# 22: WWE Championship Triple Threat TLC Match from WWE TLC
Through blistering battles with John Cena and captivating interviews, CM Punk earned his spot as the biggest Superstar of 2011. At WWE TLC, The Straight Edge Superstar proved he deserved it. Defending his WWE Championship against The Miz and Alberto Del Rio in a dangerous Triple Threat TLC Match, The Second City Saint overcame the underhanded tactics of his rivals — including the interference of Ricardo Rodriguez and being handcuffed to the turnbuckle by The Awesome One — and scaled the ladder to grab the his title. Soon after, Punk tweeted, “My march to WrestleMania doesn’t begin after the Rumble. It starts today. You’re in or you’re out. If you’re out, you’ll be left behind.” So, in or out?
# 18: Randy Orton vs. CM Punk from Extreme Rules
Before delivering an uncensored interview that would change the course of his WWE career, CM Punk was desperately trying to piece together a frayed Nexus that had unraveled under Wade Barrett. Looking to reestablish his crew’s reputation at the expense of Randy Orton, The Second City Savior entered Extreme Rules in May to face The Viper in a Last Man Standing Match. Of course, the slimy leader planned for New Nexus to do the dirty work for him, but that plot fell apart when Mason Ryan and company were barred from ringside, leaving Punk all alone with WWE’s Apex Predator. Amidst a barrage of kendo sticks, chairs, exposed turnbuckles and steel steps, Orton reigned supreme, executing a jaw dropping RKO on The Straight Edge Superstar from the top rope that put him out for the count.
# 13: Rey Mysterio vs. CM Punk from Capitol Punishment
Even without the flanking of his New Nexus rebels at Capitol Punishment, CM Punk eked out a sound victory over longtime enemy Rey Mysterio, closing the latest chapter on their storied rivalry and positioning Punk to next “do the most honest thing the WWE Universe has even seen.” What exactly was up The Second City Savior’s tape and tattoo sleeves? WWE fans would have to wait and see.
# 07: The 40-Man Royal Rumble Match
A WWE tradition since 1988, the over-the-top Royal Rumble has long been one of sports-entertainment’s true proving grounds, but it was never as big as it was in 2011. Cramming 40 Superstars into one ring over the course of an hour, this record-setting battle royal played host to the surprising returns of Booker T and Kevin Nash, a strength-in-numbers display from New Nexus and a bizarre partnership between John Cena and Hornswoggle. But, in the end, it was the slimy Alberto Del Rio who survived the grueling bout, dumping Santino Marella to earn a first class ticket to WrestleMania. Some guys have all the luck.
# 04: Raw Elimination Chamber Match
They say there are no atheists in foxholes. Same goes for the Elimination Chamber. Dubbed The Devil’s Playground for good reason, the satanic structure houses six Superstars inside ten tons of twisted metal, jagged steel and bulletproof glass. But, like any great battlefield, the chamber has become a place of glory that serves as a testament to the cunning or power of the Superstar who survives it. For John Cena, it has been such a place on three occasions, including this February 20 war against Sheamus, CM Punk, Randy Orton, John Morrison and R-Truth. Determined to earn a WWE Championship Match at WrestleMania, the Cenation leader persevered before finally eliminating Punk to earn his showdown with The Miz on The Grandest Stage of Them All.
# 02: WWE Champion John Cena vs. CM Punk from Money in the Bank
In the weeks after CM Punk hurled a verbal pipe bomb on Raw in late June, WWE was surrounded by a buzz not felt since the days when “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was stomping mudholes in the competition. That excitement followed The Straight Edge Superstar into his hometown of Chicago where he battled WWE Champion John Cena in what Punk claimed would be his final bout. Vowing to leave with the WWE Title, The Second City Savior shocked the world when he did just that. With Mr. McMahon looking on in shock, the new champion hopped a barricade and blew a kiss goodbye to his old boss before disappearing into the Windy City night. For the first time in a long time, WWE fans had no idea what would happen next.