When John Cena went out of action with a torn triceps after SummerSlam, the timetable for his return (four to six months, more likely on the shorter side) led to just about everyone predicting that he'd come back at the Royal Rumble in January.
It looks like that's now the plan, albeit with a twist.
According to PWInsider (h/t WrestlingInc.com), Cena is indeed most likely returning at the Rumble, and he should be fully recovered at that point. WWE doesn't want him wrestling sooner so he's fully rested up for WrestleMania season and they have no worries about his condition during that time of year.
With the week after Christmas being the biggest house shows of the year, he'll be appearing on them, but not wrestling.
Being the face of the company and insanely dedicated, Cena has returned from some major injuries a quickly, though the circumstances varied by the case.
While there was no clear reason for why he was able to come back from torn pectoral muscle in three months, his return from a major neck injury was thanks to minimally invasive surgery performed by WWE medical director and Pittsburgh Steelers team neurosurgeon Dr. Joseph Maroon.
In the past, there's been concern over Cena's habit of working more while banged up than most of the roster.
While the stipulation that he would be "fired" if CM Punk left with the WWE Championship at Money in the Bank 2011 seemingly came out of nowhere, it wasn't a huge surprise, because there had been buzz about Cena needing to nurse major injuries for a few months.
More recently, he's gone through long stretches where he wouldn't wrestle on TV. The advertised dark matches that took place for the live crowds right after Raw went off the air went 90 seconds for months.
I never heard anything about him having any serious injuries during that period, but it was hard not to infer that he needed to be protected as much as possible.
It all felt similar to how CM Punk hasn't wrestled on many shows lately due to his nagging knee injury and Kurt Angle being restricted to short, low-impact "Angle Challenges" when his neck problems flared up.
Should WWE save Cena's return for the Royal Rumble?
Regardless of what you think of Cena, the conservative approach here is the right one. Cena is still the biggest star and most fanatically hard-working star in the company, and no chances should be taken with his injuries.
Once he's back, he's back: Not only will he be wrestling full-time again, but he will have the busiest travel schedule of anyone in WWE, which takes a much bigger toll than you'd expect.
The Christmas week shows are the biggest house shows of the year, but they're going to do well no matter what. That he's going to appear on them while finishing up his injury rehab is gravy.
Cena is needed most for the WrestleMania "season" that starts with the Royal Rumble. The Rumble is usually the second biggest show of the year now, and it's where many of the WrestleMania storylines either kick off or long-simmering storylines kick into gear.
Plus, after several months off, putting off his return should help with pay-per-view buys.
Do you think WWE and Cena are being too conservative, or do you agree with this approach? Let us know in the comments.