Following a 479-day hiatus, 16-time World Champion John Cena shocked the WWE Universe into delivering one of the loudest pops in modern WWE history by returning to the ring at Money In The Bank.
While John Cena’s appearances in WWE had been fleeting even prior to his Firefly FunHouse Match against ‘The Fiend’ Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania 36, many thought one of WWE’s greatest performers of all time had hung up his jorts for good – but now it looks like we’ll get one more match, and one more run, at the very least from The Leader of the Cenation’.
Despite his WWE hiatus seeing Cena’s Hollywood career flourish with starring roles in blockbuster movies from the Suicide Squad and Fast and Furious franchises, and a recently filmed HBO series Peacemaker, it seems like the lure of the WWE Universe was too much for the 44-year-old – who opted to swap designer suits on the red carpet for his trademark vibrantly-coloured ‘never give up’ t-shirt and towel and made a statement that his appearance was not a one-off, but the first of many.
🎺🎺🎺 🎺@JohnCena is BACK!!! 🤯 #MITBpic.twitter.com/QsXF8OxDr2
— WWE (@WWE) July 19, 2021
John Cena vs . . . ?
Prior to his departure almost 16 months ago, though, John Cena acted as WWE’s gatekeeper to greatness. A match with the 16-time World Champion could prove to be a launchpad – as it did in the years previous for the likes of Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn who answered the then-United States Champion’s Open Challenge.
But which matches remain for Big Match John in WWE? Well, to be honest, a lot! Who wouldn’t want to see Cena mix it up in first-time matches with the likes of Riddle, Chad Gable, Otis or Apollo, or even renew old rivalries with the likes of Randy Orton, Edge, Sheamus or Seth Rollins? One standout name who isn’t on the list is Drew McIntyre, who just missed out, although a polarising reaction from the WWE Universe last night would make for a very interesting stand-off. The truth is, this list could include almost the entire rosters of RAW, SmackDown and NXT – but we’ve narrowed it down to just five…
Let’s not beat about the bush. You expected this name to be on the list, we were always going to put WWE’s Tribal Chief on the list – so there’s no point in hanging about.
John Cena vs. Roman Reigns is THE match. Put that on a marquee anywhere in the world, on any wrestling event, and people will buy a ticket. While the lure of the WWE Universe and the draw of returning to the squared circle brought the 16-time World Champion back to WWE, there’s no doubt that relationship is mutually symbiotic with Cena himself being a major draw for the WWE Universe.
Two of WWE’s most polarising figures in history would be a marquee match capable of headlining WrestleMania at any point in history – but when you consider Roman Reigns’ evolution into the Head of the Table, the Tribal Chief, and the WWE Universal Champion, firmly establishing himself as the top villain in sports entertainment, nee professional wrestling, and how that would equally cement Cena as the babyface, it only reinforces the potential of this clash.
Not least of all, it also looks like the most likely match for John Cena upon his return and, with SummerSlam right around the corner, the perfect platform is on the horizon with the stage set for one of the biggest matches possible in professional wrestling right now.
Now, the Roman Reigns match definitely looks like the most likely return encounter for John Cena, but if it weren’t to be the Tribal Chief, Bobby Lashley would have been arguably the next best thing for Cena right now.
Big Match John thrives when there’s gold on the line, but even more so when the odds are stacked against him in the form of an indestructible monster. While Lashley has been one of the MVPs of the pandemic era, no pun intended, becoming WWE Champion may simply be a secondary achievement paling in comparison to Lashley’s progression from ‘Lashley’s Sisters’ and getting married to Lana in comedy segments to becoming The Dominator.
Squashing Kofi Kingston at Money In The Bank left one question on everyone’s lips for Lashley – “Who’s next?” – and while those two words may just give away the answer, Super Cena vs a monstrous Lashley is a match that would definitely intrigue the masses.
I know, I know, we’ve seen it already – more than once – but it was EXCELLENT, so why not run it back?
John Cena is one of the greatest performers in WWE history. AJ Styles is one of the greatest performers in the history of professional wrestling! While AJ Styles is currently paired with the giant Omos and running rampant in the RAW tag team division as the current RAW Tag Team Champions, being part of a tandem hasn’t diminished Styles’ credibility in any way – and the addition of the world’s largest bodyguard in Omos would only add intrigue to this encounter. The only downfall would be the dynamics. While Styles and Omos are definitely being presented as heels right now, they’re garnering very positive reactions from the WWE Universe – although if anyone can change that, it’s John Cena.
We’re also sure Big Match John will return to the ring and look like he hasn’t missed a step, but if ring rust were to be a thing, who better to be sharing the squared circle with than one of the smoothest, crispest, most technically gifted athletes in the business?
With both AJ Styles and John Cena aged 44 years old, the chances of seeing this match one more time are slowly diminishing – so The Phenomenal One takes his rightful place on this list of men we’d love to see tangle with Mr Hustle Loyalty Respect one more time.
I know, I know. We all really want to cheer John Cena right now, and we really want to cheer Big E – particularly when he inevitably cashes in his newly-won Money In The Bank briefcase – but we don’t need to see good vs bad necessarily.
Much like during his WWE United States Open Challenge run, John Cena could provide the perfect obstacle for a performer like Big E. We know Big E is a great in-ring performer, we know he’s an outstanding character, we know he has amazing promo ability – but up until now, there has always been a “ceiling” of sorts for the New Day man.
While cashing in the Money In The Bank briefcase and becoming WWE Champion or Universal Champion instantly transforms the material of said ceiling to glass and smashes right through it, one way to make Big E – before or after – would be to pair him up with a man who has held the gold more than all but one other competitor in the history of WWE.
Win or loss, Big E would be elevated to a whole other level and ready to take on the world – or the World Champion – after clashing with one of the greatest of all time.
The final pick of the list is probably the least likely and the most surprising for many – but hear me out.
Not only does John Cena have previous for facing NXT Champions and introducing them to the masses, but if you want to showcase the in-ring prowess of someone who the audience is dubious of – put them in the ring with John Cena.
It’s sink or swim when you share the ring with the Leader of the Cenation – and we all know the Fast & Furious 9 star doesn’t back down from physicality. Not only that, but imagine Cena barbing with Scarlett on the mic, and the Wyatt-esque horror angle the story could take.
While there are many NXT stars who would be tantilising opponents for one of WWE’s best ever – such as Bronson Reed, LA Knight, Cameron Grimes – the current champion is definitely best placed for the opportunity, and would pose the greatest threat to the 44-year-old.
Who do YOU want to see take on John Cena? Head over to the Inside The Ropes Twitter account and tell us. Meanwhile, you can catch John Cena return to WWE RAW for the first time in almost two years tonight!