The Champ Is (Still) Here, 10 Years Later!
On June 27, 2002, a star was born. On that day, a young John Cena made his Smackdown debut, answering Kurt Angle’s open challenge and nearly defeating the Olympic gold medalist in his very first match. Ten years later, there is no performer more popular or valuable to WWE’s bottom line than Cena. From the t-shirts he sells to the endless amount of promotional work he does, to all of the Make-A-Wish kids he finds time to meet with, he is the ideal ambassador for the company. Now, normally, I would follow up a statement like that with something to the effect of, “…in spite of his skills as a pro wrestler.” And while nobody will ever mistake Cena for a modern day Bret Hart or Tiger Mask, when you look back at his body of work, it is almost shockingly impressive.
Is Cena actually underrated as a performer? Or has he just been fortunate enough to find himself in the ring opposite some great workers? I’d say it’s a bit of both. Fact is, more often than not, he delivers on the big stage. Don’t believe me? In honor of Cena’s milestone decade in WWE, I have decided to rank his top 10 best matches. There is no set criteria for this, and of course it is all very subjective, but I think you would be hard pressed to compile a better list of matches that exemplify Cena at his best.
10. Cena vs. Kurt Angle, Smackdown 6/27/02
This was the period where Vince McMahon was touting “Ruthless Aggression” as a way to motivate young talents to get themselves noticed on TV. Kurt Angle, coming off a rare submission victory over Hulk Hogan, came out to issue an open challenge to anyone in the locker room he had never wrestled before. Out came John Cena, or at least someone RESEMBLING John Cena as this man was wearing actual wrestling trunks! And boots! Jorts and sneakers, be damned. Angle proceeded to do something we don’t see enough of these days. In the course of ten minutes, he made Cena look like a worthy opponent and put the young kid over like a million bucks. Cena made a good showing for himself too, busting out moves I don’t think we’ve seen him do since, and though Angle won, he did so barely and looked like he had just been in a war. As far as debuts go, this is one of the stronger ones in WWE history.