John Cena: The 15 Greatest Matches in His Controversial WWE Career
Photo by WWE.com
John Cena is easily one of the greatest WWE Superstars of the past decade.
In the 10 years that Cena has been in the WWE, he has wrestled a greater variety of opponents and styles than most other Superstars, leaving him with a stunning array of classic matches.
Along the way, he has collected an impressive list of championships. According to WWE.com, he has won the World Heavyweight Championship, WWE Championship, United States Championship, World Tag Team Championship and WWE Tag Team Championship.
He won the Royal Rumble in 2008 and Money in the Bank in 2012.
The man who famously challenged Kurt Angle to a match on SmackDown has gone on to headline WrestleMania and become the face of the WWE. He is the man that the fans love to hate.
These 15 matches show how he has grown as a superstar and are some of his greatest bouts.
15. Vs. Sabu, WWE vs. ECW Head to Head, 2006
Four days before defending his title against Rob Van Dam at ECW One Night Stand, John Cena faced hardcore legend Sabu at the sometimes-overlooked event, WWE vs. ECW Head to Head.
ECW was preparing to re-launch on Syfy, which led to Sabu appearing on WWE television. On Raw, he laid out Cena with a leg drop, while he was in the ring with Rob Van Dam signing the contract for their match.
At the special event, Cena and Sabu met in what can best be described as a clash of styles. Sabu took his moves to the air, while Cena attempted to use his superior strength and keep Sabu grounded.
Cena was able to hit the Attitude Adjustment and lock in the STF, but before Sabu could tap, the locker rooms emptied and a huge WWE vs. ECW brawl ensued.
Many forget this match, but Cena showed that as the face of the WWE, he is more than willing to defend it, against all odds.
14. Vs. Triple H, WrestleMania 22, 2006
John Cena was in the middle of his second WWE Championship reign when he faced off against Triple H at WrestleMania 22.
Facing the Cerebral Assassin on the grandest stage of them all was one of the biggest and most important matches in Cena’s still young career.
The match was clearly even between the two, and the men traded moves and counters easily.
Triple H attempted a Pedigree, which Cena turned into the STF. The Game escaped, only to have the same thing happen later in the match. Only after the second STF, The Game wasn’t as lucky and he tapped out.
Cena had defeated another legend on his way to sealing his own legacy.
13. Vs. Umaga, Royal Rumble, 2007
Umaga was nicknamed The Samoan Bulldozer, and for good reason: he simply plowed through his opponents.
When Cena put the title on the line against the undefeated 350-pound monster in a Last Man Standing bout at the 2007 Royal Rumble, he was manhandled in a way that fans had never seen before.
He was busted open early in the bout and was dominated in the early going by Umaga. The bout became very brutal. With the steel steps being used, Umaga crashed through the announcers’ table and the top rope came unhooked. Umaga tried to use the exposed metal as a weapon.
Cena slapped on the STF twice, modifying it each time by tying the fallen ring rope around Umaga’s neck. When Umaga didn’t make the 10-count back up, Cena won the bout, continuing on his path to becoming an unstoppable superhero.
12. Vs. Chris Jericho, SummerSlam, 2005
In 2005, WWE champion John Cena was drafted to Monday Night Raw. He somehow drew the ire of Raw GM Eric Bischoff, who didn’t think that the young champion was worthy of holding such a prestigious belt.
Bischoff enlisted the help of former undisputed champion Chris Jericho, whom he hoped would unseat Cena at SummerSlam.
In a fantastic match, Jericho took the lead. He easily escaped the Attitude Adjustment, nailed Cena with a massive DDT and locked on the Walls of Jericho several times.
After being unable to put Cena away, Jericho began to tussle with the referee, which allowed Cena to hit a second Attitude Adjustment and get the win.
Cena proved he was worthy of the title by beating Jericho with a clean pinfall.
11. Vs. Undertaker, SmackDown, 2004
In June 2004, an angry Undertaker had lashed out and attacked John Cena. Being a man of honor and integrity, Cena couldn’t let the matter go.
With more arrogance than bravado, Cena entered the SmackDown ring a week later and challenged The Undertaker to a match.
The Deadman accepted and the bout was on.
Only two years into his WWE career, Cena took The Undertaker through all the paces. Cena scored an Attitude Adjustment on the Phenom and would have sown the match up had the referee not been knocked down.
By the time he was revived, so did The Undertaker, who used a chain and then a tombstone to put the future WWE champion down for the count.
Cena may have been arrogant in challenging the Undertaker, but he showed the WWE Universe that he wasn’t afraid of anyone, dead or alive.
10. Vs. Kurt Angle, SmackDown, 2002
On June 27, 2002, Kurt Angle stood in the middle of the SmackDown ring and offered an open challenge to anyone who was brave enough to step into the ring with the Olympic champion.
John Cena, who had signed a contract with the WWE in 2001 and had been in Ohio Valley Wrestling, took the advice of Vince McMahon to show some ruthless aggression against the veterans of the company.
The unknown Cena exploded on Angle and put on quite the show. He countered both the Angle Slam and the Angle Lock, before finally losing.
In his first match on WWE television, Cena gave fans a glimpse into the future of the WWE.
The Champ had arrived.
9. Vs. Edge, Unforgiven, 2006
Edge became WWE champion in July 2006 after he defeated John Cena and Rob Van Dam in a Triple Threat match on Raw.
Just before this Tables, Ladders and Chairs match in Edge’s hometown of Toronto, Edge had attacked and slapped Cena’s father. Cena entered the match enraged.
Cena battling in a fit of rage was something new for the WWE Universe. Cena was out of his element—in a match that Edge made famous.
Even after he was busted open, Cena went toe-to-toe with Edge, and he utilized every weapon at his disposal. He then hit an Attitude Adjustment off the top of the ladder and sent Edge through two tables.
He was battered and bruised, but Cena had fought for his father’s honor and reclaimed the belt he had lost to Rob Van Dam earlier in the year.
8. Vs. Rob Van Dam, ECW One Night Stand, 2006
When Rob Van Dam let WWE champion John Cena know that he was going to be cash in his Money in the Bank contract at ECW One Night Stand, it forced Cena to defend the belt in the middle of enemy territory.
Cena entered the bout to a chorus of boos louder than any he had experienced before. This was to be expected, since it could be argued that Van Dam was the ECW poster child.
The match was a heavily contested one, and Van Dam did not have an easy ride to the title.
With signs in the crowd saying they would riot if Cena won, Edge rushed the ring and speared Cena. Van Dam followed with a frog splash and Paul Heyman counted the pin.
The roar of the crowd after the three count was deafening.
Cena lost the bout but proved that he could handle any kind of wrestling style thrown his way.
7. Vs. JBL, Judgment Day, 2005
This was John Cena’s first major title defense of his newly won WWE Championship, his first world championship in the WWE.
He squared off against the man he defeated at WrestleMania 21, JBL. Only this time, the rules were different: This match was an “I Quit” match.
With the premise of an “I Quit” match being the bout doesn’t end until one man says the three magic words, this kind of match is a brutal one. The encounter between Cena and JBL wouldn’t be any different.
JBL attempted to overpower and beat Cena senseless, but Cena showed how tough he was and took all the former champ through at him.
Busted tables, ruthless chairshots and spilled blood ensued until Cena forced JBL to quit.
Cena showed the world he wasn’t going to be a paper champion.
6. Vs. JBL, WrestleMania 21, 2005
John Cena nearly won the 2005 Royal Rumble and a shot at WrestleMania for the title. When he didn’t emerge victorious in the Rumble, things looked bleak for him getting any kind of shot.
Then SmackDown held a No.1 contenders tournament that Cena won, which granted him a shot at WWE champion JBL.
JBL did everything he could to faze Cena. Orlando Jordan won the United States Championship because of JBL's interference.
But it wasn’t enough. At WrestleMania, Cena etched his name in the history books by ending JBL’s lengthy reign and claiming his first WWE Championship.
5. Vs. CM Punk, Money in the Bank, 2011
The events leading up to John Cena facing CM Punk at Money in the Bank in 2011 are well known.
Punk was the No. 1 contender for Cena’s WWE Championship that summer. After his pipebomb speech from atop the entrance ramp, Punk was suspended by Vince McMahon.
Cena demanded his reinstatement and got this match with Punk as well. Punk threatened to leave the company and Cena was in danger of being fired if he lost the belt to Punk.
After a grueling matchup, Cena locked in the STF. McMahon called for the bell even though Punk didn’t submit. Cena released Punk to hit John Laurinaitis and chastise McMahon for trying to cheat.
Once Cena returned to the ring, Punk hit the GTS and won the bout and the title.
Cena may have lost this one, but in standing up to McMahon, he showed the true meaning of respect.
4. Vs. the Rock, WrestleMania 28, 2012
Even before it happened, John Cena’s match against The Rock at WrestleMania 28 was considered a classic.
The match had been built up for a year, and Cena had much to gain by winning this match. He needed to prove to the WWE Universe that he was better than the man who had used the WWE to springboard right into Hollywood. That he was better than the man who said he was the People’s Champ but who left for greener pasture.
The first-time clash between the two wrestling behemoths took place at WrestleMania 28, in The Rock’s hometown of Miami. Cena was clearly not the fan-favorite in the match, but he took the boos in stride, nonetheless.
Cena and Rock traded blows and moves for nearly a half-hour before Cena attempted to mock The People’s Elbow. Rock capitalized on Cena’s error, hit the Rock Bottom and scored the pin.
Cena showed humility in defeat, staying true to “hustle, loyalty and respect.”
3. Vs. Brock Lesnar, Extreme Rules, 2012
When Brock Lesnar returned to the WWE in 2012, it sent shock waves through the sports world.
When Cena stepped up to challenge Lesnar in his first wrestling match in eight years, shock waves were felt again but for the wrong reason: people were scared.
Lesnar was always tough and slightly scary to watch, but Lesnar after MMA was a new beast. The match was set up a shoot style, and Lesnar went after Cena like a bear after caribou.
The match was brutal, and Lesnar dominated Cena like no one else had ever done before. At times, Cena struggled to stand and genuinely didn’t appear to know where he was.
Cena eventually won the match after an Attitude Adjustment on the steel steps. And in the process, he showed that his heart was as tough as his hide.
2. Vs. Randy Orton, Bragging Rights, 2009
John Cena and Randy Orton had one hell of a rivalry going in 2009.
The two already had a momentous “I Quit” match, fought in Hell in a Cell and traded the WWE Championship back and forth twice. So the final chapter was set for Bragging Rights 2009, in an Iron Man Match.
The match was brutal, which saw both men use objects from all around the ring to batter each other senseless. After an impressive 11 pinfalls between the two, Cena caught Orton in the STF in the final moments to win the match and the title for the seventh time.
Not only did this match help showcase just how brutal Cena can be, but it showed that he had the legs to not only go against one of the all-time greats in Orton, but to also give his all for an hour.
Including Orton and Cena, only 10 men in the history of the WWE have faced the Iron Man Match.
Cena earned a place in history with this one.
1. Vs. Shawn Michaels, Monday Night Raw, 2007
Who knew that John Cena’s greatest match wouldn’t be on pay-per-view and wouldn’t be for a championship?
But it was this match against Shawn Michaels on Monday Night Raw that showed what Cena was truly made of.
The match occurred three weeks after Cena successfully defended the WWE Championship against Michaels at WrestleMania 23. It started off as a rematch, but it ended up a true classic.
Not only did the two men wrestle for nearly the entire second hour of Raw, but the action was intense. It swung back and forth several times and spilled outside the ring so much that the ref begged them to bring the action back to the squared circle.
At the end of the match, Cena went for the Attitude adjustment, but Michaels used the momentum to flip to his feet, then spun around right into Sweet Chin Music.
Michaels may have won the match, but by taking the Showstopper to the limit, Cena proved he was a legend in the making.