Vintage Vault “Pre-Viewing of Punk”: Summerslam 2008

CM Punk vs. John “Bradshaw” Layfield for the World Heavyweight Championship

We now head into the biggest party of the summer with Summerslam and Punk’s reign as World Champion has been a bit of a mixed bag, and going into this show it didn’t seem to get much better when it was determined that JBL would be the next challenger. I remember a lot of people, myself being one of them, that JBL was going to win the title here and end Punk’s reign prematurely especially after JBL defeated Cena last month at the Bash which seemed like he was going to get one last run as champion. However, given that most of the focus was on the two big matches on top and the two title matches seemed like afterthoughts, this could be a chance for Punk to get a huge win over a veteran and give himself a solid title defense to make his reign legit.

On the 7/21 RAW, Batista came out and demanded a rematch for the World Title only for JBL to come out and say that only he was worthy of a title shot, and Punk would come out and insult JBL before granting Batista his rematch. They would have their match at the end of the night and Batista would again win by DQ when JBL and Kane got involved, and on the 7/28 RAW Punk defeated William Regal while JBL did commentary and the two men brawled as Kane also got involved. On the 8/4 RAW, JBL and Chris Jericho made their case to be the next challenger and new GM Mike Adamle made a handicap match with the two of them facing Punk, and the stipulations were that if either of them pinned Punk they would be Number One Contender though neither would get the shot if Punk won and the match would be a Triple Threat if it ended in a 10 minute time limit. Jericho and JBL would defeat Punk when JBL pinned Punk right before the time expired to become the Number One Contender, and on the 8/11 RAW Punk and JBL had a confrontation with JBL challenging Punk to a drinking contest and Punk would throw a shot of whiskey in JBL’s face. The build was pretty basic as JBL had a pinfall victory over Punk and with Punk getting the last word on JBL 6 nights ago, it was going to be interesting as to who would end up leaving as champion.

Punk gets a good pop from the crowd while JBL was pretty hot as a heel, and having this right in the middle showed where Punk was in the pecking order as champion. The two men lock up to start with JBL backing Punk into the corner and the ref forces a break as he pulls JBL off, and JBL gets a knee in and pounds on Punk as he hooks a headlock and Punk whips him off only for JBL to knock him down. JBL blocks a hiptoss and Punk ducks a shot as he kicks at JBL’s legs and ducks a shot before hitting a flying forearm, and he hits a dropkick that sends JBL through the ropes to the outside and then he hits a suicide dive onto JBL on the floor. He throws JBL back into the ring and goes up top as he hits a crossbody for a one count and JBL knocks him down, and he stomps on Punk’s hand and pounds on him in the corner before whipping him into the other corner only for Punk to catch him with a boot to the face. He goes up top again only for JBL to nail him first and he goes up himself as he hits a super fallaway slam on Punk for a two count, and he drives the elbow into Punk’s back twice and pounds on him before whipping him hard into the corner. He hooks a bearhug on Punk who escapes with a series of elbows and he nails JBL before getting a kick in, but JBL catches him with a boot to the face and he kicks Punk in the face for a two count before hitting a suplex for a two count. He pounds on Punk and hits a back suplex for a two count before going back to the bearhug on the mat, and Punk fights to his feet and breaks the hold only for JBL to hit a tackle on Punk and he hooks an abdominal stretch on. Punk escapes the hold with a hiptoss and he hits the running knee on JBL in the corner before hitting the running bulldog, and he hoists JBL onto his shoulders though he can’t hold him up because of his ribs and JBL hits a short clothesline on Punk. He drops a series of elbows on Punk for a two count and they trade blows until JBL slaps Punk in the face, and Punk ducks a shot and fires up on JBL as he kicks him in the head for a two count and rolls out to the apron. He attempts a springboard dive only for JBL to catch him in a powerslam for a two count and he sets up for the Clothesline from Hell, but Punk catches him with a dropkick and whips him into the corner before hitting a second running knee. JBL blocks a running bulldog as he hoists Punk up and puts him on the top rope before pounding on him and he goes up himself, and he hits a back superplex on Punk who is bleeding in the back of the head for a two count as Punk ducks a shot and hoists JBL onto his shoulders before hitting the GTS which gets the three and he retains the title.

The match itself was surprisingly pretty good as both men worked hard and put on a solid title match. I remembered not looking forward to this match going in as not only did I think JBL would win the title, I didn’t think the match would be any good and that their styles wouldn’t mesh well together. But to their credit, they did click pretty well together as Punk was really hitting his groove by this point and while he was definitely past his prime, JBL still looked pretty good and he does the right thing by putting Punk over clean here. This was a big statement win for Punk especially after the wonky finish against Batista last month, and even though JBL was no longer a top main eventer like other guys on the roster, beating him clean was still a major notch for Punk and it seemed like his run as champion could work. The crowd was into the match and popped big for Punk when he won. Punk retains the title over a game JBL and both men move on.

Final Grade: ***