In this latest Top Five, John flies solo as he takes a look at some of the best matches from John Cena’s time with the company. All the way from 2006 through to just last month.
Honourable mentions: Cena vs AJ Styles, Cena vs Brock, Cena vs RVD, Cena vs CM Punk, Cena vs Daniel Bryan
5. John Cena vs Rob Van Dam ECW One Night Stand 2
As a huge ECW fan and a detractor of Cena’s from day one, I hated his rapper shtick straight away, this was the first of many “us vs them” matches where as far I was concerned John represented everything “they” wanted and I hated. Looking at his over all career it seems Cena is at him most effective when he’s splitting a crowd and providing a deep contrast to his opponent. This was one of the first times it was done right. The in ring action was the absolute pits but the sight of WWE’s golden boy in the Hammerstein Ballroom surrounded by vicious fans thirsty for his blood was something else. It didn’t matter how good the match was bell to bell, it just mattered who won and who lost and to achieve that kind of heat in the last ten years is impressive regardless of how you got it.
4. John Cena vs Brock Lesnar, Summerslam 2014
I was furious when the returning Brock Lesnar lost his first match back to John Cena in 2012 at Extreme Rules. Brock was coming back to WWE after an 8 year absence during which he was both UFC and IWGP Champion and what was the first thing he had to do? Lie down for Cena of course. It was maddening, instead of being presented as an unstoppable freight train crashing through the WWE Brock was stopped at the first hurdle. After two more years of questionable booking (why did he have to lose to HHH !?!) Brock’s main event monster aura was finally rehabbed by the summer of 2014. Two things made this possible, breaking the streak and destroying John Cena in the main event of Summerslam. It was so satisfying watching Brock beat Cena around the ring in what was essentially a squash match, a “never give up” attitude only really works as a gimmick if you’re forced to give in once in a while.
3. John Cena vs CM Punk, RAW, February 25th 2013
The only pick of mine where Cena wins! The Doctor of Thuganomics has had much more famous matches against CM Punk than this television scrap but none better in the ring. Their famous Money in the Bank 2011 showdown will be the one most fans remember, but for me this is the go to Punk vs Cena match. With a title shot against the Rock at Wrestlemania on the line both men left it all in the ring creating a classic TV match in the process. A real hidden gem and one you’ll find hard to forget if you track it down.
2. AJ Styles vs John Cena, SummerSlam 2016
This was the best match at this years Summerslam and the match that inspired me to suggest this list. Cena and AJ tore the house down in Brooklyn. A near perfect example of how to play to two performers strengths, AJ the in ring powerhouse brought the kind of dynamism that allows him to have great matches with just about anyone and Cena the superstar brought his promo strength and star power to make the match matter. After 20+ minutes of smooth back and forth action Cena laid down clean for Styles on a stage where it really matters. You couldn’t have asked for more from either man, both left better off after the match than they were before it in my opinion.
1 John Cena vs Daniel Bryan, SummerSlam 2013
There’s a bit of a pattern here, John Cena gets on top of the company and then does an important job in a marquee match at Summerslam to help establish or re-establish a performer who needs to climb up to main event status. Now I’m willing to concede that Cena needs to be strong the rest of the year to make these high profile losses count, but I honestly think I’m not alone in feeling WWE have always over done it when it comes to keeping Cena strong. His sometimes nonexistent selling doesn’t help either. There was many a time where Cena would “overcome the odds” by simply no selling a recently built heel’s offense before rolling him up three months in a row on PPV and relegating him back to the mid card and an uncertain future. However, sometimes they get it very right indeed.
When the diminutive hardcore wrestling hero Daniel Bryan beat WWE’s poster boy John Cena clean in the middle of the ring it meant everything to a fan like myself. This is when Cena is at his most effective, putting others over. WWE tried to squash Bryan straight afterwards by having him dump the title minutes later to Money in the Bank holder Randy Orton, but the toothpaste was already out of the tube Bryan was a star and everybody knew it. They also let WWE know all about it every week on TV when Bryan was denied his rightful spot at the top of the card. I only wish Cena was as effective as this all the time, but I suppose I’ll settle for him doing the right thing with guys like Bryan, Punk and Styles when he does. Its more than most main event talent of his stature would do as don’t think for a second that Hulk Hogan or Steve Austin would be as generous during their reigns on top.
You can read all previous Top Five pieces here.