John Cena will likely become the lost tidbit of the conclusion to the 2013 edition of SummerSlam. While the ending may always be remembered for Triple H delivering a Pedigree to Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton cashing in Money in the Bank to become champion, Cena will be the answer to the useless trivia question that will ask who the champion was going into the event.
Cena was scheduled for much-needed elbow surgery following SummerSlam according to Dave Meltzer on Wrestling Observer Radio (via CagesideSeats.com), so the title change couldn't have come as too much of a shock to some fans, even if the moment of Bryan winning was something everyone could enjoy. Orton's cash-in to take Bryan's title away sets up a feud for Night of Champions and beyond, while Cena can sneak out of the title picture and into an operating room. Cena is a big selling point for WWE in general, so don't expect him to be gone for long. However, could we have seen the last time Cena holds a world championship?
Cena is now a 13-time world champion in WWE, tied with Triple H for the most in WWE history. As far as overall wrestling marks, the 16 title reigns for Ric Flair between his reigns in WWE, WCW and NWA are the most. Specifically in a WWE ring, Flair only held the gold twice, while being the champion seven times each in NWA and WCW. Flair himself touts five additional world championships, but the 16 is what WWE and other wrestling sources recognize.
So, at 35 and getting banged up left and right from an unforgiving work schedule, Cena is expected to come back from a pending elbow surgery to win another world title, taking the all-time WWE mark and getting closer to Flair's hallowed record? It's a whole lot to swallow.
Daniel Bryan became a first-time WWE champion at SummerSlam, becoming just the 44th man to ever hold the gold in the half decade of its history. With 11 reigns, Cena is not only the record-holder, but now has more reigns than Hulk Hogan, Bruno Sammartino and Bob Backlund, the three men who have more career days with the title than Cena does.
John Cena, in his 11 reigns, has been WWE champion for a combined total of 2,110 days. That is a longer time as champion than Bret Hart, Triple H, The Rock, Shawn Michaels and Edge combined. In fact, Cena has 16 more days as champion than those five men and their 28 reigns combined. Needless to say, Cena has carried the torch more often and for longer than anyone else in the modern era. What does one more reign do for WWE at a time when the future is clearly bright for the company?
Cena wouldn't have tied HHH's mark without a blessing from The Game, and the same will go in order for Cena to surpass it. Even if it is possible, it doesn't mean it should be done. Will Cena's legacy honestly be tarnished at this point if he never wins the WWE Championship again? Won't every match going forward for Cena still be considered a main event of sorts?
The simple fact is that John Cena can sell out arenas and be the face of WWE without being the WWE champion. He has now lost the championship 11 times in his career and has managed to survive. In the process, he has made household names from the likes of Orton, Bryan, CM Punk, Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio. Any one of those five men can stack up their reigns as WWE champion (Orton just won his seventh) and become the new juggernaut.
Cena would probably like to be able to retire from WWE with some form of health to his name. We are talking about the same John Cena who has broken his neck, torn pectoral muscles and suffered from arm and Achilles injuries, as well as injuries to both elbows, all within the past calendar year. In fact, Cena had to nurse that arm injury last fall just to assure that he would make it to his WrestleMania match with The Rock. Cena has made a career from overcoming injuries, but there will come a time when Cena simply cannot bounce back. This time around, it is believed that things are worse than advertised, as Meltzer wrote in his daily update on F4WOnline.com.
The company could have to fall upon the babyface shoulders of men like Bryan and Punk to carry the company through the road leading up to WrestleMania 30. When Cena comes back, it sure feels likely WWE will re-evaluate their plan with Cena and how important he is to their biggest storylines and main-event matches. Cena will have to be treated more delicately to stretch out his worth to the company. At this rate, Cena could have arm problems in the way that Triple H had leg issues. All fans, whether they boo or cheer him, hope that Cena won't have to face the fate Edge did just a few years ago, being forced to retire from injuries.
So SummerSlam 2013 sees John Cena lose yet another WWE Championship and take time off to heal from yet another injury. This likely won't be Cena's final injury in a WWE ring, but it may be in the best interest of Cena's health to have this be his final world championship.