SummerSlam Retrospective: Was John Cena Uncharacteristically Squashed In 2014—Or Just In Brock’s Way?

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2014 was an extremely interesting year for WWE. John Cena was still very much the face of the franchise, but WWE knew that a change needed to happen soon and they were grooming their next golden boy to take his spot – Roman Reigns. In mid-2014, The Shield ended their legendary 1.5-year run together as Seth Rollins struck Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns’ back with a steel chair.

While Dean Ambrose went immediately after Rollins and feuded with him throughout the summer and after, while Roman Reigns began to focus on his singles career. Batista, in particular, was furious about the fact that The Shield split up just one night after destroying Evolution for the second time, but the alternate perspective of it was that WWE felt it was time to split the three and have them go on a singles run – which it was.

Brock Lesnar, on the other hand, had just come off perhaps the biggest win in WrestleMania history as he ended The Undertaker‘s mythical undefeated streak at 21-1. The WWE World Heavyweight championship was held by John Cena during the summer, but it was quite evident that he was just a placeholder. After all, Daniel Bryan had just received his World title coronation at WrestleMania XXX in the main event, which likely meant that the plan was always for him to hold it till SummerSlam and get squashed by Brock Lesnar.

However, another major injury forced him to vacate the title and Cena stepped up to the plate, winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. He was set up for a blockbuster match at SummerSlam by the Authority, who handpicked none other than Brock Lesnar to challenge him for the title.

However, this was somewhat known months before as a leaked poster revealed John Cena and Brock Lesnar. Some fans even pieced together what the plans were, stating that Brock Lesnar was long overdue for another World title (it had been over two years since his return) and the idea was to eventually coronate their new Golden Boy – Roman Reigns. All of that was true, but the execution took some twists and turns later on.

Either way, Cena vs Lesnar represented a perfect SummerSlam main event between two massive stars who last met in 2012 when Lesnar returned. At that point, John Cena had defeated Lesnar in his first match back in a grueling Extreme Rules match. Little did he know that this was going to be entirely different.

Lesnar not only carried the heat from beating The Undertaker at WrestleMania, but he seemed as though he was on an absolute tear that year. When the day came, the excitement in the air was palpable. There was a huge amount of tension in the arena at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and the legendary World Champion was slayed by The Beast.

However, this wasn’t a regular back-and-forth, this wasn’t an intense equal battle, but it was an entirely one-sided affair. Fans were left shocked and in disbelief as the leader of the Cenation – the face of WWE for the last nine years was squashed unceremoniously by Brock Lesnar. Lesnar took Cena to suplex city well before the term was coined and Cena literally had just one moment where he came close to beating Lesnar.

Apart from that, he got uncharacteristically mauled by Lesnar and there was no presence or semblance of Super Cena that we had seen for so many years. Lesnar defeated Cena with relative ease and walked out of SummerSlam with his first WWE Championship in over a decade and a half.

As for Cena, he did have a rematch against Lesnar the following month at Night of Champions, but he would win by disqualification. He did qualify as a contender again a month after that, but he needed to wait until January in the Royal Rumble to get his opportunity, which also saw Seth Rollins added to the WWE title match.

Lesnar walked out with the title again and Roman Reigns ended up winning the Royal Rumble to a chorus of boos. While Reigns and Lesnar did have a great match at WrestleMania, Reigns winning would have had the entire crowd jeering him. Seth Rollins’ MITB cash-in was the solution to WWE’s problems, but they continued pushing Reigns and continued pushing Lesnar. The two would meet around three times in 2018, where Reigns finally defeated Lesnar at SummerSlam to end a 1.5-year-long Universal Championship reign.