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This may have been something as simple as a rivalry once, a dispute between two men to be settled the squared circle. But in the case of WWE Champion CM Punk and Chris Jericho, it has long since become something darker and more personal.

Jericho had made it known, since the moment of his return on Jan. 2nd, 2012, that he had come back to WWE to “reclaim what was his” – the WWE Title and the mantle of “Best in the World,” both of which had sat comfortably in the clutches of CM Punk for several months. Jericho wasted no time in targeting The Second City Saint and the gold around his waist, and though he came up short in the Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber Matches, a Battle Royal victory on Raw secured his spot as Punk’s chief opposition for the supreme prize at WrestleMania XXVIII.

From then on, the rivalry took a decisively cerebral turn. Jericho, who has long made it his M.O. to destroy his opponents mentally before they ever set foot against him in the ring, attempted to burrow into Punk’s psyche by uncovering the champion’s long-buried family secrets. Jericho methodically exposed Punk’s father’s history with alcoholism (the reason for The Voice of the Voiceless’ lifelong commitment to a straight edge lifestyle), and by slandering the name of his sister and mother, Jericho hoped to unman his enemy and strip him of his title on The Grandest Stage of Them All.

His plan failed. CM Punk prevailed at The Show of Shows, forcing Jericho to tap to the Anaconda Vise. The jilted challenger’s response was ruthless. Jericho attacked Punk on Raw SuperShow after the champion was left battered and defenseless by Mark Henry, emptying a bottle of whiskey into The Straight Edge Superstar’s mouth and smashing a second bottle over his head, seemingly undoing the straight edge lifestyle Punk had lived his whole life.

And yet, Punk persisted, even as Jericho jeeringly named him “CM Drunk,” insisted he’d become an alcoholic himself, and continued to attack Punk’s principles by dousing him with a six-pack of beer the following week on Raw.

In fact, the first time CM Punk seemed happy during all of this was when Jericho announced that his endgame had succeeded: the two will face off again in a Chicago Street Fight at Extreme Rules. “Perhaps it’s poetic justice,” Punk sneered at his enemy, who hid safely behind a satellite feed and communicated over the TitanTron. The rivalry was once about such things, he explained, but now, Punk just wants to fight. And as he told Jericho, “In Chicago, when we fight, there are no disqualifications.”

Will CM Punk retain his title against Jericho for a second time? Or will the conniving challenger finally reclaim that which he says is his? Find out at Extreme Rules, Sunday, April 29 at 8/5 PT, only on pay-per-view!

Debbie Apr 20, 2012