On June 24, 2006, CM Punk made his debut on ECW. Few at the time would have predicted that he would become one of the most popular superstars in WWE history. Punk's 'Straight Edge' lifestyle instantly caught the eye of the WWE Universe, creating a different image of him compared to other superstars.
From 2011 to 2014, CM Punk was at the peak of his career. While he's mostly remembered for his 434-day reign as WWE Champion, he had some brilliant storylines and matches before he became one of the biggest acts in pro wrestling.
Here are the five best CM Punk matches before he became the WWE Champion.
#5 CM Punk vs. John Morrison: ECW World Championship Match
In 2006, CM Punk joined a revamped version of ECW. Paul Heyman handpicked him as the future of the brand. In his controversial 2011 pipebomb speech on RAW, Punk claimed Paul Heyman believed in him and saw something special in him.
Punk kept lurking around the ECW World Heavyweight Championship picture but never got a championship opportunity. He finally got a chance against then-Champion John Morrison. While this opportunity was wonderful for CM Punk, it was given to him because of a mistake made by John Morrison. The ECW Champion had violated WWE's wellness policy and was being punished.
The match did not have any big buildup for a pay-per-view. Instead, it took place on a regular ECW weekly show. After a hard-fought contest, Punk defeated John Morrison to become the ECW World Heavyweight Champion. This was the first of many championships to come for CM Punk.
#4 CM Punk wins Money in the Bank at WrestleMania 25
At the 25th anniversary of WWE WrestleMania, CM Punk competed in his second consecutive WWE Money in the Bank ladder match. Punk had won the previous year's ladder match. However, that win produced very little career growth for him. The "Best in the World" had a short World Championship reign and fell down the pecking order.
Due to such a top-class lineup, CM Punk's chances of winning were minimal. However, the Straight Edge Superstar walked out Mr. Money in the Bank at WrestleMania 25, winning it two years in a row. He eventually cashed in his briefcase against Jeff Hardy to become World Heavyweight Champion.
# 3 CM Punk vs Rey Mysterio at WWE Over The Limit
In 2009, CM Punk formed a group called Straight Edge Society. The group comprised of him, Luke Gallows, Joey Mercury, and Serena. Punk was arguably the best heel back in 2010, and wanted Rey Mysterio to join them. Mysterio refused, and this fueled a personal rivalry between the two. Punk even got Mysterio's kids involved in a few segments.
The stakes were raised for their match at Over The Limit 2010. If Punk won, Mysterio would join the SES. If not, Punk's head would be shaved bald. The match was brilliant and didn't let the fans down. CM Punk got busted in the opening minutes. Towards the end, the Straight Edge Superstar felt victory was within sight, but Mysterio rolled up an overconfident Punk to secure the win.
After multiple interferences and obstacles, Mysterio won and shaved Punk bald. Both men have been brilliant in-ring performers over the years. This match was just another addition to their list of top matches.
#2 CM Punk vs Jeff Hardy at SummerSlam 2009
In 2009, CM Punk cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase at Extreme Rules, winning the World Heavyweight Championship from Jeff Hardy. This was the first time CM Punk turned heel in the WWE. In the following matches, CM Punk lost the title to Jeff Hardy and was looking to regain it at SummerSlam 2009.
During this rivalry, Punk played it dirty by continuously accusing Hardy of being a substance-abusing person. This rivalry became personal and their Championship match became a Tables, Ladders & Chairs match. The brutal destruction Punk and Hardy caused to each other made it difficult for the audience to watch..
The two beat the living crap out of each other. Jeff Hardy once again stunned everyone with a Swanton Bomb off a 20-foot ladder, going through Punk and the commentary table.
However, the end of the match saw Punk knock out Hardy with a kick to his head. The Straight Edge Superstar then climbed up the ladder and took the world title for a third time.
#1 CM Punk vs John Cena at Money in the Bank 2011
In 2011, CM Punk rocked the world with his famous pipebomb promo. Punk challenged John Cena for the WWE Championship in his hometown of Chicago. That day Punk's contract ran out at midnight. He promised to leave the company with its main championship.
Passion, intensity, drama, the two top performers, and a vibrant Chicago crowd, made the perfect recipe for a wonderful contest.
Vince McMahon and John Laurinaitis tried everything in their power to stop Punk from winning. McMahon tried to re-create the Montreal Screwjob moment when Cena locked Punk in the STFU. Cena wanted the contest to be fair.
As the match continued, Punk delivered the GTS to Cena and won. Mr. McMahon played his last card by sending Alberto Del Rio to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase, but that failed too as Punk ran away with the title.
It was one of the few matches in WWE history that got everyone emotionally invested. The superstars, the stories, the real-life frustration of Punk, and the Chicago crowd made it for perfect storytelling.