John Cena made his triumphant return to WWE Monday Night RAW this past week after a lengthy absence. Cena’s return capped off his best and most underappreciated year in a WWE ring.
Wrapping up the final edits on the Camel Clutch Blog’s 2015 WWE Year in Review got me thinking about the most polarizing talent on the roster today, John Cena. Seth Rollins cleaned up the awards and received massive recognition for having the best year of any talent in 2015. As I watched Cena return last night I started thinking about Cena’s 2015. It was really…really great and nobody is talking about it.
Taking a step back and offering an objective perspective, it’s fair to conclude that Cena probably had one of the most underappreciated years inside the ring of any WWE talent in recent memory. If Cena were anyone else, we’d be hearing about the greatness of his year. However, this biased hatred to Cena from his critics changed the narrative. The narrative should have been much different.
I would argue that John Cena had a better ratio of great matches throughout 2015 than Seth Rollins and maybe even Brock Lesnar. The most notable series that comes to mind is Cena’s classic series against Kevin Owens. A couple of their matches were nominated in the CCB Year in Review for Match of the Year so it was certainly appreciated. The more vocal fans on the Internet are generally Kevin Owens fans and John Cena haters, so you are likely to hear about how it was all due to Kevin Owens “carrying” Cena. As much as I love Owens and I am a big fan, that is unfair and quite frankly ridiculous.
It seems like ages ago that Cena was feuding with Rusev over the U.S. title. Go back to early 2015 and I dare you to tell me anything else the WWE was promoting that was better in the ring than Cena vs. Rusev? Their matches were certainly more heated than anything on the cards and in the ring, their matches were exciting and intense. I suppose it was Rusev that was carrying Cena to these great matches?
Then there was the series with Cesaro on RAW. Cena had two matches with Cesaro on RAW that were arguably two of the best matches on RAW all year. I am certainly not going to tell you that Cena carried these matches because Cesaro is one of the best in the world. What I will tell you is that Cesaro had plenty of other matches this year that weren’t nearly as good or exciting and those include his series with Kevin Owens.
Of course, Cena had a solid series with Seth Rollins which quite frankly may have been his least impressive all year. Their match at SummerSlam was very good but none of their matches touched Cena’s series with either Owens or Rusev. On any other year, I’d be raving about the series, but the bar was set too high earlier to give this one its due.
Let’s not forget about Cena’s first big match of 2015 which many claimed to be the Match of the Year. Cena’s part in the Three-Way match at the Royal Rumble against Brock Lesnar and Seth Rollins cannot be underestimated. Adding this one up with the Cesaro series and the Owens matches and I don’t think you can find anyone on the roster that had a more solid year in the ring than Cena.
It’s ironic that Cena’s best year comes at a time when he is closing in on 40 and was being phased out by the company. Cena didn’t hold the WWE world title at all in 2015 and was booked second fiddle behind Seth Rollins for most of the year. I don’t think it is any coincidence that Cena’s explosive year comes the same time that the company is looking elsewhere for a franchise player.
So while it’s fun to boo John Cena and hope for his demise, 2015 would have been a lot less exciting inside the WWE ring if it were not for Cena. It’s time to give the guy his due and acknowledge he’s a lot better than you or I ever thought he’d be.