John Cena's SummerSlam battle for the WWE Championship will be riveting, despite his wounded wing.
Expect the champ's elbow injury to affect the outcome of his match against Daniel Bryan, but not how compelling the action is. Cena's history of working hurt, the story he and Bryan hope to tell and the magnitude of the moment will overshadow his bad arm.
F4WOnline.com reports, via WrestlingInc.com, that Cena's elbow is in bad shape and that the WWE champ "will be having surgery shortly after SummerSlam, meaning he will be taking some more time off."
Cena played off the severity of the injury in a previous Tweet.
It appears that this is not simply a case of Cena being banged up. His elbow is distended, noticeably abnormally large and apparently requires surgery.
It'll then be no surprise to see either Bryan win the title or a possible Cena win to simply be the precursor to Randy Orton cashing in his Money in the Bank contract. Cena's injury could have his title reign end, but there is still a classic to be composed on his way out.
A Story Aided
WWE.com played up the injury as part of the storyline, writing that "as a master of submission maneuvers, Bryan certainly has a big target now."
This is where Cena's real-life injury creates a narrative spark for a WWE title match already bursting with subplots. Bryan becomes the predator, attacking Cena's weak point. Cena has to adjust his offense and evade any holds that would further damage his arm.
Like so many of Alberto Del Rio's opponents, Cena is going to have work one-armed for much of the bout.
This forces Cena to step out of his predictable sequence of moves. WWE could have him abandon some of his suplexes in favor or rarely-used moves that could surprise the audience. It's a chance for variety and for moments where the audience can't help but cringe.
Bryan, billed throughout this feud as the underdog looking to prove himself, suddenly has his odds increase. Cena's aching elbow makes Bryan's Yes! Lock even more dangerous.
Each time he clamps it on Cena, the audience will slide closer to the edge of their seats.
If Cena is indeed Superman, Bryan is now armed with a stockpile of Kryptonite. WWE had a similar opportunity when Cena went into his Last Man Standing match with Ryback with an injured heel. That match failed to capitalize on that injury as a narrative device.
SummerSlam offers a chance to make up for that missed opportunity.
A History of Pain
When Undertaker and CM Punk squared off at WrestleMania 29, many fans wondered how injuries would affect that match.
Punk had been "pulled from all house shows until WrestleMania for a variety of reasons including being physically banged up," per Wrestling Observer, via CagesideSeats.com. Undertaker entered the match at 48 years old with a banged-up shoulder and a long history of surgeries.
Even with battered bodies, Punk and Undertaker delivered a match for the ages.
Cena and Bryan are fully capable of doing the same thing. WWE Superstars all have to work hurt at some point as the tortuous nature of the business leaves no man unscathed.
Fans can look to Cena's past and see him perform well despite being injured.
The aforementioned match with Ryback is one example, but more impressively Cena managed to complete a match where he tore his pectoral muscle in the early going.
In 2007, Cena took on Mr. Kennedy and during a hip toss, tore his pec. He favored his right side throughout the bout, but finished, taking bumps and performing his signature moves albeit somewhat awkwardly.
His elbow injury may look nasty, but it's not nearly as debilitating as that torn muscle.
Criticize Cena for his juvenile humor and cargo shorts, but there's no questioning his toughness. After undergoing neck surgery to repair a herniated disc in 2008, Cena was back in the ring just a few months later. In September of 2012, Cena went under Dr. Andrews' knife and was back battling Dolph Ziggler that December.
Cena will have to grit his teeth through the WWE Championship match, but don't count on his unsightly elbow injury from getting in the way of he and Bryan composing a classic together.