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John Cena's 50 greatest matches
June 27, 2002. Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle throws down an open challenge to the SmackDown locker room. A young kid from West Newbury, Mass. steps up. He’s not yet great — no one is their first time — but he’s poised and fiery with a body like an action figure and more heart than a butcher shop. He surprises Angle, takes him off his feet, almost beats him. The fact that he doesn’t win is important — it keeps him humble, keeps him wanting more.
More than a decade passes. That kid becomes a man. He wins 11 WWE Titles. Main events WrestleManias against Shawn Michaels, Triple H and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Stars in movies. Releases a rap album. Scuffles with Kevin Federline on live television. He becomes a brand, a polarizing figure loved and hated with equal élan. He carries WWE into an uncertain new age. He is John Cena. And these are the 50 matches that have defined him as the most important WWE Superstar of the new millennium.
John Cena vs. JBL: WrestleMania 21 (April 3, 2005)
It’s well-known that John Cena never gives up. He stares down insurmountable odds and refuses to back down from any challenge. This character trait of the Cenation leader is especially evident when the stakes reach a fever pitch and the WWE Championship is on the line. Cena’s greatest WWE Title moment is also one of his first — an epic clash with WWE Champion JBL at WrestleMania 21.
The tough veteran put his experience and power to good use and mounted an offense that Cena struggled to counter. But the West Newbury, Mass. native proved his fighting spirit and would not stay down. With momentum shifting between both Superstars, Cena managed to duck JBL’s patented Clothesline from Hell and give his opponent an Attitude Adjustment to claim his first WWE Championship. ( WATCH FULL MATCH)
John Cena, Hulk Hogan & Shawn Michaels vs. Christian, Tomko & Chris Jericho: Raw (June 27, 2005)
The third anniversary of John Cena’s WWE debut also allowed him to live a once-in-a-lifetime dream that was surely the envy of every WWE Superstar. In a special Six-Man Tag Team Match on June 27, 2005, three generations united as the Cenation leader teamed up with Hulk Hogan and Shawn Michaels.
In a battle against Christian, Tomko and Chris Jericho, HBK surprised Cena with their partner, The Hulkster. The match stands out as a true milestone in the Cenation leader’s career as does the memorable moment when Hulk Hogan dropped Tomko with a clothesline and performed Cena’s trademark taunt, “You can’t see me!” ( WATCH)
Hogan, Michaels and Cena were victorious and following the contest, Cena and HBK stood in the ring and posed with The Immortal One.
John Cena vs. Booker T: SummerSlam 2004 (Aug. 15, 2004)
John Cena found himself on SmackDown General Manager Kurt Angle’s bad side in the summer of 2004. After Cena accidentally knocked the Olympic gold medalist out of his wheelchair, the GM stripped Cena of his United States Title and scheduled an eight-man match to determine a new champion with Booker T coming out on top.
Eager to regain his title, Cena engaged Booker in a best of five match series for the championship. Round one took place at SummerSlam. In a sprint of a match, Booker whiffed on his trademark Axe Kick, giving Cena the opening to plant the five-time WCW Champion with the Attitude Adjustment and take an early lead in the series.
John Cena & The Rock vs. The Miz & R-Truth: Survivor Series 2011 (Nov. 20, 2011)
They said it could never be done, but for one night only in front of a sold-out crowd in New York City’s legendary Madison Square Garden, bitter rivals John Cena and The Rock actually joined forces. At Survivor Series 2011, months before their “Once in a Lifetime” clash at WrestleMania XXVIII, Cena and The Great One forged an uneasy alliance to combat the calculating tandem of The Miz & R-Truth.
That night, Nov. 20, 2011, was the first time the WWE Universe had seen The Rock in action in nearly eight years. The WWE Universe shook the rafters of The World’s Most Famous Arena after a People’s Elbow to The Miz sealed a victory for Cena & The Rock, but it was The Great One’s shocking post-match Rock Bottom to the Cenation leader that truly put an exclamation point on the evening. The temporary union between these iconic ring warriors was torn asunder at that moment, leaving Cena with retribution on his mind as he embarked on The Road to WrestleMania. ( PHOTOS)
John Cena vs. Kurt Angle: No Mercy 2003 (Oct. 19, 2003)
More than a year after John Cena made his WWE debut against Kurt Angle on SmackDown, the two Superstars clashed again in Baltimore’s 1st Mariner Arena at No Mercy. Still a relative newcomer to the ring, the young Superstar had gained a fan following as a cocky hip hop head, but there was one thing he was still looking for in WWE — respect. And if Kurt Angle wasn’t going to give it, Cena was going to beat it out of him.
For nearly 20 minutes the two Superstars traded crushing slams and bruising shots with Cena scoring with an Attitude Adjustment only to see Angle muscle out of his cover. Finally, in a display of the ring presence that separates a novice from a veteran, the Olympian ingeniously rolled through an attempted Attitude Adjustment and grabbed Cena’s leg to secure the dreaded ankle lock. The submission hold was enough to stop the West Newbury, Mass. native that night, but Cena and Angle would meet again soon.
WWE Championship Elimination Chamber Match: Elimination Chamber 2011 (Feb. 20, 2011)
They say there are no atheists in foxholes. Same goes for the Elimination Chamber. Dubbed The Devil’s Playground for good reason, the satanic structure houses six Superstars inside ten tons of twisted metal, jagged steel and bulletproof glass. But, like any great battlefield, the chamber has become a place of glory that serves as a testament to the cunning or power of the Superstar who survives it.
For John Cena, it has been such a place on three occasions, including this Feb. 20, 2011 war against Sheamus, CM Punk, Randy Orton, John Morrison and R-Truth. Determined to earn a WWE Championship Match at WrestleMania, the Cenation leader persevered before finally eliminating Punk to earn his showdown with The Miz on The Grandest Stage of Them All. ( PHOTOS)
John Cena vs. The Miz vs. John Morrison: Extreme Rules 2011 (May 1, 2011)
One month after John Cena was defeated by The Miz at WrestleMania XXVII following a Rock Bottom from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the Cenation leader received another opportunity to reclaim the WWE Title when he entered a cage against The Awesome One and John Morrison at Extreme Rules.
For The Miz, the match was a reckoning of sorts. Facing the tag partner he betrayed and the rival he cheated, The Awesome One knew he was about to pay the price for his underhanded actions. Taking a whipping from both of his enemies, the loathed Clevelander nearly weasled his way to another upset victory when R-Truth stormed the cage and attacked JoMo. The Awesome One could not break free, though, and ended up getting hit with an Attitude Adjustment from the top rope and losing his WWE Title to Cena. ( WATCH)
John Cena vs. Kane: Elimination Chamber 2012 (Feb. 19, 2012)
The WWE Universe was shocked when Kane made his surprising return to Raw in December 2011 and set his sights on John Cena. Donning a frightening new mask, The Big Red Monster steamrolled the Cenation leader for weeks before clueing everyone in that he wanted the positive Cena to “embrace the hate.”
After Kane’s mind games caused a rift between Cena and his good broski, Zack Ryder, things came to a head at Elimination Chamber, where he and Kane faced off in an Ambulance Match. Kane tried to smother Cena with his gloved hand, but Cena rebounded, sending his monstrous opponent hurtling into the steel steps. The two brawled throughout the arena before taking the fight to the top of the ambulance. Cena was able to overpower The Big Red Monster, finishing him off with a super-sized Attitude Adjustment from the ambulance to the arena floor. ( PHOTOS)
John Cena vs. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson: WrestleMania 28 (April 1, 2012)
When the book is written on John Cena’s career, his WrestleMania XXVIII showdown with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson will be chronicled as a low point. That’s unfortunate, because, in many ways, this brawl in Miami’s Sun Life Stadium was the biggest match of the Cenation leader’s career. A calendar year in the making, the epic confrontation between the most charismatic Superstar of WWE’s hallowed “Attitude Era” and the face of the sports-entertainment company today had an energy surrounding it that hadn’t been felt since the night Hulk Hogan collided with Andre the Giant at WrestleMania III.
Entering as an outsider in front of The Rock’s hometown crowd, Cena looked to shrug off the pressure early as he matched The Great One move for move. But the 10-time WWE Champion’s confidence ultimately became his undoing. Arrogantly mocking The Rock’s People’s Elbow nearly half an hour into the bout, Cena left himself open for a Rock Bottom, which the “Fast Five” star executed with thundering accuracy. ( PHOTOS)
Team WWE vs. The Nexus: Summerslam 2010 (Aug. 15, 2010)
On June 7, 2010, Wade Barrett and a group of Rookies from WWE NXT stormed John Cena’s match against CM Punk during the main event of Raw. They destroyed the ringside area, attacked WWE officials, and assaulted Cena like a pack of wild dogs. The group that would come to be christened The Nexus then caused Cena to lose the WWE Title at that month’s Fatal 4-Way event due to their interference.
As Nexus began to run roughshod over the WWE roster in the ensuing months, Cena formed a team of WWE Superstars – heroes, villains and Legends alike – to take down the formidable faction in a massive battle at SummerSlam. Cena was even responsible for reintroducing Daniel Bryan, an early Nexus member, back to WWE to combat his former allies. After Bryan was eliminated from the matchup, only Cena was left to represent Team WWE. He pinned Justin Gabriel after The Cape Town Werewolf missed a 450° splash, and locked Barrett in the STF to finally grab the epic victory. ( WATCH FULL MATCH)
John Cena vs. Triple H vs. Edge: Backlash 2006 (April 30, 2006)
John Cena met two of his great rivals in the ring at once when both Edge and Triple H challenged the Cenation leader for the WWE Title at Backlash 2006. Coming off his career defining submission victory over The King of Kings at WrestleMania 22, Cena was confident going into this Triple Threat Match, but so were his opponents. The Rated-R Superstar was mad with ego after brutalizing Mick Foley on the Grandest Stage of Them All. Triple H never lacked for confidence.
Trading victories in the weeks leading up to Backlash, the three Superstars seemed to be evenly matched, but it was the WWE Champion who would thrive at the event. As shaky alliances shifted throughout the bout Cena stayed focused on putting his opponents away and finally looked to do so when he hoisted Edge up for an Attitude Adjustment. The Game nearly gained the advantage when he nailed Cena with a low blow, but the West Newbury brawler managed to reverse a Pedigree into a pinning combination to emerge as the victor. ( WATCH)
John Cena vs. Randy Orton: Summerslam 2007 (Aug. 26, 2007)
John Cena was done for going into his WWE Title defense against longtime rival Randy Orton at SummerSlam 2007. In the days leading up to their highly anticipated showdown, The Viper had struck the WWE Champion with three RKOs, including one onto a steel chair. The brutal attacks served to not only injure Cena, but shake his steely confidence.
Wounded and vulnerable, Cena looked like he was on his way to being Orton’s latest victim in the physical match. Determined after destroying WWE Hall of Famers like Shawn Michaels, Dusty Rhodes and Sgt. Slaughter in the ring, The Viper dropped his powerful opponent with an RKO, but the tenacious Superstar somehow managed to kick out. From there, Cena found it in him to nail an Attitude Adjustment for one of the most inspiring victories of his career. ( WATCH)
John Cena vs. Chris Jericho: Raw (Aug. 22, 2005)
The night after John Cena successfully defended his WWE Championship against Chris Jericho at SummerSlam, the two Superstars met again on Raw — only this time it wasn’t just the WWE Title at stake. By the decree of General Manager Eric Bischoff, the showdown was dubbed a “You’re Fired” Match with the loser of the bout receiving their pink slip.
It was clearly a make-or-break situation for Cena, but those are the conditions in which the unstoppable Superstar thrives. Coping with both his cagey opponent’s underhanded tricks and the outside interference of Bischoff, Cena managed to rocket Jericho into the former WCW honcho before powering the nefarious Superstar onto his shoulders and to deliver a devastating Attitude Adjustment. It was enough to put Jericho away and as the Cenation leader celebrated his victory, the bout’s hapless loser was dragged kicking and screaming out of the arena by security guards. He would not be seen again in WWE for more than two years. ( WATCH)
John Cena, The Undertaker & DX vs. CM Punk & Legacy: Smackdown (Oct. 2, 2009)
WWE fans knew the main event of the decade of SmackDown celebration was going to be huge, but this was downright epic. Billed as the biggest Eight-Man Tag Team Match in the history of the blue brand, this rumble pitting the dream team of John Cena, The Deadman, Shawn Michaels & The Game against CM Punk, Randy Orton, Ted DiBiase & Cody Rhodes lived up to the hyperbole.
Only days away from meeting Randy Orton in a Hell a Cell Match, Cena teamed with two men he has faced at WrestleMania and a Superstar he clashed with multiple times early in his career. Clearly this uneasy alliance could have crumbled at any moment in the match, but the WWE greats worked together to fend off their vicious opponents. In the end, it was The Deadman who scored the victory with a Tombstone, but it's the the star power alone makes this a must-see. ( WATCH)
John Cena vs. Wade Barrett: WWE TLC 2010 (Dec. 19, 2010)
More than six months had passed since Wade Barrett’s Nexus had stormed Raw for the first time, blowing the winds of change in WWE. John Cena’s attempts to end the Nexus’s reign of terror had proved to be ultimately unsuccessful, and he even lost to Barrett at WWE Hell in a Cell, forcing him to join the group.
With Cena’s WWE fate in Barrett’s hands, The Nexus leader fired Cena when he failed to win the WWE Championship from Randy Orton. But with Cena no longer an active member of the roster, he was free to attack Barrett as he pleased, which led the arrogant Brit to agree to a Chairs Match against Cena at WWE TLC. After laying out Barrett with a brutal Attitude Adjustment onto rows of steel chairs in the ring, Cena led his opponent to the entrance area and let loose a string of steel chairs attached to the event’s set, symbolically burying Nexus’s half-year domination of WWE. ( WATCH)
John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar: Backlash 2003 (April 27, 2003)
John Cena and Brock Lesnar squared off in a shockingly brutal contest at Extreme Rules 2012. But the palpable animosity of that night had been birthed nine years prior during their physical 2003 rivalry, which exploded in a WWE Title Match at Backlash that year.
Still early in their respective careers, both Superstars were out to prove they were the future of WWE and engaged in a vicious bout rivaled only by their match in 2012. Battling in and out of the ring, the powerful competitors traded momentum with neither securing a clear advantage. With no victory in sight, Cena attempted to take the WWE Champion out with a chain. The official stopped the Cenation leader, which allowed Lesnar to nail a massive F-5 to retain the WWE Title. Although unsuccessful, Cena proved that he could compete with a hulking powerhouse like Brock Lesnar. ( WATCH)
John Cena vs. The Undertaker: Vengeance 2003 (July 27, 2003)
Most Superstars begin their careers in the shallow end of the pool, but John Cena jumped right into the deep end. Battling highly skilled veterans like Chris Jericho and Kurt Angle in his earliest matches, the confident competitor found his gravest challenge in The Undertaker.
Facing The Last Outlaw in Denver’s Pepsi Center, the young Cena brought the fight to the veteran and battered him with such force that The Undertaker appeared to suffer internal injuries. The chain wielding competitor even blasted The Deadman with an Attitude Adjustment, but it wasn’t enough to stop the WWE icon. Catching the future WWE Champion off guard, The Undertaker flattened Cena with the Last Ride to win the bout, but it was clear that The Demon from Death Valley’s will had been tested. ( WATCH)
John Cena vs. Rob Van Dam vs. Edge: Raw (July 3, 2006)
What made Edge one of John Cena’s greatest rivals was the fact that The Rated-R Superstar was everything that the Cenation leader was not. Cena was loyal and Edge was a turncoat. Cena was PG and Edge was rated R. Cena was honest and Edge was an opportunist. These disparities were very clear on the July 3 Raw when Edge inserted himself into John Cena’s WWE Title opportunity against Rob Van Dam.
Finally receiving his rematch after losing the WWE Championship to RVD in front of a hostile New York City crowd at ECW One Night Stand, the Cenation leader was on his way to winning the title. After nailing the champion with a blistering Attitude Adjustment, Cena was ready to make the cover when The Ultimate Opportunist smashed him with the WWE Championship. The brutal shot knocked Cena out and allowed Edge to cover RVD to steal the title. ( WATCH FULL MATCH)
WWE Championship Elimination Chamber Match: New Year's Revolution 2006 (Jan. 8, 2006)
John Cena’s first foray into the Elimination Chamber may have been his toughest. Faced with five other Superstars gunning for his WWE Title, Cena was at the ultimate disadvantage.
In the end, Cena found himself trapped in the steel structure with Chris Masters and Carlito, who formed an alliance to clear out most of the other competitors in the Chamber Match, including Shawn Michaels, Kane and Kurt Angle. However, their desire to hold the WWE Championship did them in, as Carlito low-blowed The Masterpiece and rolled him up to eliminate his former ally. Unfortunately, Carlito also turned his back on Cena in the process, allowing the WWE Champion to roll him up to retain his title.
John Cena vs. Edge vs. Big Show: The 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania (April 5, 2009)
The sight of dozens of John Cena lookalikes marching to the ring before this Triple Threat Match for the WWE Championship Match at the 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania sent a message to WWE fans that this bout was going to be something special. ( WATCH)
With The Rated-R Superstar’s WWE Title up for grabs, Cena was not necessarily the focus of the match. A bizarre love triangle between Edge, The World’s Largest Athlete and Vickie Guerrero had taken center stage in the heated buildup to this match, but Cena grabbed the spotlight at the end of the bout. In a moment which has become one of the defining images of the 10-time WWE Champion’s career, Cena hoisted the combined 600-plus pounds of both Edge and Big Show onto his shoulders en route to victory. Not since Ken Patera bent a nail with his thumb has a display of power been so impressive.
John Cena vs. Triple H: Raw (Oct. 19, 2009)
Anytime John Cena and Triple H step in the ring its bound to be a classic, but this bout carried an extra weight. In less than a week at WWE Bragging Rights, the Cenation leader was set to face Randy Orton in a bout where the loser would be forced to leave Raw. If Cena didn’t win that match, this showdown with The Game could very well have been his final Monday night appearance.
Engineered by special guest host Snoop Dogg to give the West Newbury, Mass. native a memorable evening, the match delivered what WWE fans have come to expect from these two cornerstones of WWE. Mixing mat wrestling with good old fashioned brawling, the former WWE Champions pushed one another beyond their physical limits. In the end, it took three Pedigrees from The Game to beat Cena, but it was clear to all that the determined Superstar wouldn’t go down without a fight. ( WATCH)
John Cena vs. Eddie Guerrero: SmackDown (Sept. 11, 2003)
Cena’s had his sights set on the United States Title from the second he entered WWE. He quickly drew the ire of champion Eddie Guerrero in the summer of 2003. Guerrero, ready to put the rookie in his place, challenged him to a Latino Heat Parking Lot Brawl.
Surrounded by a circle of cars and the SmackDown roster, Cena brought the fight to Latino Heat, viciously tossing him through a windshield and going after him with all sorts of weapons, including a lawnmower. However, the Guerrero mantra of “lie, cheat, steal” proved to be the difference, as Eddie’s nephew Chavo clocked Cena with a trash can lid. That set Eddie up for the Frog Splash on the hood of a car for the victory. ( WATCH) While not his proudest moment, Cena definitely learned a lesson that would stick with him throughout his WWE career — watch your back.
John Cena & The Undertaker vs. DX vs. Jeri-Show: Raw (Nov. 16, 2009)
Madison Square Garden has been WWE’s home base since the days when Bruno Sammartino dominated the scene, so it’s no surprise that the sports-entertainment empire goes all out whenever they return home. On a night where the always inflammatory Roddy Piper made his return to Raw, John Cena formed an unexpected alliance with The Undertaker to take on D-Generation X and Chris Jericho & Big Show in a Triple Threat Tag Team Match of epic proportions.
Unsure of his partner from the start, Cena admitted that he was starting to believe The Deadman was actually dead, but that didn’t stop the two powerhouses from rocking the ring. Holding their own against two more experienced duos, the Cenation leader and The Demon from Death Valley weren’t exactly pulling off Hart Foundation-style double-team maneuvers. They were more or less just hitting whatever was in front of him. That proved to be more than enough in the end as the fearsome Undertaker distracted The Game, allowing Cena to deliver an Attitude Adjustment to get the win for his team in The World’s Most Famous Arena. ( WATCH FULL MATCH)
John Cena vs Batista: Extreme Rules 2010 (April 25, 2010)
John Cena found himself outmuscled once again in April 2010 at Extreme Rules. With a rabid Animal out for revenge after a WrestleMania defeat at the hands of the Cenation leader, Batista challenged Cena to a Last Man Standing Match for the WWE Championship. Determined to put his rival away for good, The Animal immediately tossed Cena around like a ragdoll, viciously hurling him through a barricade at ringside and sending him crashing through a table with a devastating spinebuster.
The Cenation leader quickly realized he would have to rely on his wits if he wanted to get the duke. He wore Batista down with the STF. The Animal managed to crawl to the corner in hopes of escaping. However, Cena had a plan to trap the powerhouse. He pulled a roll of duct tape from under the ring and wrapped it around Batista’s massive legs and the ring posts. The heavy-duty adhesive kept The Animal in place on the mat, unable to answer the referee’s ten-count, allowing Cena to retain his title. ( WATCH FULL MATCH)
John Cena vs. Sabu: WWE vs. ECW Head to Head (June 7, 2006)
Only four days before John Cena was set to defend the WWE Championship against Rob Van Dam in Manhattan’s Hammerstein Ballroom, he faced off against another ECW Original at the unique WWE vs. ECW Head to Head event. Sabu, considered by many to be the one Superstar who most embodied the spirit of ECW, had debuted on WWE programming two days prior in anticipation of ECW’s relaunch on Syfy. On Raw, Sabu laid out Cena with a massive legdrop off the top rope during the champion’s contract signing with Rob Van Dam.
To say their battle at Head to Head was a contrast of styles would be the understatement of the century. Cena attempted to ground Sabu with his signature brawling tactics, while the unpredictable Arabian utilized his array of innovative aerial maneuvers. One mistake by the ECW icon landed him into Cena’s arms, and the champ nailed an Attitude Adjustment. A moment later, with the STF applied, the locker room emptied with WWE and ECW superstars storming the ring in absolute carnage. There might not have been an official winner, but this clash between the two company’s faces was one for the ages. ( WATCH)
John Cena vs. Edge: Backlash 2009 (April 26, 2009)
Of all the intense rivalries waged over a World Championship in the 2000s, the most bitter was between Edge and John Cena. At the 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania, Cena defeated Edge and Big Show to win the World Heavyweight Title. One month later at Backlash, The Rated-R Superstar invoked his rematch clause and the rivals faced off in a Last Man Standing Match.
From the moment the opening bell sounded, Edge and Cena engaged in a brutal brawl. Each Superstar pulled out all the stops early in order to get their opponent down quickly. Two of the most resilient competitors in WWE history, the ring warriors battled in the ring, through the crowd and all over the arena. The bout could easily have gone all night, but as The Rated-R Superstar and Cenation leader traded blows on the entrance stage, Big Show appeared, grabbed Cena and slammed him through a spotlight at ringside. The interference from The World’s Largest Athlete prematurely ended one of Cena’s best brawls and cost The Champ his World Heavyweight Title. ( WATCH FULL MATCH)
John Cena vs. Randy Orton: Breaking Point 2009 (Sept. 13, 2009)
John Cena’s “Never Give Up” motto was put to the ultimate test against longtime rival Randy Orton at Breaking Point 2009, where the Cenation leader challenged The Viper for the WWE Championship in a sadistic “I Quit” Match.
After leveling Cena with an RKO onto a steel chair less than one week earlier on Raw, the calculating Viper used all manner of vicious weaponry — including the steel steps and a TV monitor — to target Cena’s skull. Orton cruelly brought handcuffs into play to further incapacitate Cena, punishing his reeling challenger with a diabolical succession of strikes to the head and ribs with a Singapore cane. Nearly losing consciousness from the pain at one point in the bout, Cena ultimately persevered, and at the opportune time handcuffed WWE’s Apex Predator to himself and left The Viper with nowhere to go. Using the chain of the handcuffs to apply additional pressure on Orton’s neck and shoulder with the STF, Cena ultimately captured the WWE Title by making his opponent say the two words he himself has never said: “I quit.” ( WATCH)
John Cena vs. The Rock: WrestleMania 29 (April 7, 2013)
After failing to defeat The Rock at WrestleMania XXVIII, John Cena spent the remainder of 2012 in a funk. He was unable to reclaim the WWE Championship and he encountered a great deal of personal and professional strife. Setting out to make 2013 different, the Cenation leader won the Royal Rumble Match and chose to face WWE Champion The Rock at WrestleMania 29.
In front of 80,676 WWE fans inside MetLife Stadium, Cena strived for redemption against the action star in a contest rivaling the greatness of their bout a year earlier. The hard-fought battle proved the legendary status of both Superstars, but when the dust settled, Cena reclaimed the WWE Championship and, ultimately, redemption.
Following the match, the former bitter rivals embraced in the ultimate display of respect.
John Cena vs. Triple H: Night of Champions 2008 (June 29, 2008)
The Cenation leader was in a unique predicament heading into Night of Champions in July 2008. WWE Champion Triple H had been sent to SmackDown in that year’s WWE Draft, meaning that the red brand would be without a world champion if Cena did not beat The Game in their showdown. Cena had defeated Triple H once before, forcing him to tap out at WrestleMania 22, but things were different this time. The Cenation Commander-in-Chief was the challenger and he had the added pressure of bringing the championship back to Monday nights.
Luckily for Cena, The Game was hobbled early after landing awkwardly on his knee, which gave the Raw Superstar a target. He went to work on The Cerebral Assassin’s leg, trapping him in multiple STFs. Triple H refused to tap out this night, though, getting back to his feet and regaining control of the match. Cena fought out of The Game’s submission hold and attempted to deliver an Attitude Adjustment, but Triple H elbowed his way out and laid out Cena with a Pedigree to retain the title and even the score. ( WATCH FULL MATCH)
John Cena vs. Kurt Angle: No Way Out 2005 (Feb. 20, 2005)
In 2005, the Cenation leader had an opportunity to challenge for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 21, but there was one major obstacle standing in his way — Kurt Angle. Since his debut against Angle in 2002, Cena struggled to best the Olympic gold medalist in singles competition. But at No Way Out 2005, the stakes could not have been higher.
The two rivals had a history of giving each other everything and then some and their battle in Angle’s hometown of Pittsburgh, Pa., did not disappoint. Both Superstars traded momentum throughout the contest, both trying on numerous occasions to take the other out with their respective finishing maneuvers.
In the three years since his debut, Cena had clearly grown as a competitor and Angle’s frustration was obvious. In an attempt to stop the future “Champ” once and for all, the Olympic gold medalist tried to use Cena’s own steel chain against him. Instead, Angle received an Attitude Adjustment and the Cenation leader secured his first WWE Championship Match on The Grandest Stage of Them All. ( WATCH FULL MATCH)
John Cena vs. JBL: Judgment Day 2005 (May 22, 2005)
Following his WWE Title loss to John Cena at WrestleMania 21, JBL had a chance to redeem himself against The Champ in an “I Quit” Match at Judgment Day. His strategy was simple, overpower and beat Cena until he couldn’t take anymore. But winning the WWE Championship on The Grandest Stage of Them All gave Cena a newfound confidence, which was clear as he entered the ring on the flatbed of a tractor-trailer with a DJ playing his entrance theme.
The contest itself was brutal, cementing a character trait of Cena’s that he rarely receives credit for – he is one of the toughest Superstars ever. Neither competitor maintained any advantage for long as Cena put JBL through an announce table, but the financial guru countered with a devastating steel chair attack. The battle raged all over Minneapolis’ Target Center and both men refused to throw in the towel. Eventually, JBL’s own strategy of beating his opponent into quitting backfired and in order to save himself from the wrath of a steel-pipe wielding Cena, the New York native quit and the Cenation leader proved to be a true champion.
2008 Royal Rumble Match (Jan. 27, 2008)
On an Oct. 2007 edition of Raw, John Cena suffered a serious injury to his pectoral muscle, and had surgery the following day. With an estimated recovery time at seven months, Cena was stripped of the WWE Championship, ending a reign that was the longest since Hulk Hogan’s first reign ended nearly 10 years prior. Cena was put out of sight and out of mind by the fans, but Cena shocked everybody with his return.
At Madison Square Garden, Cena made a stunning appearance as the surprise No. 30 entrant in the Royal Rumble Match. This unprecedented recovery time of less than four months shocked even the knowledgeable New York City fans. Cena came face to face with Triple H, the bout’s original favorite, and eliminated The Game to win the contest and earn a spot in the WrestleMania main event. Cena broke the record of the shortest time a winner has competed in a Rumble Match at far less than nine minutes, completing a return that only be described as triumphant. ( WATCH)
John Cena vs. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels: Survivor Series 2009 (Nov. 22, 2009)
John Cena was all but doomed going into his Triple Threat Match against Shawn Michaels and Triple H at Survivor Series in 2009. Defending his WWE Championship against both members of DX simultaneously, the Cenation leader was at a clear disadvantage inside Washington, D.C.’s Verizon Center.
Cena had squared off against and even teamed with HBK and The Game at different points in his career, but to stare down both Legends with the WWE Title on the line raised the stakes. Lucky for The Champ, both HBK and Triple H wanted to reclaim the WWE Championship and the match quickly became every Superstar for himself. Battling each member of DX separately before the trio of Superstars all skirmished at once, Cena managed to wear them down enough and keep himself in the battle. The Cenation leader retained the title after HBK took out Triple H with Sweet Chin Music and Cena gave Michaels an Attitude Adjustment onto the prone Game. ( PHOTOS)
John Cena vs. The Undertaker: Smackdown (June 24, 2004)
Today, John Cena is confident. In 2004, he was arrogant. So much so, that he stood in the center of the ring and challenged The Demon from Death Valley to a match on Smackdown in June 2004. In fairness, Cena wasn’t exactly out of order. The week prior, an angry Undertaker had leveled the WWE upstart for no good reason, leaving Cena with little choice but to stand up for himself. Death sentence? Maybe, but anything less from the future WWE Champion and he would have been labeled a coward by every competitor in the locker room.
So Cena stepped up. He looked The Deadman in the eye, gave him his best shot and damned if he didn’t nearly beat one of WWE’s most iconic figures. In a nail biter of an ending, Cena laid The Underatker out with an Attitude Adjustment, but couldn’t get a three count, because the referee had been downed earlier in the bout. By the time the official came to, The Deadman had smashed Cena with a chain and spiked him with a Tombstone. It may have been a loss for the young Superstar, but it taught him more about what to expect in the squared cricle than a win ever could.
John Cena vs. Big Show: WrestleMania XX (March 14, 2004)
The 20th edition of The Show of Shows was John Cena’s breakthrough.
Battling Big Show for the United States Title at Madison Square Garden, the brash, young Superstar had a tall task ahead of him. The World’s Largest Athlete tossed Cena around with ease, forcing the challenger to reassess his game plan.
After Big Show kicked out of the Attitude Adjustment, the determined competitor saw he had little chance of overpowering the giant. Cena knew he would have to outsmart him. He tossed his trademark chain and padlock across the ring, distracting the official and giving Cena the opportunity to clock Big Show with brass knuckles. The Cenation leader then brought New York City to its feet with an unbelievable show of strength, picking up the 400-pound behemoth for another AA to pick up his first championship. ( WATCH FULL MATCH)
John Cena vs. Rob Van Dam: ECW One Night Stand 2006 (June 11, 2006)
John Cena is accustomed to hearing a few jeers when he makes his entrance, but nothing could have prepared him for the reception he received at ECW’s One Night Stand in 2006. Defending his WWE Title against “Mr. Money in the Bank” Rob Van Dam on the ECW turf of Manhattan’s Hammerstein Ballroom, the Cenation leader entered to such a heavy gust of boos that he was nearly blown back by the animosity.
Still, the ECW diehards could boo all they wanted. The WWE Champion’s focus was on defending his title. Silencing his critics early, Cena proved he could handle the agile RVD, but the bout fell out of his favor when a mysterious individual in a black motorcycle helmet drove Cena through a table. Knocked silly, the WWE stalwart was squashed by Van Dam’s Five Star Frogsplash and lost a match that he fought so hard to win. ( WATCH)
John Cena vs. Chris Jericho: SummerSlam 2005 (Aug. 21, 2005)
After Cena was drafted to Monday nights in 2005, Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff set out to prove that the Cenation leader was unworthy of holding the WWE Championship. The Superstar he chose to prove his point was Chris Jericho, a ring veteran whose pure technical ability was the perfect to counter Cena’s bruising style in the ring.
When the two finally faced each other at SummerSlam, Jericho was able to wriggle his way out of the Attitude Adjustment and floor Cena with a DDT that reverberated throughout Washington, D.C.’s MCI Center. Y2J locked Cena in the Walls of Jericho on several occasions, but the resilient WWE Champion refused to give up.
Eventually, Jericho’s frustration led him to accost the referee, giving Cena time to recover. Y2J walked right into an Attitude Adjustment that connected, allowing Cena to retain his title and prove Bischoff very wrong. ( WATCH FULL MATCH)
John Cena vs. Booker T: No Mercy 2004 (Oct. 3, 2004)
The most daunting challenge of John Cena’s early career was a “Best of Five” series for the United States Title against then-champion Booker T. With the series tied at two apiece, Cena and Booker definitively ended their epic struggle in East Rutherford, NJ., at No Mercy.
Easily the best match of the series with the highest stakes, Cena and the former WCW star traded momentum with each competitor executing their signature moves, but to no avail. The bout truly highlighted Cena’s resilience as he bounced back from a crushing Book End that nearly ended the contest. In the end, the Cenation leader managed to keep Booker T at bay long enough to counter the five-time WCW Champion’s Scissors Kick and regain the U.S. Title with an Attitude Adjustment. ( WATCH)
John Cena vs. Rey Mysterio: RAW (July 25, 2011)
When CM Punk absconded with the WWE Title following his victory over John Cena at Money in the Bank, Mr. McMahon announced a tournament to crown a new champion. Rey Mysterio defeated three Superstars en route to winning his first WWE Title, but Cena, who did not receive entry into the tournament, was given an immediate chance to regain the title from Mysterio.
Wrestling his second WWE Championship Match in one night, Mysterio took on Cena in a competitive back-and-forth affair. Both Superstars looked to have the match won on several occasions, but each finishing combination was reversed to provide a dazzling level of unpredictability. In the bout’s thrilling conclusion, the champion looked to have Cena in position for the 619, but Cena’s “Never give up” mantra shone through. He snatched his opponent, threw him onto his shoulders, and executed a picture-perfect Attitude Adjustment to become WWE Champion for the ninth time. ( WATCH)
WWE Championship Elimination Chamber Match: Elimination Chamber 2010 (Feb. 21, 2010)
2010’s WWE Elimination Chamber event was a night of highs and lows for John Cena.
After defeating Sheamus, Triple H, Ted DiBiase, Kofi Kingston and Randy Orton inside the unforgiving steel asylum to win his second Elimination Chamber Match, the Raw Superstar had a brief moment to bask in his sixth WWE Championship victory. But mere minutes after surviving this hell, Cena was interrupted by Mr. McMahon who announced that the Superstar would have to immediately defend the title against Batista. Battered and broken, Cena was easy pickings for The Animal, but the resilient Superstar knew he'd gain retribution against his ego-driven rival soon enough. ( WATCH)
John Cena vs. Kurt Angle: SmackDown (June 27, 2002)
One of John Cena’s most impressive matches was also his very first. On the June 27, 2002 edition of SmackDown, the young Superstar answered an open challenge from Kurt Angle. Inspired by a speech from Mr. McMahon to the WWE locker room earlier in the week, Cena stood up to the Olympic gold medalist and cited the very trait Mr. McMahon was looking for in a Superstar — ruthless aggression.
With a powerful haymaker, the future "Champ" went on an explosive offense and gave Angle — a former WWE Champion and one of the greatest amateur wrestlers of all time — a run for his money. Although he managed to counter both the Angle Lock and Angle Slam, Cena ultimately fell victim to the Olympian’s experience. ( WATCH FULL MATCH)
Although his bid against Angle was unsuccessful, Cena proved his abilities and earned the respect of his fellow WWE Superstars, including the legendary The Undertaker.
John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels: WrestleMania 23 (April 1, 2007)
Just one year after defeating D-Generation X's Triple H on The Grandest Stage of Them All, John Cena found himself standing across the ring from another DX member at WrestleMania 23 when he took on WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels in front of 80,000-plus at Detroit’s Ford Field.
Honoring the Motor City, Cena burst into the stadium in a Ford Mustang, shattering a glass partition in the process. ( WATCH) The opening moments of the bout set the tone for the main event. Michaels extended a handshake, which Cena refused, leading HBK to slap the WWE Champion in the face. The two warriors slugged it out all over ringside, where HBK nearly knocked out the champion with a devastating piledriver on the steel ring steps.
After waging war for nearly half an hour, Cena muscled up Michaels for an Attitude Adjustment, only for HBK to wiggle out. The WWE Champion, however, caught on before The Showstopper could do anything, tripping him to the mat and locking in the STF. Michaels had no choice but to tap out.
John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar: Extreme Rules 2012 (April 29, 2012)
Those WWE fans in Chicago’s Rosemont Horizon who witnessed John Cena’s Extreme Rules Match against the ferocious Brock Lesnar firsthand would describe it as a mugging, a public assault that very well should have been stopped by authorities before it was ever finished. John Cena saw it as an opportunity.
Returning to WWE after busting orbital bones as the top dog in the MMA world, Lesnar came to Extreme Rules 2012 to put an exclamation point on the statement he’d been making for years — he was the alpha male of combat sports and anyone stupid enough to challenge him would become just another victim. Cena was willing to test Lesnar's confidence, but it looked as though the Superstar had made a major mistake when his dangerous opponent began to tear him apart. Brutalized with clubbing blows and devastating slams for the better part of 15 minutes, the Cenation leader refused to quit and ultimately found his opening. Nailing his 300-pound opponent with an AA onto the steel ring steps, Cena won the match and proved that “hustle, loyalty, respect” weren’t just words on a T-shirt. ( PHOTOS)
John Cena vs. Batista: Wrestlemania XXVI (March 28, 2010)
After retaining his WWE Championship following a grueling Elimination Chamber Match in 2010, Cena was ordered by Mr. McMahon to defend his title against Batista. The Champ was helpless and The Animal took advantage, slamming Cena and claiming the WWE Title. In the weeks that followed, Cena invoked his rematch clause for WrestleMania as Batista revealed his motivations – The Animal believed he should be the face of WWE, NOT Cena.
When the titans clashed at University of Phoenix stadium, momentum was strongly in Batista’s favor. The powerhouse took out his jealous rage on Cena and it looked as though The Animal would indeed become the face of WWE. But John Cena, as tenacious as ever, fought back and began to overpower his rival. The West Newbury, Mass. native pulled out all the stops to keep The Animal reeling, including a jaw-dropping Five-Knuckle Shuffle from the top rope. Finally, Cena managed to reverse a Batista Bomb and lock his opponent in the STF to claim his ninth WWE Title. ( WATCH)
John Cena vs. Umaga: Royal Rumble 2007 (Jan. 28, 2007)
John Cena’s reputation has become that of an indestructible superhero, but the 10-time WWE Champion’s best matches are those in which he appears, for a time, to be utterly defenseless. Such was the case in his 2007 Royal Rumble melee against the wild Umaga.
Putting his WWE Title on the line against the Superstar dubbed The Samoan Bulldozer, Cena felt the full brunt of the 350-pound monster’s unbridled wrath. Bruised and split open before he even had a chance to tighten his shoelaces, the WWE Champion looked so helpless that old school fans half expected to see Robert Gibson standing in a neutral corner, begging for him to make the tag out. Of course, Cena did not cry "uncle." Instead, he used the ring ropes to apply the most punishing STF of his career and didn’t let go until Umaga was seeing little birdies. No other Superstar would beat The Samoan Bulldozer with such exclamation. ( WATCH)
John Cena vs. CM Punk: Money in the Bank 2011 (July 17, 2011)
In the summer of 2011, CM Punk suddenly exploded as the No. 1 contender for John Cena’s WWE Championship and dropped his now iconic pipe bomb on both Cena and the WWE Universe. After airing his grievances on the sports-entertainment landscape, The Voice of the Voiceless was suspended by Mr. McMahon. Cena, though, demanded the match, and the challenger was reinstated by The Chairman.
With Punk threatening to leave the company with WWE’s most coveted possession, Cena’s back was against the wall more than ever. Mr. McMahon had even threatened to fire Cena if Punk left his hometown arena with the title. The match is remembered as having been Punk’s night, but even with all the momentum The Second City Saint had going into the match, Cena nearly turned back his opponent. Punk ended up besting Cena and winning his first WWE Championship, but Cena might have been victorious if he did not break the STF hold he had applied to the challenger. With The Chairman calling for the bell, Cena refused to win in any sort of tainted manner and the distraction likely cost him the bout and the title. Cena’s effort fell just short of heroic, but his fortitude was clear. ( WATCH FULL MATCH)
John Cena vs. Triple H: WrestleMania 22 (April 2, 2006)
Ric Flair often said, “To be the man, you have to beat the man.” For John Cena, that man was Triple H.
At WrestleMania 22, the Cenation leader put his WWE Title up against one of his most daunting challengers when he battled The Game on The Grandest Stage of Them All. From the start, there was no clear advantage between the competitor who never quits and one of the most dominant and experienced ring veterans in history. With neither man controlling the pace for long, Cena proved his mettle by cleverly reversing a Pedigree into the STF. Although The Game managed to break free of the maneuver on the first try, a second Pedigree attempt was met with the same result, leading to Cena forcing The Cerebral Assassin to tap out. On that April evening, Cena most definitely beat the man. ( WATCH)
John Cena vs. Randy Orton: Bragging Rights 2009 (Oct. 25, 2009)
It had to end this way. After a brawl in the Hell in a Cell, a harrowing “I Quit” Match and multiple exchanges of the WWE Title, the epic 2009 rivalry between John Cena and Randy Orton culminated in brutal fashion when the two Superstars faced off in a One Hour, Anything Goes WWE Iron Man Match for the WWE Championship.
With 60 minutes on the clock, the competitors who first squared off in Ohio Valley Wrestling at the dawn of the decade used every available blunt object and jagged edge to punish the other into submission. All told, 11 falls were counted before the clock ran out, with Cena forcing Orton to tap out to the STF in the final seconds to claim the victory. As the cliché goes, the Cenation leader had won the battle and the war, but standing there with his body covered in welts and a gaping forehead wound held tenuously shut with glue, the new WWE Champion looked less like a winner and more like a survivor. ( WATCH)
John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels: RAW (April 23, 2007)
While the leader of the Cenation’s showdown with Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 23 was an instant classic, it was their Raw rematch that the WWE Universe is still talking about today. Three weeks after The Show of Shows, Cena and HBK squared off in London, putting everything on the line in a grueling bout that lasted the entire second hour of the show.
The two Superstars battered each other all around ringside, but Cena couldn’t defeat Michaels. When the official implored the then-WWE Champion to take the action back in the ring, Cena exclaimed, “He won’t stay down!” The West Newbury, Mass. native looked to finally have Michaels beat when he got him in position for an Attitude Adjustment, but The Showstopper flipped out onto his feet and leveled the champ with Sweet Chin Music for the three count. Though Cena did not come out of the match victorious, he gained the respect of the WWE Universe for being able to hang with one of the all-time greats. ( WATCH FULL MATCH)
John Cena vs. Edge: Unforgiven 2006 (Sept. 17, 2006)
Each of John Cena’s rivals has defined him in a significant way. In his wars with Batista, the Cenation leader displayed his power. Against Shawn Michaels, Cena confirmed his skill. Versus Brock Lesnar, it was his determination. And with Edge, John Cena showed his rage.
Too often dismissed as a grinning, kid friendly good guy, the powerhouse from New England proved just how severe he can be when he was pushed to the brink by The Rated-R Superstar in 2006. Leading into their Tables, Ladders & Chairs Match for Edge’s WWE Title, the Cenation leader witnessed the cunning champion attack his father and slap him across the face. It was a shocking show of disrespect the Superstar could not stomach and he made that clear as he brutalized Edge in front of a hostile crowd in the Canadian competitior's hometown of Toronto. Smashing Edge in the match he made famous, Cena finished his opponent by executing an Attitude Adjustment from the top of a ladder, sending The Ultimate Opportunist crashing recklessly through two tables.
It was a brutal finish that seemed to shock even Cena himself, but in that moment it became clearer than ever that John Cena is a man who cannot be stopped. ( WATCH)
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