John Cena fans should not worry. Their hero will be back in the title hunt the day after Royal Rumble in January.
That night, Raw will open with The Rock basking in the glow of his WWE title victory over CM Punk. Cena will intervene, words and/or punches will be exchanged, and the stage will be set for a rematch at WrestleMania 29.
This time, however, it will be Cena who will capture the WWE title. A yearlong search for redemption and glory will be complete.
But if you think about it, a star of Cena’s caliber never has truly been “out” of the title hunt. That is just WWE hype.
Cena just has not been that active in the chase.
He has had several token opportunities to win the belt over the past year.
Cena won the Money in the Bank briefcase to become the top contender for Punk's WWE Championship. On Raw's 1,000th episode, he cashed in the MITB briefcase but lost the match after the Big Show's interference got him disqualified.
However, Cena still was a winner. The seeds for a more serious and traditional title run were planted that same night when The Rock announced that night he would return to Royal Rumble 2013 to challenge the WWE champion.
Cena had a few title shots on subsequent pay-per-views, but nothing materialized. He lost in two Triple Threat matches at SummerSlam and Survivor Series, and fought Punk to a draw at Night of Champions.
However, hindsight makes it hard to take those challenges too seriously. After all, The Rock was looming in the background, and WWE was not going to miss an opportunity to build momentum toward a Rock-Cena rematch at WrestleMania 29, especially if there was the possibility that the WWE Championship could be on the line.
So Cena had to be kept away from winning the title.
The outcome of WWE Tables, Ladders and Chairs 2012 in Brooklyn will seriously start the buildup for Cena’s next title run. This one, though, will be more serious than the others and will wind up with the belt around his waist again.
By the time TLC signs off, Punk will have beaten Ryback for the third time, eliminating Big Hungry from WWE title contention and building excitement for a Royal Rumble match with Rock for the belt. Cena, whose relationship with AJ Lee has sparked a run-in with Ziggler and Raw Managing Supervisor Vickie Guerrero, will have disposed of Ziggler in their TLC match.
Then, all the lights on Cena’s road back to the WWE title will turn green.
After winning the title at Royal Rumble, The Rock will successfully defend against Punk at next February’s Elimination Chamber pay-per-view. The buildup to the WrestleMania rematch will reach a fever pitch with yet another verbal and/or physical confrontation between Rock and Cena at EC.
Throughout his career, Cena may have resembled, as The Rock said, Fruity Pebbles with his many changes of gear colors—black, green, orange, purple, blue, red, etc. Come WrestleMania 29, expect to see Cena add one more color to that wardrobe.
Follow Bill Atkinson on Twitter at @BAtkinson1963.