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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: November 19, 2012 - 48-Minutes of Hell
By The Doc
Aug 24, 2012 - 11:58:03 AM

November 19, 2012

48-minutes. Some may not know the significance. Avid sports fans may know it as the regulation time of a standard game in the National Basketball Association. In the NBA, it matters not if it is the last battle in a grueling Finals series or the first of over eighty regular season contests, the same amount of time is broken down into four quarters.

In the WWE, however, 48-minutes for one match between two wrestlers is rare. It takes two men who know each other forward and backward, up, down, and sideways to reach 48-minutes before a victor is determined. NBA players achieve victory by scoring an undetermined amount of points over an allotted time period exactly 12-minutes less than one traditional hour. All a WWE Superstar needs to win decisively is three slaps of a hand to the mat. So, you can imagine that it would be an unusual occurrence when it took almost an hour to incapacitate a man to the point of a three-count in a one-fall match. It is, quite frankly, unheard of in these modern times.

Yet, that is how long it took for CM Punk and Dolph Ziggler to figure out who was the better man at Survivor Series. Forty-eight grueling minutes left them not drenched in each other’s sweat, as well as their own. They were long past that. The sweat had dried, leaving a stain of crusty white salt and water mixture in its stead; their mouths dry as can be, saliva stuck in the corners. All from dehydration. Ziggler’s hair made him look as much like Curt Hennig as any other time in his life, what with the blond mane sticking out in every direction. Punk’s odd cut stuck out like duck feathers in the back, barely any gel left to keep the hair on top close to his scalp. The tape on each of their fists was caked with faint traces of blood. Exhausted…spent….just a little bit left in the tank…..enough to find a way to end this series……against a great opponent…….a rivalry ending its first chapter……..

It all started back at Summerslam. That was to be Punk’s night where he’d etch himself into the annals of time with an accomplishment that neither Austin, Rock, Hogan, Hunter, Taker, or Cena had ever attained. Punk was going to be the WWE’s heavyweight gold medalist in its first “Olympics.” However, the crowning achievement of what he hoped to be the third “Summer of Punk” was snatched away by a man anxious to grab the brass ring. Ziggler stepped up and beat Punk in a match fit to ensure the long-term success of the WWE Olympic concept, simultaneously vaulting himself to the uppermost echelon, wearing a gold medal around his neck with a clear sight of World Championship gold to add around his waist.

We learned, soon after, just how much CM Punk hates to lose, especially when the cocky “Show Stealer” that defeated him wouldn’t shut up about it. Ziggler’s arrogance and lack of humility prompted Punk to challenge him to a “Best of Seven” series. Behind all the bravado lies an intelligent mind understanding of the fact that wrestling Punk at least four more times would do nothing but good things for his career, so Ziggler accepted with only minimal hesitation.

Well, it would do nothing but good things if he won. Wait; was it even a good idea to accept?

Ask Lebron James about the difference between getting to the dance and excelling at the dance and he’ll confirm that they are two different ballgames. Ziggler winning the gold brought him to a new level, but Match 1 showed him that there were an entirely separate set of expectations at the top of the mountain. He’d often talked of how he could be one of the all-time greats if given the chance, but now it was time for him to back up those words. There was never any denying his brilliance on the upward climb, but with the destination reached, he was expected to find new heights to which he could soar. The “Main-Event” scene – it’s what these guys grow up watching on TV and PPV. That’s where they dream of being. Ziggler came out at Night of Champions in Match 1 and looked ready for the moment, but it’s when things go down to the wire that you really find out if someone gets it or not. Punk capitalized on a rookie mistake and, during a brief break from the action where Dolph chose to “Show Off” with a head stand, hopped up and caught Ziggler by surprise with the GTS.

Match 2 provided stark contrast to the 22-minute marathon that was Match 1. Ziggler, with laser focus, dominated the entirety and put Punk away in half the time. It was as impressive a display of supremacy as we have seen in Dolph’s career. His physical conditioning, his stamina, and his grappling skills were shown to be far superior to Punk’s (at least on that night), as the Straight Edge Superstar never even got out of the gate. It was a dissection more than a wrestling contest.

Experience, though, carries a lot of weight. There is quite an advantage to having been headlining PPVs consistently for two years and off/on for three more prior to it. Coupled with the fact that Punk had some calling him the “best wrestler in the world” before Ziggler had even graduated from college and clearly the know-how pendulum tipped toward the multi-time WWE Champion. Punk was hardened by the experience of working the independent scene, something that superstars of the past have stated is the greatest difference between the modern day WWE wrestler and the predecessors that forged their path traveling the world to learn their craft. Traveling up and down the North American roads, without training facilities and contracts, scraping by as best as can be…it breaks a man’s spirit, but builds him a new one.

Hubris was the story of Matches 3 and 4, respectively. Hubris is your enemy. It makes you feel bulletproof, even though you’re far from it. It is an all too common affliction amongst young athletes, but Punk’s was stripped away at an early age, as per the road stories he tells. Ziggler, on the other hand, only thinks that he has been smacked across the face with despair, when in actuality, he’s yet to learn of its wrath.

The first match and second match had been separated by two weeks, but the third and fourth by merely four days. In the same week, Raw played host to Match #3 and Smackdown to Match #4. Ziggler, coming off his blowout victory, was overconfident in addition to dazzling. His athleticism was incredible. He’d never been more crisp in execution, but he was ill-prepared for Punk to counter the Sleeper Hold into the Anaconda Vice. The psychology changes when you take a man’s best shot in a series, rather than a one-off. It was like being down 25 points at the end of the third quarter in a basketball game and being faced with the dilemma of knowing that you can come back, but questioning whether or not it would be wise to expend the energy when you could let the other team think they have you and counter with your best shot in the next game. The only problem for Ziggler was that he didn’t have much time to make that decision. When you’re in excruciating pain, your decision-making skills are thrown into disarray. Ziggler became overwhelmed and tapped out. 2-1 Punk in the series.

With his back against the wall and facing a potential 3-1 deficit, Ziggler had to produce in match 4. Things weren’t going so well, though. Punk displayed his championship pedigree and went for the jugular, putting Dolph on his heels and making him play defense the entire match. Ziggler valiantly fought back with everything in his arsenal, but it was clear that Punk’s intention was to break him mentally. Hell in a Cell’s 5th match would be Punk’s for the taking, as long as he could establish the dominant psychological edge. Punk was well aware that Dolph had him physically. He was the Larry Bird to Dolph’s Magic Johnson; one getting by on more guile than any other man in the business, the other on the combination of hard work with a lot of natural ability.

But isn’t it amazing how quickly the momentum can turn? Just when you think one thing is certain, an event takes place that plots a new course…

Punk had springboarded into a clothesline thousands of times. Literally. He’d had guys counter before, but the ref wasn’t usually there when he missed. Canvas – he was prepared to collide with that. Referee indirectly controlling his fate – he wasn’t ready for that. It’s a judgment call for an official when such an occurrence takes place. He could go one way or the other; take into account that Dolph moved out of the way and was the clear target or place greater emphasis on the rules against striking the referee. One benefits Punk, giving him a reprieve and allowing him a potential 3-1 advantage; the other benefits Ziggler, tying the series and breathing new life into the Show Off’s chances. Judging by the 2-2 score on the Tron, you know which way he went.

You never want referees to be a major factor. Preferably, their role in the outcome is minimal and you don’t even know that they are there. Life isn’t always about what’s preferred. Punk had personal knowledge of that unadulterated fact. He had to overcome it again. Ziggler, meanwhile, had to take advantage. Dolph showed a killer instinct in ending the fifth match with the first counter of the GTS into the Zig Zag. Up Ziggler went off of Punk’s shoulders, but the height intended to emphasize the impact of the knee-to-face effect became an unintentional opening for a brilliant reversal that saw Dolph contort his body 90 degrees, latch his right arm around Punk’s neck, and use all his momentum to drive Punk hard to the mat. Match 6 saw Punk equalize with an awe-inspiring, calculated move of his own. When Ziggler tried to make him “Fame-ass,” Punk caught him in position for the GTS. Anticipating the squirming to follow as Dolph tried to slide off his back, Punk hooked his arms and surprised him with a Splash Mountain Bomb. One tribute to Savage elbow drop after his tribute to Eddie Guerrero powerbomb and Punk dropped the “if necessary” tag from the seventh match.

So, again, it took 48-minutes to decide the winner of the series. A highlight reel of the first six matches took place during the first thirty. Punk kicked out of the same Zig Zag counter that ended his hopes for victory in match #5. He built the momentum that had been sorely lacking when Ziggler dominated the first ten-minutes as he’d done in match #2. The surprise GTS that had put Dolph down for the count in match #1 wasn’t good enough to get the job done this time, though, and Ziggler regained control. Hubris seemed likely to doom his chances just as it had in match #3 when he found himself trapped in the Anaconda Vice, but Dolph found a way to escape. Punk thwarted the attempt at being made “Fame-ass” and scored with the same Splash Mountain Bomb-Macho drop that ended match #6, but then Dolph doubled down on learning from past match mistakes and kicked out. It was right at the thirty-minute mark when Punk tried to set-up the finish with a springboard clothesline and once again, it was the referee on the receiving end instead of Ziggler. As the crowd held its collective breath and Punk tended to the ref, pleading with his eyes more so than his words, Ziggler caught his breath. The referee decided to let the bout continue, unlike in match #4.

The final minutes were an entirely new match, with each man reinvigorated after finding their last gear. Most standard straight-drive cars have five gears; the best of the best performance cars have six. Punk and Ziggler definitely have a sixth gear. They went all-out, creatively zipping back and forth like two superstar ballers with hot hands, unable to miss. There were no run-ins, no more ref bumps, and no excuses. The winner would leave the better man for the time-being. That man turned out to be the gold medalist, stamping his ascent to the top of the game. Ziggler was thrown off in his Zig Zag attempt and hoisted up for the GTS, but he slipped behind and went for the sleeper hold just as he’d done at Summerslam. Punk’s last ditch attempt successfully yielded the Anaconda Vice, but Ziggler’s amateur excellence turned out to be his trump card. Dolph twisted his body, threw his momentum forward, and got Punk’s shoulders pinned to the mat long enough for a three count.

No congratulatory handshake from Punk on this occasion. Instead, just a simple nod of the head in Dolph’s direction. As Ziggler basked in the glory of the moment, Punk skulked back to the dressing room to gather himself for another day. The series won’t define the Straight Edge Superstar’s career. His focus shifts to qualifying for next month’s Elimination Chamber. Ziggler, too, will look to use the Chamber to earn the 30th spot in January’s Royal Rumble, but he’s got a spotlight to enjoy in the short-term. One might argue that the “Best of Seven” will define his career, but many said the same of Summerslam and his gold medal. What we’re beginning to realize about Ziggler is that he might be the Lebron to HBK’s Jordan, meaning that he’ll only get brief periods of critical acclaim before people quickly shift their attention to: “What’s he going to do next?”

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