CM Punk has been a huge name in pro wrestling for the better part of two decades, both for his achievements in the sport and for what he has said since leaving it. Fans are attached to Punk one way or another, whether it’s through love for what he did or anger for his openness and ability to leave it all behind. Either way you put it, Punk’s legacy will last for a long time in pro wrestling. 15 years ago today, Punk changed the game when he won the Ring Of Honor World Championship for the first and only time. Not because of the win itself, but because of the fact he had already signed with the WWE when he claimed the title. Thus beginning the Summer of Punk.
With the days counting down until he left ROH for the giant that is WWE, anyone and everyone in the company had to try and dethrone him. If not, he was going to, as he claimed, bring the ROH World Championship with him to the WWE. It was one of ROH’s most memorable angles ever as members of the locker room stepped up not just to beat Punk but to defend their company in the process. And it was done so well, WWE even attempted to recapture its magic years later.
Here is how the Summer of Punk all went down.
June 18, 2005 — CM Punk defeats Austin Aries to become the new ROH World Champion at Death Before Dishonor
With the world knowing CM Punk was on his way out, he got an opportunity to capture the ROH World Championship one more time. It was a title that he been chasing his entire ROH career. Punk had one of the company’s most memorable rivalries against Samoa Joe, as they had a battle to two 60-minute draws before Joe finally finished him off in the third and final match. Now with a contract signed to join the WWE, this was a now or never situation. As he faced Austin Aries, the two went a grueling 30 minutes before Punk found the combination of a TKO, Shining Wizard, and an ultimate Pepsi Plunge from the top rope to finally capture his first and only ROH World Championship.
The crowd broke out into a frenzy on the final three count as “CM Punk,” “Thank You Punk,” “Please Don’t Go,” and “We Will Miss You” rang through the Mennen Sports Arena in New Jersey that night. Aries and Punk embraced as this was “The Straight Edge Savior’s” moment of glory under the bright lights of Ring of Honor one last time. It was special, a moment no one will forget. Little did the fans know that night that it would kick off the original Summer of Punk that turned Punk into an ROH legend forever.
Threatening To Take The ROH World Championship With Him To WWE
It’s funny to think about how beloved he was that night to what would transpire almost immediately after the fact. Punk would threaten the company and fans that the ROH World Championship, that has led to so many amazing matches since its inauguration in 2002, and so many more after, would no longer be with the company. From the little indie to the corporate giant, the history of ROH would be gone in seconds because of CM Punk. He knew he’d have to defend the title on his way out but Punk was confident now that he finally had the ROH world title, he was never going to let it go.
Punk attacked his time in TNA as he was told that he could no longer work for ROH, something that his contract did not have in writing. But at the same time, he was going somewhere else. Punk made clear that without him, there wouldn’t have been a Ring of Honor. All these words led to the fans chanting “Joe,” Punk’s greatest rival. The anger filled Punk as he played with the crowd, making it clear how he felt about his time in Ring of Honor. Then he would pull his WWE contract out of his suit jacket. He placed the contract on the ROH World Title and signed on the dotted line, mocking the place he “built” as he prepared to move up the ladder in his career.
It was a moment of shock, but so perfectly delivered. The fans wanted to jump Punk where he stood as he mocked the company that helped him get to where he was. With all of his intentions set on leaving with that championship that he had chased for years, it was a moment that stands in time when it comes to ROH history.
Title Reign Survives In A Draw With “The Fallen Angel”
CM Punk managed to defend successfully against Jay Lethal, James Gibson (aka Jamie Noble), and Roderick Strong before facing one of the men he attacked in his WWE contract signing promo, Christopher Daniels. While Daniels had been apart of TNA at this point, he still returned to ROH and had a date with Punk to try and dethrone him after he shoved his name into the dirt. Punk believed he was the reason someone like Daniels could come back to ROH, leading to the championship match between the two. At The Homecoming, these two fought to a 60-minute draw. It was the first time that it looked like Punk was going to lose his championship and fail on his threat of bringing the title to WWE. This would be the set up to his eventual loss of the title.
James Gibson Vanquishes Punk’s Threat By Winning The ROH World Championship
At the ROH Redemption show, CM Punk had his greatest challenge as he not only defended against one man but three. James Gibson, Christopher Daniels, and Samoa Joe all would compete against Punk in a Four-Way Elimination match for the title. The finish of the match came when Gibson hit a top rope Tiger Driver, pinning Punk in the middle of the ring to win the match and dethrone Punk and save the ROH World Championship from leaving the brand. It was an outstanding moment for all involved, as Punk’s incredible summer was nearing its end, as well as his time in ROH.
The Summer of Punk Ends As CM Punk Says Farewell To ROH
Despite a final run that had the fans wanting to fight CM Punk in the parking lot, when it came to the final event of his incredible run, it was one of the company’s, and Punk’s, finest moments. With tears pouring down his eyes for his farewell match against his best friend, Colt Cabana, it was a moment you know he was fearing and excited for all at the same time. In a Best Two Out Of Three Falls match, Punk went out on his back as he lost 2:1. It was after the match that the locker room poured out in support of the newest WWE superstar. Punk poured his career into his matches as a member of the ROH roster, as he and a lot of the key guys then did. They helped build the ground up.
This was the official end of the true Summer of Punk. While shorter than people may remember (his title reign lasted just 55 days), it was an incredible run for the man who had loved this more than anything at the time. To think it started 15 years ago today makes it even crazier to think about. It was one of ROH’s best runs ever.
More From LWOPW
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