John Cena has been the WWE's top star for nearly eight years, and there doesn't appear to be an obvious end in sight to his reign as the face of the company. Based on Cena's subpar 2012 and advancing age, however, it's interesting to consider whether he's still on the way up or crashing back down to Earth.
After years of dominance, 2012 truly was a rough year for Cena from a storyline perspective. He lost cleanly to The Rock at WrestleMania, which is an incredibly rare occurrence for Cena. On top of that, he lost a match on Raw to Tensai, he lost to John Laurinaitis at Over the Limit, he lost a triple-threat match at SummerSlam, he drew CM Punk at Night of Champions, he lost another triple-threat match at Survivor Series and he lost to Dolph Ziggler at TLC.
Prior to 2012, Cena had hardly experienced that much failure in his entire career, so it's certainly something that's worth noting. In addition to his losses, Cena missed several weeks, including the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view, as he had bone chips removed from his elbow. As Cena himself mentioned in a promo a few weeks ago, 2012 wasn't a banner year for the leader of the Cenation.
With that said, 2012 wasn't a total loss for Cena. He did manage to defeat Brock Lesnar at Extreme Rules, which is a creative decision I still struggle to understand. He also won the WWE Championship Money in the Bank contract, although he unsuccessfully cashed it in on Punk on the 1,000th episode of Raw due to interference from Big Show.
Now that 2012 is in the rear-view mirror and 2013 is upon us, Cena is essentially working with a clean slate. The new year has been good to Cena thus far, as he has consecutive wins over Ziggler on Raw and it seems as though the old "Super Cena" character has returned. His victories over Ziggler have annoyed many due to the fact that he has overcome the interference of both Big E Langston and A.J. on multiple occasions.
With the Royal Rumble just a couple of weeks away, it will soon be evident whether or not 2013 will be a great year for Cena. He has already announced his intention to compete in the Rumble match, and there is no question that he's the odds-on favorite to win. If he does, then a WrestleMania main event is a certainty and a WWE Championship reign is quite possible.
Although almost anything can happen in the Rumble match and the possibility exists that the WWE could go with a shock-value winner rather than Cena, I'll be really surprised if Cena doesn't come out on top. It seems to me that his nightmarish 2012 was meant to build toward a bigger and better 2013.
His recent wins over Ziggler are definitely telling, because we didn't see as much of that out of Cena in 2012. He lost on several occasions, and most of his triumphs were of the normal variety, but his flair for the dramatic and ability to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds has returned.
Cena will probably have the chips stacked against him in the Rumble match, as there are a lot of guys who would like to stop him from winning. Ziggler is the most obvious, as he said his only goal was to eliminate Cena. The Shield is also likely to either be in the match officially or interfere in some capacity, and Cena has been a target for them in the past.
It's incredible to me that the WWE has managed to keep Cena away from the WWE Championship as long as it has, but that run has to be coming to an end. Whether it's another one-on-one match with The Rock or a triple-threat match against The Rock and Punk, Cena will almost certainly be competing for the company's top prize at WrestleMania XXIX.
There is definitely some great talent in the WWE currently, but nobody is even near the level of Cena in terms of popularity, and the WWE brass understands that. Seeing Cena actually struggle to find success in 2012 was refreshing, and it allowed me to enjoy his character more than I did previously, but those days appear to be coming to an end.
I'm not a Cena fan by any means and I don't necessarily want to see him win the WWE Championship, but I can definitely understand the WWE's feeling on the matter. If 2012 was about tearing Cena down, then 2013 will be the story of Cena's renaissance as a dominant force within the company.