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Ask 411 Wrestling: What Opponents Could John Cena Never Beat?

July 3, 2023 | Posted by Ryan Byers
John Cena Ruthless WWE Image Credit: WWE

Welcome guys, gals, and gender non-binary pals, to Ask 411 Wrestling. I am your party host, Ryan Byers, and I am here to answer some of your burning inquiries about professional wrestling.

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JamesRMagic from Disqus-land is taking a stand against 50/50 booking:

WWE just released a video of Top 10 rare John Cena opponents, at Number 2 was IWC fave Shinsuke Nakamura who got the win over John on an episode of Smackdown. To my knowledge, John would never “get his win back” over Shinsuke.

This got me thinking: We all complain about the people John “SUPER CENA’d,” but we never think about how many people John has never beaten.

This means Nakamura is in a small group (that sadly includes Kevin Federline) but how many people have beaten Cena 1V1 but John has never beaten them?

I’m guessing there are people he’s maybe lost one on one to but beaten in multi-man matches (ie Tags, Royal Rumbles, Elimination Chambers, and his MITB win) so let’s keep it traditional one on one.

There are more individuals who hold this distinction than I thought there might be, though the majority of them come from Cena’s early career before “Super Cena” was really a thing.

In total, there are sixteen men who are valid answers to this question, so let’s get right into it and take them in chronological order of when they faced the future WWE Hall of Famer:

1. “Miracle” Mikey Henderson: Before Cena got into WWE developmental, he mainly wrestled for Ultimate Pro Wrestling in Southern California. Mikey Henderson was another UPW wrestler coming up around the same time as Cena, but interestingly the only match between the two men was not for UPW. It was a dark match before a WWF Sunday Night Heat / Smackdown taping on October 10, 2000 in the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Henderson won, and the men would never wrestle again.

2. Shark Boy: Yes, that Shark Boy. Though Cena primarily wrestled in OVW when he was in WWF developmental, he occasionally crossed over into the Fed’s other d-league of the era, the Heartland Wrestling Association. Sharky was a regular of the HWA (though I don’t believe he ever had a developmental deal), and he beat Cena by disqualification on one of their cards on July 24, 2001 in Cincinnati. Again, the two men would never wrestle again.

3. David Flair: I’ll let you debate whether this is more or less embarrassing than Shark Boy. The less legendary Flair and Cena had two singles matches, both when they were WWF developmental wrestlers in OVW. The first was part of one of the company’s TV tapings on February 13, 2002, when Flair pinned Cena clean in what was Flair’s first singles win on Ohio Valley television. After that match, Cena won the OVW Heavyweight Title, and because Flair had pinned him not long before, that set up a championship match for David, which occurred on March 20, 2002. Flair didn’t take home the title, but he did get a DQ win. In a trivia note not directly related to the question, this set up Cena’s first time sharing the ring with Ric Flair, as David and Ric faced Cena and Sean O’Haire on OVW’s April 5, 2002 Spring Sizzler show.

4. Mark Jindrak: It’s hard to believe that there was a time when Mark Jindrak had received exposure on national television and was considered a future star of wrestling when barely anybody had heard of John Cena, but it’s true. When the two were both in WWE developmental, the bigger name Jindrak defeated Cena (as the Prototype) in a match taped for Ohio Valley Wrestling television on March 6, 2002.

5. Nova: After a run as a superhero on the ECW undercard and being part of the bWo, Mike Bucci found himself in WWE developmental despite having a decade of in-ring experience. While there, he defeated John Cena for the OVW Heavyweight Title on May 15, 2002, ending the reign we mentioned earlier in connection with David Flair. Interestingly, Nova didn’t just beat Cena for the title. He also defeated him in three separate rematches for the championship over the course of the summer. I would have assumed that Cena picked up a victory over Nova years later when he was repackaged as Simon Dean on the WWE main roster, but it never happened – I assume because of brand splits keeping them apart.

6. Tommy Dreamer: Three days before John Cena made his memorable WWE main roster debut against Kurt Angle on Smackdown, he was on a house show tour with the company’s Raw brand. On a show in Cincinnati, he dropped a fall to Tommy Dreamer, which was the only time the two men ever shared the ring in anything other than a battle royale.

7. Matt Hardy: In August and September 2002, which was after Cena made his main roster debut but before he caught with the crowd, he did a house show run with Matt Hardy as his opponent. Hardy won all four matches that the men had, defeating Big Match John in New Haven, Connecticut; Corpus Christi, Texas; Dallas, Texas; and Santa Barbara, California.

8. Kenny Bolin: This past May, I answered an entire question about who Kenny Bolin is. As part of that answer, I mentioned he holds a singles win over John Cena . . . and Cena never got that win back.

9. Lance Storm: These two only ever had one singles match, and, like the Hardy matches mentioned above, it occurred during that period between Cena’s main roster debut and his rebranding as the Dr. of Thuganomics. The match took place on October 12, 2002 on a Smackdown house show in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and it was no doubt booked as an opportunity to give Storm a feel good win on a card in his home country.

10. Scott Steiner: This match was post-Thuganomics and was at a time when Cena’s star was starting to rise, but it was also at a time when WWE was treating Scott Steiner as a World Heavyweight Title contender, so he was definitely higher on the pecking order and came out on top when they wrestled on a Smackdown house show in Jacksonville, Florida on December 14, 2002.

11. Frankie Kazarian: Here’s an interesting one. On January 8, 2003, when Cena was under WWE contract, they loaned him out to UPW, the company where he got his start, for one of their major shows. There he faced another UPW star, Frankie Kazarian. Kaz actually got the victory, though it was by disqualification, and they two never met in the ring again, as Kazarian did sign with WWE later in 2005 and technically worked on the main roster, though he never got off the c-show Velocity. (Fun fact: Kaz is undefeated in singles action in WWE.)

12. Kevin Federline: This is where we get into what some would derisively cal the Super Cena era. K-Fed was referenced in the question, but, for those who may not have been watching at the time, the former Mr. Britney Spears appeared on WWE television multiple times during the fall of 2006 to promote one of his albums. During that time, he engaged in a feud with Cena, and the two ultimately had a match on the January 1, 2007 Raw, which Federline won with help from Umaga, who was Cena’s opponent at the upcoming New Year’s Revolution pay per view.

13. Adrian Neville: This match occurred on May 11, 2015, when Cena was in his United States Championship open challenge era. Neville took him up on the challenge and appeared to have the victory with a Red Arrow, only for Alexander Rusev, who was feuding with Cena, to run in. Because Rusev hit Neville before he hit Cena, it was technically a disqualification victory for the Brit. You’d think a finish like that would set up a Neville/Cena rematch, even if it was just for the next week’s television, but they never went back to it.

14. Shinsuke Nakamura: Again, this one was referenced in the question. Just months into his run on the WWE main roster, the former New Japan star got a singles win over Cena in a match to become the number one contender to the WWE Championship in Cleveland, Ohio.

15. Roman Reigns: Reigns holds an interesting distinction here because he’s the person on the list who has beaten Cena the most without ever dropping a fall back to him. The two first met one-on-one at WWE’s 2017 No Mercy pay per view event. From there, the two men were regular opponents on a house show tour during the last week of the year, with Reigns successfully defending the Intercontinental Title against Cena in Madison Square Garden; Uniondale, New York; Hartford, Connecticut; and Albany, New York. They also faced each other on the February 2018 Road to Wrestlemania tour, with Roman picking up two more victories in Fresno, California and Prescott, Arizona. That tour continued in March, with matches in Chicago; Rockford, Illinois; and Buffalo, New York. The two men then didn’t wrestle each other again for over three years, with Roman then retaining his Universal Championship over Cena at Summerslam 2021.

16. Austin Theory: This was, of course, a match from this year’s Wrestlemania, so I’m a bit surprised that it wasn’t mentioned in the question. Is that an indication that the match didn’t have the intended effect of elevating Theory? Is it an indication that James suffered blunt force head trauma and has a short-term memory issue? Only time will tell.

Everybody has a price for Tyler from Winnipeg:

According to Dave Meltzer, what was Ted DiBiase’s highest ranked match?

DiBiase has two ****1/2 star matches from Meltzer, and they’re actually against the same opponent, that being “Macho Man” Randy Savage. The first occurred on March 7, 1988 and was taped to air on the March 12, 1988 Saturday Night’s Main Event. The second was a steel cage match on a Madison Square Garden house show on June 25, 1988 which featured Savage defeating the Million Dollar Man to retain the WWF Championship. For what it’s worth, the match between DiBiase and Savage which came in between these two and main evented Wrestlemania IV only received **1/4.

Of course, I assumed you were talking about Ted DiBiase, Sr. In the off chance you were talking about Ted DiBiase, Jr., the highest rated match he ever participated in is the 2010 Money in the Bank Ladder Match, which was ****. However, it’s hard for me to call that a Ted DiBiase, Jr. match since so many other people were involved. The best more traditional match on his resume is at Hell in a Cell 2009, when he teamed with Cody Rhodes against D-Generation X.

There is no word yet on what Dave Meltzer will rate the ongoing legal battle royale between the DiBiase family and the State of Mississippi.

Stand back, Uzoma is coming through:

What are your thoughts on Gregory Helms ditching The Hurricane persona in 2005?

It was probably worth doing at the time. The Hurricane was an entertaining character for a while, but it had a shelf life, and four years with the gimmick was probably pushing it. It was time for Helms to move on and do something else for a while and, though his replacement character was not nearly as memorable, it allowed him to get back to fundamentals and put on some entertaining matches that are sadly forgotten due to the fact that they were mostly occurring in a division that was not being pushed seriously.

Who is the mystery man that has been texting with Ticking Time Bomb Tazz?

Why was the Kevin Nash / CM Punk program canceled in 2011 and basically transitioned into Kevin Nash / HHH? I for one wanted to see Nash / Punk.

According to the September 5, 2011 Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Kevin Nash ran in on CM Punk at Summerslam 2011 without actually having been medically cleared to wrestle in WWE. Then, when Nash went in for the routine testing that all WWE wrestlers have before they start work with the company, an unspecified medical issue was discovered which prevented him from getting clearance. This lead to a scheduled Nash vs. Punk match at September 2011’s Night of Champions pay per view being switched to a Punk vs. Triple H match. Nash wouldn’t actually get approval to set foot into the ring until November, when he did some house shows to gear up for wrestling Santino Marella on a Raw in December before facing HHH at that year’s TLC show. Between September and December, CM Punk had moved on to other things, and the feud with Nash was just never revisited.

Though the precise nature of Nash’s medical issue which canceled his feud with the Second City Saint was not reported on as the story above was unfolding, in 2012 Big Kev did do an interview with PW Torch in which he stated that the problem related to his taking Plaxiv, a blood thinner. That med is apparently a no-no under the company Wellness Policy (or at least it was), so extra precautions had to be taken before before he could get the green light to wrestle again.

Calgon can take James away:

There have been stories about Vader having some pretty foul smelling ring gear. That got me to wondering how wrestlers keep their clothing clean while being constantly on the go, especially back in the day when house shows were more prominent. Do the stadiums have washers and dryers for talent to use, or do the performers typically just try to get everything washed at a hotel they stay in?

Most modern stadiums and arenas have at least some form of laundry facility on site, so that is a possibility. However, if you’re going as far back as the territorial era when venues tended to be much smaller, hotel laundries or local laundromats would be the most likely options.

Wrestling Fan Since 1977 has a question based on something that happened a fair deal after 1977:

What do you think of the Pitbulls as a tag team?

I wasn’t watching ECW week in and week out when the Pitbulls were a regular act there, but from what I’ve seen retroactively I would say that they are a perfectly acceptable tag team that occasionally could have a high level brawl, but they probably wouldn’t be anywhere near my list of top fifty tag teams of all time.

Doug finds a match rating system even more suspect than that of Dave Meltzer:

Regarding the very first PWI Match of the Year: Was there anything particularly spectacular about the battle royal won by Bruno Sammartino in 1972?

No, and you’ll never be able to prove me wrong, either, because apparently there is no surviving footage of the match (if there was ever footage of the match to begin with).

Matt wants to know how wrestlers get to the mat:

First time long time. Although pretty much every show has a set of stairs outside the ring, they are typically just a weapon. Does anyone regularly enter the ring via stairs with the exception of micros? If not who would you say was the last to use the stairs regularly?

This is not something I really have been paying attention to, so I actually had to head to YouTube and watch a bunch of entrance footage to come up with an answer. The answer is that, yes, there are still plenty of wrestlers who use the ring steps. CM Punk and Bryan Danielson spring to mind as notable examples. I will say that, when it comes to many entrances, televised wrestling companies often seem to cut away to crowd shots or other parts of the arena when wrestlers are coming up the stairs, which may contribute to their use seeming less frequent than it really is.

We’ll return in seven-ish days, and, as always, you can contribute your questions by emailing [email protected]. You can also leave questions in the comments below, but please note that I do not monitor the comments as closely as I do the email account, so emailing is the better way to get things answered.