It would seem that John Cena will be back soon on SmackDown Live, and has a return date officially confirmed. And it wouldn’t be much longer before the 15-time champion returns to television screens and represents the blue brand once again.
So far, it’s been more than two months since we’ve seen John Cena wrestle on television or on a WWE pay-per-view. This marks one of his longest hiatuses in recent history, but it was a necessary break for the man behind “hustle, loyalty, and respect,” as he had to take time off to film the second season of the Fox TV series American Grit. But with that, his recent Saturday Night Live hosting gig, and other non-wrestling endeavors lined up for the coming months, rumors have swirled around, suggesting that Cena may have mild backstage heat over his 2017 schedule. As 411Mania had noted, Cena is lined up to star in the upcoming comedy film The Pact, and will be appearing in the psychological thriller The Wall in March 2017.
All those outside plans, however, may not be copacetic with WWE officials. Citing Wrestling Observer Radio, 411Mania wrote earlier this month that there have been some worries about the chances of John Cena working an even more limited schedule in 2017. Though he’s one of WWE and SmackDown Live’s older male talents at 39-years-old, Cena still performs at a high level in the ring and continues to be among the company’s most popular wrestlers.
“Officials are concerned about Cena’s continued stream of outside offers he’s received for other projects and are worried about how much time he’ll have for the company next year.”
Multiple non-WWE projects notwithstanding, it looks like John Cena’s SmackDown Live return date is fast approaching, and that he will be appearing on the show’s December 27, 2016 episode, or the last SmackDown Live of 2016. As documented by Bleacher Report, this was confirmed on Tuesday night’s episode of SmackDown, as John’s return two weeks from now would mark the first time in two-and-a-half months he will be appearing on television.
Cena was last seen on the No Mercy pay-per-view on October 9, where he and Dean Ambrose had both lost to AJ Styles in a Triple Threat match for the WWE World Championship. Had Cena won, he would have tied Ric Flair’s record and won his 16th WWE World Championship, but his outside commitments had reduced the championship feud on SmackDown to a battle between Styles and Ambrose, with erstwhile jobber and “ultimate underdog” James Ellsworth also being involved in the title picture. But what could happen when Big Match John makes his return and tries to tie Flair’s record once again?
According to Cageside Seats, AJ Styles is scheduled to face Dolph Ziggler and defend his WWE World title on December 27, on the same date and the same show as John Cena’s SmackDown Live return. This might be, in itself, a sign that Styles will retain his championship against Ziggler, with Cena’s return setting up the resumption of their feud. As Dean Ambrose and The Miz were both eliminated in a four-way number one contender match for the WWE World Championship on Tuesday night (which Ziggler won), that could mean their feud for the Intercontinental Championship may continue for the immediate time being. That should allow Cena and Styles to battle it out for the WWE World title as 2016 comes to an end and 2017 kicks off.
Although Bleacher Report noted that Cena is losing the feud with AJ Styles thus far, the publication expressed optimism that John Cena’s SmackDown Live return could have a bigger meaning, such as making the brand’s lineup deeper and more prestigious.
“Above all else, Cena’s return will be huge for the blue brand, as he remains the biggest and most recognizable Superstar in wrestling. SmackDown was put in a difficult position in the brand split draft since RAW was given the opportunity to select more competitors due to the fact that it is a three-hour show. That adversely impacted SmackDown in terms of depth and big-time star power, but Cena helps immensely in both areas.”
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