The Champ Is (Still) Here, 10 Years Later!

by The Solomonster ([email protected])
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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.

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  • Fckyoujohncena

    Leave it to Solomonster to find reasons to respect Cena’s work, great list. I agree for the majority but his endless push since 07/08 has made it hard for me to see any good in what he does these days.

    • Andrew Campbell

      Nothing he has done since 2006 has entertained me atall. It just came to the point where everything became too predictable. We knew Cena would never tap, we knew he would always win at a PPV, and we always knew that the final shot we would see ending a WrestleMania would be Cena standing tall holding the WWE Title high in the air with pyro going off, especially between 2006-2010.

      One of the main reasons he has been booed for 7 years straight is because he has no weaknesses. No one likes somebody that’s invincible. That’s one reason most comic book fans prefer Batman over Superman. But the difference between Cena and Superman is that Superman actually has a weakness.

      But I have enjoyed his matches with Punk, Rock, and Brock lately. In those matches he actually stepped up his game a bit and branched outside of his comfort zone which he needs to do more often.

      • Fckyoujohncena

        Superman also knows how to sell! Being a comic geek, (surprise, surprise lol) there have been tons of stories told about Superman and him being invicible, insurmountable, seemingly having no threats etc and have all been done really well as they developed his character as a person and not just this guy who wins/beats everyone and moves on to the next one.
        My disdain for Cena most likely comes from watching wrestling for so long. Whilst he is great for WWE and all the work he does, I think he does very little for ‘wrestling’ as he is always snubbing the subtleties that nearly everyone before him has worked hard to protect. Mainly the tricks of the trade that sold the industry.

        • Andrew Campbell

          Yeah, I agree. The main thing he really brings to the WWE right now is merchandise sales. I honestly believe Cena’s the reason why WWE has lost most of its adult audience over the past few years. He even referenced it on RAW this week, claiming most who watch the show now are “9 years old”.

      • InfiniteRTG

        Cena does have a weakness but its just not being exploited. His weakness is talent that IS or COULD BE on his level. He doesn’t really have much competition that he can compete with to keep his #1 spot. If WWE would just quit fuckin around and make a bunch of top baby faces and/or top heels so Cena would have to actually work hard and force him to reinvent himself. For example, during the attitude era and ruthless aggression era there where more talent on the #1 spot than just The Rock. There was Stone Cold, HHH, Undertaker, Kurt Angle, Brock Lesnar, Y2J, Goldberg, etc, etc. My point is that WWE needs to have MULTIPLE guys in the #1 spot. As a result, you wont see Cena be all “Superman” anymore, he will lose from time to time (ex: when he faced The Rock), wont be champion as much, and would actually have to put effort into his craft to stay relevant.

        • Andrew Campbell

          I agree. That was one of the best things about the Attitude Era. They alternated between which top babyfaces were in the title picture. Even though Rock and Austin were the most popular stars, WWE still featured guys like Taker, Foley and many others in top spots.

          I think WWE was content with featuring Cena as the main guy for so long that they neglected their talent and failed to create new top guys. I think they’ve realised their mistake now though (6 years too late), that’s why you see guys like Sheamus and Punk getting a shot now at a top spot.

      • kb

        shut yo hatin azz up

        • ScorpionKing

          shut yo wigga azz up

  • Andrew Campbell

    The top 5 sounds about right to me. I thought Shawn and Cena’s match at ‘Mania 23 match was better than the 40-minute one they had on RAW in London though. Alot of his most enjoyable matches have taken place in the last 2 years IMO. Rock, Brock and especially Punk seemed to bring out the best in him.

    Top 5 IMO should be:
    #1: Cena vs Punk (Money In The Bank 2011).
    #2: Cena vs Rock (WM 28)
    #3: Cena vs Shawn (WM 23)
    #4: Cena vs Brock (Extreme Rules 2012)
    #5: Cena vs Punk (SummerSlam 2011)

    Good article. I agree with you about that awful Star Wars promo aswell.

    • GodsLoyalSon

      Don’t forget Cena/Angle Unforgiven 05 (I think that was the ppv) and Cena/Orton Iron Man Match. Those two should be either in the top ten or the top fifteen

      • Andrew Campbell

        Yeah, the Unforgiven match would definitely be top 10.

  • AvatarCarlos

    no 1 should have been freaking john cena vs rnady orton for the wwe championship at 2009 bragging rights 1 hour iron man match

  • Superlative

    Great list, sleazy or not I appreciate what Cena has done the past 10 years

  • Nightmare

    The Prototype’s became a Fruity Pebble -.-.

  • Angle1

    Kurt Angle made John Cena who he is today, simple! Angle puts over and makes every wrestler look fantastic, I remember a saying from Ric Flair “To make yourself look good, you have to make your opponent look good”, but Triple H will never learn…

  • GMpunk

    I agree that Money in the Bank match was unbelievable. It was the best bit of story telling the WWE has put out in quite sometime. It was not only entertaining, but it helped launch one of the companies biggest stars into superstardom. Great list!

  • balgaron

    John Cena vs John Laurinaitis greatest match ever lol

  • Reality

    I remember Cena vs Micheals on Raw, it was simply awesome.
    I agree with number one being Money in the Bank

  • Kenni Andersen

    CENA VS BATISTA!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • dude

    after his match with shawn on raw he was presented with a cake for his birthday by trish stratus

  • qwertyboy619

    Can we have an editorial for Cena’s Top 10 Bitches?

  • Gepetto

    Here’s the thing Cena can put on great matches. The problem is he’s marketed towards children which would be fine if he wasn’t placed in the main event for everything. I understand that the WWE needed someone to bring in the next generation of fans but i’m fairly certain that he has done that. Kids are going to tune in to see Cena whether he is in the main event or not. I think now is the time for WWE to focus on regaining the attention of its adult audience. I mean I watch WWE programming but not as religiously as i used to. I haven’t watched smackdown for about a year I just check the results online and I don’t really mind missing Raw like I used to. I’m not necessarily saying that the WWE has to change Cena, they just need to stop placing all the focus on him. Bring the Championship back into the main event.
    Also I think after all the work Cena has put in the WWE owes it to him to at least try to get him back the support of the entire audience. I say try because I’m not entirely sure it can be done. Personally I’m not a fan but I have nothing against Cena so if he is packaged correctly i will support his character but i also know a lot of people will hate Cena for life.
    I’ve enjoyed a a lot…well more than 10 of Cena’s matches over the years and I would honestly like to see him regain the support of the adult male audience. So WWE if you really want to make a change and shock the WWE fans for your 1000th Celebration do the one thing that no one will ever expect have Cena cash in the MITB briefcase (since odds are he’s going to win it though I hv my fingers crossed for Y2J) on CM Punk after Punk goes through a grueling match and cue up a John Cena character that is fed up with pandering to kids and being overworked.

    • Reignmaker

      agreed, he has the talent imo to do more wrestling-wise, and obviously has the drive, but wwe have unfortunately muzzled that to cater to their fanbase. when i was at the store magazine section this middle-aged lady asked me where the wrestling magazines were at and i pointed them out…she said her sons were big fans of “that really handome fella”, and when she got her hands on a magazine, she said “yea that’s him!” and it was cena. i like the rest of you am tired of cena’s gimmick, and i dont even watch that much i only buy the occaisional dvd or go to wrestlemania and summerslam, but SOME OF YOU HAVE TO REMEMBER THAT THIS STUFF IS GEARED MOSTLY TOWARDS KIDS, EVEN IF IT WEREN’T PG. yea it’s cool to be passionate towards it, but some of you need to ctfo or you’ll have a heart attack.

      • Reignmaker

        and my list would be
        1.hbk vs cena in the uk
        2. rko vs cena summerslam09
        3.batista vs cena last man standing (the duct tape match lulz)
        4. cena vs jbl i quit
        5. cena vs brock 2012

  • Robert Shade

    I think that with any luck we shall not be subjected to another 10 years of this guy, he preaches loyalty and fucks away from his wife, he changes plans and seriously weakens Lesnar in the process when he cut that crap promo, he is so fake, such a liar, an awful role model for kids and when all of this comes out how can the WWE still push him as their face for the kids to adore, he has done so much damage to the industry along with those who permit/encourage him to do so, going back to the rock you could see how dissed he was when Cena again broke from the plan (just like he did with Lesnar), that guy is out for himself and nobody else, he is a despicable guy who wrecks marriages and wrestling with equal aplomb and I pity the solomeinster who actually feels that this guy merits a tribute, where are your morals guy and also your passion for the wrestling business?

    • Robert Shade

      before you leap to solomeinster’s defence, i enjoy his podcasts and i respect usually what he says but I have listened to so many podcasts where he is swearing about Cena walking out with that stupid smile and again not selling anything and just behaving like a complete jerk which we now know is the real Cena then he produces this, Cena has not really achieved those accolades he has been given them on a plate with any potential competition being destroyed in storyline even Triple HHH has a better feel for the business then this joker.

  • Bro88

    I like how Cena’s first match made the list but it really REALLY needed to be higher. He showed so much more aggression in that match more personality more everything that it doesnt even seem like Cena tbh. I do like the MITB match being the top one though.

  • Bushwald Sexyface

    I liked the review of the Rock/Cena match. Spot on. I’d actually put it in his top 3.

  • Lester Foxx

    Where is Cena vs Undertaker? That really was his career-defining match.

  • Rickey C.

    I definitely agree with #9, Umaga was so underrated. His steel cage match with Jeff Hardy on Raw was amazing!

  • Shuaib Ahmed

    Cena Vs Batista was also one of his great matches

  • Aravindh Jayaraman

    Where is the iron man match btwn cena and orton in bragging wrights?????

  • satishwarne708

    At the end of the day this guy will be the only guy wwe put over as face when if used as a hell could steal the show like no other,lets just say he could have been the anti Riki The Dragon Steamboat!

  • Jasko

    No respect for solomonster. All but 2 of my favorite matches have had cena in them. The lesnar cena end was perfect. I was at the punk cena match and i admittedly cheered horse for punk but not because of cena, it could have been anybody. Just I think the cena hatred is so lame.

  • human highlite reel

    All good picks for Cena matches, but I would Cena vs. Triple H on raw and against Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania

  • mateolta89

    Does anyone remember mysterio vs cena after punk took the title out of WWE? That match was incredible cuz he never threw a punch he actually had to wrestle and mysterio can carry anyone

  • the champ is here

    but where is the list i can only see 10. number