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John Cena def. Seth Rollins (Tables Match)

CLEVELAND — In a Tables Match that was characterized by rampant outside interference, a controversial restart and more busted furniture than a frat house living room, it was the second coming of a fallen hero that proved to be the deciding factor.

Check out intense photos from the Tables Match

Roman Reigns made his surprise return to the ring in the final moments of a delirious brawl between John Cena and Seth Rollins, where he neutralized an interfering Big Show and rocked Rollins with a Superman Punch to give Cena the opening he needed to put away Mr. Money in the Bank. Had Reigns not arrived when he did, Cena may very well have lost the bout along with the opportunity to challenge Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Title, which hung in the balance of this dangerous contest.

Match preview: Lesnar vs. Cena at Royal Rumble

The 15-time World Champion had everything thrown at him in a match where he was at a disadvantage from the very beginning. With the eely Paul Heyman keeping a watchful eye from ringside and J&J Security injecting themselves into the bout from the opening bell, the Cenation leader was forced to fight a constant uphill battle.

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Cena’s ability to persevere has always been his greatest strength, though, and he showed it constantly throughout the match. When Rollins attempted to Irish whip him through a table that was propped in the corner, Cena somehow managed to skid in the opposite direction, jump up and put Rollins down for a Five Knuckle Shuffle. And when the numbers game got to be too much for him, Cena led the fight up the entrance ramp, where he grabbed a massive piece of guardrail and laid out all three of his rivals. When J&J Security attempted to get back into the match later on, Cena put them both on his shoulders at the same time and gave them an unbelievable AA through a table. 

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The contest looked to be Cena’s from there, but, like a scared rat, Rollins is always at his most lethal when backed into a corner. When the Cenation leader nearly put his opponent away with an AA through a table, Mr. Money in the Bank somehow managed to arc his body over the hardwood, land on his feet and then leap back and knock Cena face-first into the table. The wicked Rollins then attempted to Curb Stomp Cena, only to be stopped by his opponent and nailed with an AA through the table from the top rope!

The bout would’ve ended there — if only the referee hadn’t been knocked out moments prior. That unfortunate KO led to the bout’s most controversial moment as both Cena and Rollins sent each other through a pair of ringside tables at the same time. This brought out two officials — one who called Cena the winner and the other favoring Rollins, which ultimately forced the original referee to restart the whole thing.

When the second bell rang, Cena immediately dropped Rollins onto the announce table with an AA, but it refused to break. Though exhausted, the determined Superstar slid into the ring to set up another table, which brought out the massive Big Show. The World’s Largest Athlete has played spoiler in so many Cena matches it’s hard to keep score, and he looked to do it again at WWE TLC where he brought Cena to his knees with a series of devastating punches.

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Then, suddenly, the echo of a familiar entrance theme filled the Quicken Loans Arena, and Roman Reigns made his way to the ring through the crowd. Choosing this moment to make his unexpected return, the 2014 Superstar of the Year rattled Big Show with a Superman Punch and then took him out with a Spear through a table. Seconds later, Reigns stopped Rollins, too, rocking his former partner with a second swing of his Superman Punch.

See Reigns accept the Slammy for 2014 Superstar of the Year

Cena was in the right place at the right time at that moment, and hoisted his opponent onto his shoulders before launching him through a table for the hardwood-splintering victory. For a moment during the 15-time World Champion’s celebration, Cena met eyes with the returning Reigns — surprisingly little interaction between two of WWE’s most popular Superstars.

John’s mind may have been on Lesnar, whom, it was announced, Cena will face in their final battle at the Royal Rumble. Roman’s thoughts may have been concentrating on the 30-Man Royal Rumble Match itself, within which he revealed he will compete next month. One has to wonder, though, if their minds will soon be on each other should both their missions be accomplished on January 25, live on WWE Network.