Leaders joining and leaving a major group in professional wrestling are not rare. Even in major groups like the Bullet Club, the leaders of these groups have changed on multiple occasions. Today, we explore the change in leadership in the Nexus group in 2010 with CM Punk taking over the reins from Wade Barrett. The group needed freshening up a bit after John Cena took out all the members of Nexus and destroyed Wade Barrett at TLC to conclude his warpath. What we want to do though is write about how we would have picked things up when CM Punk took over. Here’s How I Would Book… CM Punk as the leader of Nexus.
In a way, Punk’s involvement with the Nexus unknowingly set the table for the “Summer of Punk” angle and Punk’s rise to stardom. If it weren’t for the Nexus, Punk might not have even been in the main-event scene for RAW when June 2011 rolled around. Due to the Nexus being the biggest group on RAW, Punk’s affiliation with them saw him becoming a top heel once Cena’s feuds with The Miz and R-Truth wrapped up.
However, Punk’s time at the Nexus was nowhere near over to the level that the group was when Wade Barrett was in charge. To pin-point where things went wrong, let’s go through the storyline.
The Nexus had been tearing up RAW until Summerslam 2010, when Team WWE defeated the Nexus in a 7-on-7 elimination match. The group did get some small victories but John Cena and WWE eventually won the war when Cena defeated Wade Barrett at Nexus after taking out all the other members of the group.
Those things are events that we can’t and won’t change for this particular “How I Would Book” piece. We can change what comes next, as CM Punk took over.
Punk initially feuded with Cena after pointing out Cena’s brutality and humiliating of Wade Barrett, Batista and Vickie Guerrero. He talked about Cena not being the man of his word when he was forced to leave the WWE and promised to expose Cena and his “hustle, loyalty and respect.” Cena took it upon himself to call out Punk but was instead confronted by the Nexus – without Wade Barrett. David Otunga declared that Nexus is under “new management” and initially called for a truce between Nexus and Cena. Cena refused which lead to the group beating down Cena. CM Punk came out to pick up the scraps and hit a GTS. He then picked up a Nexus armband and put it on, revealing himself to be the new leader of Nexus.
Wade Barrett still insisted that he was the real leader of Nexus but Punk stated that it was time for a change. Barrett was booked in a number one contendership steel cage match for the WWE Championship against Randy Orton and Sheamus. Punk said that if Barrett won, Barrett would be the leader and Punk would work for him. If Barrett lost, he would be out of the group. Barrett agreed but it was Punk that cost Barrett his leadership. CM Punk was now officially in charge and he had one clear goal he wanted to accomplish.
With the help of the “New Nexus”, CM Punk vowed to win the Royal Rumble and re-assert the Nexus’ dominance. Punk was the #1 entrant in the Rumble match and lasted until half way through, where he and the Nexus were mostly eliminated by John Cena. Punk’s attentions turned to Randy Orton as he cost him in the WWE title match earlier that night. Punk’s motivation was revenge for Randy Orton costing Punk the World title in 2008. Did Punk really have to wait three years to get his revenge?
Orton’s response was to take out each of the members of New Nexus and defeated Punk in a stellar match at Wrestlemania 27. The New Nexus floated around with not a lot to do until June 2011, when Punk won a number one contendership match and declared that his contract was coming to an end. The rest, as they say, is history.
An issue with the New Nexus was that it was simply seen as one of two things. It was either a “poor man’s Nexus” or basically a second incarnation of Punk’s “Straight Edge Society.” Another issue, and probably the biggest of all, was similar to the original incarnation of the group. New Nexus were dominated just as badly as the old group was. John Cena and Randy Orton, who were thorns in both groups’ sides, dominated all the members of the group which made the Nexus look like embarrassments. By affiliation, Punk also looked bad.
Punk was not as badly booked as his followers, but that doesn’t mean that he was booked greatly either. He was basically on the same level as a number of RAW main event heels, which was another problem. With the likes of The Miz, R-Truth and Alberto Del Rio also on the show, there was simply too many heels for Punk to compete with. Punk needed to stand out on his own two feet.
Hopefully, my scenario could fix all of these issues that hurt the rise of the New Nexus.
I’d keep the lead up to CM Punk taking reins of Nexus mostly the same. There’s not a lot wrong with it as it actually gives CM Punk legitimate reasons to want to go after John Cena. Initially, Punk announced his intentions to deal with someone that had “wronged him” on the 2010 Slammys. That’s fine as it build’s up to the events of next week, where CM Punk takes out John Cena with a chair.
In the third week of this angle, CM Punk explains his reasons for attacking Cena. I thought he did a great job with this promo in real-life. Punk explained that Cena was a dishonest man that mislead the WWE universe with his “retirement speech” as he would come back to take out the Nexus. He brought up Cena’s “barbaric” actions against Barrett and Batista and declaring that he was gonna “call Cena out” later on in the show. The finish of the show ends exactly as it did in real-life. Nexus attacks Cena, Punk takes advantage and puts on the Nexus armband. Now let’s move onto the next week, where Wade Barrett comes into the fold.
CM Punk cuts a promo on RAW where he talks about his plans with the Nexus. He brags about beating up John Cena and vowed to win the Royal Rumble match with the help of Nexus. He mentions Wade Barrett and states that Barrett will find out about his future in the Nexus later tonight. Punk talks about not being a “power-hungry” dictator like Barrett. He will allow his group the chance to vote on who should be the leader and if Barrett will be allowed to remain in the group. Each member has until the end of the night to make their decision.
The Nexus are all in the ring when Barrett comes out in a hooded jacket with trunks on under neath. CM Punk talks about how he will give everyone in the group a chance to speak their minds and give their votes. Before they do, Barrett grabs the mic. He talks about having a epiphany after his match with Cena at TLC. He realised that it is not in his interests to be looking for a group to bail him out every week. Barrett mentions his bare-knuckle boxing background and that he needed to go back to his roots before making his next move. Barrett resigns from the group and tells Punk that he will see him soon. Before he leaves, Barrett lays out David Otunga with the Bullhammer.
The next week, CM Punk is in the ring with the Nexus. Punk wishes Barrett well with his exile and tells Barrett that he’ll make the Englishman realise that there is always strength in numbers. Punk turns to the group and tells them all that each member of the group will reveal the honest-to-god truth about how they were going to vote the week before. Punk demands that they tell him the truth as there will be major consequences for lairs, like there was for John Cena two weeks ago. Husky Harris, Michael McGillicutty and David Otunga all say that they would have voted for Barrett to be out and for Punk to take over. Punk believes the three men and then he turns to Heath Slater and Justin Gabriel. Heath uncomfortably reveals that he was going to suggest that Barrett stays while Justin flat out says that he was going to vote for Barrett to be leader.
Punk announces the initiations for the group tonight with David and Husky’s punishments being the same as it was in real life. Otunga took a beating from the Big Show while Husky Harris was hit in the back with a kendo stick repeatedly. Michael’s initiation is to remained locked into the Anaconda Vice for a full minute. I prefer this one as this actually puts Michael over as a hard case that was able to take a full minute of this move.
Punk tells Heath and Justin that he appreciates their honesty and reveals that they will be rewarded for it. He tells them that he was able to strike a deal with the anonymous RAW general manager to have Slater and Gabriel have a rematch for the Tag Team titles against Santino Marrella and Vladimir Kozlov. However, he whispers in both men’s ear with a specific instruction. Punk is at ringside to watch the match. As the champions are making their entrance, Slater and Gabriel attack them both with chairs. They bring them in the ring and they keep it up. Gabriel yells at Punk “Are you happy with that?” which leads to Slater smacking Gabriel with the chair. The beat down sees each member of Nexus hit Gabriel with this chair, which will be Gabriel’s exit from the group.
In the weeks building up to the Royal Rumble, we see John Cena come back and vow to do whatever it took to make sure that CM Punk would not win the Royal Rumble. This leads to a no disqualification Royal Rumble qualifying match between CM Punk and John Cena on RAW. Punk wins when Mason Ryan appears to take out John Cena. The RAW GM gives Cena one last chance to enter the Royal Rumble. John Cena will have one last qualifying match at the Royal Rumble event against Mason Ryan. Since Barrett will not be around at this time, the Corre will not be a thing and the Rumble match will not be built around the Nexus vs the Corre. It’s built around the Nexus.
Cena wins his match with Mason Ryan and he is in. The Royal Rumble match sees Heath Slater as the #1 entrant and he does really well. He makes to the #21 entrant and is the lone man in the ring after eliminating the likes of Rey Mysterio and John Morrison. Number #21 is revealed to be Justin Gabriel. This is Justin’s first appearance since his beat down from the Nexus. He eliminates Slater and number #22 is revealed to be CM Punk. Punk berates Gabriel in the ring when Slater runs in with the chair. Justin takes out Heath when CM Punk capitalises with the GTS. He is about to eliminate Justin when he changes his mind and decides to keep Justin in the match just to beat him up more. McGillicutty, Otunga and Husky all come out and Nexus pretty much dominates the match with Punk. Before number #40 comes out, Nexus eliminates Kane and Sheamus. The only men in the ring at the moment are Punk, Husky, Otunga, McGillicutty, Orton and Gabriel. Cena is number #40 and runs wild. He eliminates Husky, McGillicutty and Otunga. The final four is Cena, Orton, Punk and Gabriel. Maybe I should be giving SmackDown! more of a major part in the Rumble but for this particular storyline, we’re just going to keep it like this for now.
Orton is laying out everyone with RKOs when WWE Champion The Miz comes out to eliminate Randy from the match and dash his dreams of main-eventing Wrestlemania. This actually plays into the WWE Championship match from earlier (Randy Orton vs Miz). Cena is laying in a beating on Punk when the four fallen Nexus members from the Rumble enter. They attack Cena and Gabriel when Mason Ryan comes out to deliver his finishers on both men. Punk dumps out Cena and commands that Nexus take Cena to the back when Gabriel clotheslines Punk over the top rope but Punk has NOT landed on the floor. Punk is shocked as the final two begins. Punk goes for the GTS but Gabriel catches the knee. He goes to throw Punk out but Punk counters to eliminate the South African. CM Punk is your winner of the 2011 Royal Rumble.
That’s it for part one. Tune in to the second part of this series where we explore the road to WrestleMania for the Nexus and we wrap this angle up!