We’ve heard the complaints countless times over the past decade: John Cena doesn’t put anyone over.
It was repeated so many times, and with such angered passion, that most wrestling fans believed it to be true.
Sure, Cena let The Rock beat him cleanly, Batista got the best of him once and even The Great Khali tasted victory. But he never put anyone younger over in a meaningful way.
The victims were piling up. Over the years, he had destroyed The Nexus, conquered Brock Lesnar, manhandled Ryback and humiliated The Miz. The list of potential opponents was dwindling, getting dangerously low.
Things finally changed at SummerSlam. The Superman of professional wrestling was finally made to look human. Daniel Bryan was his kryptonite.
At the second-biggest show of the year, John Cena did something for Daniel Bryan and WWE that may end up being overlooked. He lost cleanly. No ref bumps, no distractions, no nonsense. It was a straight-up match with the right guy coming out on top.
It was Hulk Hogan somehow, finally, losing fairly to The Ultimate Warrior. It was the right move to make for the business (though Warrior wasn't a great choice, the company at least had the right idea).
We haven’t seen a clean Cena loss since WrestleMania 28, when he jobbed to The Great One. This may even be more significant, because the title was on the line.
At the end of SummerSlam, the heat was on Triple H and Randy Orton. Hopefully WWE doesn’t forget the pretty amazing accomplishment of someone finally defeating its top star of the past decade.
Is Daniel Bryan a top star now?
The company, after all, has not really let anyone benefit from beating Cena. Every title run of his that ended was at least a little tainted. He was over-aggressively protected at every opportunity. There wasn't a rub given to anyone else.
Cena’s first WWE Title loss was to Edge after his match at the Elimination Chamber in 2005. Cena had just battled in a grueling Chamber match, and only dropped the gold because of Edge’s Money in the Bank contract. Because Cena was already weakened, Edge gained some heat from it, but not in a star making, money drawing way.
He later lost his title to Rob Van Dam in his second run with the gold, but Van Dam didn’t gain much from it either since the win was really attributed to Edge’s interference. Cena’s third run was interrupted by an injury, so it was simply vacated.
Other subsequent title reigns were also screwy. In fact, none of them were as clean as his loss to Bryan at SummerSlam.
Yes, he may not have dropped the title at all if his elbow wasn’t messed up, but WWE absolutely made the right call. There are so few true stars in wrestling, that you have to try and create one whenever a golden opportunity presents itself.
Cena finally, truly put someone over. It's what fans had waited for years to see. Let's try not to forget that. It may be a long time before it happens again.
Putting the question aside of whether Bryan should have left the show as champion (for now), we should at least be appreciative that a new star has been made, and it was done the right way.
Next time fans start a Cena sucks chant (whenever he does end up returning), they should at least recognize that he sucks a little less now.