Breaking Down the Best and Worst Moments of John Cena's Latest WWE Title Reign
John Cena limped into his eleventh WWE title reign and lost the gold a warrior earning respect even in defeat.
From April 7 to August 18, Cena could proudly proclaim "the champ is here!" Now that his time with the championship is over and he is set to let his battered body heal for several months, we can look back at the highs and lows of that reign.
Some of his best work during this time came outside the ring, talking trash against The World's Strongest Man and The World's Toughest Vegan. Some of his worst moments were booking issues—missed opportunities and ill-advised decisions from WWE officials.
From WrestleMania 29 to SummerSlam 2013, here are the best and worst moments of Cena's latest turn as the king of the mountain.
Worst: Win at WrestleMania
WWE would have a difficult time pitting two bigger stars against each other than The Rock and John Cena. While the match felt big and the star power did well to elevate the WrestleMania 29 main event, the action itself was disappointing.
Some of the blame for the clunky nature of the bout has to go to Cena, who has never been known as a graceful performer.
One also has to point fingers on The Rock's part-time status as he didn't look his best either. Tearing his abdomen certainly didn't help the quality of the match.
Add to that how predictable the outcome was and the inordinate amount of times each wrestler kicked out of the other's finishing moves, and Cena's title win was one of the least impressive endings to a WrestleMania in recent memory.
Best: Wish Kids on Raw
Wish Kids segment on Raw
Even as cheesy and heavy-handed as this moment on WWE Raw was, it's hard to deny its emotional power.
On April 29, fresh off winning the WWE title, John Cena partnered with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to make three kids honorary Superstars. He was genuine and had fun with the segment.
This is why Cena will likely never turn heel. This is both his character and who he is in real life. It was a moment that could make even the most calloused wrestling fan tear up.
If WWE is going to shill something on Raw, a foundation that makes sick kids happy isn't a bad choice.
Worst: Ignoring the Achilles
Highlights of John Cena vs. Ryback at Payback
In the buildup to John Cena's Last Man Standing match with Ryback, much of the narrative focused on Cena's injured Achilles.
How was he going to be able to both fend off the beast that is Ryback and stand up on that aching heel for the victory? On the April 29 episode of WWE Raw, that injury caused him to lose his match against The Shield.
Once the brawl between him and Ryback began at Extreme Rules, it was if both foes forgot about the champ's bad wheel.
Their match was a good one that brimmed with intensity, but failed to capitalize on making Ryback look like a shark made hungry by blood-stained water and adding to the difficulty of Cena's journey to remain champion.
Worst: Three Stages of Hell Choices
Kudos to Ryback, John Cena and the "lumberjacks" around the ring at the inaugural Payback for making the WWE title match better than expected. It wasn't so much the in-ring action that took away from the power of this match but its stipulations.
Upping the violence and intensity of Ryback and Cena's feud was a great idea. The three gimmicks matches chosen for their Three Stages of Hell was not.
In 2001, Triple H battled Steve Austin in a Street Fight, a No Disqualification match, followed by a fight inside a steel cage. That classic was one of the most dramatic clashes in company history. Payback's version went in a more tepid direction.
The stages were a Lumberjack match, a Tables match and an Ambulance match.
Those three gimmicks matches have not produced a ton of great matches and the decision felt like a cop-out. They didn't feel hellish enough to earn the match's nickname and weren't the type of stipulations that would best end this rivalry.
On the positive side, Ryback grew tremendously during this feud.
He morphed from a man who leaned on a catchphrase to a more complex and compelling character. His work on the mic, including a speech atop an ambulance on WWE Raw on May 20, had him in position to be one of WWE's top heels.
Best: Mark Henry Verbal Exchanges
July 8 segment between John Cena and Mark Henry
Their match at Money in the Bank was decent, but not nearly as entertaining as their verbal clashes.
What began with Mark Henry's fake retirement speech, saw Henry and John Cena try to top each other with enthralling promos. Henry had more top-notch microphone performances during this short-lived rivalry, but Cena thrived as well.
On July 8, Cena had his best moment when he called Henry "a desperate man who leveraged his family and lied to these all people for leather and gold."
Both men did a fantastic job to play up the importance of winning the WWE Championship and made their title match feel like a monumental meeting of titans.
Best: Defeat at SummerSlam
John Cena's WWE title reign ended in the opposite way it started, with a great match.
The buildup did well to amp our excitement about this match, especially the last verbal showdown between Cena and his challenger on WWE Raw where he showed off why at his best he is one of the top talkers in the company.
Daniel Bryan's moment of glory was soon ruined, but the journey to his victory was one of the best bouts of the year. Cena seemed set on proving he could outwrestle the acclaimed grappler and Bryan looked to prove that he could be as big a star as his opponent.
Cena tried a dangerous move where looked to try a piledriver from the second turnbuckle, proof of how desperate he would become to try and halt Bryan's bulldozing momentum.
The hard-hitting match left Cena with a swollen left eye and ended one of the best SummerSlams ever with a match worthy of the main event.