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When CM Punk first won the title back at Survivor Series 2011, I doubt anyone expected his reign to last a full calendar year and beyond (he will beat Cena’s 380 day reign by the time TLC rolls around.) By the time the next champion has been crowned, only four men will have held the title longer than CM Punk: Pedro Morales, Hulk Hogan, Bob Backlund and Bruno Sammartino. One way or the other Punk becomes one of the wrestling elite. CM Punk, love him or loathe him, has become a wrestling legend.
Not bad for what a lot of people will argue is a transitional champion. An argument backed up because WWE have only really banked on Punk once in the past year, at TLC back in December 2011, where he defended the title in a triple threat match against the Miz and Alberto Del Rio.
The match wasn’t unforgettable, but it was not without its moments. The crowd in Baltimore went bananas when Ricardo Rodriguez was going for the title on behalf of Del Rio, only to be dumped unceremoniously through the tables outside of the ring. As I type this the chants of “HOLY SHIT” still echo in my brain. There was another moment though, where WWE showed that Punk’s reign was far from fly by night, Miz brought out some handcuffs and tethered Punk to a turnbuckle. As he sat there watching his opponents climb a ladder together you genuinely believed that Punk had been robbed, that he would feud with the Miz through the Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber, recapturing the title at the latter and going on to main event at Wrestlemania – after all, for most other champions that would have been the start of a feud, not the end of one.
Instead, Punk undid the turnbuckle, freeing himself and charging up the ladder. He kicked Del Rio to the mat and then dragged Miz down, one GTS later and Punk was victorious. His first title defense firmly in hand in what was a quality match, I doubt it got five stars, it didn’t deserve it. It was however, a good way to cement Punk’s reign and tell the world that he was there to stay, for better or worse.
I am a fan of Punk’s – as much should be obvious since he is my avatar both in the comments below and on the forums, but the question of whether his reign has been successful is almost impossible to answer, after all the major talking point about TLC was not Punk’s first defense but rather the conspicuous absence of Cena from PPV for the first time in three years – something for which neither man can be blamed.
Isaac Newton famously said “If I have seen further it is because I am standing on the shoulders of giants.” Punk’s 365 days will be remembered as the year the champion stood in their shadow.