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Greatest Matches of All Time - CM Punk vs John Cena

The most beloved WWE match of the modern era? Since the advent of the 'PG Era' wrestling in the WWE was often criticised by fans for not being more like the product that came before. Pure wrestling fans bemoaned the match quality and predictability.

In fact, this match was the first match since 1997 to receive a 5 star rating from the Wrestling Observer in 14 years. It would take another 7 years before WWE would produce another 5 star match in the eyes of the Wrestling Observer.

CM Punk's 'pipebomb' promo and subsequent victory over John Cena is a often cited reason why a lot of Attitude Era fans returned to the world of pro wrestling. This classic WWE class received a 4.84 Grappl App rating from 319 votes, the 4th highest rated WWE match on the app and the 18th highest match on the app.

Watch it on the WWE Network here.

(requires WWE Network subscription)

Match Stats

This match was the height of the CM Punk anti-establishment storyline. Going into this match the story was that Punk's contract was up at midnight and he was refusing to re-sign. This in tandem with the hottest hometown crowd many will have ever seen set the scene for what ended up being an excellent match.

This was a submission heavy match with a grand total of 15 submission holds being utilised with the wrestlers using 6 minutes and 5 seconds of submission time between the two of them. This meaning over a sixth of the match saw one of the competitors in a punishing submission hold.

The competitive nature of this match also saw the competitors reverse 44% of the total offence in this encounter. Neither man managed to dominate proceedings for long with most periods of dominance coming from submission use. Thus leading to the high numbers of strikes and submission.

The competitors wrestled somewhat similar matches with notable differences. Both were able to reverse to a high standard and both used big grapples in timely fashion. However, Punk hit a considerable more strikes whereas, Cena used more submissions.

This match was on the longer end of the scale for a WWE match clocking in over the half an hour mark.

This clash saw Cena and Punk throw 171 offensive manoeuvres at each other. The majority of these were utilised by the victor of the match with 98, 57% of the 171. The pace of the offense averages out at 5.1 manoeuvres per minute.

Tide changes in this match totalled 58, averaging out at 1.7 per minute.

Flow of Offence and Tide Changes

The offence in this match was spread out bizarrely evenly over the 33 minutes. It was a very rare occasion to see much more than 5 moves sequenced together including strikes. Four times in total,in fact.

At the same time wrestlers were rarely able to reverse immediately. Competitors generally hit around three manoeuvres before their opponent responded. In fact, it was when Punk finally broke this pattern that the match swung in his favour.

Flow of Offence - Periodised

CM Punk wrestled a mostly consistent match peaking after half an hour had passed, however he did dip before this. Cena's performance saw more peaks and throughs and these got bigger as the match progressed.

The first five minutes of this encounter was a succession of counters and short submission moves. This was evenly contested with little between the wrestlers.

The second five saw Punk, riding on a wave of support from his hometown crowd, take control with his striking proficiency.

The third five minutes of this match saw Punk remain dominant with the competitors ramping up the intensity of offence with more large slams being utilised.

The middle period of the match saw Cena take control for the first time. His strikedown ability and use of big grapples making the difference.

Cena's use of the STF was not enough to prevent Punk wrestling back control in this period. strikedowns, a grapple and a dive was enough for Punk to outperform Cena here.

John Cena went all out as the match moved towards the half hour mark. Over an hour of STF torque and 2 Attitude Adjustments saw CM Punk in dire straits. However Cena was unable to quite get the job done.

With Cena attempting to finish him off by going for an Avalanche Attitude Adjustment, Punk headed off certain disaster with a match high string of 11 strikes and a high risk dive and two GTSs which bookended an STF submission attempt to give Punk the win.

Time in Control of Contest

Although Punk completely out-did Cena in terms of numbers, John Cena's offence was able to keep Punk down for longer than vice-versa.

John Cena's superior use of submission also contributed to his advantage over Punk in terms of control in the contest.

The difference of offence in also in play here. Punk's strikes led to less control in comparison to Cena's; slight grapple advantage and use of finishers.


The video package before the contest itself is a huge highlight. The feud was so hot and built in a manner that captured interest in a way that doesn't happen too often.

The reaction for Punk cannot not be cited here. The fans went, quite simply, bananas for him from the moment his music hit until the very second Cena's music sounded.

Punk took a heavy suplex from inside the ring to the outside which looked like a hugely painful bump, right in the middle of this bout.

CM Punk was able to time kick outs with such fine margins as he kicked out of 2 Attitude Adjustments. A move that had lead to so very many John Cena victories over the previous 10 years.

There was also a moment in this contest where CM Punk finally hit the GTS after loads of failed attempts only for Cena to roll out of the ring much to the desperate disappointment of the fans building towards the finish.


This is a high quality wrestling match with tremendous spots, intense competition between the two wrestlers and a cauldron of noise and emotion from the hottest crowd you'll ever see.

At a time when it was unusual for a WWE match to get a 5 star rating, this match's place in history is substantial in terms of storyline and match quality.

This is a must visit destination for any wrestling superfan and it is unlikely that is going to change anytime soon.



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