When WWE officials look back at 2016, they’ll likely hope that it was a year that transformed the business, or at least, their company. After all, they re-instituted the brand extension and softened their stance and perception on independent wrestlers. The jury is still out on the success of the brand split, but the influx of new talent, either to their NXT developmental system or straight to the main roster has opened a lot of eyes.
When John Cena looks back at his 2016 in the WWE, he’ll likely remember just one major opponent. That’s because John Cena has only had one significant opponent this year: AJ Styles. Yes, Cena was cleared from injury enough to make a surprise run-in at WrestleMania, but the four other times John wrestled on a WWE pay-per-view all involved The Phenomenal One.
Cena’s final televised match in 2015 came at the Hell In A Cell pay-per-view in October. He relinquished the United States Championship to a returning Alberto Del Rio before going on hiatus to film a reality competition series for FOX and to rehab an injured shoulder. The shoulder injury kept him out of action for an additional five months. Saving The Rock against the Wyatt Family at WrestleMania marked his first appearance back in a WWE ring of 2016, but it wouldn’t be until Memorial Day on May 30 that he’d announce his full-time return.
That return saw Cena enter into a lengthy program with the aforementioned Styles once AJ turned heel on John’s first night back. Their first bout took place at the Money In The Bank event, and has continued in some shape or form through the fall. Styles was successful in his title defense this past Sunday, defeating both Cena and Dean Ambrose in a triple threat match at No Mercy.
The outcome wasn’t all that surprising considering Cena’s schedule for the remainder of 2016 and rumors of Ambrose taking time off as well. Those rumors have yet to be substantiated, and it appears Styles and the Lunatic Fringe will continue their feud over the WWE World Championship. That became apparent on the first SmackDown following No Mercy, a show that John Cena was not a part of.
Cena did appear for the live audience in the post-show dark match, teaming with Dolph Ziggler and girlfriend Nikki Bella in a six-person tag match against The Miz, Baron Corbin, and Carmella. And according to Cageside Seats, John is only scheduled for three more appearances for the rest of 2016. Those bookings include this Saturday’s house show in Phoenix, the Survivor Series pay-per-view and the live event, non-televised show at Madison Square Garden in December.
The expectation among WWE officials is that Cena will resume his storyline with Styles upon his return, challenging again for the world title in what would be a record-tying 16th championship reign. Though he is not booked for it yet, John could declare that challenge at the TLC show on December 4.
Because he is scheduled to wrestle at Survivor Series next month, he will likely be included on the five-man SmackDown team that challenged RAW in a traditional Survivor Series match. Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon laid out plans for the show that will feature three such matches. One, as noted, will pit five top superstars from each brand against each other, five top tag teams in what will be a 20-man match and the top five women from each show.
Cena’s inclusion in the Survivor Series match will allow the SmackDown writers to book the build without him appearing every week (or at all) because they can focus the week-to-week storyline around the four other team members.
The days of John Cena being a full-time WWE superstar appear over, but he’ll certainly be involved in significant angles during the times he’s committed to the WWE.
[Featured Image by WWE]