With the conclusion of the Royal Rumble, the fate of John Cena’s spectacular but fading WWE career remains a very questionable doubt. Ruled out of the first pay-per-view event of the year through a kayfabe injury, he was replaced with Braun Strowman which seems like another move to push Strowman up, a role which Cena has adorned for several years now, acting as the stepping stone for the upcoming superstars. Making only sporadic appearances in the ring as a free agent, Cena’s role in the WWE has been limited with obligations in the Hollywood. Following down the same path as fellow legendary WWE superstar Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Cena looks to found his feet as an actor, after an immensely successful career as a professional wrestler.
We take a look at five moments from the career of 16-time WWE champion and the former “Face who runs the place”. In no particular order:
All the way back in 2002, as much as the WWE fans hated Kurt Angle, he was in his prime. Having made Hulk Hogan tap out in an ankle lock and made a meal of The Undertaker, he was a favorite of the chairman Vince McMahon as well (just because Vince hated Hulk Hogan). Looking for a new challenge, Angle called out to the SmackDown locker room, laying down an opportunity for any rookie who hadn’t wrestled with him before to get into the ring with the 1996 Olympic Gold medallist himself.
Out came Cena to mark the beginning of an iconic career in a spectacular fashion. As Cena pounded Angle left and right, the crowds loved Cena’s confidence and rooted for him. And although he was not able to win the match, Cena stood tall alongside Rey Mysterio and Edge as the future of SmackDown.
Despite a strong debut, Cena took some time to find his feet in Vince McMahon’s company. By the time he won his first Championship, he was still considered an underdog. He had assumed the rapper gimmick recently, which was going to make him the famous icon that he is now. Just like the immensely attractive debut, Cena marked his first title win in a spectacular fashion at the WrestleMania XX in Madison Square Garden.
He finished off Big Show with an F-U (now called Attitude Adjustment) to show off his strength which has stuck with the WWE Universe since then.
Introducing the new WWE Championship
WWE fans hold him in contempt for introducing the flashy, glittering toy-like version of the WWE Championship, but no one can argue that the way he presented it was not glorious. Notching up a win over John “Bradshaw” Layfield to win the title, he then went on to play a gross-out prank on JBL, who couldn’t quite get to terms with his title loss. The glittery, spinning, toy-like version of the WWE Championship was loud and unconventional, just like Cena himself. And while it might have drawn more of a negative reaction, it was a loud reaction and a statement nonetheless.
We saw the first glimpse of the role where Cena pushes youngsters up, when Carlito Caribbean Cool, son of former Puerto Rican legend Carlos Colon defeated the US champion. This began a series of silly but interesting promos where Cena ended up getting stabbed in the kidney at a nightclub (in kayfabe obviously).
However, the fight between the stranger and the US champion was a sight to behold and became one of the most unforgettable bouts of SmackDown.
WWE Championship Triple Threat match with AJ Styles and Bray Wyatt
Cena vs. Styles was an immense matchup in itself. Throw into the mix the-then newly crowned champion Bray Wyatt, and you have one of the greatest triple threat in the history of WWE. It almost seemed that Cena had prevailed with an impressive counter over Styles when Wyatt entered the ring ruin Cena’s day and arguably make it the best fight of his career.
It will remain as another feather in the cap for Cena, where he played a major role in launching future WWE superstars.