Now that the much-anticipated CM Punk-John Cena match at WWE's Money in the Bank pay-per-view is history, there are more questions than answers as to what's next for Punk, but at least one thing is certain:
On Sunday night, CM Punk became a "made man."
In what was advertised as Punk's last appearance with WWE due to his contract expiring at midnight, he defeated Cena for the WWE title and then stuck it to WWE chairman Vince McMahon by walking out of the company with the championship.By doing so, Punk became an anti-establishment babyface who very well could become the next big thing in pro wrestling. Only time will tell, but at least the talented Punk now has the opportunity to prove that he can be a top guy.
The Punk-Cena match – which went nearly 35 minutes and took place before a raucous pro-Punk, anti-Cena crowd in Punk's hometown of Chicago – was a fantastic climax to the best pay-per-view I've seen this year.
There were any number of scenarios being tossed around by wrestling fans and pundits as to how things were going to go down with Punk at this show. With Punk expected to take some time off, combined with the fact that McMahon said he would fire Cena "if Punk walks out with the championship," I went with what seemed the most logical – and, admittedly, the most predictable – ending: Punk defeats Cena for the title, and then the Raw Money in the Bank Ladder Match winner – most likely Alberto Del Rio – cashes in the briefcase and wins the title from Punk thanks to McMahon's interference.
As it turned out, after Punk beat Cena for the title, he was able to thwart Del Rio's attempt to cash in the MITB contract (the bell never rang, so Del Rio did not blow his opportunity).
It will be very interesting to see if Punk goes through with his sabbatical, and if he does, just how long he'll be gone. I'm certainly looking forward to Raw tonight to see if Punk makes a farewell speech and how McMahon addresses the WWE title situation.
As for whether Cena will be "fired," my guess is that McMahon will say that instead of terminating Cena, he'd rather keep him around to make his life miserable. McMahon insinuated as much in an interview with Josh Matthews during the show.
Punk was not the only new world champion crowned at MITB, as Christian defeated Randy Orton for the world heavyweight championship, thanks to the stipulation that Orton would lose the title if he was disqualified.
Surprisingly, the Smackdown MITB Ladder Match – which did not have nearly the star power of its Raw counterpart – was the better of the two, and both were quite good. The result of the Smackdown match was a very pleasant surprise as well, as Daniel Bryan captured the briefcase.
It certainly was quite a night for hardcore fans, as Punk and Christian emerged as world champions, and Bryan now appears destined to become a world champion within a year.
Here is a match-by-match look at the show:
CM Punk defeated WWE champion John Cena to win the title (33:43): Not everything these two did was smooth, but their overall efforts combined with an electric atmosphere and terrific story-telling made this an instant classic and a strong Match of the Year contender. The pace was slow at the start, which was to be expected since they were going long. At about the 10-minute mark, Punk slapped hands with Colt Cabana, who was sitting in the front row but was never identified in commentary. At the 13-minute mark, Punk hit a cross-body off the top onto Cena, who looked as if he was going to roll through it, but that didn't happen and Cena sold a knee injury, which he continued to do for the rest of the match. Punk took a big bump at 13:40 when Cena suplexed him from the apron onto the floor. Around the 20-minute mark, heel commentator Michael Cole was actually rooting for Cena.
At 21:40, Punk nailed Cena flush on the chin with a knee and followed up with a bulldog and flying elbow for a near fall. Cena caught Punk in the STF at 22:50, but Punk got to the ropes and forced a break. There was a great sequence near the 25-minute mark, as Punk went for a cross-body off the top, but Cena rolled through and set up for the Attitude Adjustment. Punk reversed it into a GTS attempt, but Cena reversed that into another STF. Punk eventually slipped out of the hold and locked on a neck vice submission. It looked as if Cena might get choked out, but he managed to get to his feet and hit the AA. Cena made the cover, but Punk kicked out. At 28:40, Cena hit a leg drop off the top for a near fall. A minute later, Cena landed another AA, but Punk again kicked out of Cena's finisher. At that point, Cena smiled in disbelief as he questioned the referee on his count.
At the 31-minute mark, Cena set up for an AA off the top, but Punk countered with a huracanrana. Punk then hit the GTS, but Cena rolled out of the ring. Suddenly, WWE chairman Vince McMahon and executive vice president of talent relations John Laurinaitis walked halfway down the aisle. Cena applied the STF again, and McMahon frantically called for the bell to be rung (a nod to the Montreal Screwjob) and sent Laurinaitis running down to the ring. Cena, however, released the hold and decked Laurinaitis. Cena yelled to McMahon that he wasn't going to win that way. Cena then got back in the ring, but he walked right into a GTS, and Punk pinned him to win the title as the crowd went nuts. An incensed McMahon stormed down to ringside, ripped Jerry Lawler's headset off at the announce table and demanded that Alberto Del Rio come down to cash in his Raw Money in the Bank contract. Del Rio suddenly came running down the aisle and into the ring, but Punk was ready for him and nailed him with a kick to the head. Punk then taunted McMahon by blowing him a goodbye kiss before he exited through the crowd with the WWE title belt in his possession. A stunned McMahon looked as if he was on the verge of tears.
Christian defeated world heavyweight champion Randy Orton by disqualification to win the title (12:17): The crowd was firmly behind Christian and booed Orton, although not nearly as lustily as they would boo Cena later on. During the opening minutes of the match, the fans chanted "Let's go Christian," and Michael Cole said they were chanting "Let's go Randy." That was funny. At the 9:20 mark, Orton went for the RKO, but Christian turned it into the Killswitch for a great near fall. Christian then set up for a spear, but Orton leapfrogged Christian and got a near fall after hitting a neckbreaker from an inverted body vice. Just before the 12-minute park, Christian, who was cowering in the corner as Orton went on the attack, spit directly in Orton's face. Orton went ballistic and kicked Christian low right in front of the referee, who disqualified Orton and awarded the championship to Christian.
WWE fooled me with the result of this match, as I thought it was just too obvious for Orton to lose the title on the disqualification stipulation. After the match, Orton destroyed Christian, twice hitting the RKO on the announce table (which didn't break either time). The crowd, which had been against Orton, suddenly got behind him during the post-match beatdown. I was waiting for Smackdown Money in the Bank Ladder Match winner Daniel Bryan to come out and cash in on the helpless Christian – and there was a mild "Daniel Bryan" chant – but it didn't happen. It doesn't make Bryan look to smart, but I suppose he'll say that he doesn't want to win the title that way, which makes sense for his character.
Alberto Del Rio won the Raw Money in the Bank Ladder Match over Evan Bourne, Kofi Kingston, The Miz, Rey Mysterio, R-Truth, Alex Riley and Jack Swagger (15:52): All eight competitors had a ladder at the start of the match, and seven of them went after Del Rio, which made sense since he had attacked most of them with a ladder six days prior on Raw. Bourne delivered the biggest spot of the night when he hit Air Bourne off a big ladder outside the ring onto a group of opponents on the floor. At the 5-minute mark, Del Rio knocked The Miz and Bourne off a ladder, and Miz sold like he had blown out his knee. He was carried out and it was unclear at that point if it was planned or if he was legitimately hurt.
Near the 13-minute mark, Kingston and Swagger knocked each other off the ladder, and Kingston appeared to land on Swagger's head, which looked scary. Miz then made a dramatic return, hopping on one leg to the ring. As Miz scaled the ladder, Mysterio prevented him from reaching the briefcase and delivered a sunset flip into a powerbomb off the ladder. The crowd booed Mysterio. It came down to longtime rivals Del Rio and Mysterio battling on the ladder. As they fought over the briefcase, Del Rio ripped off Mysterio's mask, and both guys tumbled to the mat. As Mysterio stayed down to hide his face, Del Rio climbed the ladder again and grabbed the briefcase for the victory.
Daniel Bryan won the Smackdown Money in the Bank Ladder Match over Wade Barrett, Sin Cara, Justin Gabriel, Kane, Cody Rhodes, Sheamus and Heath Slater (24:27): It didn't take long for this match to get exciting, as Bryan, Gabriel, Slater and Cara all hit high-flying moves in rapid succession at the 4-minute mark. Shortly thereafter, Cara hit the C-4 off the top on Bryan, which got a huge pop. At the 7:30 mark, Cara took perhaps the biggest bump of the night when Sheamus powerbombed him off the apron onto a ladder, which broke. Cara was carried out on a stretcher, which I believe was an angle. Bryan also took a nasty-looking bump near the 14-minute mark when he was on the receiving end of the Doomsday Device – Kane came off the top with a clothesline while Bryan was perched on Sheamus' shoulders.
Near the 21-minute mark, Sheamus took a hard bump when he was chokeslammed by Kane off a ladder onto another ladder. In one of the most impressive moves of the night, Gabriel hit the 450 Splash on Kane off a ladder that was lying across the ropes onto Kane in a very tight space. The finish saw Bryan and Barrett battling on the ladder. Barrett got Bryan in position for Wasteland, but Bryan battled out of it with repeated elbows to Barrett's head. Bryan followed with a big kick to Barrett's head, which knocked Barrett off the ladder. Bryan then grabbed the briefcase for the win, which the crowd popped big for. This was a really good match and I was happy to see Bryan win. Hopefully, he won't become the first guy to cash in the briefcase and not win the title.
Mark Henry defeated The Big Show (5:58): "The World's Strongest Man" was put over strong in this match. After Big Show kicked out of Henry's World's Strongest Slam, Henry hit the move a second time, and then landed two big splashes for the clean victory. After the match, Henry grabbed a chair and "Pillman-ized" Big Show's ankle by hitting a Vader Bomb off the middle rope. It looked and sounded painful, and Big Show – who was carted out – did a great job of selling it.
WWE Divas champion Kelly Kelly defeated Brie Bella (4:48): There's really not much to say about this one other than Kelly Kelly hit her K2 finisher to successfully defend her title. Eve Torres was in Kelly Kelly's corner to neutralize Nikki Bella, but neither of them got involved in the match.
Photo of CM Punk blowing a farewell kiss to Vince McMahon courtesy of wwe.com