During the 1980s, there was no greater measuring stick for a Superstar's main event aspirations than Hulk Hogan. If a Superstar wanted to rise to the top of the industry, they had to prove themselves against Hogan. The Ultimate Warrior proved himself as Hogan's superior and went on to enjoy a Hall of Fame career.
In the middle of the Attitude Era, defeating Steve Austin or The Rock instantly made a wrestler a main event Superstar. Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle all benefited from scoring wins over the top two performers in the business, becoming more recognizable than they ever were before.
Today's WWE is ruled by John Cena, a 15-time heavyweight champion who has stood atop the professional wrestling mountain for nearly a decade.
He has defeated every top star that has come through the company during that time and has been the man to beat if one wants to break through the proverbial glass ceiling.
Daniel Bryan and CM Punk have achieved new levels of stardom thanks to their success against the leader of the Cenation. Their victories over Cena changed the way fans perceived them. They instantly became main event talent and headlined in arenas across the globe. People bought tickets to see them wrestle, and their names adorned marquees.
In a day and age where wins and losses are brushed off as if they are unimportant afterthoughts, beating Cena still means something.
For Roman Reigns, the powerhouse of The Shield and the next breakout star of WWE, a win over Cena is imperative if he is to carry the company for the next decade.
Recent booking indicates that the second-generation star is likely to face either Triple H or Randy Orton. While working with the top two heels in the industry would be a big step toward establishing himself as one of the top babyfaces in the business, he has already beaten both.
At Payback, he pinned Triple H clean to win the Six-Man Tag Team Elimination match. As a result, the effect of any win over The Game in a singles bout is negated.
Fans have already seen Reigns establish his dominance over the COO, so doing so again would be do little to enhance the perception the WWE Universe already has of the former Hound of Justice.
Who Do You Believe Is More Important for Reigns to Beat to Become a Legitimate Main Eventer?
Orton, as great as he is, has been so poorly booked over the last year that defeating him does not carry nearly the level of importance that it should.
Instead, focus should shift to Cena.
For Reigns to truly take that next step, to establish himself as the unquestioned leader of the next generation of Superstars, he must knock off the face of the current era of sports entertainment.
As long as Reigns has the hurdle known as Cena to overcome, he will never truly be recognized as the top star of the industry.
Just as Cena had to beat the likes of Triple H and Shawn Michaels to firmly implant himself at the front of the line, Reigns must do the same to Cena. If he can take the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in the process, it would be icing on the cake.