HOUSTON — Ahead of his 3-on-1 Handicap Match against United States Champion Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins, CM Punk seemed almost resigned to his fate. Fully expecting to walk into a “wholesale slaughter,” The Best in the World sounded all but accepting of defeat so long as he took down at least some members of The Shield in the process.
Instead, armed with strategy, patience and wherewithal, Punk exceeded even his own predictions and earned a hard-fought victory at WWE TLC. Perhaps more significantly, the lopsided match may have further contributed to an emerging crack in The Shield, leaving the cohesiveness of one of WWE’s most destructive trios in question.
The bout, ordered by Director of Operations Kane shortly after Punk publicly criticized The Authority, allowed the three Shield members to tag in and out. Meanwhile, The Voice of the Voiceless — suffering from bruised ribs, thanks to a recent spear by Reigns — was left with an empty corner. He was not without support, however, as the Toyota Center broke into chants of “CM Punk” seconds after the opening bell rang.
Ambrose and Rollins took turns pawing at Punk, with The Straight Edge Superstar getting the better of each Hound of Justice. The momentum swayed with the entrance of Reigns, who muscled Punk into the corner and tossed him to the floor like a ragdoll. Reigns attempted to spear Punk outside the ring, but the savvy Second City Strategist sidestepped him, causing the black-clad warrior to barrel over the commentators’ desk.
Reigns narrowly beat the referee’s count and re-entered the ring, but was clearly worse for wear, favoring his left eye which, replays revealed, had drilled a chair during the ill-fated spear attempt. Within seconds, the area around his eye began to swell, and once Reigns tagged out, WWE medical staff rushed in to assess the injury.
Punk continued to valiantly fight off the attack of Rollins and Ambrose, at times using their own momentum against them, but the numbers disadvantage proved truly debilitating. After a rapid series of offensive maneuvers, Punk began to lock the Anaconda Vise on Rollins, yet interference from the volatile Ambrose prevented The Best in the World from gaining a submission victory.
Nonetheless, The Straight Edge Superstar kept his wits about him, reversing a butterfly superplex attempt by Ambrose and surveying the WWE Universe before launching into an elbow drop. Moments later, Punk dropped Rollins with the GTS.
With Rollins asleep, Ambrose then squirmed out of a second GTS attempt, only for Reigns—who had by then regained his composure—to take aim at Punk with another spear. Yet, Punk again avoided the impact, and Reigns inadvertently drove into Ambrose, leaving the United States Champion easy prey for a Punk pin … and underdogs around the world believing in The Best.
Where the match result leaves The Shield, as a unit, remains far less clear.