Last weekend, history was made in Chicago. CM Punk defeated John Cena for the WWE Championship, and exiting through the crowd, he departed the biggest wrestling promotion in the world while proudly carrying their most prestigious title. Now, Punk is a free agent, and the WWE is left without a Champion.
While few facts are known in regards to Punk’s current contract situation, the potential working relationship in place between WWE & Ring of Honor, or how the WWE Title scene will be treated moving forward, there are some assumptions we can make. For one, we can be sure that Punk is not truly done with World Wrestling Entertainment. He is certainly a big part of their future plans – he wouldn’t be carrying their title around otherwise. We know that he’s not actually a free agent. He’s still a WWE employee, and as such, he still has to play by their rules. The chances that he defends the WWE Championship in any promotion that isn’t WWE are slim at best, and if you exclude ROH from the discussion, they likelihood that he shows up anywhere besides Monday Night Raw probably drops to non-existent.
But for now, let’s forget all that. Let’s cast off our smarky shackles, allow ourselves to believe the kayfabe, and embrace this angle in all of its shoot-y goodness. CM Punk is the WWE Champion. He’s also a free agent. He’s going to defend the title wherever he sees fit. So where does the best wrestler in the world do his business? On the other side of the jump, you’ll find ten suggestions as to what promotions the Second City Savior could visit, who he should put the gold on the line against, and how each respective match might play out. This, my friends, is Fanboy Booking 101.
10. Raven (Juggalo Championship Wrestling; Detroit, MI)
I don’t care that he’s now 46-years-old, out of shape, and balding. I’m an admitted Raven mark. Also working in his favor is that Raven’s greatest asset has always been his voice, and luckily, mic skills aren’t effected by age, weight, and deteriorating appearance. The former Flock leader engaged in a feud with CM Punk during their shared time in Ring of Honor back in 2003, a rivalry that was about as bloody as they come. It stands to reason that Punk’s defense against Raven would be the least technical of his title tour, probably featuring more trash can shots than head locks. The Straight Edge superstar could exact some revenge on the man who once forcibly poured beer down his throat, perhaps by tying ol’ Scott Levy up in the ring ropes and bathing him with Diet Pepsi. Ha, who am I kidding? The Insane Clown Posse allowing Pepsi to be used at one of their events instead of Faygo might be the most far-fetched aspect of this entire list.
9. Dean Ambrose (Florida Championship Wrestling; Tampa, FL)
Sure, FCW falls under the WWE umbrella, but that could be used to the story’s advantage. Punk, citing that there was still talent in Florida that had not yet become influenced by the WWE’s ass kissing practices, could try to “save” the FCW roster from their parent company’s shameful ways. Of course, this means taking his title there to defend it against the so-far-untainted Dean Ambrose. Naturally, Punk would go over the former CZW wrestler cleanly, but it would be an excellent way to introduce the promising, young superstar-in-the-making to the WWE Universe. Like Punk, and the aforementioned Raven, a lot of Ambrose’s appeal comes from his superb abilities with a microphone in his hand. Not only could he hold his own in the ring with the current WWE Champion, but I have little doubt that he’d be able to spin his encounter with Punk into a character-building incident when he transitions onto the WWE’s main roster.
8. Matt Classic (CHIKARA; Philadelphia, PA)
Sure, wrestling Colt Cabana would be cool I guess, but the mutual respect matchup has been done to death. Another gripe with that pairing is that Punk and Cabana have already matched up on a number of occasions, notably including CM’s last match in Ring of Honor. So why not have Punk defend his strap against Cabana’s alter ego, the old timey Matt Classic. The Champ’s encounter with the catch-as-catch-can grappler would provide some comic relieve to his world tour with the title, and it would also provide him a “coming home” show at the legendary South Philly bingo hall once known as the ECW Arena. It’s tough to resist listing Mike Quackenbush as Punk’s opponent in his stopover at Chikara, due to Quack being the face of the company, but in the end, I feel like Matt Classic is the best option due to the inherent irony in wrestling Colt Cabana (but not).
7. Dick Togo (Michinoku Pro Wrestling; Japan)
If Punk’s going to take his belt from promotion to promotion, a visit to Japan is inevitable. Rather than dropping in at NJPW, I’d prefer to see the reigning Champion try his hand in Michinoku Pro. It’s a coin flip as to whether he should face Dick Togo or The Great Sasuke, but ultimately Togo gets the nod because he’s already publicly announced his plans to retire. Currently enjoying a farewell world tour, what better way for Togo to wrap up his already legendary career than with a shot at the most widely recognized professional wrestling Championship on the planet? On top of that, there’s no doubt that Togo & Punk could blow the roof off of an arena of any size. Punk is at his best when he’s having fun, and I can’t imagine him not being overjoyed to work with such a master of his craft.
6. El Generico (Pro Wrestling Guerrilla; Reseda, CA)
Regardless of the opponent, CM Punk’s visit to Pro Wrestling Guerrilla would likely result in the wildest match of his Championship tour. The fast paced nature of the SoCal promotion makes for fantastic matches if it agrees with a competitor’s style, and CM Punk fits the bill to a T. That being said, El Generico is the perfect opponent for the Chicago native. He’s often written off because of his goofy antics, but there’s no disputing the fact that Generico can go. His match with the 1-2-3 Kid at this year’s King of Trios and his epic Final Battle with Kevin Steen in December have proven that the Generic Luchador rises to the occasion when the spotlight is placed upon him. A WWE Title match would be the biggest contest of his career, so you can bet he’d pull out all the stops in his battle against Punk. Naturally, Punk would underestimate the oft-underdog, resulting in a closer match than many might expect.
5. Sara Del Rey (SHIMMER Women Athletes; Berwyn, IL)
A big part of what sets Shimmer Women Athletes apart from other women’s wrestling companies is the utter lack of men involved in their show. A commentator, a referee or two, and that’s it for those of the male persuasion. Shimmer, as the name implies, is really all about the Women Athletes. That being said, hosting a WWE Championship match is certainly not something that would hurt the company’s reputation. Due to the stringent no-male-wrestlers policy, I considered leaving this off the list, but honestly, the match sounds too good to omit. Sara Del Rey can hang with the big boys, and there might not be an independent wrestler who I’d rather see get the kind of exposure that comes with a WWE Title match than the Queen of Wrestling. I’m already popping at the thought of our current Champ being clamped into the Royal Butterfly. Not to mention, the arrogant sexism that Punk would ooze during his Shimmer visit would probably be brain-explodingly hilarious. I’d love to see Del Rey come within an eyelash of becoming the first female WWE Champion before Punk took her head off with the Go To Sleep.
4. Jushin “Thunder” Liger (CMLL; Mexico City, Mexico)
CM Punk stepping into the ring opposite Jushin “Thunder” Liger is nothing short of a dream match. Liger revolutionized the junior heavyweight scene in both Japan and the United States during the 1990s, paving the way for average sized and smaller wrestlers to carve their niche in the industry. Without guys like Jushin Liger, we may have never known a guy like CM Punk. Relying heavily on grapples, palm thrusts, and stiff kicks, as well as his acclaimed aerial game, Liger’s style in the ring would mesh perfectly with the Straight Edge Savior’s. I’d like to see this one wrap up with a spiffy little Anaconda Vice, after which both men would undoubtedly receive standing ovations from the Mexico City crowd. Adding to the allure of this epic encounter would be the fact that Liger is currently CMLL’s Universal Champion, making it the only match on this list that pits two promotion’s primary Champions against one another.
3. Kevin Steen (EVOLVE Wrestling; Boston, MA)
This match makes so much sense it hurts. Both are outcasts in their own right. Both outspoken malcontents, both earning the ire of their respective home promotions with a barrage of disparaging accusations. Naturally, neither the WWE nor ROH could facilitate this one, which is why I think Evolve is the perfect setting. Steen is making his debut with the upstart promotion next week (the result of a chance Twitter encounter, no less), and with their 10th show looming, Evolve could provide the perfect stage for a legendary clash between Mr. Wrestling and CM Punk, two men currently advancing their names by ripping down wrestling’s fourth wall. These guys have so much in common, I’m starting to think that maybe they should be focusing their efforts together rather than wrestling against each other. Who am I kidding? I want a blood bath!
2. Samoa Joe (Impact Wrestling; Philadelphia, PA)
I’m not booking Philadelphia as the only city Punk visits twice on this list because it’s where I reside. Really, I’m not. It’s just that the City of Brotherly Love will play home to this year’s Bound For Glory event, which will see the culmination of Impact Wrestling’s ongoing Bound For Glory series. It also just so happens that Samoa Joe is currently slumping, rather hard, and has fewer points than any other competitor in said tournament. What better way to ignite a fire under the Samoan Submission Machine than by revealing that the prize for winning the BFG series won’t be a shot at the TNA World Title, but instead, the WWE Championship, a title that Joe has never challenged for. Not only that, but when the winner of the series received their title shot, it would naturally be against CM Punk, a man with whom Joe still surely harbors some bad blood from their ROH days. With new-found motivation, Joe could heat up in the final weeks of the tournament, racing past the other competitors in a come from behind victory. Of course he’d fall short in actually dethroning CM Punk – let’s say this one goes to a time limit draw – but the clinic that would be put on that night would be an automatic match-of-the-year candidate.
1. Bryan Danielson (Ring of Honor; New York, NY)
Anyone who has read the spoilers for this Friday’s Smackdown knows that Daniel Bryan’s intentions for the Money in the Bank briefcase have been made known. And they’re really cool. That being said, I’ve had this notion kicking around in my head since the conclusion of Money in the Bank, and I think I might like it a little better, so I’m going to run with it anyway. I’m in full support of CM Punk staying away from WWE programming as long as necessary to sell this angle. In my opinion, that means months, not weeks. Between now and the end of the year, he could tour the indy scene, defending the WWE Championship against those wrestlers covered in this list or countless others (KENTA, anyone?). Finally, near 2011’s end, Daniel Bryan could take a stand. Fed up with his company (WWE – he is a face after all) being without their primary Championship, the American Dragon would take it into his own hands to retrieve the industry’s top prize. Weeks prior to the event, Bryan would announce his intentions – to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase at Ring of Honor’s Final Battle, and to defeat CM Punk for the WWE Championship. Sure, technically he’s entitled to a shot at the World Title, not the WWE Title. And it’s apparent that the Money in the Bank briefcase wouldn’t have to be honored outside of the WWE. But this is wrestling, damn it, do not attempt to apply logic! Both men would enter the Manhattan Center on a chilly December night, both making their first appearance in the promotion that propelled them into the national spotlight for the first time since their departures for World Wrestling Entertainment. By the time Miseria Cantare and The Final Countdown were done being played, the ring would be buried under streamers. Danielson and Punk would tear the house down. In the end, The American Dragon would have his hand raised in victory after forcing Punk to submit to the Cattle Mutilation. Punk’s World Tour is over. The WWE Championship returns home. Daniel Bryan is the top dog. Of course, this would lead to CM Punk returning to the WWE in an attempt to regain the Title, which would in turn result in a rematch on wrestling’s grandest stage, WrestleMania. At that point, winners and losers wouldn’t matter. CM Punk would be wrestling Daniel Bryan for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania, and we’d all die happy.
And that, fellow rasslin’ fans, is how I’d book the CM Punk World Tour. Granted, none of this could ever happen. The WWE Championship is not going to be defended at a JCW event, it’s not going to be on the line against Sara Del Rey, and it most certainly will never find its way into the Impact Zone. That being said, it’s fun to chase the ever elusive mark out. If left in your hands, who would you have the recently unemployed WWE Champion defend his title against during his hiatus from the bigs?