Punk wasn’t quite the best in the world at the time, he was surely in the Top 5. He guides Rock through a simole yet rivetting story, one where he attacks Rock’s midsection (The Shield had assaulted the Rock the week before), while The Rock targets Punk’s knee (he’d only had surgery on it a few months prior!). Punk, as the heel, dominates much of the match, not by overpowering The Rock, but by outsmarting him.
As the match goes on, The Rock becomes more and more blown up. But Punk paces things perfectly, administrting a rest hold here, taunting the crowd there, and basically doing everything he can to cover Rock’s weaknesses. He struggled to do the same for Ryback, but even an out-of-shape Rock is still talented enough to follow Punk’s lead.
Even the ending, an Attitude Era-esque fest of interference and Vince McMahon, feels like a natural end to the bout. If The Rock had been in better in-ring shape, this could have been an absolute classic. However, even with his limitations, Punk manages to drag a pretty, pretty good bout out of ‘The Great One.’ While not one of Punk’s Top 10 singles bout, it may be one of The Rock’s…
Hammy’s Rating: **** (out of 5)
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