Three men entered, three men collided and three men fought. When the dust was settled and all was said and done, CM Punk — on the 274th day of his reign — was still standing tall as the WWE Champion, defeating John Cena and Big Show in a Triple Threat Match at The 25th Anniversary of SummerSlam.
For weeks, the embattled champion had been insisting that WWE had not been affording him due respect as its standard-bearer. He made a particular point of telling Raw General Manager AJ Lee that a Triple Threat Title Match — a contest where Punk would not even have to be pinned to lose his championship — was an extension of that mindset. And when Cena refused to shake Punk’s hand earlier in the week on Raw, The Second City Saint seemed to be in a particularly foul mood heading into WWE’s summer classic.
He was also in a particularly confident one, insisting that he would retain no matter who was in the ring with him. The Voice of the Voiceless proved to be a man of his word, although he had to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat to accomplish the task.
Punk began the match appropriately, storming into the City of Angels like a jilted, tattooed typhoon and opening the match with a bold strike against Big Show that, unfortunately, didn’t pay dividends. The World’s Largest Athlete had an early hand in the contest, manhandling Cena and Punk with minimal difficulty, backing up his own prediction that he, not Cena, would be the biggest threat to Punk’s title. Show made a methodical spectacle of his opponents, delivering thunderous, open-handed slaps — with his hubcap-sized hands — to the bare chests of both Punk and Cena that left the two men reeling and breathless on the apron.
Punk was the first to stop the giant’s onslaught, forcing Big Show to his knees and delivering a barrage of kicks to his tree-trunk torso. Punk then attempted a Go to Sleep that failed when he found himself unable to support the giant’s weight. Cena was next, hoisting Show up for an Attitude Adjustment that went sour when Punk interfered, sending Cena tumbling to the mat.
Show’s game plan — keep Cena neutralized and make it a one-on-one contest against Punk — seemed to be going well after the giant reversed a Punk crossbody to set him up for the WMD, but Cena’s re-emergence threw a slight wrench into Show’s plans.
The World’s Largest Athlete rallied quickly, though, stalking Punk outside the ring and hurling him like a rag doll into the ropes. Cena seemed to gain the upper hand briefly, felling the giant and nearly landing a Five Knuckle Shuffle before Punk caught the Cenation leader with a flying clothesline and hurling him out of the ring.
Punk made a play for victory next, locking Show in the Koji Clutch and attempting to make the giant submit. But Show rallied and broke the hold, opening the window for Cena to administer the STF. The World’s Largest Athlete powered out of that as well, stunning Cena with a powerslam and creating the opportunity for Punk to strike. Three running knees to the giant stunned him sufficiently enough for Punk to administer the Koji Clutch, while Cena locked the STF in again.
And then, the unthinkable happened: trapped in both holds and unable to escape, Big Show tapped. But the night was not over.
With the result unsure, Punk and Cena livid in the ring and the referee unable to determine a winner, Raw GM AJ Lee made her presence known and demanded the contest be restarted.
Show struck quickly, stunning both men with a double chokeslam, though he was unable to pin either. The giant then readied the WMD for Cena, who had risen to his feet, but Cena rallied and finally, after weeks of failed efforts, executed the Attitude Adjustment on The World’s Largest Athlete.
And that’s when CM Punk made his move. The champion tossed Cena out of the ring and covered the prone giant himself, securing an opportunistic — if undeniable — victory and extending his reign even further.
So now, for the 248th day, the WWE Championship remains around CM Punk’s waist as promised. Whether respect comes with it, however, remains to be seen.