This is a semi-regular column focused on introducing the lesser known or not as well represented stars of professional wrestling to the people of the Cedar Rapids corridor.
This article probably goes against popular judgment of “not well represented” but it still amazes me how many wrestling fans still know very little about the current WWE champion CM Punk.
A Midwest born and bred talent, Punk started his career in 1999 with basically the same gimmick he has always used: a straight edge superstar. Sometimes this makes him a face, much more often it made him a villain in his early career. He worked the Chicago indies for the first few years of wrestling, most notably for IWA Mid-South.
In IWA he feuded with best friend Colt Cabana and Chris Hero, both still early in his careers. He would win the promotion’s championship five times over his five years there, trading the title with the likes of AJ Styles and the late, great Eddie Guerrero (during his post-rehab indie run). He was known for often working very long matches often with Chris Hero. His final match for the company in fact was a 60 minute draw with current ROH booker Delirious.
He started to work for Ring of Honor and TNA within months of each other and in both company’s he would end up in very different storylines with Raven. In ROH, Raven was the impetus for his heel turn, as Punk attacked the now clean and sober Raven as a drunk. The feud would grow in to one of the company’s hottest in its second year of operation.
Meanwhile in TNA, Punk was a member of the Gathering, Raven’s newest flock. Alongside Julio Dinero and Alexis Laree (now Mickie James), he would work for Raven in the former ECW champion’s many battles for the NWA Heavyweight title. Ultimately he would leave the company after a tussle with Team Canada member Teddy Hart before an event.
CM Punk’s knack for long matches continued in ROH with several draws against ROH World Champion Samoa Joe. Joe would ultimately retain the title in their final battle of 2004, only weeks before finally ending his extended reign as champion.
Punk would win the title in mid-2005 only days after it came out that he signed a WWE developmental contract. Throughout that summer, he worked a program as the heel champion, constantly threatening to take the ROH World championship with him to his new career. Viewers can clearly see the parallel between that angle and the mid-2011 that sparked Punk’s rise to superstardom.
Punk debuted on WWE television on June 24, 2006, on the new WWE version of ECW. He would remain undefeated for quite some time before he went on to win the ECW title after a lengthy feud with John Morrison.
Since that time he became a two-time Money in the Bank winner, the leader of both the Straight Edge Society and the New Nexus and a solid main event competitor. But it wasn’t until his world famous promo in June 2011, that Punk rose to superstardom. His Money in the Bank 2011 title win against John Cena featured a crowd behind a worker that hadn’t been seen since the heyday of the Attitude era.
CM Punk is on his way to supplanting John Cena as the new face of WWE television, something any independent wrestling fan should rejoice.
Eastern Iowa fans can watch CM Punk every Monday night on WWE Raw, shown on the USA channel.