John Cena hit the ring for the only time in 2022 on the December 30th edition of WWE SmackDown, teaming with Kevin Owens to take on Roman Reigns and Sami Zayn.
The bout was John Cena’s first since competing in an untelevised dark match at Madison Square Garden in September 2021. His last televised match was weeks beforehand at that year’s SummerSlam, where Roman Reigns defeated him to continue his record-breaking Universal Championship reign.
The match drew record ratings for SmackDown and was well-received by fans and critics alike, including, perhaps surprisingly, legendary manager Jim Cornette.
Jim Cornette praises John Cena’s SmackDown return – “People f*cking loved it”
“Kevin Owens and John Cena against Roman Reigns and Sami Zayn. And again yes, he’s a little smaller, yes, he’s not as tanned, yes he’s got a bald spot and still wearing the same sh*t he wore when he was 25 years old.
“But when he comes out with the fire and the excitement, and being a star, and being who he is, the people go f*cking crazy, because he’s one of their last links to when they can think in their mind wrestling was somewhat good and popular.
“He stops in front of the camera to thank the fans at home for letting him do this for 20 years for them. Thank you, now let’s go to work. He’s got it, he’s got to the people.
“He doesn’t have the hardcore smart fans that want to see Felix do 16 flips but he’s got a lot more f*cking people in general that want to spend some money and spend some time to see him do his thing.
“They brought The Bloodline out second because Cena needed to take all the time he wanted but, at the same time, he couldn’t leave The Bloodline standing in there. And as soon as they did the entrances they went to break, so when they came back they had 14 minutes on the air so it wasn’t gonna get old.”
Cornette went on to explain that WWE was right to “milk” John Cena tagging into the match for as long as possible, and the 16-Time World Champion played his part well on the apron.
“Basically, you know, they milked – as they should have – Cena getting in the thing for the whole match. At one point Owens is kicking Sami’s ass and Roman’s not happy, he asked to tag in and the fans start chanting for Cena. So Owens turns around to tag Cena in and Roman blindsides Cena and kicks the sh*t out of him. And there was your Break Spot.
“They come back, Owens is fighting back, and he levels Sami and Cena was really working the apron, milking that, going back to his OVW days. That’s something that you used to teach.
“As soon I got the into business I heard people telling [people] if the f*cking guy in the ring, the babyface that’s selling, is going to all that trouble and taking all that abuse to wear his f*cking body out to sell to set up a tag to you and you’re the babyface on the apron, the least you can do in that situation is work the apron and try to look interested in getting the tag and coming and cheering your man on and waiting anxiously and getting the people behind you.
“So anyway, boom boom boom, Roman pulls Cena off the apron and rails him and robs the people of that tag. And then Owens superkicks Sami but there’s no Cena in the corner. So Owens superkicks and powerbombs Sami, again 2 count.
“Reigns makes the save, Reigns drag Sami over to the corner to make the tag and then goes for the Superman Punch but Owens ducks it and hits Super Kick, nice Frog Splash, 2 count.”
Once John Cena finally did get the tag, the roof blew off the arena. Cornette explained that this was at least in part because the audience knew they might never see him in a tag match again.
“But then Roman hits the Superman, goes for a Spear but misses and goes into the post, and now they’ve set up the tags. And it was simultaneous tags here, wasn’t a hot tag but it didn’t matter because the place blew because it was John Cena.
“All those people know there that they might not ever get to see John Cena get a hot tag again, even if it wasn’t a hot tag. Boom and he makes his comeback. He lays them out side by side. He tags Owens, they do the double Five Knuckle Shuffle although I don’t think Owens has ever hit the ropes before he does his special kind of Five Knuckle Shuffle, it was a little off.”
Finally, the wrestling veteran had high praise for the ending of the bout, saying it left John Cena looking like a “world-beater” while also furthering the ongoing storylines on SmackDown.
“Then John hit his finish on Roman Reigns but didn’t cover him. And Owens Stunnerred Sami and covered him 1-2-3 and that was exactly the finish they needed. Cena looks like a world-beater, Owens gets the rub, the babyfaces win.
“Sami getting beat actually furthers the goddamn Bloodline issue and Roman Reigns emerged unscathed and the people f*cking loved it. That’s wrestling.”
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