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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Punk vs. Cena: As Good As It Gets

The entire Pro Wrestling Illustrated  staff has been hard at work as of late, especially with the production one of the biggest issues of the year—the "PWI 500"—which will be on sale at within a week. And so, it’s been tough to find the time to update this blog. All apologies.

But, speaking at least for myself, I know I would have been remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity to sound off on one particular bit of news coming out of the WWE over the last couple days. Simply put, for my money (in the bank), CM Punk vs. John Cena from this past Sunday was, hands down, the best match I’ve seen all year. In fact, it’s one of the very best matches I’ve seen in my 30 years as a wrestling fan.

It’s not that uncommon to see a terrific, four-star-plus Match of the Year contender over the course of a year. But a truly great, five-star wrestling masterpiece can be the rarest of gems in this sport. In the tens of thousands of matches I’ve watched, perhaps only a dozen or so might fall into this category. The majority of them include either Ric Flair or Shawn Michaels. One includes both.

For a match to reach the highest levels of artistry, several variables need to fall into place. Yes, athleticism is important, but it’s not everything.

It needs to have a compelling storyline that gives the bout a “big fight” feeling before the bell even sounds. Punk’s recent reality-based promos, and his looming WWE departure, took care of that.

It needs the right setting. Usually, WrestleMania takes care of that part of the equation, but in this case, 14,000-rabid fans in Punk’s hometown of Chicago did the trick.

It needs to have plenty of time to develop. At 34 minutes, this bout never felt rushed, nor did it ever drag.

And, last but certainly not least, it needs to have a solid finish. There were a lot of ways this match could have ended. But Punk's clean pin of Cena, and the jubilation that ensued, was the best.

On what is a typically an off-month pay-per-view during a lull period between WrestleMania and SummerSlam, Punk and Cena managed to place a check mark on each of the categories above and deliver an unlikely match for the ages. What’s more, they also delivered the best match of their respective careers.

Ultimately, it will be up to you, the PWI readers, to determine what 2011’s Match of the Year will be. I imagine The Undertaker’s epic showdown with Triple-H at WrestleMania 27 may give this past Sunday’s bout some serious competition. But there’s something to be said for Punk and Cena having a match as special as they did without the added boost of the WrestleMania stage. 

That’s not to say that 'Taker-Triple-H wasn’t fantastic in its own right. And so was February’s Smackdown Elimination Chamber bout, with its awesome closing minutes involving Edge and Rey Mysterio.

There's certainly some irony in the fact that, in the year that WWE formally decides to vanquish the word "wrestling," it delivers some of the best wrestling it ever has.

-Al Castle
Pro Wrestling Illustrated Senior Writer


Chris said...

Now I have to know what the dozen other matches are :\

Pro Wrestling Illustrated said...

Not sure I could even get to a dozen, but they would include Flair-Michaels at Mania 24, Michaels-Taker at Mania 25, Austin-Bret Mania 13, Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Benoit Mania 20, Austin-Rock Mania 19, Michaels-Ramon Mania X, Hogan-Warrior Mania 6, Flair-Steamboat WrestleWar 89.
-Al Castle

Adbut1976 said...

Don't forget Steamboat-Savage Mania 3

Pro Wrestling Illustrated said...

I knew somebody would bring that up. It was not an oversight on my part. Honestly, I'm not sure it belongs on this list. It's a great, great match, but maybe a hair short of five-stars. I think a lot of people remember that match as being a little better than it actually was. There was so little quality wrestling going on in the WWF back then, that a match with some above-average work rate instantly stood out. I think the same can be said for Hart-Michaels at Mania XII, which was most definitely over-rated.
-Al Castle

incredibizzle said...

No Angle vs Joe lockdown? Angle vs Lesnar mania, Angle vs HBK mania, Angle vs Benoit RR, how can arguably the greatest wrestler in history not be in your top dozen matches?

Pro Wrestling Illustrated said...

If I added a few more to the list, I'd probably get Angle in there, although not necessarily any of the matches you mentioned. I recall his iron man match with Lesnar on Smackdown was just about perfect. But, again, I'm talking about a level higher than even a great match. It's the difference between, say, The King's Speech, which was certainly a terrific movie and the best of 2010, and The Godfather or Citizen Kane.
-Al Castle

Anonymous said...

Are you guys going to do the Top 500 countdown like you did last year before the PWI 500 magazine is released?


i think that the punk vs. cena match at the money in the bank ppv was a great match because cena said that it was a great match and i agree with him,it was a great match and cm punk's last match in the wwe

Anonymous said...

Bret Hart vs. Piper WM 8 never gets the respect it deserves. =(

Adam Davis said...

Have I been overestimating the initial Iron Man match all these years (HBK/Hart at WMXII for those who don't know)? That was my first great match witnessed.

Dabiggchill said...

It seems like this writer is clearly a WWE mark. He doesn't acknowledge some other wrestling greats in other companies... and this w/ his PWI 500 coming out. I know WWE doesn't have 500 workers... so the list gets filled out w/ other companies. I would say the 4 way dance for the contract at Dest X is in the running for MOTY... it was a great one. Also.. Edwards v Richards... and was Steen v Generico this year... I cannot remember if it was in Dec or Jan? Both were tremendous matches.

So, no offense... but get off WWE's nuts before VKM accidentally scratches you off.