It’s been ten years since John Cena made his WrestleMania debut by defeating the Big Show at WrestleMania 20 for the United States Championship. He followed that bout up the next year by winning the WWE Championship from John Bradshaw Layfield in a match that cemented Cena’s spot atop the ladder, where he still stands today.
Granted, this year is the first year that Cena hasn’t either been in the title or main event picture at the big event for a long time. He’ll instead face off with Mania first-timer Bray Wyatt, who could make a name for himself by defeating the eleven-time former champion on the biggest stage in wrestling.
The big question: Will John Cena put Bray Wyatt over, and if so, how strongly? What Culture looks at just why Wyatt needs to go over Cena: Basically, a win would do more for Wyatt while doing little to damage Cena, and a win for the heel would allow the feud to continue.
But will beating John Cena even be enough to get Wyatt over? Bleacher Report writes that it may not be. Many other young up-and-comers have faced off with Cena in the past — even at WrestleMania — only to see their careers eventually fizzle.
The Miz defeated Cena at WrestleMania 27 with The Rock’s help, just to essentially be in the same spot or even lower three years later. Losing to Cena could also be a death knell: Umaga and Khali, for example, never returned to the same heights following losses to the Champ.
Inquisitr recapped the importance of the match for both Wyatt and Cena earlier. Rather than rehashing what got us to this point, let’s look back at Cena’s WrestleMania history and rank his matches by personal enjoyment:
10: Cena vs. the Big Show at Mania 20: This being Cena’s first match on the big stage, it has some historical precedence. He knocked the Big Show out using a pair of brass knuckles for the win. Honestly, I don’t remember too much from this match. It was a rather forgettable opener during a jam-packed show.
9: The Miz vs. John Cena at Wrestlemania 27: This match headlined a show that, truly, should have been headlined by the first Triple H-Undertaker battle (well, second Mania battle, counting Mania 17). That match was amazing, and was impossible for Cena and Miz to follow. And, really, this match was as much about The Rock costing Cena the match to set up their yearlong feud as it was a wrestling match. Also, it didn’t do wonders for The Miz’s career. (Caution to Bray Wyatt)
8: John Cena vs. Batista at Wrestlemania 26: Not too long before this match, these two were possibly the most over in the company. Their previous match at SummerSlam delivered on a power level, but this one was just dull. It was also completely overshadowed by the Money in the Bank match, Jericho vs. Edge and the closer, Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels
7: Cena vs. JBL at WrestleMania 21: This match was important in that it was the culmination of Cena’s quest for gold. The match was short, Cena played face-in-peril the entire time, and it was ultimately forgettable. There was also little-to-no chance that Cena would lose. Coupled again with a loaded card featuring Undertaker vs. Randy Orton, the first Money in the Bank, Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero, Kurt Angle vs. Shawn Michaels (my personal favorite Mania match) and Batista’s much more heated defeat of Triple H, and Cena’s triumph lacked a certain amount of oomph.
6: Cena vs. the Rock at WrestleMania 29: Even though the two icons of the sport had only faced off once before, the feud had gone on for more than two years at that point. The hype was large, and it was an electrifying atmosphere. But it was also the second time we saw the match, just with a different result.
5: Cena vs. Edge vs. the Big Show at Mania 25 for the World Heavyweight Championship: Following Taker and HBK’s first Mania thriller was a tough task. I remember it as being pretty entertaining, and somewhat unusual as a triple threat title match at Mania. And it was a heckuva lot better than the Triple H-Randy Orton stinker that followed.
4: Cena vs. Triple H at WrestleMania 22: This, possibly more than his win over JBL, really vaulted Cena into the stratosphere. The year before, HHH put over Batista. Would he lose two in a row at Mania? The answer was yes, and Cena won with his STFU to cap off a fun show.
3: First match vs. the Rock at Wrestlemania 28: This is the match that re-energized me for WrestleMania. I started watching the WWE during the Attitude Era’s heyday, like many my age. So seeing the Rock get back in the ring was a big deal. The crowd was electric, and it is truly one of the best WrestleMania moments in recent years. The idea that it was Once in a Lifetime (quickly disproven) also heightened the tension throughout, with the Rock finally picking up the win.
2: Cena vs. Orton vs. Triple H at Wrestlemania 24: This may be one of Cena’s most unpredictable WrestleMania matches. It had a lot of fun moments, capped off by Orton’s patented punt on Triple H as the Game was trying to pin Cena. This was a lot of fun at the time, and really helped to send the show toward a satisfying conclusion.
1: John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 23: I feel like a lot of wrestlers’ matches against HBK could be considered their best at WrestleMania (Stone Cold being the likely exception). It featured psychology, a rowdy crowd, some high-flying, a lot of kick outs (before they were quite so en vogue) and some good mat wrestling.
Where will Bray Wyatt vs. John Cena next Sunday rank on this list? Will Cena make Wyatt a star the way Triple H and Shawn Michaels did for him?