Cena-Triple H: Their journey before the tourney
Triple H. John Cena. Both champions, in every sense of the word, though neither Superstar currently holds WWE's ultimate prize. That may change starting Monday night, however, when the two battle on Raw to determine who will face WWE Champion Randy Orton at Night of Champions.
As the final two participants to advance from last Monday's four-man tournament, The Game and Cena have torn the WWE Universe's loyalties in opposing directions regarding this match. And you can't blame them; after all, neither Triple H nor the 12 Rounds star have established a history of dominance over the other. Each holds a victory in one-on-one competition, so Monday's contest will serve as the ultimate in rubber matches.
When it comes to wearing the gold, most Superstars in WWE can't compare to a 13-time World Champion like Triple H. But even The King of Kings admitted to WWE.com's Joey Styles following last Monday's Raw that Cena is not most Superstars.
"I've faced a lot of guys in the ring, but I've never seen anyone with a greater passion or work ethic for this business than Cena," The Game said. "It still burns me that I underestimated him at WrestleMania 22, and it cost me the match."
Though Cena was WWE Champion heading into their April 2006 conflict in Chicago, he was also considered a heavy underdog against a Cerebral Assassin with 10 prior World Title reigns. Yet Cena never succumbed to the notion of being outmatched, even when Triple H had kicked out of his signature Attitude Adjustment -- a feat that had been, and continues to be, Herculean in nature. Instead, he continued with the game plan that brought him to the big dance in Chi-town: perseverance and an unconquerable will to win. And, after countering a Pedigree with an STF that left Triple H no choice but to tap out, that's exactly what Cena did.
[WrestleMania 22 photos: Cena vs. Triple H]
"Cena was one step ahead of me that night; I can't deny it," The Game recalled. "But like I showed him last year, I learn from my mistakes. And I don't make them twice."
By last year, Triple H is referring to his second match with Cena -- fittingly, at Night of Champions. And in the weeks building toward their June 2008 rematch, it was The King of Kings wearing the gold and insisting that Cena would never be good as him. By that point, Cena could no longer be considered an automatic "underdog," yet even he had to tip a "U Can't C Me" cap to The Game, who withstood the STF and fought his way out before hitting the Pedigree for the win.
[Cena vs. Triple H II: Night of Champions 2008]
"We don't really see eye-to-eye, probably because we're similar in the ways that matter most in the ring. But I give him a lot of credit," Cena told Joey Styles of his opponent last Monday following Raw. "Beating guys like The Rock, Big Show, Chris Jericho, Randy Orton … Triple H has worn the WWE Title more than anyone else in history [eight times]. You can just see it with every breath he takes: He lives to be champion."
[Triple H: 13 Times the King]
As much as Cena respects The Game, however, he's not quite ready to acknowledge him as Randy Orton's opponent for this year's Night of Champions.
"That No. 1 contender's spot is mine," he emphatically declared. "I'll go through whoever I have to, do whatever I've got to do, to win back the WWE Title. If that means going through Triple H on Raw, then that's exactly how it's going to be."
The Game, however, looks to the future with an equally vigorous, converse perspective.
"Cena, you're a top-notch athlete, you're freakishly strong and you know how to get the job done against most guys in the ring," Triple H said. "But I'm not most guys. I'm the guy. And I'm the guy who's going to Night of Champions, beating Orton and taking back what belongs to me."