What if CM Punk left WWE in 2011?
In 2011, WWE and CM Punk collaborated to generate one of the hottest wrestling angles of all time, building kayfabe drama out of real-life circumstances. Punk was a champion of hardcore fans in no small part because of his indie grooming and the knowledge that he was an outspoken critic of many of WWE’s sports entertainment leanings. When his contract was legitimately up, WWE spun a storyline catered toward smart fans, in which Punk got one last world title shot and threatened to leave the company with the title.
The angle had obvious similarities to how Punk left ROH for WWE in the first place but nonetheless lured in fans hook, line, and sinker. In particular, the serendipity of Punk’s supposed last match being booked in Chicago, in front of a rabid hometown crowd, set up uniquely high stakes and electric scenario.
But what if Punk hadn’t re-signed? The Straight Edge Superstar reportedly only agreed to terms the day of the Money in the Bank PPV, and particularly given the sour terms under which he’d leave the company two and a half years later, it’s not unrealistic he would have walked, and thus changed wrestling history.
#5 John Cena wins, Chicago riots
John Cena has faced his share of hostile crowds, but the audience in Chicago for Money in the Bank 2011 was absolutely rabid—arguably only matched by the anti-Cena crowd at One Night Stand five years earlier. Under those circumstances, and particularly in retrospect, it’s hard to imagine CM Punk not winning their main event match.
If Punk really were leaving, though, we have to assume WWE wouldn’t have let him set a finger on the WWE Championship. Maybe a similar finish would have played out with Vince McMahon and John Laurinaitis interfering, or maybe Alberto Del Rio would have successfully cashed in his briefcase to give fans some excitement, and assuage the disappointment of Cena beating Punk. In the end, though, Punk would have lost, and the Chicago crowd would have gone nuclear.