Editors’ choice: Who will be the next John Cena?
From the venerable Bruno Sammartino to the controversial “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, only a handful of competitors can say they’ve been the face of WWE. John Cena has filled that role for 11 years now.
Whether you’re chanting “Let’s go, Cena!” or “Cena sucks!” you can’t help but put him in the conversation with sports-entertainment’s greatest Legends.
But like with Sammartino and Austin before him, a day will come when a young cub takes the lion’s spot atop the pride. So who comes after John Cena? WWE.com’s editors have a few ideas of who will become the next face of sports-entertainment.
WWE’s top dogs have worn jorts (twice), now it’s time for some jeans. I’d wager my clothes, my boots and my motorcycle that no Superstar today is as beloved as Dean Ambrose, whose devil-may-care attitude has positioned him as the PG Era’s closest equivalent to “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.
He’s woefully short on hardware, but with the craziness of a jackal, the moral complex of a hooligan and the self-preservation instincts of a soldier, The Lunatic Fringe has all the intangibles to be the new “Face That Runs the Place.” — ANTHONY BENIGNO
When Roman Reigns won the 2014 Superstar of the Year Slammy, it seemed the WWE Universe had picked its new icon.
His post-Slammy coronation has yet to come, though. Reigns watched the man who stabbed him in the back, Seth Rollins, stand tall at the end of WrestleMania 31 in what many believed would be Reigns’ moment. His attempt at redemption fell flat at Money in the Bank, thanks to Bray Wyatt.
Reigns has wrestling in his blood, but he’s got a chip on his shoulder now, too. A hungry Superstar fights through the hard times, and even though The Big Dog now sits in a career valley thanks to Rollins and Wyatt, he never lost sight of the mountaintop. — JEFF LABOON
It is glaringly obvious that Sasha Banks has hustle. Just watch her compete in the ring and you can plainly see that she has the same rare-breed work ethic of John Cena. Her offense is razor sharp, her comebacks are relentless and she is far too tenacious to ever contemplate quitting.
The one thing The Boss possesses that Cena never could, however, is a total disregard for both loyalty and respect. Banks pays no mind to public perception or the WWE Universe’s opinion — she is all about No. 1. That distinct trait will allow her to cash in where Cena simply never could. — RYAN PAPPOLLA
Seth Rollins is an acquired taste. He’s devious, detestable and exudes all the sportsmanship of a dodgy hyena. He’s also the reigning WWE World Heavyweight Champion. That alone separates him from every Superstar on the roster. And when thinking about a substitute for 15-time WWE World Heavyweight Champion John Cena, starting at the summit makes good sense.
Though being impressive in the ring is crucial, any face of the WWE also requires mic skills. Rollins has a way with words, whether in the ring or under the media spotlight.
All of which is to say that while Cena may be irreplaceable in the present, the self-proclaimed “Future of WWE” awaits. And that future looks bright. — GREG ADKINS
Underneath the gold face paint of Stardust, a second-generation Superstar stands ready to grasp his birthright. Through an ever-changing array of personas, Cody Rhodes has proven himself to be one of WWE’s most wide-ranging and well-rounded performers. In fact, put the former Intercontinental Champion face-to-face with John Cena right now and I can guarantee you he will not only hold his own on the mic, but also push the Cenation leader to the limit inside the squared circle.
It doesn’t matter if he’s sporting a mask, a well-manicured mustache or full makeup, because Rhodes has the natural talent and charisma to be the next face of WWE. — SCOTT TAYLOR
A Superstar that slinks into battle donning nightmare-inducing body paint and calls himself “The Demon” doesn’t exactly seem like the embodiment of “Hustle, Loyalty and Respect.” Yet, Finn Bálor is just the type of indomitable competitor who can carry John Cena’s torch into a new era.
Ensnaring the collective imagination of the WWE Universe with spellbinding entrance theatrics, Bálor supplements his dichotomous personas with intense athleticism between the ropes, making this enigmatic warrior a bona fide Raw main-eventer in the not-too-distant future. Need proof? Just watch his stunning NXT Championship victory over Kevin Owens at Beast in the East.
The Champ is here in WWE, for sure, but NXT’s Demon is coming. —JAMES WORTMAN