John Cena’s record-tying 16th championship reign lasted all of two weeks, as we reported it would the day after his historic victory over AJ Styles at the Royal Rumble. Cena wasn’t always in line to face Styles inside the Alamodome, as that spot was originally reserved for the Undertaker. The Deadman, who isn’t able to compete in a full-length singles match yet, would have then gone on to face John Cena at WrestleMania, but all of those plans have since been scrapped.
It’s certainly interesting to consider WWE’s decision to put Cena over in the championship match at the Royal Rumble if he was only going to drop it two weeks later at the Elimination Chamber. By downplaying the significance of John’s victory, it provided clues that his reign would not last long.
There are still seven episodes of SmackDown Live until WrestleMania, an eternity by today’s standards of storytelling. And the creative staff on the blue brand is not wasting any time providing compelling segments in the aftermath of the title change at Elimination Chamber. John Cena is already being granted a rematch for the WWE Championship this Tuesday night against Bray Wyatt in what should provide further insight into each superstar’s plans for the big show in April.
At this point, the plan is for Wyatt to enter Camping World Stadium as WWE Champion and defend it against fellow Wyatt Family member and Royal Rumble winner, Randy Orton. As for John Cena, he is set to team up with Nikki Bella to take on The Miz and Maryse in a mixed tag team match. In fact, those are the only two SmackDown-exclusive matches currently set in stone for WrestleMania as of this writing.
Plenty of eyebrows were raised when news leaked of Cena’s WrestleMania plans. After all, he was just coming off that classic bout with AJ Styles, and he had plenty of other rumored opponents being bandied about, including Samoa Joe and the Undertaker, who would have had a much bigger impact on wrestling. However, the mixed tag match will certainly garner its fair share of mainstream attention, as John and Nikki plan to promote the event together over the next month and a half.
Another reason for doing the match has to do with Nikki’s future. The unmarried Bella twin has been experiencing health issues coming off recent neck surgery, and as a result, ahe will be looking to tone down her wrestling career once WrestleMania is over. John Cena is Nikki’s real-life boyfriend and wanted to be there for what could potentially be her final match in the WWE. At the very least, she’ll be taking time off and only return as a part-time performer, which is the role she had hoped for when she first came back last year following the brand extension.
And whether by coincidence or design, John Cena is also now scheduled to take time off after WrestleMania as well, according to the most recent episode of Wrestling Observer Radio. But this time, Cena’s hiatus may last as long as eight months. Presently, John is not being advertised for WWE’s upcoming European tour, Money In The Bank or SummerSlam. Going by that information, he may not return until the Survivor Series pay-per-view in November.
Cena’s foray into Hollywood has largely been met with positive reviews, and as long as that continues, he’ll keep doing as much as possible outside of a wrestling ring. On a recent episode of Talking Smack, John admitted that he was wrong about The Rock and his career choices bouncing him back and forth. Cena is headed down a similar path, and the WWE views it as good publicity for the company.
A performer as important as John Cena will have to be temporarily replaced on Tuesday nights once the dust settles on WrestleMania, so it will be interesting to see if Dean Ambrose fills the role again. Perhaps Randy Orton will take over for Cena, or the company might decide to flip AJ Styles considering the impact he had in his first year on the roster. Either way, it appears Cena is in line for an extended hiatus after April 2.
[Featured Image by WWE]