CM PUNK vs. THE UNDERTAKER
He was the Best in the World – but was he good enough to end The Streak?
CM Punk’s epic quest to defeat the Deadman and his 20-year undefeated record on the grandest stage in all of sports entertainment is perhaps one of the most underrated battles we’ll talk about in our retrospective series looking back on the best moments of the 2010s.
While generally regarded as a great match by many, you don’t often hear it talked about in the conversation of all-time great WrestleMania matches, or even in the list of Punk’s best moments in a WWE ring. We argue that it is BOTH of those things.
This is an incredibly interesting match for quite a few reasons. At the time the Phenom had already racked up his 20 wins, and suffering a loss at WrestleMania was unthinkable. But that was the story back then; you went into the match knowing Undertaker’s opponents had zero chance of beating him, but the best of his bouts were able to convince you otherwise before it was all said and done.
2013 was also a pivotal year in many ways. CM Punk was just coming off a record-setting WWE Championship reign and the hottest run wrestling fans had seen in a real long time. He was having great matches left and right, and at this point ‘Taker had started slowing down his style, but had yet to really degrade where it counted. Remember, just a year before, he had that Hell in a Cell match with Triple H.
This was also the last win The Streak would ever see.
The following year at WrestleMania XXX the annual tradition was broken by the “Beast Incarnate”, Brock Lesnar, in one of the most shocking moments in wrestling history. It was also the last time one of Undertaker’s matches at the Showcase of the Immortals was considered a “classic”, as his matches with Shane McMahon, Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns in the years to follow all received mixed reviews, at best.
But all of that is ancillary to the actual point. What really matters is the wrestling, right?
There’s so much to love about this match. CM Punk being played to the ring by the actual band Living Colour, Undertaker making his entrance through a field of souls rising from the grave, Paul Heyman sitting on the floor at ringside with the urn because the intensity of the drama had exhausted him – it’s all great.
The actual in-ring action started slow, with Punk having to slowly chip away at the Deadman after finally getting past his defenses. The crowd built with them appropriately. They took their time, and of course the Straight-Edge Messiah did plenty of showboating. By the time ‘Taker hit his first, monstrous chokeslam about 15 minutes in, the MetLife crowd came unglued and you just knew it was going to be something special.
But Punk seemingly had a counter for everything, and the seeds of doubt in the sanctity of The Streak began to sink in. After all, Mark Caloway had just turned 48-years-old. Punk was the hottest name in the business, and showed no signs of going anywhere. If ever there was a legitimate reason to give someone the biggest possible prize WWE could deliver, this was it, right?
Wrong. But when Undertaker barely rolled back into the ring by the count of nine-and-three-quarters after being put through the commentary table, I believed. When Punk was able to find his way out of the Hell’s Gate AND kick out of the Tombstone Piledriver, I really believed.
The last few minutes are masterful. A referee bump leads to Paul Heyman inserting himself into the match, allowing Punk to counter the Last Ride powerbomb (again) by blasting Undertaker with his own urn. The kick-out for that spot was thunderous.
Punk then ran his thumb across his throat, mocking the Deadman’s iconic antics, but would turn around into a final Tombstone Piledriver that sealed his fate.
That’s actually a pretty common theme in later Undertaker matches – the challenger potentially having victory within grasp, yet needing to get that final, humiliating jab in instead of simply finishing the deed. The Reaper of Souls will always come to collect on the arrogance of men.
And he did at that.
CM Punk may not have ended The Streak that night in New Jersey, but he came closer than many, and cemented his place in the history books as the final victim of the greatest record in WrestleMania’s storied history.