The two most recognizable faces on WWE's SmackDown Live brand are John Cena and Randy Orton. Both Cena and Orton have been on the main roster for 14 years, putting together first-ballot Hall of Fame careers that have seen a combined 27 World Championships between them. Their schedules have become much lighter recently, never mind the injuries both suffered last year that prevented them from working a match at WrestleMania 32 in Dallas.
Cena, of course, made a surprise appearance at AT&T Stadium, running in to save The Rock in his segment with the Wyatt Family. Orton was unable to appear altogether and only returned in time for the SummerSlam showdown with Brock Lesnar last month. It's presented opportunities for other guys, but the hope is that history doesn't repeat itself next April in Orlando.
As far as Orton is concerned, the only rumors past his current rivalry with Bray Wyatt include a program with AJ Styles. It's presumed that Styles will still be the WWE World Champion by the time he runs into Orton, but things have changed frequently over the last few months so that is far from a certainty. And then as it pertains to WrestleMania 33, there haven't been many rumblings for The Viper, seeing how any feud with Styles would likely come well before then.
In terms of creative plans for John Cena, there appear to be two ideas at the forefront right now, according to Cageside Seats. It's no secret that original plans for WrestleMania 32 called for Cena to face The Undertaker in what could have been billed as the Deadman's final battle with an epic build culminating in front of the WWE's largest audience ever. Shane McMahon filled in admirably, but people are still wondering, "What if Cena never got hurt?"
Shane provided the highlight of the night with his incredible leap off the top of the cell, but the aftermath had many fans questioning the logic of the storyline. Add reports of the Undertaker's apparent retirement and resentment towards Vince McMahon, and it made for quite a messy fallout.
So if Vince and the Undertaker are able to mend fences and postpone the retirement, Plan A is to have him wrestle John Cena at WrestleMania 33. If those two sides can't come to an agreement or understanding, there is a Plan B in place for Cena which really wouldn't start taking shape on television until 2017.
Plan B would be to have Cena tie Ric Flair's historic mark by winning his 16th World Championship on the grand stage that will be WrestleMania 33. As noted, Cena is currently entrenched in a feud with AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose that will see them compete in a triple threat match for the WWE World Title at No Mercy on October 9. Cena is not expected to win as he'll be leaving shortly after the pay-per-view to film his FOX reality series, removing him from WWE for the remainder of the year.
Upon his return to SmackDown last week, Cena did allude to tying Flair's record during his promo with Styles. Many wondered why not save that angle for WrestleMania, but it just might be their way of planting the seed for when he comes back in 2017.
It has yet to be confirmed who John's opponent would be in the potential World Championship match, but if the rosters stay as is and Cena remains a part of the blue brand, perhaps the most logical choice would, in fact, be AJ Styles. Cena has yet to beat Styles one-on-one, and one final clash would give AJ a lengthy run with the title as he continues his ascent up the WWE pecking order.
Dean Ambrose might provide another alternative, especially after he defeated Cena clean this week in what was John's first clean defeat via pinfall or submission on either RAW or SmackDown in an incredible seven years. WrestleMania will also present the opportunity to book cross-promotional matches, so we shouldn't rule out a potential title match with whoever might be the Universal Champion come next spring. This, of course, is all contingent on the status of the Undertaker.
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