John Cena has spent almost a decade as WWE’s top star, the man they could depend on to anchor TV ratings, PPV buys, and house show attendance, who would always be there if something went wrong and they needed to reset an angle. In this time, he has accumulated the second most world titles in history (tied with Sting), and help the WWE Championship for over three years total. In recent years, however, there have been talks of his starting to leave the spotlight and let the next generation of stars take the reins in WWE. Some believe that this process has been going on in earnest since Money in the Bank 2011, when he dropped the WWE Championship to CM Punk in a star-making match; some doubt that this will even happen at any time in the near future, let alone that it’s happening now.
To evaluate these claims, we’ll look at another major “passing of the torch” moment, when Cena dropped the WWE Championship completely clean to Daniel Bryan at SummerSlam 2013. There have been eighteen PPV’s since that time, and we will look at those and the eighteen shows prior to it, which stretches back to Royal Rumble 2012. To determine how much of a fixture of the main event Cena was during this three year period, we’ll analyze his win/loss record, the number of title matches he competed in, his record in those title matches, the number and length of his world title reigns and the number of times he wrestled in the main events of PPV’s, along with some additional information that is more difficult to quantify, but still essential to understanding how he’s being booked. First, a list of Cena’s matches and some brief information about them:
- Royal Rumble : Draw against Kane in a singles match. Non-title, not a main event.
- Elimination Chamber: Def. Kane in an ambulance match. Non-title, main event.
- WrestleMania 28: Lost to The Rock in a singles match. Non-title, main event.
- Extreme Rules: Def. Brock Lesnar in a No DQ match. Non-title, main event.
- Over the Limit: Lost to John Laurinaitis in a No DQ match. Non-title, main event.
- No Way Out: Def. Big Show in a steel cage match. Non-title, main event.
- Money in the Bank: Won the Money in the Bank briefcase in the main event.
- SummerSlam: Lost to CM Punk in a triple threat match (was not pinned) for the WWE Championship. Not a main event.
- Night of Champions: Draw against CM Punk for the WWE Championship in the main event.
- Hell in a Cell: Did not appear (injured)
- Survivor Series: Lost to CM Punk in a triple threat match (was pinned) for the WWE Championship in the main event.
- Tables, Ladders, and Chairs: Lost to Dolph Ziggler in a ladder match. Non-title, main event.
- Royal Rumble : Won the Royal Rumble match, not a main event.
- Elimination Chamber: Lost to The Shield in a six man tag (was not pinned), non-title, non main event.
- WrestleMania 29: Def. The Rock in a singles match for the WWE Championship in the main event.
- Extreme Rules: Draw against Ryback in a Last Man Standing match for the WWE Championship, not a main event.
- Payback: Def. Ryback in a Three Stages of Hell match for the WWE Championship in the main event.
- Money in the Bank: Def. Mark Henry in a singles match for the WWE Championship, not a main event.
- SummerSlam: Lost to Daniel Bryan in a singles match for the WWE Championship in the main event.
- Night of Champions: Did not appear (injured).
- Battleground: Did not appear (injured).
- Hell in a Cell: Def. Alberto Del Rio in a singles match for the World Heavyweight Championship, not a main event.
- Survivor Series: Def. Alberto Del Rio in a singles match for the World Heavyweight Championship, not a main event.
- Tables, Ladders, and Chairs: Lost to Randy Orton in a TLC match to unify the WWE Championship and World Heavyweight Championship in the main event.
- Royal Rumble: Lost to Randy Orton in a singles match for the WWE Championship, not a main event.
- Elimination Chamber: Lost to Randy Orton in an Elimination Chamber match for the WWE Championship.
- WrestleMania XXX: Def. Bray Wyatt in a singles match, not a main event.
- Extreme Rules: Lost to Bray Wyatt in a steel cage match, not a main event.
- Payback: Def. Bray Wyatt in a Last Man Standing match, not a main event.
- Money in the Bank: Won the WWE Championship in a ladder match in the main event.
- Battleground: Won a fatal four-way against Randy Orton, Roman Reigns, and Kane for the WWE Championship in the main event.
- SummerSlam: Lost to Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship in the main event.
- Night of Champions: Def. Brock Lesnar by DQ for the WWE Championship in the main event. He did not win the title.
- Hell in a Cell: Def. Randy Orton in a #1 contender’s Hell in a Cell match, not a main event.
- Survivor Series: Def. Team Authority as part of Team Cena in a traditional Survivor Series match in the main event. He was eliminated during the match.
- Tables, Ladders, and Chairs: Def. Seth Rollins in a #1 contender’s tables match, not a main event.
- Royal Rumble: Lost to Brock Lesnar in a triple threat match for the WWE Championship (was not pinned), not a main event.
Now we’ll look at Cena’s various statistics.
Prior to SummerSlam 2013, he had a win/loss record of 7-6-3. In two of his losses, he wasn’t pinned (SummerSlam 2012 and Elimination Chamber 2013), and two of the others (Over the Limit and TLC 2012) were dirty pins owing to interference. Only his losses at WrestleMania 28 and Survivor Series 2012 were clean. Two of his three draws were followed by a victory against the same opponent at the next show.
During that time he competed in 10 main events, versus 6 appearances outside the main event. One of his main events, against John Laurinaitis at Over the Limit, was a flagrant joke match against a retired wrestler that somehow went on over a WWE title match. His non-main event appearances came with the Rock on the show twice (Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber 2013), and with Brock Lesnar & Triple H on the show twice (SummerSlam 2012 and Extreme Rules 2013). At Royal Rumble 2012 and Money in the Bank 2013, other full-time stars primarily went on over him (although both shows had technically part-timers in the matches that went on after him, they were by no means the focus in the way that Rock, Brock, and Triple H were).
He competed for a world title 7 times, versus 9 non-title matches, although two of those were essentially #1 contender matches in Money in the Bank and Royal Rumble matches. In those 7 title matches, he had a record of 3-2-2, and he had one world title reign, with the WWE Championship, which lasted 133 days.
Since SummerSlam 2013, he has had a win/loss record of 10-6. The ten wins include Survivor Series 2014, where he recorded no eliminations and was eliminated, albeit underhandedly, after having spent very little time in the match. Three of those losses were mostly or completely clean (TLC 2013, SummerSlam 2014, Royal Rumble 2014), and the other three (Royal Rumble, Elimination Chamber, and Extreme Rules 2014). It should be noted, furthermore, that one of his losses, to Bray Wyatt at Extreme Rules 2014, did as much damage to Wyatt as a clean loss would have, and another of his losses, to Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam, was among the most one-sided world championship matches of all time.
During that time he competed in 7 main events, versus 9 non-main events. Determining which of his non-main events came at the benefit of part-timers is a bit more difficult question. At Royal Rumble 2014, he went on prior to the Royal Rumble match, which features many full-time wrestlers. That year, however, a part-timer by the name of Batista won the match. At WrestleMania, part-timers Undertaker and Brock Lesnar went on after him (although not in the main event), and Batista appeared in the main event, but the night was clearly devoted to Daniel Bryan, an emblem of the next generation of stars. At Payback, Batista showed up in the main event again, along with Triple H, although Randy Orton also appeared, along with obvious future stars in The Shield. In any event, six of his non-main events (Hell in a Cell 2013, Survivor Series 2013, Extreme Rules 2014, Hell in a Cell 2014, TLC 2014, and Royal Rumble 2015) came to full-timers, with three ambiguous cases.
10 of his matches were for a world title, compared to 6 non-title matches. Two of his world title matches were for the less-important World Heavyweight Championship, and two of his non-title matches were for the #1 contender to the WWE Championship In his title matches, he has a record of 5-5. The five wins include the DQ victory over Brock Lesnar at Night of Champions 2014, when he did not win the WWE Championship. He had two world title reigns in this time, one with each belt, both of which lasted 49 days, for a total of 98 days as world champion.
Finally, a note on injuries: Cena won the WWE Championship and had at least two matches with Brock Lesnar in the main event because of a severe injury to Daniel Bryan that kept him out a number of months. In an interesting reversal of fate, it was Cena’s injury in 2013 that lead in part to Daniel Bryan defeating him at SummerSlam and assuming the mantle of a top face.
With all Cena’s matches examined, we must finally confront the question: Has John Cena stepped out of the spotlight? The results are mixed, with his win/loss record improving and number of title matches increasing, but his number of main events decreasing and title match record worsening. He also had more world championship reigns, but fewer days as world champion, along with one reign as the secondary world champion and another he received due to another’s injury.
All the same, given the drastic increases in the number of full time stars that went on after him and his increasing numbers of clean losses, not to mention two wins where he was hardly a traditional winner, it seems like the numbers support the idea that Cena is moving out of the spotlight, if slowly.
Perhaps it’s best to close with a look to this Sunday’s WWE Fastlane. Cena will be competing for the United States Championship, which he last did on PPV at Armageddon in December 2004, a month after the 2004 presidential election, when “Drop It Like It’s Hot” by Snoop Dogg and Pharrell was atop the Billboard Hot 100. Competing in the main event will be Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns, both younger than Cena and who are widely regarded as WWE’s two top stars over the next few years. For their part, they are wrestling to determine which one of them will compete in the main event of WrestleMania 31, where the winner will face (and, if any of the rumors are to be believed, beat) Brock Lesnar, the man who destroyed Cena with the entire WWE Universe watching at the most recent SummerSlam.
What’s your thoughts? Is John Cena slowly leaving? Has Cena done all he could for WWE? Leave your comments and thoughts in the section below and don’t forget to like us on twitter @sparxmediaz