By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Here on WrestleMania Recall, I will be ranking my top 31 favorite matches in WWE WrestleMania history. A new installment will be posted every day in the month of March, culminating with my No. 1 favorite match on Thursday, March 31st, mere days before WrestleMania 32. Each article will offer an in-depth look at each match and an analysis of why it is among my favorites.
As we enter the final 15, it's only appropriate we get to the first match from one of my top favorite WrestleMania events of all-time: CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 28. Ten years from now, that show will be widely remembered for its once in a lifetime (or so we thought) main event between John Cena and The Rock, but this championship contest deserves an incredible amount of credit as well. It undoubtedly would have been the last match on the card had Rock vs. Cena not taken place that year.
Once Punk started calling himself the best wrestler in the world right around the time he cut his "pipebomb" promo in June 2011, his lofty claims immediately drew comparisons to Jericho. Prior to his departure, Jericho was known to refer to himself as "the best in the world at everything I do." Surprisingly enough, although Punk and Jericho had clashed in singles competition in the past, they had never actually engaged in a full-fledged feud with each other, and this change in character for Punk allowed that to finally come to fruition.
I remember wanting Jericho to be the one that Christian was talking about when he discussed bringing in backup for his match against Randy Orton at SummerSlam 2011, but alas, it was only Edge (not a bad consolation prize might I add). And thus, the wait began. Jericho took time off in October 2010 to do Dancing with the Stars and tour with his band Fozzy, though it was apparent that it was more a matter of when he'd be back and not if. Luckily for the WWE Universe, the timing of Jericho's impending return couldn't have been better.
Starting that November, vignettes began to air on Raw saying that "he is coming" and that it would be "the end of the world as you know it." Everyone's first guess was obviously Jericho, but he did his best to deflect speculation by going on Twitter and claiming he was allegedly on bad terms with WWE. Alas, the mystery man did turn out to be Y2J on the premier episode of Raw in 2012, and while he appeared to be back as a babyface, he didn't say a single word for almost 15 minutes, which drew ire from the audience.
This continued for weeks on end, culminating in Jericho targeting CM Punk one night removed from the Royal Rumble pay-per-view and revealing it had been a troll job all along. He did exactly what everyone expected him to do: criticize Punk for stealing his catchphrase and calling him a "Jericho wannabe." Their promo encounter shortly after the Elimination Chamber was nothing short of sensational, but it was when Jericho brought Punk's family into the mix that things truly got personal between the two.
"Your parents' wedding date took place after your birth date," said Jericho. "That makes you the legal definition of a bastard!" Jericho was so spectacular at being smarmy that you couldn't help but hate him and want to see Punk get his hands on him. Right before they went out for their match at WrestleMania 28, newly appointed Raw general manager John Laurinaitis said that if Punk got himself disqualified, he would lose the title. Honestly, that was a tacked-on stipulation that should have been added ahead of time.
That might have taken away from the matchup slightly, but they still managed to have one hell of a match and put on the wrestling clinic fans knew they were capable of. For whatever reason, I didn't love the match at the time and preferred their Chicago Street Fight from Extreme Rules, but it's grown on me in watching it back over the years. Following what could be called a mat classic, Punk locked Jericho in the Anaconda Vise and Y2J reluctantly tapped out. And so, Punk's historic reign as WWE Champion continued on.
SEE ALSO: "WrestleMania Recall, Match #16: Batista vs. John Cena, WrestleMania 26"