Make sure you read Part 1 to fully grasp the enormity of the Summer of Punk.
The aptly titled “Sign of Dishonor” started off with a well-dressed Punk entering the building as Living Colour’s “Cult of Personality blared for everyone to hear. On Punk’s shoulder sat the ROH World title belt.
And like the Devil he so eloquently compared himself to, Punk tried to garner the fans’ support while laughing in their faces. Punk reminded everyone that the heroes they adored (Christopher Daniels, AJ Styles, and Jerry Lynn) chose to sacrifice their positions in ROH to work solely for Total Nonstop Action wrestling. Punk, on the other hand, stuck with ROH and became its crown jewel. Yet, the fans were more concerned about the people that left rather than the man who broke his body to keep the company afloat. Even worse was the lack of well wishes from those same fans that hated the fact he was leaving for potential greener pastures.
Though Punk had valid points in why the fans should support him for trying to achieve his ultimate dream, the way he went about things moments later was the most dishonorable thing seen in ROH up to that point. Punk pulled out his WWE contract to sign atop the ROH World title belt. The action brought forth the troops; the defenders of the company Punk went out of his way to disrespect. Alongside Christopher Daniels stood Samoa Joe – the longest reigning ROH champion in history and the man who took CM Punk to the limit over the course of 150-plus minutes during Punk’s effort to become the ROH World champion a year prior – and a man who WWE didn’t see the depths of his technical talents in James “Jamie Noble” Gibson. Even former WW(F) champion Mick Foley verbalized his disappointment over Punk’s actions. For those who don’t know, Foley was instrumental in getting CM Punk’s name on Vince McMahon’s radar.
But the veterans weren’t the only ones to stand up and fight the menace that was CM Punk. Foley saw potential in more people than just Punk working for ROH. In the Ring of Honor locker room were a group of hungry, determined men who knew what ROH could do for not only their careers, but also the wrestling business. After dropping a couple of F-bombs and making fun of Triple H marrying Stephanie McMahon, Foley suggested a man who, like himself, never was given a second thought of being something in this business, but rose above low expectations; a man who actually defeated Punk not that long ago. The champ knew exactly whom Foley meant and gave a shot to Samoa Joe’s protégé, Jay Lethal.
The excellent, star-making match had the fans on the edges of their seats. The belief that Jay Lethal would shock the world faded into disappointment when Punk made Lethal submit in Samoa Joe’s own Coquina Clutch right in front of “The Samoan Submission Machine”. One night later at “Escape From New York”, Mick Foley confronted CM Punk again. On the balcony, Punk and Foley argued over whether or not Punk would defend the title one more time against a deserving, young challenger. This time, Foley would have to physically convince Punk to fight by holding him over the balcony’s railing. When the main event went down, CM Punk was in the ring with a man he declared was the future of ROH only a month prior, Roderick Strong.
The future ROH World champion did a great job working over the back of Punk to set up his Stronghold Boston crab submission. With his veteran savvy and undying will to win by any means necessary, Punk retained the title by rolling Strong up and using some leverage by pressing off the bottom rope. It seemed that Punk’s vision was closer to coming true with every passing day.
A week later, CM Punk took things a step further. Punk not only called out one of the men who immediately stepped up to corner the champ, he also bloodied that same man. With a chain wrapped around his hand, CM Punk split James Gibson’s forehead to leave his upcoming challenger one step behind the champion. Though the fans supported him, and Gibson valiantly fought through Punk’s onslaught while bleeding all over the place. Yet, the dominant Punk had to resort to cheating to win. Maybe it would take someone who could get down and dirty with Punk if ROH hoped to get the belt away from this tyrant. Reentered Christopher Daniels – who wrestled his first ROH match since January 2004 at the same event where Punk defended the title against Gibson – to not only attack Punk, but also walk out with the title belt in his possession.
With the crowd in full support of a ROH founding father, the fans watched as Daniels and Punk clashed in ROH’s birthplace – Philadelphia, PA. The event was simply called “The Homecoming”. Taking a page out of his rival in his initial quest to capture the ROH World title, CM Punk worked a slow, but steady pace throughout the match. As with every World title match, the sixty-minute time limit started working against the challenger as every minute ticked down without a three count or submission occurring in his favor. Punk’s targeting of Daniels neck immobilized the challenger several times, and eventually came back to haunt “The Fallen Angel” during the match’s final seconds. Daniels inability to quickly pin Punk after hitting his finisher – Angel’s Wings – during the final five seconds in the time limit, Daniels watched his hopes and dreams go up in smoke.
The match’s time limit was a perfect metaphor to what ROH was facing at that time. Punk’s time with the company could possibly be over at the end of any event. With each failed attempt to wrest the belt from CM Punk gave another opportunity for the champ to complete his master plan. There was only one way Punk could lose in the eyes of many.