John Cena vs. Ryback at WWE Extreme Rules Is a Must-Win for Both Men

Tom ClarkFeatured ColumnistMay 2, 2013

photo by
photo by

Ryback will challenge John Cena on May 19 at Extreme Rules for the WWE Championship.  The match is a direct result of Ryback’s recent heel turn on Cena, and the heat that has developed between the two since then.  

WWE is doing their usual best to promote this match, but for me the situation is impossible because it is a must-win for both men.

When the moment came for Ryback to make the turn, it came in front of the live raucous crowd in New Jersey, who screamed their approval.  Ryback physically tore down Cena and left him lying motionless as he hoisted the WWE title above his head, much to the delight of the fans.

Since then, however, Ryback has yet to truly get a reaction as impressive and supportive as that one.

That’s OK, to a certain extent.  After all, Ryback is a heel now and heels should technically not be the ones getting a positive reaction from the audience.  They should be hated, reviled for their actions and despised for their words.  A man spotlighted as a top babyface like Ryback turning on another top face in John Cena should have earned nothing but pure hatred from the fans.

But we all know that when it comes to John Cena, none of the rules apply.  Ryback was cheered, John was booed and though that was likely not what WWE wanted, at least it was a big reaction.

Now that it has somewhat cooled down, we are left with what I believe to be an impossible situation. Why?

Because John just regained the WWE Championship at WrestleMania.  His victory over The Rock was presented as a fight for redemption, a return to the top for the man who has been the face of the company for nearly 10 years.

Cena was unable to best Rocky last year at Mania, in a match that John believed he had to win.  It was the age old matchup of new school versus old school, a clashing of two generations.  With those elements in the WrestleMania environment, in a match that featured WWE’s never-say-die tough guy, losing was not an option for John.

He had to come through.  And he could not do it.

Now that he is wearing the company’s top prize once again, there is more than a little doubt that he will drop it to the first Superstar who throws out the challenge to him.  Once Cena officially becomes the man, he tends to keep that mantle for a long while.

The other part of the problem with this match is that Ryback needs to win.  He needs to win like nobody’s business.  

The fact is that as dominant as he has been on TV, Ryback has been a complete washout on pay-per-view.  He cannot buy a victory despite how strong he looks going into the event.  He is just unable to get the win on that high-profile stage.

WWE wanted fans to believe that Ryback deserved their support and respect.  He was supposed to be the next big thing, a superstar that we had to see and must believe in.  He was presumably going to be the future face of WWE.

But just as Ryback was beginning to win over the crowd, he turned heel.  And since WWE changed direction with him, the most sensible approach could have been to start him out against someone he could crush.  A statement match—a way to establish him as a rule breaker and to make him look as strong as possible.

However, WWE chose to swing for the fences, and now we have the current impossible situation before us.

If Ryback does not win, he loses momentum and credibility that he is still fighting to gain in the first place.  If John Cena does not win, he loses the WWE Championship after overcoming his greatest opponent in a storyline that defined his character for this latest title run.  It is a must-win for both men. Period.  

Of course, there is always the possibility that this match is not as impossibly booked as I personally believe it to be.  John Cena does have an injury. What if that will be the deciding factor in this one? Could John drop the WWE Championship to Ryback at Extreme Rules?

John Cena’s first major WWE title defense will come against Ryback at Extreme Rules on May 19. While anything could happen in this one, I believe that this is an impossible situation for both Superstars involved, as neither man can afford to lose this match.  

Who will come through on this one?