If the final chapter in the John Cena-Bray Wyatt story is a victory for the hero at Payback, then their trilogy will have been a fruitless exercise.
Cena going 2-1 in this series will only add drops to his already overflowing resume. WWE would be wiser to let the monster win this time around, elevating an emerging star and making him a convincing threat going forward.
There is a sense of finality surrounding Cena vs. Wyatt at Payback.
For one, it is a Last Man Standing match, which is typically the kind of brutal bout that caps off a feud. Secondly, Wyatt has hinted that this is the concluding contest in their rivalry. On Monday's Raw, Wyatt told the crowd, "I promise you, this fairy tale will end."
When it does end, WWE's goal should be to have both Superstars benefit from the result.
Cena can look gutsy and resilient in defeat. His overstock of past triumphs makes it difficult to hurt his aura of invincibility. Besides, his victory in this three-part narrative came on WWE's biggest stage—WrestleMania.
Wyatt can't just be the latest guy to push Cena to his limits.
It's too common an accomplishment. Damien Sandow did it last October. Cesaro managed the same feat in February. Even Wyatt's two cronies, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan have had Cena reeling before eventually falling to him.
For Wyatt to reach a new tier, his C.V. must include a definitive win against a man who so rarely experiences defeat.
At Extreme Rules, it took Harper and Rowan's assistance as well as a choir boy with a demonic voice to get Wyatt a win in his Steel Cage match against Cena. It's a victory accompanied by several asterisks, one miles away from a career-defining win.
WWE can make Wyatt just another supervillain who falls to Superman, or it can make him Doomsday—the monster who killed The Man of Steel.
This feud has been built around Wyatt's apparent power over the populace and his ability to unsettle Cena in a way we haven't yet seen. The Eater of Worlds has spent the majority of the year hunting down his famous prey. He has tried to worm his way into Cena's head by way of diatribe and youth choir.
Wyatt has to leave a scar on Cena, not just have him flinch.
If Cena successfully resists Wyatt's psychological games, what kind of threat does that make Wyatt? If, after all these months of battles, Wyatt loses, it will lessen how powerful he appears.
One cheap victory in a cage doesn't do nearly as much for Wyatt's future as conquering Cena, something that is so rarely realized.
Chris Jericho's wins over The Rock and Steve Austin at Vengeance 2001 and The Ultimate Warrior pinning Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VI both elevated Superstars via defeating marquee wrestlers. Jericho had an unparalleled conquest to brag about for the rest of his career. The Ultimate Warrior jumped into new territory after besting Hogan, leading to him becoming WWE's top star for a stretch.
Wyatt's feud with Cena can help him accomplish similar upward movement.
"The Man of 1,000 Truths" is capable of being a top-tier talent. Beating Cena announces that he has reached that status. Losing lumps him into a crowded group below that.
R-Truth failed to beat Cena at Capital Punishment in 2011 after a short rivalry. He then slid back down the card, becoming a tag team specialist, midcarder and easy prey for bigger names. Compare that to Daniel Bryan's journey.
Before Bryan hoisted the WWE World Heavyweight Championship over his head in WrestleMania 30's main event, before his feud with Triple H became the premier storyline, the bearded warrior pinned Cena.
The win catapulted him forward. A similar path is available to WWE with Wyatt.
Having Wyatt fall at Payback would be a missed opportunity to create a new star, a monster looking tameable rather than unstoppable.
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