John Cena Returning To ‘RAW’ To Face Alberto Del Rio Monday Night

John Cena is scheduled to return to RAW next Monday night in Brooklyn, and will square off with Alberto Del Rio for the United States Championship, as reported by PWInsider. Cena has been out of action and off WWE programming since dropping the title to Del Rio at the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view in October. WWE hopes the announcement will boost ratings for what will be the company’s final Monday Night RAW of 2015.

John Cena took a hiatus from WWE to film American Grit, a new reality-competition series coming soon to Fox. According to the network’s website, American Grit will feature “16 of the country’s toughest men and women (who) will be split into four teams as they work together to face a variety of military-grade and survival-themed challenges. Cena and an elite group of mentors from the nation’s most exclusive military units will push these civilians beyond their limits.” Cena was also busy promoting his latest film, Sisters, starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.

WWE Superstar John Cena Performing at Tribute for the Troops [Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images for WWE]John Cena’s illustrious career as a sports entertainer has propelled him into the Hollywood spotlight, enabling him to expand his repertoire as a performer. However, his end-of-year absence came at a difficult time for WWE, thanks to injuries suffered by superstars like Sting, Randy Orton, Cesaro, and Seth Rollins, not to mention the part-time status of Brock Lesnar. Fortunately, the WWE Universe finally bought into Roman Reigns as the face of the company, which has caused an uptick in what was an otherwise down period to close out the year.

One of the most consistently entertaining segments on Monday Night RAW had been John Cena’s United States Championship Open Challenge. Cena captured the title at Wrestlemania from Rusev, and issued a challenge to any superstar, putting the belt on the line every Monday night. The fans were treated to quality matches, surprise returns, and long-awaited debuts from NXT standouts like Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. The U.S. Open Challenge catapulted Owens into one of the breakout stars of the year. Zayn was injured during his challenge, but is expected to return to NXT this week and his main roster call-up shouldn’t be far behind.

Ironically, the last time John Cena was out of action for an extended period of time, his return match came against Alberto Del Rio. Cena lost the WWE Championship to Daniel Bryan in the main event of Summerslam, had surgery to repair an injured elbow, only to return the following month to defeat Del Rio for the World Heavyweight Championship at Night of Champions (The WWE Championship and World Heavyweight Championship have since merged into one title, the WWE World Heavyweight Championship).

John Cena in Action at Summerslam in Brooklyn [Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images]The last time John Cena held his U.S. Open Challenge came at Hell in a Cell, as mentioned previously. It was there that Zeb Colter introduced a returning Alberto Del Rio, who defeated Cena cleanly and has held the title ever since. Del Rio’s main title defense came against Jack Swagger, where he defeated the “Real American” in a Chairs Match at this month’s TLC pay-per-view. Cena will return to find Del Rio has vanquished Colter in favor of an alliance with the recently-formed League of Nations along with Sheamus, King Barrett, and Rusev. The leader of the Cenation has had major run-ins with all the League of Nations members in the past, so it won’t be a surprise to see the faction get involved in the United States Championship match next Monday.

As the WWE turns the page on 2015, it will be interesting to see where John Cena fits heading into Wrestlemania season. Up next on the pay-per-view docket is the much-anticipated Royal Rumble, where the winner earns a shot at the World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania. Brock Lesnar might be the favorite to win the Rumble, which would pit him presumably against Reigns in a rematch from last year’s main event. That could leave Cena’s card open for the possibility of a match with the Undertaker, who is expected to retire following the big show in Dallas. However, WWE could decide to put the U.S. Championship back around the Cena’s waist and continue with the Open Challenge to help propel another future star. Those plans will invariably start to take shape when Cena makes his return to the ring next Monday night.

[Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images]