John Cena debuted in WWE exactly 10 years ago today. On June 27, 2002, Cena was the one to answer the challenge of Kurt Angle. Angle asked what Cena had that made him so great. His response was "ruthless aggression," followed by a punch to the Olympic gold medalist.
Mr. McMahon had said the same phrase earlier in the night and, with it coinciding with Cena's debut, it has often been called the beginning of the Ruthless Aggression Era.
Even though Cena lost that night to Angle, he became a part of the roster. Eventually, Cena would begin to rap as a part of his gimmick and became a fan favorite as he was emerging as a rising star.
By the time that WrestleMania XX came around, Cena had defeated Big Show in Madison Square Garden to become United States Champion. One year later, Cena was in the WWE Championship match at WrestleMania and won his first world championship over John Bradshaw Layfield.
And Cena hasn't looked back.
In the decade since, Cena has become the face of WWE and has been involved in some fantastic matches. His in-ring ability and overall character have been questioned countless times by fans, but Cena always seems to find himself in the middle of great feuds that have produced riveting matches. Cena has been a figure around world championships, specifically the WWE Championship, a title he held a record 10 times.
Here are 10 of the greatest matches that John Cena has been in since debuting in WWE 10 years ago today.
John Cena has always been the kind of superstar who gets the deck stacked against him, but still finds a way to emerge victorious. A perfect example of that is this Last Man Standing match against Umaga from the 2007 Royal Rumble.
Challengers to the world championships at Royal Rumble are often overlooked, due to the Royal Rumble match being the true main-event match and the pieces for WrestleMania being put together based on the winner. This didn't stop Umaga from making it an intriguing match.
Umaga had not lost since debuting in WWE until he faced Cena leading up to this match. Cena got the first defeat of Umaga out of the way before this event, making a title defense seem possible, but not certain. Cena did whatever he could and was able to answer the 10 count, while Umaga was unable to do so.
Cena triumphed and left Royal Rumble still as the WWE Champion.
Cena had not just one opponent at Backlash in 2007, but three. Shawn Michaels, Randy Orton and Edge were all challenging John Cena to become WWE Champion with Fatal 4-Way rules applying.
This match came weeks after Cena defended the championship against Michaels at WrestleMania 23 and just days after an unbelievable televised bout between the two on a RAW episode. Orton and Edge were former tag team partners with Rated-RKO but were no longer on the exact same page.
This match had a bunch of things in it. It had the reuniting of Rated-RKO. It had countless STF attempts by John Cena. It had Michaels dropping elbows like crazy. It also had so many chances for Cena to not be involved in the decision. In the end, Cena was the one getting the victory and holding on to his championship.
John Cena always had the knack of being able to go into hostile territory and hold his own. In 2006, he went into Unforgiven as the challenger to Edge's WWE Championship.
The match was a TLC match, which was a match type Edge had never lost at the time and Cena had never taken part in before. Still, it ranks among the all-time great TLC matches.
After all was said and done and many tables were busted in half, Cena held the WWE Championship in his hand atop a ladder. Cena is not the most graceful person on a ladder, but he was good enough to grab Edge for an Attitude Adjustment from the top of the ladder and through two tables.
Cena was WWE Champion yet again, but became it from an incredible match.
Cena could always tell an entertaining story with his matches. At the only Breaking Point to ever exist, it was the match type that Cena has never lost in his career: an I Quit match.
We were right in the middle of the rivalry between Randy Orton and John Cena, which may become one of the great rivalries of our generation. Orton came into Breaking Point as WWE Champion.
The story in this match was just incredible. Orton took the upper hand early and laid the punishment on Cena. With Kendo-stick marks all over his body and handcuffs on his wrists, Cena was in dire straits for a while. It became uneasy to watch at times, but Cena was not quitting the match.
It took an innovative move for Cena to turn the tables. He took the key to the handcuffs, unlocked half of the cuffs, and locked it on the wrist of Orton. Now, Cena and Orton were attached to each other. Cena would lock in the STF by using Orton's own arm from the handcuffs and was able to get incredible leverage to force Orton to say those two special words.
Cena won yet another WWE Championship.
Speaking of I Quit matches, the one during Judgment Day in 2005 was Cena's very first I Quit match.
Facing JBL, it was the first major WWE Championship defense for Cena in his young career. JBL was the former champion with a long reign and an incredible mean streak in him. Cena was the champion without a background of being tough and not quitting. At the time, we weren't sure if Cena had it in him to refuse to lose.
Cena was busted open early and often. The amount of blood on his face at the end of the match was incredible to see. With the safety measures in place in today's WWE, Cena would not be allowed to bleed that much without medical attention.
In this match, Cena's toughness was tested and put on display for the world to see. The fact that Cena refused to quit and took the long-time former champion in JBL down was the first real impressive feat in his career. This was back before "SuperCena" and during the days when Cena was just liked by everyone.
Everyone knew that John Cena was tough. Few thought that John Cena had the strength to make it through a match that lasted an entire hour. That was put to the test with an Iron Man match at Bragging Rights in 2009.
In what was easily the best match in the history of Bragging Rights in my view, Cena overcame not just Orton, but the assistance of Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase as well.
The 11 combined falls tied the mark set by Triple H and The Rock for the most combined falls in an Iron Man match in WWE history. The added stipulation of time in between falls also helped to legitimize the match type. It is so rare in WWE history that it has not been done since.
In just the seventh one of its kind and fifth to go at least an hour, Cena joined the prestigious list of stars who can wrestle an hour-long match and keep it entertaining throughout. It was the perfect ending to a great feud between John Cena and Randy Orton.
It was an instant classic, if not just for the year-long hype alone.
John Cena facing The Rock was relegated to daydreams and simulations on WWE video games. That was all changing once The Rock became the host of WrestleMania 28. The People's Champion was very vocal about Cena and how he did not like him as the face of WWE since his departure. An ongoing discussion ensued that included concerts and raps.
The two would team together at Survivor Series, but refused to truly be on the same page with one another. Their WrestleMania match approached and the entire world was asking who would win. Just based on the build to this match, it belongs on this list.
It gets to be this high for telling such a good story. The Rock showed that he still had incredible ability in the ring, while Cena showed that his in-ring ability is not as limited as many want to believe. This match really showed a different Cena offensively.
John Cena does not need to win every great match that he is in. In fact, when seeing the rest of this list, you'll notice that Cena was the loser in each of the top four matches on this list. That includes his match with Rob Van Dam at ECW One Night Stand in 2006.
Van Dam was letting Cena know the date of his Money in the Bank cash-in and setting his sights on becoming WWE Champion while in the confines of ECW territory.
This match gave everything you wanted it to give. The crowd was incredible, as it was so incredibly against Cena from the very first moment. Van Dam was either going to win this match or suffer at the hands of a riot from this rowdy crowd. RVD did not beat Cena in five minutes for the title, but had to work hard and get a little bit of luck, which was closer to how this title change really should have happened.
Having Edge appear to interfere, as well as Paul Heyman being the one to count the deciding fall, adds the potential for some asterisks to this match, but it did still deliver as a main event. Cena tried his hardest to get the crowd to not despise him, but it didn't really work.
How does a match given away for free on television get this high on the list? Well, John Cena had his best year with good matches in 2007, and this one topped them all.
In England, of all places, Shawn Michaels and John Cena came together for a match just weeks after facing one another at WrestleMania 23. Michaels and Cena were in a match with one another that did not have the WWE Championship up for grabs. Instead, it was simply about which of these two was better.
They were both six days away from a Backlash Fatal 4-Way match that was on the list already, but this match topped it. It had so much technique put in and enough mat psychology that fans could follow, even if the action was taking place on another continent.
As the match wore on, it seemed more and more evident that something different and unforgettable was going on. Michaels ultimately won after connecting with some Sweet Chin Music in a match that ranks up there for both superstars.
Are we supposed to be surprised? Not only was June 27 the anniversary of Cena's debut, but it was also the anniversary of CM Punk's epic promo with nobody in WWE being safe. It was that Punk promo that really set the tempo for the entire summer, which some have deemed "The Summer of Punk."
It all built to a match between Cena and Punk at Money in the Bank in Punk's hometown of Chicago. If you can name a move that Cena didn't do in this match, but has done before, you deserve some sort of prize. Literally nothing was off limits for Cena, who really showed the world that good matches are a quality that can be put upon him. Punk also proved exactly what the hype for this match was all about, being the perfect opponent for Cena.
The speed of Punk and the strength of Cena complemented one another perfectly. The interference by Vince McMahon and John Laurinaitis can be seen as tainting such an incredible match, but it was all a part of the package.
CM Punk delivered with a victory, a WWE Championship win, a suspenseful conclusion to the pay-per-view and the first certified five-star review of a WWE match in a very long time. Cena was not there for the ride, but was a big part of it being as great as it is remembered now.