John Cena didn't have to wait long to re-enter the main event scene on SmackDown Live after a Hollywood hiatus kept him away from the WWE from the beginning of October to the end of December 2016. Cena returned to the blue brand for SmackDown's final show of the year and immediately inserted himself into the WWE Championship hunt, challenging the winner of that night's main event to a title match at the Royal Rumble.
His fiery promo seemed to ignite not only an edge to his personality but to the audience as well, as viewers tuned in on December 27 and helped SmackDown beat RAW in the ratings for the first time since the brand extension. John Cena's comeback was a huge part of that, but the show also featured three championship matches, including a memorable triple threat between AJ Styles, Dolph Ziggler, and Baron Corbin.
Styles, of course, retained to set up a third marquee singles match on pay-per-view with the John Cena. AJ won the first encounter at Money In The Bank last June, and repeated the feat at SummerSlam in August. Styles going over represented his ascension to the top of the SmackDown food chain. And this time, in their third meeting, the prestigious WWE Championship is on the line.
Save for a John Cena heel turn, the title was the only thing missing from one of the most compelling rivalries last year. And now that it's a major part of the equation, the assumption has been that Cena will finally defeat Styles and become champion for a record-tying 16th time.
In fact, Cena beating Styles, and Roman Reigns dethroning Kevin Owens at the Royal Rumble have been in place for the better part of a month. This past Saturday, we already reported that WWE officials were reconsidering a Universal Championship switch at the pay-per-view. However, Reigns is expected to get the belt at some point. Similar second thoughts are taking place behind the scenes in regards to the match between AJ Styles and John Cena.
This is happening for the simple fact that Vince McMahon doesn't want things to be predictable. Because the overwhelming presumption has been that Cena will beat Styles at the Royal Rumble, Vince has been contemplating a change in that creative decision. However, the directive has still been to put the WWE Championship on John heading into WrestleMania.
So because plans seem to change by the day, a new report indicates that at least one member of the creative team pitched an interesting idea recently to Vince. In this scenario, Styles would beat John Cena and retain the WWE Championship in their singles match. However, Cena would then find a way to enter, and eventually win the Royal Rumble match.
It's unclear how the pitch was received, but it seems like an unlikely scenario given the WWE's opportunity to go in a different direction thanks to the brand split. It would certainly provide shock value for an event synonymous with it, and it would also catapult John Cena into elite company. Cena is one of only five WWE superstars to have won the Royal Rumble twice. Batista, Triple H, Shawn Michaels and Hulk Hogan are the others. Stone Cold Steve Austin is the only man to ever win it three times.
There will be plenty of other opportunities for Cena to win the title between the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania, most notably, the Elimination Chamber. However, WWE officials would prefer John's 16th championship coronation to take place at a more high-profile event. So if he doesn't beat Styles on Sunday, look for Cena then to qualify for the number one contender spot at a later date in which the match would take place at WrestleMania 33 in April.
[Featured Image by WWE]