The Piledriver Report 12.08.12: Ten Years of Thuganomics- The Second Five
As 2007 turned into 2008, it appeared that the “WWE Universe” had seen the last of John Cena for a while. Shockingly, this would not be the case, as John’s “Super Cena” reputation was cemented when he made his surprising return at the 2008 Royal Rumble as a surprise number thirty entrant in the main event battle royal. While in attendance for that Pay-Per-View, I got caught up in the moment and cheered when he hit the ring. However, when the smoke cleared, and John Cena won the match and a title shot at WrestleMania, I recall telling my brother, “Oh crap! Cena’s in a title match at WrestleMania.” Despite that realization, it was a great moment that night at the Garden.
Instead of building up to the Road to WrestleMania, and a showdown against the WWE Champion, Randy Orton, John Cena went right after the title. He put his WrestleMania title shot on the line against Orton’s championship at the February Pay-Per-View, No Way Out. John Cena won the match by disqualification, but not the title. The decision led to John Cena being reinserted into the title picture as he, along with Triple H, took on Randy Orton in a Triple Threat match for the WWE World Championship at WrestleMania XXIV. He failed win the title at the biggest show of the year when Randy Orton pinned him to the mat. Despite being the “jobber” in the WrestleMania title match, Cena was still booked in the WWE title program as he, Triple H, John Bradshaw Layfield all went after Randy Orton in a Fatal Four Way match for the WWE title at Backlash. Once again, John Cena was pinned by Randy Orton.
The WWE decided to move John Cena away from the title scene and into a feud with John Bradshaw Layfield. Their feud started when Cena eliminated JBL in the Fatal Four Way match and lasted into the summer when the two fought at the Great American Bash Pay-Per-View. Their rivalry was pretty one sided, as John Cena defeated JBL on three Pay-Per-Views in a row. In the aforementioned Fatal Four Way match, next at Judgment Day, and finally in a First Blood match at One Night Stand, Cena had his hand raised. However, at the Great American Bash Pay-Per-View, John Bradshaw Layfield finally got a victory over Cena in a New York Parking Lot Brawl.
Towards the end of the summer, the WWE started to build towards a Batista vs. John Cena feud. In the build-up, Cena and Batista captured the World Tag Team championships, only to drop them the next week. For the second Pay-Per-View in a row, John Cena would be defeated, as Batista won their WrestleMania contest. Since returning to the WWE following his months-long injury, John Cena faced Randy Orton, JBL and Batista as his three main opponents. In those Pay-Per-View matches, Cena went 3-5. It’s surprising to see when you look back at this point in time. Most people were tired of John Cena being in the main spotlight on RAW, but he also jobbed on the majority of the Pay-Per-Views.
Despite losing to Batista at SummerSlam, John Cena was inserted into the Championship Scramble match at the next Pay-Per-View, Unforgiven. He would never make the Pay-Per-View, as a herniated disk in his neck would require surgery that would keep him out of action until the Survivor Series.
John Cena returned to the ring at the Survivor Series where he battled Chris Jericho for the World Heavyweight Championship. Cena defeated Jericho to begin his first run with the big gold belt. The two had a rematch at Armageddon, where John successfully defended the title. After another successful defense at the Royal Rumble against JBL, it was time for the Road to WrestleMania.
The first stop along that road was the Pay-Per-View No Way Out. It was here that John Cena lost the World Heavyweight championship to his greatest rival, Edge, in an Elimination Chamber contest. For the second year, John Cena was involved in a Triple Threat title match at WrestleMania. At WrestleMania XXV, John Cena pinned the Big Show in the match to regain the World Heavyweight title. Cena’s reign as champion would not last long, as he dropped the belt back to Edge at the very next Pay-Per-View.
At the Backlash show where John Cena dropped the title, the Big Show interfered in the match to cause Cena to lose his Last Man Standing match to Edge. This led to the Big Show feuding against John Cena throughout the spring. Cena defeated the Big Show at both Judgment Day and Extreme Rules to close out their feud.
After a two month absence, Cena was put back in the title hunt. This time, he was on the prowl for the WWE title. At Night of Champions, Cena took place in a WrestleMania XXIV Triple Threat rematch against Triple H and Randy Orton. Just like in that WrestleMania, John Cena did not leave the show with the championship around his waist. At the 2009 SummerSlam, John Cena faced Randy Orton in a singles match for the title. Just like in their 2008 feud, John Cena still could not wrest the title away from Randy Orton. That all changed the following month at the Breaking Point Pay-Per-View when John Cena beat Randy Orton for the title in an “I Quit” match for the belt. In their rematch at the Hell in a Cell Pay-Per-View, John Cena dropped the title back to Randy Orton, only to recapture it less than a month later in a 60 minute Iron Man match at the WWE Bragging Right show. The next big show on the WWE calendar was the Survivor Series. On the show, John Cena was involved in yet another Triple Threat title match. In this Triple Threat match, John Cena successfully defended the WWE title against the DeGeneration X duo of Triple H and Shawn Michaels. The hot potatoing of the main title belts in the WWE would continue, as John Cena dropped the WWE title to Sheamus, only to regain the strap back at February’s Elimination Chamber show. However, this reign would be extremely short as Vince McMahon ordered John Cena to face Batista after the Elimination Chamber contest for the WWE title. Batista made quick work of John Cena, and became the new champion. John Cena would head to WrestleMania XXVI where he would regain the WWE championship from Batista.
Since John Cena returned from his injury at the Survivor Series in 2008, John Cena fought in sixteen title matches on Pay-Per-View. Out of those sixteen contests, the title changed hands an amazing eleven times.
John Cena would go on to defeat Batista at Extreme Rules and Over the Limit, and then move onto his next challenge. During the spring of 2010, the WWE presented a new show called NXT. This show featured all WWE developmental wrestlers. The idea was that the WWE would use this show to introduce these wrestlers before they would advance to the main WWE roster. The winner of this “reality” show would earn a title shot on one of the main brands’ television shows. Following the end of Season One, the group of NXT “rookies” joined forces and attacked John Cena on RAW.
At the Fatal Four Pay-Per-View, John Cena lost the WWE title to Sheamus due to the interference by Nexus. At the Money in the Bank Pay-Per-View, Sheamus beat John Cena in a steel cage thanks once again to Nexus’ involvement in the match. This led to John Cena getting a group of WWE performers to face the Nexus at SummerSlam. A mix of heels and faces joined Cena’s team to take on the group that was attacking the WWE performers, regardless of what side (heel or face) they feel on. The participants in the match featured John Cena, Bret Hart, Edge, Chris Jericho, John Morrison, R-Truth and the returning former Nexus member, Daniel Bryan against Wade Barrett, David Otunga, Justin Gabriel, Heath Slater, Skip Sheffield, Michael Tarver and Darren Young. John Cena would become the sole survivor in this elimination match.
At the Hell in a Cell Pay-Per-View, John Cena lost to Wade Barrett. Due to a pre-match stipulation, John Cena was forced to join the Nexus. As part of Nexus, John Cena captured the World Tag Team titles along with David Otunga at the Bragging Rights Pay-Per-View. Later in the evening, Cena was forced to help Wade Barrett defeat the WWE champion Randy Orton. Instead of helping Barrett capture the WWE title, Cena intentionally got Randy Orton disqualified to give Wade Barrett the victory. The next night on RAW, John Cena and David Otunga defended their tag team championships against fellow Nexus members Heath Slater and Justin Gabriel. Wade Barrett ordered Otunga to lay down and job the titles to Slater and Gabriel. At the 2010 Survivor Series, Wade Barrett received a WWE title rematch against Randy Orton. This time, John Cena would be the special guest referee. According to the pre-match stipulations, if Barrett did not leave the Survivor Series as the new WWE champion, John Cena would be fired from the company. Since Orton defeated Barrett, Cena was “fired” from the WWE. The next night on RAW, after Cena gave a farewell speech, he cost Barrett another shot at the WWE title by interfering in the match. The next week, John Cena “bought” a ticket to attend that week’s Monday Night RAW. He would go on to attack the Nexus members, and proclaim that he will take down all of the members of Nexus. Wade Barrett got John Cena reinstated into the WWE as long as he agreed to face him in a match at the TLC Pay-Per-View, to which Cena would win. A couple of weeks later, Nexus came out, minus Wad Barrett, to offer a truce to John Cena. When Cena refused, the members of Nexus attacked him. Following this attack, CM Punk would be revealed as the latest leader of Nexus. During the Royal Rumble, John Cena eliminated most of Nexus in the battle royal, thus putting an end to the Nexus/John Cena feud.
THE ROCK COMES CALLING
On February 14th, 2011, The Rock made his long awaited return to the WWE, where he was named the guest host of WrestleMania XXVII. During his first promo, The Rock addressed the fans, The Miz, Michael Cole and John Cena. Over the past few years, John Cena has called out The Rock in media interviews. In this interview, The Rock finally answered his harsh critic. In the promo, he labeled Cena as a “big fat bowl of Fruity Pebbles.” John Cena would respond to The Rock the next week, and the rivalry was born.
At the February Elimination Chamber Pay-Per-View event, John Cena won an Elimination Chamber match to become the #1 contender to The Miz’s WWE Championship. On the February 21st edition of RAW, The Miz and John Cena won the tag team titles as part of a partners that hate each other storyline. Their run at the top wouldn’t last long, as they dropped the titles back later in the show after The Miz attacked John Cena.
The Road to WrestleMania was born. However, instead of the focus being on The Miz and John Cena, the WWE put the focus on John Cena and The Rock, with The Miz coming in as a third wheel. For the next few weeks, The Rock and John Cena trash talked one another in the build-up to Cena’s WWE title shot against The Miz.
At WrestleMania XXVII, The Miz defeated John Cena following The Rock’s interference. The next night on RAW, John Cena and The Rock confronted each other where a challenge was issued. The Rock vs. John Cena at next year’s WrestleMania XXVIII Pay-Per-View from Miami, Florida.
With The Rock looming in the future, John Cena set his sights on The Miz once again. At Extreme Rules, Cena defeated The Miz and John Morrison to recapture the WWE title. The following month at Over the Limit, he defeated The Miz in an “I Quit” singles match. At Capitol Combat, Cena defeated R-Truth to retain his title.
A CHANGE IN THE WWE LANDSCAPE
John Cena’s next challenger would be CM Punk at the Money in the Bank Pay-Per-View. Leading up to the Pay-Per-View, CM Punk delivered his now famous promo where he ran down the WWE, and their stale product. He criticized the WWE’s decision to book The Rock vs. John Cena as the main event of next year’s WrestleMania event. He demanded change, and said that change would come at the Money in the Bank Pay-Per-View event where Punk would win the WWE title and walk out of the WWE. In front of a raucous crowd in Chicago, CM Punk defeated John Cena for the title. With Punk “out” of the WWE, a tournament was held to crown the new WWE champion. After Rey Mysterio won the title, John Cena challenged him for a shot at the title. John Cena defeated Rey Mysterio for the belt on the next RAW, only to be interrupted by the reigning WWE champion CM Punk. A champion vs. champion unification battle was scheduled for SummerSlam between CM Punk and John Cena. Punk would defeat Cena at the show before dropping the title moments later when Alberto Del Rio cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase. At the Night of Champions Pay-Per-View, John Cena captured his tenth WWE championship when he defeated Del Rio for the belt. However, it was another short title reign for John Cena as he dropped the belt back to Del Rio at the Hell in a Cell Pay-Per-View. At Vengeance, Del Rio defeated John Cena in a Last Man Standing match due to the interference by R-Truth and The Miz.
The interference by the “Awesome Truth” tag team led to a tag team match between The Miz and R-Truth against John Cena and his tag team partner for “one night only,” The Rock! During the build-up to the big Survivor Series main event, the focus was more on The Rock and John Cena tension than on The Miz/R-Truth vs. John Cena/The Rock match-up. The Rock and John Cena defeated The Miz and R-Truth in a match that gave the fans a small taste of The Rock wrestling in a WWE ring once again.
To waste time before the Road to WrestleMania began, the WWE had John Cena start a feud against Kane. The basis for their feud was that Kane wanted John Cena to “embrace the hate, as opposed to Cena’s t-shirt that tells the fans to “Rise Above Hate.” The climax to their feud came at the Elimination Chamber event where John Cena defeated Kane in an Ambulance match.
ONCE IN A LIFETIME
During the Road to WrestleMania, John Cena and The Rock battled each other in a battle of wits leading up to their big clash. The Rock vs. John Cena was one of the biggest hyped match-ups in the history of the company. Their main event delivered exactly what the WWE was hoping for, as WrestleMania XXVIII set a money record for a professional wrestling event. Going into the match, the big question was “who would job in the match?” From a business standpoint, John Cena was the logical choice to win. After all, he is the present face of the company. He is also the man that was staying in the WWE. However, this match was being held in The Rock’s hometown of Miami. The crowd was filled with mostly hardcore fans. Like with Hulk Hogan in his many WWE returns, the fans paid to see The Rock win, not lose the match. After experiencing WrestleMania XXVIII in person, business be damned, the WWE made the right call by having The Rock go over John Cena at WrestleMania XXVIII.
NEW CHALLENGES AWAIT
The next night on RAW, John Cena addressed the crowd regarding his defeat to The Rock. During this promo, Brock Lesnar made his return to the WWE after a long absence as he attacked John Cena. Over the next few weeks, the build-up towards the Lesnar-Cena match delivered some of the most realistic brawls and pull-aparts that the company hasn’t seen in years. Both men faced each other at the Extreme Rules event, where John Cena beat the former UFC and WWF/E Heavyweight champion. Their battle was one of the stiffest worked matches in the history of the WWE. John Cena deserves a lot of credit for the layout of this match. Cena is at the level in his career where he doesn’t need to take unnecessary risks in the ring. However, he allowed Brock to beat the hell out of him in order to entertain the fans. Which many fans think that Brock Lesnar should have won the match, you can’t argue that Cena should have won the respect of his detractors with his performance at Extreme Rules.
After the match with Lesnar, John Cena’s next opponent was the RAW General Manager John Laurinaitis. The two battled each other at the Over the Limit Pay-Per-View where the RAW GM defeated John Cena due to the interference of the Big Show. John Cena would face the Big Show at the next Pay-Per-View, No Way Out, inside of a steel cage. John Cena went on to beat the Big Show, and due to a pre-match stipulation, John Laurinaitis was “fired” as the General Manager of RAW.
On June 25th, two days before Cena’s tenth year in the WWE, John Cena announced on RAW that he would enter the RAW Money in the Bank match at the Money in the Bank Pay-Per-View. John Cena has been in the WWE now for just over ten years. Man, did that time fly. What will the next ten years bring us of John Cena in the WWE? Thus far, it gave us a Money in the bank victory by Cena where he later became the first briefcase holder to lose his title match. Cena has also been unsuccessful in several other championship matches against CM Punk. His latest feud is centering around Dolph Ziggler and Cena’s “relationship” with AJ Lee. What does the future hold after 2012? The Road to WrestleMania is looking like a “once in a lifetime” rematch with The Rock at WrestleMania XXIX. This time for the WWE title. After that, it’s anybody’s guess. We will just have to keep watching to find out.