What is left for John Cena to accomplish in the wrestling business? He’s a 16-time world champion, the biggest moneymaker WWE has ever had on its roster, and the mainstream superhero who has cache and is engaged to a hot model/wrestler (Nikki Bella). It’s hard to imagine Cena, who is now tied with Ric Flair for the most world titles in wrestling history, wrestling more than a handful of years before he hangs up his cargo shorts.
Cena’s place in WWE history is cemented – more so than any other wrestler on the company’s roster in the past two decades. Now, he has changed roles from a guaranteed champion to a champion of WWE’s cause. The upon “Flag Match” with Rusev is a cause Cena can get behind. Much like Hulk Hogan, Dusty Rhodes and Sting, defending the company that made him a millionaire many times over seems fitting considering it is the twilight of his career. Yes, some time in the near future, the man who has become the “Tim Tebow” of the business, Cena will hang up his boots and continue an acting career or will move on to television on a full-time basis.
One year removed from WWE making its “dramatic” change with its most recent draft, the roster for both Raw and SmackDown Live is as talented as it has been since the “Attitude Era” and “Ruthless Aggression.” It’s a blessing and curse at the same time. Now that Cena has made his long-awaited return from hiatus and will once again defend the American flag.
WWE’s master plan is to once again lean on Cena to make America Great Again. Following the “Battleground” pay-per-view, it is a virtual guarantee Jinder Mahal and Cena will collide with WWE’s World Title on the line. Will the company book Cena to go over, claiming his 17th title, and overtaking Flair as the most decorated champion of all time, or will Cena do the same thing for Mahal as he did for Bray Wyatt?
The thought of Cena passing Flair in the record books makes me uneasy. I know it has the same effect on other fans who have come to love the business from the 1980s and 1990s. Two different eras, two champions, two types of performers.
The SmackDown Live roster is abundant in riches. Kevin Owens, AJ Styles, Nakamura and Baron Corbin have made the mid-card exciting once more. Rusev’s return is perfect for Cena’s charge toward immortality. Best part is Rusev doesn’t have to win to get over again as a top heel. Cena, on the other hand, must win in order for the confrontation with Mahal to have substance.
At some point, WWE will determine the “Run of Cena” has reached its plateau. As long as he continues to stir the emotions of the fans with a love-hate relationship, he remains an important part of the company’s future. He does not need a full-time schedule and a belt around his waist to prove his value. Still, the company will give him a platform to once again show he is the best of the best.
Regardless of whether there are performers (Owens, Styles et al) who can carry the torch in his stead.
For now, Cena is every bit as important to the success and failure of this company as the other mid card and main event starts. Only when he hangs it up for good will we fully understand his value in WWE and the business he has helped to mold the last 13 years. For that, we can all take a moment to appreciate his talent. But if WWE really wants to move forward, it cannot afford to continually put Cena in the main event picture with so many talents wrestlers hoping to get their shot at something Cena still has a stranglehold on.
WWE: Best of 2000’s