It is usually a given that John Cena will be in the main event of a WWE pay-per-view, but for the first time since TLC last year, that won't be the case. Everything was in place for Cena to challenge CM Punk for the WWE Championship at Hell in a Cell; however, recovery from elbow surgery has taken longer than anticipated.
Because of that, Cena stepped aside and allowed Ryback to be Punk's opponent instead. Cena said this week that he wasn't yet medically cleared, but he is now. It's hard to say whether he's being truthful or if it is part of the storyline, but I would tend to go with the latter since Cena didn't actually engage in any physical contact on Monday.
It has already been confirmed that Cena will be present at Hell in a Cell, as he is set to address accusations that he and former RAW general manager A.J. Lee had an affair. That will take place on the pre-show, but the odds are that Cena will have something else up his sleeve in all likelihood since he'll be in the arena anyway.
Here are the three likeliest roles that Cena could play at Hell in a Cell.
3. Match vs. Dolph Ziggler
Although I don't believe that Cena is quite ready to wrestle, there is obviously an outside possibility he could be. If Cena is ready and there is any thought of putting him in a match, his opponent would probably be Dolph Ziggler. Vickie Guerrero was the one responsible for getting A.J. fired, so Cena may want to wrestle her client to prove a point. Since Ziggler has no match scheduled, it would be a decent fit.
Since Cena is going to be on the pre-show, having him announce that he will be facing Ziggler could possibly bring in some last-minute pay-per-view buys. Regardless of how popular and intriguing Ryback has become, the buys are inevitably going to be down if Cena is absent from the card, so adding him would make sense economically.
Even so, I believe this scenario only has an outside shot at happening. If Cena was going to wrestle, then WWE probably would have made a point of advertising it heavily. It could be a case of the company not knowing for sure whether he is capable of working a match, but if Cena hasn't been put in a match yet, the odds of it happening aren't great.
2. Interfering in Dolph Ziggler's MITB Cash-in
Maybe Cena won't face Ziggler in an actual match, but there is still a chance the two of them could go face-to-face in a different manner. Ziggler has been talking about his intentions of cashing in his Money in the Bank contract at Hell in a Cell for weeks, so there is little doubt that he'll try. When he does try, though, Cena could be the one to stop him.
It hasn't yet been said if Sheamus will defend his World Heavyweight Championship against Big Show within a cell, but since both world title matches normally are Hell in a Cell matches, I have to imagine that he will. I anticipate Sheamus retaining after a hard-fought match, at which point Big Show will attack Sheamus and lay him out with a KO Punch.
Ziggler will run down and while he is either trying to open the cell door or get someone to raise it, Cena will appear and attack Ziggler. After a beating, Ziggler will escape into the ring as the cell is finally raised, but he will walk right into a Brogue Kick. Cena wouldn't risk further injury, but it would be effective in furthering his feud with Vickie and potentially starting one with Dolph.
1. Interfering in WWE Championship Match
While Cena may not be healthy enough to face CM Punk for the WWE Championship at Hell in a Cell, it doesn't mean that he won't play a part in the result. Cena has been extremely supportive of Ryback over the past couple weeks, and if he notices any foul play on Punk's part, he may very well get involved in the main event.
I expect Punk to retain the title, but he obviously won't do it cleanly. One possible way to make that happen is to have Brock Lesnar interfere on Punk's behalf. Lesnar is an associate of Paul Heyman's, so it would be a natural alliance. In this situation, Heyman would try to open the cell door with bolt cutters to help Punk escape, but Cena would save the day by decking Heyman. Cena's triumph wouldn't last long, however, as his old rival would make a surprising return.
With Lesnar incapacitating Cena, it would give him the opportunity to go into the cell and stand toe-to-toe with Ryback. After some back-and-forth action, Lesnar would hit Ryback with the F-5, allowing Punk to pick up the pinfall victory. That would the set the stage for a potentially huge match at Survivor Series with Punk, Lesnar, Ryback and Cena all involved.