John Cena is without a doubt one of, if not the greatest of all time. In the eyes of many, Cena is in fact the greatest of all time and while it’s debatable, nobody can say that it’s unfair to think so. Cena was never fully given that level of respect while he was on top for over a decade, but once he started transitioning out and making his presence known more in Hollywood, it became a case of “absence makes the heart grow fonder”.
His full-time run on top as the face of WWE is believed to be from 2005 to 2015. It started on the night of WrestleMania 20 when he beat JBL for his first WWE Championship and it ended around late 2015 when he lost the United States Championship to a returning Alberto Del Rio.
It was late October when he began taking hiatuses a few months at a time and that number kept increasing to the point where his annual WWE appearances can be counted on one hand. Nobody can say that he hasn’t earned it. He is one of, if not the hardest working superstars in WWE history and everything that he got, he earned.
Bruce Prichard put it plain and simple: At the time when he was an up-and-coming star, nobody worked harder than Cena and nobody worked smarter than him. Similar to Shawn Michaels, Cena was never originally the handpicked star to lead the company. It was Randy Orton, but once his 2004 babyface run failed, WWE chose to go with Batista.
What many forget is that even at the time in 2005, Batista was still given a lot more importance than Cena. However, Cena being drafted to RAW and Batista going to SmackDown saw Cena’s career shoot up to new heights. Even in 2005 during his feud with Chris Jericho and then Kurt Angle, fans began to turn on Cena and that’s where the “Let’s go Cena! Cena Sucks” chants began..
Either way, his “polarizing” status would only grow over the years, but WWE continued to push him anyway and rightfully so. This is where he began to main event WrestleMania, constantly be WWE Champion or be in the title picture and have memorable rivalries with the likes of Edge, Randy Orton and more.
What many fans failed to realize is that despite Cena being “polarizing”, he was WWE’s franchise player and their big money star. The adult audience naturally didn’t look at the overwhelming merchandise sales, the Make-A-Wish grants and all the media appearances that Cena had been doing.
Over the course of all this, Cena ended up main eventing WrestleMania 5 times and rack up every possible accolade there is, all but the Intercontinental Championship. Through all those main events and more, Cena grew as a performer and reached a level that people never really appreciated until a later point.
Eric Bischoff and many others called Cena WWE’s last-ever megastar and in many ways, they’re right. He is the fourth in an incredible lineage of superstars who can boast about being the “face of WWE” – Hulk Hogan, ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, The Rock and Cena himself.
After racking up all those World titles, there was one left to tie his World title record with Ric Flair. Flair himself had been very open and supportive of Cena winning the title, believing that when his legacy does eventually get surpassed, it should be by someone deserving – and he truly believed Cena to be deserving of it.
His date with destiny came at the Royal Rumble 2017 in the Alamodome, when he faced then-champion AJ Styles – a man who had beaten him twice (out of which one was a clean victory). It was an intense battle and in the third of their PPV trilogy, Cena would finally achieve what many considered the pinnacle of his career.
In a match where neither competitor exited the ring even once, Cena would turn the crowd towards his favor and get a standing ovation in an undeniable moment. He won his 16th World title and Ric Flair congratulated him backstage. His reign only lasted two weeks and he never really re-entered the picture, primarily due to his part-time schedule and decreasing number of annual appearances.
The question now is – Does Cena deserve to win his 17th World Championship? Should he win his 17th World Championship? It will be an unprecedented record if he does (though Ric Flair is actually believed to have won 19-23 World titles) and he will cement his place as the greatest of all time.
In our view, Cena does deserve one last run with the title, but only if he is committing for a few months at a time. If he’s too busy with Hollywood, then it makes no sense for WWE to put the title on him. When it does happen, or if it does, it needs to be at the grandest stage of them all. If it does eventually happen, then fans won’t be able to deny it. The level of respect that Cena has earned even among the fanbase that used to hate him is quite a bit. It’s good to see veterans truly earn the respect that they deserve after working their tail-ends for a company for so many years.