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CM Punk vs Drew McIntyre is WWE’s Hottest Feud – But Are There Missteps?

By 8 July 2024Opinion

By Joe Baiamonte

When CM Punk rushed the ring during the culmination of the World Heavyweight Championship match at WWE Money In The Bank this past weekend, the capacity crowd inside Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena predictably came unglued. A returning, vengeful hero attacking his opportunistic and most despised rival, Drew McIntyre, who was on the verge of delivering a receipt to Damian Priest by cashing in his Money In The Bank contract in much the same way Priest had done to McIntyre back at WrestleMania.

The moment was the natural progression to Punk and McIntyre’s long-running feud. For over six months the pair have been deriving pleasure in making each other’s lives utterly miserable. McIntyre put Punk on the shelf shortly after his seismic return last November and has gone to great lengths to rub salt into the wounds of the Straight Edge Superstar, who he deprived of his long sought after WrestleMania main event.

Punk, meanwhile, hijacked McIntyre’s own WrestleMania moment, attacking the Glaswegian shortly after he had defeated Seth Rollins for the World Heavyweight Championship in their title match at the Grandaddy of ’em All, in Philadelphia. The Chicago native’s attack opened the door for Damian Priest to cash in his MITB contract and end McIntyre’s reign only minutes after it had begun.

Image: WWE

Punk didn’t stop there either, he cost McIntyre the opportunity to become number one contender for Priest’s title the following night on Raw by interfering in a fatal four way bout that the Scotsman was poised to win. Still not content with his efforts at keeping championship gold out of McIntyre’s grasp, Punk then surprised the former champ in his hometown of Glasgow, in the main event of Clash At The Castle, robbing McIntyre and a Glasgow crowd desperate for his coronation, of an historic moment.

The Straight Edge Superstar’s most recent declaration of war against McIntyre was in response to the two-time WWE Champion leaving Punk laying during a recent episode of SmackDown that emanated from Punk’s hometown of Chicago. We had not seen Punk since the attack, yet with McIntyre within sight of another World Title opportunity, most fans suspected Punk would have something to say in Toronto this past weekend.

That he did cost McIntyre once more was a logical booking decision that advances the pair’s storyline towards an eventual match that will likely happen at SummerSlam, in August. However, much like Punk’s interference in Glasgow, it felt like a big moment handled incorrectly.

In Glasgow, Punk was assaulting the hometown hero. He was actively pissing off a sellout crowd that had spent a fortune to witness McIntyre receive an unforgettable World Title victory in the city of his birth. Two years removed from McIntyre’s unsuccessful attempt to dethrone Roman Reigns at the inaugural Clash At The Castle, there was still some residual bad blood from UK fans that the former ‘Chosen One’ wasn’t anointed then. A second screwjob, however, alienated large parts of the audience in the Hydro that night, many of whom departed the arena chanting “bulls**t” at the creative direction of the finish.

At that point in Punk and McIntyre’s story, Punk had had his revenge. His actions at WrestleMania and the night after ‘Mania had robbed McIntyre of both the title and an opportunity to regain it. He had humiliated McIntyre at the biggest show of the year and followed it up with an exclamation point for good measure. Punk was effectively on top in the rivalry. McIntyre could continue to take shots in promos and on social media posts, but for all intents and purposes, Punk had returned the favour for McIntyre putting him on the shelf two months months beforehand. Flying to Scotland to prevent WWE having a feelgood moment they could repeat ad nauseum forever more felt like total overkill, and pissed off a ton of fans in one of their biggest, most passionate markets, to boot.

Image: WWE

If anything, an extra layer of intrigue could have been added to the story between the sons of Chicago and Glasgow had Punk helped McIntyre win the World Heavyweight Championship at Clash At The Castle. The Judgement Day, banned from ringisde for the bout, could have taken advantage of a ref bump to make their presence felt, only for Punk to show up, take them out and then put Priest to sleep, leaving a confused and conflicted McIntyre to pick up the win and the title, despite now knowing one of the greatest moments in his career had been handed to him by the man he hates the most. The audience goes home happy because they’ve been given the ending they were clamouring for and now Punk can also lay claim to a World Heavyweight Championship shot against a furious McIntyre.

Instead, the fanbase in one of WWE’s most profitable territories was sent home fuming for the second time in three years.

Over the weekend, in Toronto, the annual men’s Money In The Bank match saw the briefcase won and unsuccessfully cashed in by McIntyre within a couple of hours. The Claymore Kicking Glaswegian didn’t need the briefcase, which would have been better suited to either building Carmelo Hayes as a main roster main event player over the next 12 months or perhaps cementing Andrade as a top tier superstar on his second run with the company. Jey Uso and LA Knight would have also been much more interesting long-term projects than McIntyre, if only because the second the Scotsman won, you knew what was coming.

Punk returning from his Chicago beatdown to send McIntyre hurtling to the canvas from the top of a ladder, just as he was about to unclasp the briefcase was the move to make. Instead, we were left with a World Heavyweight Championship match between Seth Rollins and Damian Priest which then felt a little too predictable. And when the inevitable McIntyre cash-in happened, there was no way Punk wasn’t spoiling the party.

Again, the execution of everything was extremely well done and the crowd reactions were stellar. The heat has been ignited from a blue flame to white ahead of what is arguably the second biggest show of the year and now we also have Rollins re-emerging into a programme with Punk after their planned WrestleMania main event was put on hiatus due to Punk’s injury at the Royal Rumble.

Image: WWE

Yet, with Punk and McIntyre destined for a showdown, wouldn’t it make more sense for the former ROH and AEW Champion to want the gold on his rival’s waist? OK, admittedly, sometimes there are rivalries which go beyond titles, where a deep rooted sense of personal angst outranks championship gold for a short time. But with the logical next step once Punk is medically cleared being a match between he and McIntyre, surely Punk should want a chance to not only beat the former 3MB member, but also relieve him of the possession he covets the most. At the same time, actual champion Damian Priest is being done no favours due to the fact he is only ever successfully defending his title via Punk’s interference.

With a SummerSlam date with GUNTHER now lined up for the Judgement Day’s head honcho, it is likely his reign, deserved as it is, will only be seen as a transitional one, keeping the title warm over the summer for the Ring General until he can kickstart his own era of dominance. Priest’s run with the gold instead feels like it was put in place merely to advance a storyline in which he ends up excommunicated from the Judgement Day upon losing the World Heavyweight Championship, rather than being a reign which established him as a bona fide world champion with more title victories in his future.

Meanwhile, the likes of Carmelo Hayes and Andrade are left briefcase-less when, instead, they could have been positioned over the next year marquee names. Hayes, of course, will likely ascend to that sort of position in time, but Andrade, having returned from AEW in January, is still yet to properly connect with the WWE audience in a meaningful way. He has meandered his way around some involvement with the LWO, but has generally received little creative direction over the last six months. Hopefully his death defying showing in Toronto will trigger some momentum for the former NXT Champion who, if motivated and pushed properly, could be a huge asset for Triple H to have at his disposal.

Which brings us back to Punk and McIntyre. Two men on a collision course for one of the biggest bouts of the year. Fans are heavily invested, reactions are decibel crushing, yet their creative is leaving some unnecessary collateral damage in its wake. Did Damian Priest’s inaugural run as a world champion really need to take a backseat to it all? Why book a Premium Live Event in Glasgow if only to screw McIntyre and the UK fans once more?

Funnily enough, this is still a programme that this writer is heavily invested in. The urge to see it evolve and develop keeps me invested every single week. Yet the tunnel vision that has been cast its way by creative has left me wandering how many more needless casualties there are going to be. And will the eventual pay off be worth it?

WWE SummerSlam will emanate from Cleveland, OH on 3rd August, 2024, available only on Peacock, WWE Network and PPV.