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WWE Champion CM Punk def. Daniel Bryan
Far from their humble beginnings competing inside state armories and high school gymnasiums, WWE Champion CM Punk and No. 1 contender Daniel Bryan battled in an instant classic that left the WWE Universe absolutely breathless and Bryan incredulous. When the smoke cleared and the chants of “This is awesome” quieted, Punk was left holding the WWE Title, although the pinfall he used to achieve that end has already been called into controversy. (PHOTOS) | PUNK’S EXCLUSIVE POST-MATCH INTERVIEW)
From their many travels around the globe perfecting their craft, to their current statuses as two of the world’s premier talents, Punk and Bryan have been on parallel paths for most of their careers.
At WWE Over the Limit, those paths intersected.
With arguably WWE’s two most technically proficient grapplers clashing head-on, the match was projected from the outset to be a wrestling purist’s dream, and it more than lived up to those lofty expectations. Despite their obvious scientific wrestling prowess, neither the 6-foot-2 Punk nor the 5-foot-11 Bryan has ever been confused for anything resembling a WWE poster boy.
Instead of boasting larger-than-life chiseled physiques, Punk and Bryan have established themselves as ring generals, and at WWE Over the Limit, vindication for their hard work – in the form of the ultimate symbol of excellence in sports-entertainment, the WWE Championship – was up for grabs.
Although the title bout seemed forged by fate, it actually originated out of circumstance, when Bryan won a Beat the Clock Challenge on Raw SuperShow to claim his spot as the No. 1 contender. Since then, Bryan made every attempt to score an advantage on The Second City Saint. Bryan’s latest offense, an act of trickery that caused an irate Kane to brutalize Punk with a steel chair and two chokeslams following a match on SmackDown, appeared to have done the trick.
At the very least, Bryan’s dastardly tactic irritated Punk, who moments before the opening bell told Josh Mathews that even though their match should be seen as a “triumph” for himself and Bryan, the Yes!-man’s change of heart this past year has hampered the festivities. According to The Straight Edge Superstar, the bout would be much more than a five-star match – it’d be a “five-star beat down.”
Punk’s words, it turned out, would prove prescient.
At the sound of the opening bell, Punk and Bryan began the contest with a feeling-out process in which they peppered each other with sharp kicks. The Second City Saint quickly went on the offensive, using submission holds against the self-proclaimed “submission specialist.” Throughout the bout, Punk would return again and again to Bryan’s left leg.
After avoiding a Punk baseball slide, however, Bryan rammed the WWE Champion back-first into the ringside barrier, further weakening Punk’s ribs, which appeared to have not yet healed from Kane’s attack Friday.
From there, Bryan attacked with pit bull-like veracity. He kneed Punk’s midsection and used a torso-wrenching abdominal stretch to great effect.
Never one to be counted down, The Straight Edge Superstar would again turn the tables on his storied foe, reversing a Bryan kick into a dragon-screw leg whip before locking him into a seemingly inescapable figure-four – causing more damage to Bryan’s already smarting knee.
“How many near falls have there been in this match, not to mention the submission predicaments?” Jerry “The King” Lawler wondered aloud, as Punk and Bryan warred on to the sounds of the passionate WWE Universe vacillating between chants of “Daniel Bryan” and “CM Punk” (and, occasionally, “Yes!” and “No!).
Punk and Bryan’s intimate knowledge of each other’s move sets was obvious, as they reversed signature holds and tried valiantly to check kicks. As Punk built momentum, he nailed his trademark high running knee in the corner.
Yet, as Punk then tried for the second half of his patented combo, the running bulldog, his effort was blocked by Bryan and reversed into a “Yes!” Lock.
Although the lock was clamped on for several moments, the WWE Champion nonetheless had the wherewithal to roll backward and turn the dangerous hold into a stunning pinfall. The win, however, was not without controversy, as immediately following the three-count, Punk was visibly tapping out.
With Punk barely able to hold his championship overhead in an exhausted celebration, Bryan – who clearly believed he was wronged – jawed angrily with the referee.
For once all the “Yes!” man could say was, “No! No! No!”