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CALDWELL'S WWE MONEY IN THE BANK PPV RESULTS 7/17: Ongoing "virtual time" coverage of live PPV - Cena vs. Punk, MITB ladder matches

Jul 17, 2011 - 9:50:13 PM
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WWE Money in the Bank PPV Results
July 17, 2011
Live from Chicago, Ill.
Report by James Caldwell, PWTorch assistant editor


WWE's heavily-anticipated Money in the Bank PPV opened with a blank screen and a ticking clock. It turned into C.M. Punk vowing to leave with the WWE Title tonight when the clock strikes midnight on his WWE contract. The video transitioned into highlights of Punk's TV promos, specifically against Vince McMahon and John Cena. The video faded out with the same ticking clock and Punk doing Cena's "you can't see me" hand wave in slow motion.

Arena: Full pyro blasted off inside the Allstate Arena as various ladders surrounding the ring were focused on. Michael Cole introduced the show and said the entire WWE landscape could change tonight. Cole said the WWE Title could be taken away from them tonight. Cole was joined by Jerry Lawler and Booker T on commentary and all three men were shown on-camera. Lawler noted if Punk leaves with the WWE Title tonight, the Raw MITB winner might not have anyone to cash in against. Foreshadowing?

In-ring: Tony Chimel introduced the first of two MITB ladder matches tonight, starting with the Smackdown ladder match. Sin Cara's music played first and he did his trampoline entrance into the ring. Wade Barrett was out second. Some new music played to bring out Justin Gabriel, who Cole noted is "jazzed" after spending time in South Africa last week on the Smackdown tour. Out fourth was Sheamus, who Cole said is competing in his first MITB ladder match.

For the second-half of the intros, Cody Rhodes came out fifth. Rhodes slowly walked past a ladder on-stage and the announcers joked about Rhodes's face never healing. Some new generic rock music then brought out Heath Slater. Daniel Bryan was out next to a solid reaction compared to the previous six. Booker noted Bryan's in his Fave Five this week. Rounding out the field, Kane came out for his fifth MITB ladder match.

1 -- SIN CARA vs. WADE BARRETT vs. JUSTIN GABRIEL vs. SHEAMUS vs. CODY RHODES vs. HEATH SLATER vs. DANIEL BRYAN vs. KANE -- Smackdown MITB ladder match

After a battle royal-style beginning with men trying to club each other to clear out space, they started setting up some one-on-one and three-way spots in the ring. One ladder found itself in the middle of the ring to be used as a prop early on. At 4:00, Bryan and Gabriel pulled off back-to-back flying moves on the outside. Slater then executed a twisting corkscrew plancha before Sin Cara tried to top them all with a leaping splash on Sheamus ringside. Early on, they seemed to be going for that "ooooh" reaction from the crowd rather than trying to win the match.

Sin Cara executed his top-rope finisher on Bryan to a reaction, then pointed to the briefcase, but didn't have a ladder. Sin Cara went to the outside looking for a ladder, but Barrett kicked him in the face. Barrett then took himself out when Cara ducked a clothesline and Barrett ate the ringpost. Sheamus followed with a Brogue Kick on Sin Cara before powerbombing him off the ring apron through a ladder propped up ringside. Sin Cara sold with trembling fingers as the crowd popped. Refs and medics checked on Cara to sell the move as Booker noted he tried to avoid these matches at all costs.

At 9:00, the match reset with Kane and Sheamus battling in the ring. Meanwhile, Sin Cara was stretchered away from the ringside area. So, they're down to seven. Kane teased a climb for the briefcase, but a Corre reunion dragged down Kane. Suddenly, Rhodes scaled the ladder behind everyone's backs, but Corre cut him off. Corre then cut off Bryan. All three then surveyed the scene and Barrett tried to take the lead, but Slater and Gabriel decided to yank him down and deliver a beating. Gabriel and Slater then raced up the ladder looking for the case, but Rhodes shoved both of them off the ladder.

Rhodes set up for a climb to the case, but Barrett yanked him down. More up and downs before Rhodes dropped Barrett with Cross Rhodes. Rhodes went back up the case, but Sheamus cut him off and delivered the Irish Curse backbreaker. Bryan and Sheamus then battled on the ladder, giving the pro-Bryan crowd a little tease. Kane proceeded to clean house and build some momentum before the crowd chanted, "Daniel Bryan," when Bryan re-entered the action. Slater began climbing in the background, though, and then cut off Bryan with a neckbreaker off the ladder.

At 18:00, they hit a bit of a lull with some weak false finishes and teased ladder spots that didn't materialize. Sheamus then cleaned house to breathe life back into the match. Sheamus pointed to the case and started climbing, but Kane met him up top when Sheamus had one hand on the case. Kane then goozled Kane and chokeslammed off the ladder onto another ladder below. Big splat and Sheamus fell to the floor. For the next chapter, the rest of the Smackdown competitors entered the ring for a mid-ring battle. Gabriel suddenly stood atop a ladder on the top turnbuckle, balanced himself, and landed a 450 splash on Kane. Big-move spots ensued in the ring before Barrett was the last man standing. Barrett went climbing, but Rhodes yanked him down and clotheslined him over the top rope.

In the background at 23:00, Bryan tried sneaking up the ladder, but Rhodes cut him off. Bryan and Rhodes founds themselves at the top of the ladder, then Barrett climbed up behind them. Barrett fought off Rhodes, then knocked Barrett down the ladder. Barrett came back, though, with a Wasteland attempt, only to have Bryan land multiple elbow strikes to the neck. Bryan then kicked Barrett off the top and Bryan was alone on the ladder. The crowd came to their feet as Bryan reached up, grabbed the case, struggled to unhook it, and finally unhooked it to win the match.

Post-match: Bryan dropped down to the mat and clutched the briefcase as the announcers noted this could be a career-changing moment for Bryan. The vocal males chanted, "Daniel Bryan," as Bryan continued to sell shock and Cole ate crow on commentary after knocking Bryan throughout the match. After a replay of high points in the match, they showed Bryan celebrating with the case again.

WINNER: Bryan at 24:27. Quite the surprise to start the PPV. Of course, will Bryan now be the first MITB winner not to win a top title? The match itself was up and down with some strong high points, but also some low points. The end result was a relatively strong start for a WWE PPV. (***1/2)

Earlier Tonight: A black limo was shown pulling up in the garage and out came Mr. McMahon. He was joined by John Laurinaitis (identified by Cole) and an "attorney for WWE." Cole said it's part of a last-ditch effort by McMahon to get Punk to sign a new contract. He said they're in a meeting with Punk right now.

2 -- Divas champion KELLY KELLY (w/Eve) vs. BRIE BELLA (w/Nikki Bella) -- Divas Title match

Out first were the Bella Twins for the "come down match" after the 25-minute opening match. Kelly Kelly was out next, flanked by Eve. Torch specialist Alex Roberts live in the arena: "Mass exodus to merch/food." WWE has positioned the Divas division as filler and that's how the audience responds to it. Kelly scored with early offense before Brie cut her off and went to work. Brie scored some close nearfalls before Kelly eventually hit her finisher for the win. Naturally, the Bellas vowed to get revenge on the way out of the ring as Kelly and Eve celebrated in the ring.

WINNER: Kelly at 4:54. Standard title retention for Kelly, who should move on to Beth Phoenix at some point.

Video package: Summerslam in Los Angeles next month on PPV. Appropriate usage of freeway signage on Carmageddon weekend.

Up next: Show vs. Henry. First, they went to a full-length video package on each man's path of destruction. They included some Attitude Era footage of Henry set to the theme of Show finally lighting a fire under Henry to get him to break out after 15 years. After the video aired, Mark Henry was the first man out for the big-man match. After a pause for Henry to stew in the ring, Big Show methodically made his way to the ring trying to fire up the crowd.

3 -- MARK HENRY vs. BIG SHOW

The bell sounded and the two men quickly charged each other center-ring. Cole talked about the Tale of the Tape as Show quickly took Henry off his feet with a shoulder tackle that also knocked down Show. Why have the big men taken off their feet 25 seconds in? The match then moved to the floor and Show teased a chokeslam, but Henry elbowed out as the ref tried to implore them to get the fight back in the ring. Eventually, they re-entered and Henry chopped down Show at the left knee to begin working on Show's leg. Show then found himself on the second rope for a shoulder tackle and sold the left knee after delivering the move.

Show was the first man up and called for the chokeslam, which Henry avoided with a kick to the gut. Henry went back to the knee before delivering World's Strongest Slam middle ring. Henry made a cover, but Show kicked out in time. The announcers stressed their belief no one has ever kicked out of WSS. Henry then shouted toward the ceiling before delivering another WSS. Henry followed with a big splash, then another big splash. Henry made the cover and it was good for the win.

Post-match: The ref checked on Show before Henry went to the floor looking to inflict more damage. Henry retrieved a chair as Lawler tried to calm him down, noting he already won the match. Henry placed Show's knee inside the chair, then climbed up the turnbuckles. Henry went for a Vader Bomb and connected on the ankle. Show sold a la Del Rio running him over with the vehicle. Where was Kane to hold his hand? A medic hit the ring to check on Show as Henry watched from ringside. Show sold a broken ankle before medics and another stretcher hit the ring. A cart came to ringside as Show was helped out of the ring and the crowd chanted, "C-M-Punk." Show was placed on the stretcher and wheeled away as the announcers noted it's been a rough night following Sin Cara in the opening match. They went to a replay of Henry falling on the chair with all of his weight crashing down on the area. Cole said what's disturbing is the attack took place after the match. Cole said Smackdown GM Teddy Long can't put up with this much longer.

WINNER: Henry at 6:00. Curious match booking with the two big men coming off their feet early on, which took the audience out of the action, before the big post-match angle enhanced Henry's clean victory. Of course, the audience was so invested in the injury that they chanted for Punk. That aside, the end result is continuing to give Smackdown something to work with as two forces - Henry and Long's authority - come closer to a collision. (*1/2)

Backstage: McMahon was standing next to Laurinaitis. McMahon said this is a nightmare. In walked Josh Mathews, who asked McMahon if he's re-signed Punk. McMahon paused, looked around, and quietly said, "No, no." McMahon quietly said that, for the record, this guy is the biggest ingrate he's ever dealt with in his life. McMahon told the "C.M. Punk fans" that he did everything possible to keep him on the roster. Mathews wanted to know what Punk said. McMahon said Punk pointed to the door and simply told him to get out. McMahon couldn't believe Punk told him that. As for John Cena? McMahon said he's the reason why they're in this predicament. McMahon said this is on Cena. He said if by some chance Punk leaves the building with the WWE Title, may God have mercy on Cena's soul. McMahon turned back to talk to Ace and the lawyer.

In-ring: Next up was the Raw Money in the Bank ladder match. First out was Alberto Del Rio followed by Kofi Kingston, Jack Swagger, and Evan Bourne. They grabbed their own ladders on the way to the ring to apparently set up a ladder war. For the next half, Truth was out fifth and grabbed a Hornswoggle-sized ladder. Nice order of entry going from Truth's silent theme to Alex Riley's hot theme music to draw a reaction. Riley brought a ladder to the ring, then Miz came out seventh. Thank goodness no bubble letters entrance this month. Miz grabbed a step-ladder and eyed Riley on the way to the ring. And, eighth, Rey Mysterio came out sporting a green and black outfit. No pyro. Mysterio grabbed a ladder and hit the ring as Cole noted he's never been in a MITB MATCH.

4 -- ALBERTO DEL RIO vs. JACK SWAGGER vs. KOFI KINGSTON vs. R-TRUTH vs. REY MYSTERIO vs. THE MIZ vs. ALEX RILEY vs. EVAN BOURNE -- Raw Money in the Bank ladder match

The bell sounded and seven wrestlers ganged up on Del Rio with their ladders. Meanwhile, Booker picked Bourne to win as Cole expectedly picked his buddy, Miz. The action cleared out a little bit leading to Miz and Truth having a ladder battle. Swagger's "ladder was a little bigger," as Lawler put it, and Swagger knocked down both men. Miz and Riley then found themselves fighting on a ladder not tall enough to reach the case. Moments later, they found themselves on the floor. Suddenly, R-Truth came flying over the top rope with a splash onto three wrestlers. Next, Rey and Kofi came off the top on opposite top turnbuckles to splash men ringside. Bourne had the next trick: a Shooting Star Press off the top of a ladder onto everyone ringside. Terrific form on that move.

Bourne was the first one up from the pile and tried to grab the case in the ring, but Miz cut him off. Bourne and Miz battled on top of the ladder before Del Rio knocked them off the ladder. Miz screamed after he hit the mat, selling a right knee injury. Miz removed his kneepad as refs and ref Nunzio called for a medic. A doc tried putting the knee back into the place as Miz tried waving everyone off trying to help him. Miz was eventually helped to the back as the crowd seemed to be quiet wondering if Miz was selling or really hurt.

Back in the ring, Rey and Bourne executed double huracanranas on Truth and Del Rio to clear them from the ring. Riley then tried to sneak in behind Swagger, but Swagger cut him off. Truth then launched both men off the ladder and limped around the ring looking for another ladder. Cole interjected some social media talk and said Rey is the pick to win according to WWE fans on Facebook. There were a lot of bodies in the ring at this point 11:30 in. In fact, all seven remaining men. They all climbed the multiple ladders in unison and started grabbing for the case as the crowd waited for something to happen. Bodies then started flying out of the ring one by one before it was down to Rey and Kofi. Kofi then kicked Rey off the ladder, leaving Kofi by himself. Kofi grabbed the case, but Swagger quickly scaled another ladder and cut off Kofi. Both men then fell off a ladder and crashed to the ground.

Suddenly, as expected, Miz hobbled down to ringside and tried to climb a ladder, but Rey cut him off. The crowd booed a bit, apparently buying into Miz tonight. Rey then powerbombed Miz off the ladder and started climbing the ladder. It was WrestleMania 22 all over again with Rey being booed. Suddenly, Del Rio yanked at Rey, who kicked Del Rio away. Rey then reached up to grab the case, but Del Rio climbed up again. Rey used the case to bash Del Rio in the face, but Del Rio shoved him away and took Rey's mask. (They didn't go to a close-up shot of Rey to avoid showing him mask-less.) Suddenly, both men fell off the ladder and crashed and burned. It didn't look planned, but fit the chaotic nature of the match in a kayfabe sense. Del Rio then had a moment chucking Rey's mask away before setting up a ladder. Del Rio tried climbing amidst the chaos and reached up to grab the case. The crowd was hot as Del Rio unhooked the case to win the match. (Roberts noted live in the arena the crowd was mixed with cheers and boos for Del Rio.) WWE stayed with the post-match celebration for a while as Del Rio celebrated while sitting on the ladder.

WINNER: Del Rio at 15:54. Step One of the WWE Title match end result? A strong conclusion (despite the chaotic finish) and interesting crowd response after a pretty good 15-minute ladder match. Bourne certainly had his moment with the Air Bourne ringside to get his shine in a match he wasn't going to win. (***1/4)

WrestleMania 28 video package: John Cena vs. The Rock. Why would they air this with the storyline of Cena in jeopardy of being fired tonight?

Video package: Randy Orton vs. Christian feud leading to their third consecutive PPV title match.

Backstage: Mathews brought in Del Rio to ask how it feels to win. Del Rio noted he shouldn't have been in the match to begin with after winning the #1 contender match two weeks ago. Del Rio said it doesn't matter who wins the WWE Title match tonight because he's going to prove how great he is tonight. Del Rio told Mathews the briefcase is a mere formality because his destiny is to be the new WWE champion.

In-ring: Tony Chimel announced the World Title match. He noted the World Title can change hands via DQ, but didn't mention the "bad refereeing" clause. Christian was out first and Cole noted Christian's lawyers have eliminated Orton's championship advantage. After a pause, Randy Orton's music hit to a big reaction. Orton slowly made his way to the ring as Cole noted Orton's past anger issues that could make him snap, which would cost him the title tonight. With everyone in the ring, Chimel handled the formal ring intros. A bit mixed each way, but Orton's cheers were the loudest.

5 -- World Hvt. champion RANDY ORTON vs. CHRISTIAN -- World Title match -- Christian wins the title by standard pinfall & submission, plus DQ or "bad refereeing"

The bell sounded and Christian went to the floor to grab a chair. Back in the ring, he tossed the chair toward Orton to give him an opportunity to DQ himself. Orton balked and chucked the chair to the floor. Christian then shoved Orton, who responded with a right hand to the forehead. Orton then teed off on Christian with hard offense. They went back-and-forth before eventually spilling out of the ring to the floor at 6:00. A count-out was still in-play for the match, but both men beat a ten count back into the ring.

Back in the ring, Orton scored a close two count with a jackknife pin before scoring another close two count. Christian tried to come back with top-rope offense, but Orton cut him off, only to have Christian knock him down to the mat for a flying headbutt that only scored a two count. Orton then tried to come back with an RKO, but Christian nailed the Unprettier. Christian had the pin and Cole did the ol' "it's over!" call, which meant Orton was kicking out. After the kick out, Christian sold frustration being unable to put Orton away. Christian then went into Edge mode for a spear, but Orton avoided. Orton then hit a gutwrench into a reverse RKO of sorts. Orton with the cover, but Christian kicked out. This time, Orton sold disbelief.

The crowd was hot as Orton came to his feet, stalking Christian. Orton "went there" and wanted The Punt, but Christian avoided before taking a powerslam. Orton then went for his elevated DDT from the second rope and connected. Orton dropped down to his stomach to set up for the RKO, but Christian bailed to the corner. Orton stalked him, then Christian spit in his face. Orton snapped and pounded away on Christian, nearly DQ'ing himself. Orton broke free at four, but then punted Christian in the groin. It was good for a DQ, and the crowd popped, realizing a title switch was going down. The ref made it official and Christian was declared the new World champ.

Post-match: Orton snapped and dragged Christian to the floor. Orton smashed Christian with a ringside monitor. This one brought out Teddy Long as opposed to the Mark Henry angle earlier. Long tried to talk Orton down from the ledge, as Cole put it. Orton was having none of it and dropped Christian with an RKO onto the announce table, which didn't break. Lawler said Orton has lost it. They went to a replay of Christian's championship-winning loogie. Cole said it's great strategy from Christian. They cut back to Orton ranting and raving ringside as Long tried to calm him down. Lawler said Orton got screwed as Cole defended Christian.

Suddenly, Orton returned to ringside to a big reaction. Orton wanted another piece of Christian and he got that crazy look in his eyes. The crowd popped for crazed Orton, who lifted up Christian and dropped him with another RKO on the table, which didn't break. Christian was out cold as Orton stood over him. The crowd popped for Orton, but was also seemingly pleading with Daniel Bryan to come cash in the briefcase. Orton stood on the entrance ramp and fought the IED before turning back around to look toward the ring. Orton left and the cameras re-focused on Christian trying to gather himself. After another replay of the loogie spot, Christian was shown being dragged away by medics and refs. Christian was booed on the way out as he clutched the World Title belt.

WINNER: Christian via DQ at 12:20 to capture the World Title. This was a perfect set-up for Christian to have that story of losing the title right after winning to have a five-minute reign to go with his five-day reign. Since that didn't happen, it looks like Christian vs. Orton re-match at Summerslam, likely with Edge as special ref. WWE teased a double-turn with Orton snapping on Christian post-match, but this crowd seemed to be hot for crazed Orton. Overall, a good night for Smackdown breathing some life into the brand. (***1/2)

Announcers: The announcers reset the action as the crowd was already chanting for C.M. Punk. Cole posed the question of whether the World Title will even be in WWE when they arrive at Summerslam next month. The graphic setting up the WWE Title match generated all boos for Cena and loud cheers for Punk.

Video package: A full rundown of the Cena-Punk feud leading to the big one tonight.

Back live: Loud "C-M-Punk" chant as the announcers remained silent and the camera panned the arena. Long pause. Punk's music then hit to a huge reaction. Punk slowly walked out and stood in the middle of the stage. Punk was sporting a new white t-shirt, shorter hair, and a cleaner facial-hair look. The back of Punk's shirt was "Best Wrestler in the World," which Punk made sure the camera focused on. Lawler said it would be like the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl and the game in Chicago. Loud pro-Punk chant as he soaked in the crowd reaction. Punk played to the crowd, which was red-hot. It felt like an ROH crowd in a WWE arena. Punk eventually sat down in the middle of the ring and tried to soak it all in. The hard camera zoomed right in on Punk's eyes as he stared straight ahead. He was sweating profusely as the crowd continued to cheer. Punk then stood up and pumped up the crowd some more before leaving the ring to apparently hug his mom. The camera zoomed in on a sign: "I want my C.M. Punk Commemorative Cup." Another loud pro-Punk chant. Lawler said he doesn't know if he's ever witnessed something like this. Finally, Cena's music hit to huge boos. It felt like an ECW crowd. Cena just walked right to the ring without any of his usual pre-match posturing. Cole noted there was no salute tonight. Ringside, Punk clapped and mock applauded Cena, who held up the title belt in the air. This is insane. Punk kissed his dog tags, tossed his t-shirt into the crowd, and paced around the ring selling the pressure of the moment. Cole slipped in a subtle Chicago Cubs reference about whether Cena will be hero or goat tonight. Justin Roberts then handled formal ring intros. Huge reaction for Punk, who did his ROH cross-arm pose. Cena was booed heavily as he shadow-boxed center-ring. Before the bell sounded, Cole put over the WWE Title belt and what it means to the McMahon Family. He listed past champions: Bruno, Bob Backlund, Hogan, HBK, Rock, Triple H, Austin, Taker, Edge, Orton, and Cena. Cue the bell.

6 -- WWE champion JOHN CENA vs. C.M. PUNK -- WWE Title match

The bell sounded at 9:12 p.m. CST, allowing for plenty of time. Cole said Cena debuted in this building back on "Friday" Night Smackdown. It was Thursdays back then. Punk and Cena started with some headlocks and mat holds as the crowd chanted, "You can't wrestle." Punk comically made sure the crowd was aiming that toward Cena, not him. Cena then applied a hammerlock as Booker suggested Cena was trying to take the crowd out of the match. Meanwhile, the announcers questioned whether Punk has brainwashed his city and his followers because if he leaves with the title, he screws the audience. After Cena's early offense, Punk came back with a dropkick to a big reaction. Punk then grabbed a headlock as Cole brought up the Montreal Screwjob to show what lengths McMahon will go to keep the title in WWE. Hmm. Cena teased the Attitude Adjustment moments later, Punk teased the G2S, and they came to a standstill.

After the standstill, Punk scored with offense before Cena scored with a bulldog for a two count. Cena followed with a big knock-down clothesline that might have knocked a tooth loose. Cena scored a two count, then grabbed another chinlock. Punk escaped with a back drop for a two count. The pro-Cena high-pitched fans were heard for the first time engaging in a "Let's Go Cena" vs. "Cena Sucks" chant. Cena then scored with a fisherman suplex for a two count, but Punk came back with a DDT for a two count. Punk followed with a leg vice trying to squeeze the life out of Cena. There was a mild "Colt Cabana" chant before Punk dumped Cena out of the ring. Cole questioned if that was a wise move as Punk followed to the outside. Punk then placed Cena across the ring apron and nailed a flying knee to the back of the neck.

Back in the ring at 10:30, Punk made a cover, but Cena kicked out. Punk then went for a corner attack, but Cena moved and Punk ate the ringpost. Cena tried to follow up, but Punk kicked him away. Punk then grabbed a chinlock as the announcers continued to stress the value and importance of the WWE Title. Cole referenced Triple H, saying he once said if you're not in the business to become champ, then go home. The pro-Cena fans tried to rally behind Cena as Cena kicked out of a pin following a top rope move. Cena sold a right knee injury - the theme of the night - and rolled to the ring apron for a breather. The crowd was momentarily hushed. Punk then tried a suplex back into the ring, but Cena suplexed Punk over the top rope to the floor. Punk made a big, wet splat on the floor as the ref applied a ten count on both men.

Back in the ring at 14:20, Cena made a cover, but Punk kicked out. Cena then scored with a suplex before delivering an elbow drop for a two count. Cena tried to follow with a powerslam of sorts, Punk slipped out, but then Cena delivered a shoulderbreaker-grip into a bodyslam for a two count. Unique. Cena came to his feet and started jabbing Punk, who suddenly came back with rights of his own. Boos/Yeahs before Cena slapped on an abdominal stretch, which drew cheers from the pro-Cena crowd. Punk escaped, then they had a double knockdown center-ring.

At 17:30, they came to their feet together and Cena started his comeback routine. Punk slipped out of the backdrop, though, and nearly scored a three count. Punk missed with a patented corner knee, then Cena delivered a sit-out slam. Cena warmed up the Five Knuckle Shuffle to big boos, but Punk kicked Cena in the face when he tried the hand wave. Punk then kneed Cena to the floor before flying through the ropes with a suicide dive. Both men crashed into the guardrail upon impact. After a pause, Punk threw Cena back into the ring and climbed onto the ring apron. Punk went for a springboard dive, but Cena moved and Punk ate the mat.

Cena then did the full Knuckle Shuffle routine, including fist drop. Cena wanted the AA, but Punk landed on his feet to avoid. Punk followed with big kick strikes and made a cover, but Cena kicked out. Suddenly, Punk teased the G2S, but Cena countered with a gutwrench suplex for a close nearfall. Cena was the first man up and adjusted his belt before stalking Punk for the AA. Punk escaped, though, and nailed multiple knee strikes to the jaw followed by a flying bulldog. Punk then went to the ring apron for a springboard clothesline and connected. Punk covered, but Cena kicked out in time. They went to a slow-motion replay of Cena taking a big knee to the jaw that absolutely rocked Cena.

At 22:30, Punk landed kick strikes to the upper body. More strikes. Cena started absorbing, though, before ducking a kick and flowing into the STF center ring. Punk's eyes bugged out as Cole implored Punk to tap out. Punk fought the hold as he stared at the bottom rope. Punk tried to crawl toward the bottom rope and made a last-second desperation reach for the bottom rope to break the hold. Cena tried to follow up, but Punk kicked him in the body for a two count. Punk then went up top and did a Savage salute before executing a splash, but Cena rolled through into the AA. Punk countered into the G2S, but Cena intercepted mid-air for the STF. Punk teased a break, but Cena pulled him back to center-ring. The crowd was red-hot imploring Punk to grab the rope. Suddenly, Punk countered into a neck vice submission. The crowd called for Cena to tap as Cena tried to fight the hold mid-ring. Cena found his way to his feet, then suddenly transitioned into the AA out of nowhere. Cena made the cover, but Punk kicked out. Huge pop.

The men reset as Cole said this has been extraordinary. Booker said he can't call it. Cena went up top, selling exhaustion as he set up for a guillotine leg drop that Punk countered into a seated slam for a two count. The crowd chanted "C-M-Punk" as Punk did the go-to-sleep hand motion. Punk sold a back injury as he went for the G2S, but Cena grabbed the top rope to escape. Cena yanked Punk throat-first across the top rope, then he went up top. Cena wanted the leg drop and he connected this time. Cena with the cover, but Punk kicked out again. "I'm exhausted," Booker said. At 29:00, Cena stood up and measured Punk for what was next. Cena wanted the AA again. This time, he connected center ring. Punk made the cover, but Punk kicked out again. Cena just stood up and smiled before checking the ref on his count. At exactly 30:00, Cole said they are 30 minutes into this match.

Cena went back to stalking Punk. Cena dragged Punk to the corner and put him up top. Super AA? Cena slowly climbed up top looking for a top-rope AA, but Punk elbowed Cena in the back of the head. Punk then measured Cena and delivered a top-rope huracanrana. Cena rolled across the ring to avoid a pin, though. Punk followed with a knee strike in the corner before delivering the G2S, but Cena rolled through the ring to the floor. Punk pounded the mat in frustration, unable to pin Cena on the floor. Punk retrieved Cena, then rolled him back into the ring.

Suddenly, McMahon and Laurinaitis came walking down to ringside. They stopped mid-way as Punk stared back at them. McMahon returned the stare as Punk slowly re-entered the ring. The distraction allowed Cena to slap on the STF. McMahon wanted the bell to be rung and Laurinaitis went running, but Cena absolutely creamed Ace, who took the greatest bump of all-time. Cena shouted at McMahon that this isn't going down this way. Cena then returned to the ring, where he ate a G2S from Punk center ring. Punk made the cover and it was good for the win. The crowd exploded as McMahon stared ahead in disbelief.

WINNER: Punk at 33:44 to capture the WWE Title. That was simply an amazing match. There hasn't been a match with that kind of feel in WWE in a very long time. Even the "run-in" at the end was part of the story and enhanced the finish rather than taking away from it. The match had all of the intangibles that make up an epic wrestling match, complete with the ultimate story: two men tearing each other apart for the top prize in WWE: the WWE Title. (*****)

Post-match: Cole noted Punk will no longer be an employee of WWE in less than two hours. Punk flashed the title belt toward McMahon, who continued to stare straight ahead. McMahon then ran down to the announcers and ripped off Lawler's headset. He screamed at someone to call for Del Rio to cash in right now. Del Rio came springing down to the ring with the case in-hand, but Punk blasted him with a kick to the head. Punk smirked at McMahon, then he went through the crowd after blowing McMahon a kiss. Punk reached the top of the arena and stood tall among the people with possession of the WWE Title. McMahon's eyes welled up as the MITB credits flashed. Punk disappeared to the back and they showed a shot of Punk walking through the concourse before going to a final shot of McMahon selling disbelief in the ring. The show ended at that point.

***

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