Every time John Cena wrestles a good match people always say “Cena got carried” as an excuse so they can say the match is good while also backhandedly insulting Cena’s ability, but that’s a load of shit. At Money in the Bank 2011, Cena carried his match just as much as Punk did. If Cena used a better variety of technical moves and powerhouse moves to expand his offense like in this match rather than goofy dropkicks and hurricanranas then no one would ever be able to logically say he can’t wrestle, because both guys put on just as amazing a performance as the other. The psychology, the slow buildup of tension as it went from side headlocks to signatures, the absolutely amazing Chicago crowd who were fucking in to every last second making it feel just that much more amazing. It just all clicked perfectly.
My one issue is with the commentary during the early going. I always do my own commentary in my head as sort of an immersion, as a way to really get my head around everything going on, and when you’ve got commentators babbling with random stories rather than talking about the match it’s a bit of an immersion breaker. Special mention in that regard goes to Jerry Lawler’s usual weep woop schtick, namely “duh why does punk wanna leave wwe when it is a cool company and he makes lots of money” and, worse still, mistakening Colt Cabana as a random Chicago fan who CM Punk decided to high five on a whim.
The commentary got more involved in the match as it went on, though, and I’m glad it did. There were numerous moments that looked like they were going to be “cenawinslol” only for CM Punk to fight back, and more than three years on and already knowing the result I genuinely believed Cena was going to win with both Attitude Adjustments and both STFs because they built it up in such a strong way each time that it looked like a match finish. Even though Punk didn’t beat Cena totally clean they made it a point that Cena threw everything at Punk and still couldn’t beat him. Both of them looked equally as strong, and it looked as if the match was going to go on forever. That’s suspension of disbelief, that’s the essence of what makes Pro Wrestling exciting.
I’ve complained about WWE a lot recently, but this match has reinvigorated my passion for it and reaffirmed the reasons I tune in and subscribe to the WWE Network. It’s not like a film or a cartoon or an Anime where it’s a pure work of fiction. I can get swept up in the business side of things, feel concern out of the fact that these are real human beings who are busting their asses 300+ days a year, especially the people who reach for that impossible brass ring and fail. Now that I’m distanced from the backstage politics of this match I was able to be fully invested in its rich storytelling to the point it was fulfilling to me as an aspiring critic, which is very very rare in such a simple art form as “sweaty men grabbing each other”. If you’ve never seen it as a pro wrestling fan you’re missing out. Punk vs. Cena at Money in the Bank 2011 was a wonderful match in every way.