Is John Cena cursed by Hell in a Cell?
John Cena has a problem. No, not the surgically repaired left triceps that kept him on the disabled list for the last couple of months. And not the affluent fellow with the fancy scarves and fancier accent who’ll defend his World Heavyweight Championship against the Cenation leader this Sunday at Hell in a Cell. No, John Cena’s biggest problem is that his first match back — as momentous a comeback as has ever been planned — happens to fall on his own personal Black Sunday: The WWE Hell in a Cell pay-per-view.
Cena’s dominance has grown into something of a legend even while the 13-time World Champion’s career still chugs along. Yet in his three-and-a-half (we’ll explain) trips to WWE Hell in a Cell, the Cenation leader has put up a goose egg in terms of victories. That’s more than an anomaly, and more than a coincidence. That’s a trend. And with a make-or-break match approaching — a win could set the tone for the next phase of Cena’s career; a loss could cut him off at the knees before he even gets going — it’s one that has to hang heavy over the once, and perhaps future, Champ’s head.
Before Cena makes his potentially grand return, WWE.com looks back at his ignominious record at WWE Hell in a Cell … and what it may mean for his future.
2009: Loses the WWE Championship
Cena’s first trip to WWE Hell in a Cell saw him set foot inside the steel structure itself to defend his WWE Championship against Randy Orton. As you may be able to guess, he did not walk out with the title in hand. Granted, there were a fair few shenanigans that played a hand in The Viper’s victory: The referee was knocked out cold during the match and therefore unable to record Orton’s tapout to the STF, but the official would come to by the time Orton had punted The Champ into Tuesday for the deciding pinfall.
A less cynical member of the WWE Universe could simply chalk the loss up to fluky bad luck and call it a day. Yet it was an ominous start, at best, to Cena’s career at the event, and the odd turns of fate would follow Cena throughout his next two trips to Hell in a Cell. Still, all things considered, it probably could have been worse for a first time out. At least he didn’t lose his job, get attacked by a fan or get forced into subservience.
2010: Forced into subservience by The Nexus after being attacked by a fan
When Cena says some people like him and some don’t, the WWE Universe might not fully realize that he isn’t just blowing smoke: Some people really don’t like him. In 2010, that group didn’t only extend to Wade Barrett and The Nexus, who were waging guerilla warfare on the WWE locker room, but also a couple of audacious, would-be Nexus members who decided they couldn’t stand to see Cena defeat Barrett at Hell in a Cell.
That this win in particular happened to come with the heaviest of stipulations — if Cena won, The Nexus would disband, but if Barrett won, Cena had to join the rebel faction — was an even bigger turn of hard luck than the Cenation leader's maiden trip to Hell in a Cell. In fact, the Barrett bout was less a wrestling match than a staggering demonstration of Murphy’s Law. Cena had the Brit dead to rights when one “fan” (actually an NXT prospect attempting to gain favor with Barrett) attempted to bum-rush the ring; with the referee distracted, a second intruder capitalized by cold-cocking Cena, and Barrett scored the ensuing pin. Realistically, it’s doubtful that this particular misfortune will repeat itself on Sunday. But clearly, anything and everything is in play when Cena heads to WWE Hell in a Cell.
2011: Loses the WWE Championship (again)
There are no two ways around it: This one was Cena’s own fault. The Champ’s second trip inside the place where rivalries are settled saw his WWE Championship up for grabs against Alberto Del Rio and CM Punk, and to put it bluntly, he was flat-out outsmarted. Everything was going smoothly (relatively speaking) until a different kind of hell broke loose, and The Miz & R-Truth — whose renegade quest for respect had made them Public Enemy No. 1 within WWE — stormed the ring and laid waste to all three competitors.
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WWE COO Triple H, arena security and the rest of the locker room arrived to forcibly remove the two interlopers, with Cena himself joining in on the fracas in the brief moments the Cell door was opened. Big mistake. The Champ took his eye off the ball and Del Rio capitalized, locking the titleholder outside the Cell and picking the bones of a decimated Punk to claim his second WWE Championship. Will these exact circumstances repeat themselves again this Sunday? Highly unlikely. However, with the sinister mind of Del Rio still in play, Cena will have to keep himself doubly focused to ensure he’s not hoodwinked into defeat for a second time.
2012: Does not compete
In perhaps his most ignominious trip to the WWE Hell in a Cell pay-per-view, 2012 saw the Cenation leader forfeit his potential opportunity at CM Punk’s WWE Championship to Ryback when an elbow injury kept him from stepping to The Second City Saint on his own. Cena was, however, taken to task on the Pre-Show by Raw General Manager Vickie Guerrero to address what was then being referred to as “ The AJ Scandal.”
Vickie’s intrusive line of questioning, intended to expose some alleged illicit hanky-panky between Cena and former Raw GM AJ Lee, not only left everyone involved feeling extremely uncomfortable, but it also felt like a slap in the face after Cena had (rather gamely) conceded the spotlight to Ryback. Granted, he didn’t technically lose a match, but being forced to stand and answer questions about a potential relationship live on a live-stream broadcast certainly sounds like hell, doesn’t it?
Although Cena won’t have to worry about a very public Q&A this Sunday, he will be facing a notoriously dangerous World Heavyweight Champion in Alberto Del Rio. With championship gold on the line, is this the year he sheds his specter of failure at WWE’s October classic?