John Cena's head is set to get heavier, as he will soon wear a new crown—WWE's Mr. SummerSlam.
Bret Hart, Triple H and Hulk Hogan have all added to that event's lineage, but Cena is quickly approaching the point where he will surpass all of them. The multitude of times he has been in SummerSlam's main event and his growing collection of stellar matches there will earn him a new nickname.
Shawn Michaels became known as Mr. WrestleMania for performing masterworks at that show year in and year out. That's what Cena has done at WWE's second-biggest pay-per-view.
One could argue that Hart deserves that moniker for now.
The Excellence of Execution was a steady contributor to SummerSlam, but his career is over. Cena is still adding to his resume and awaits another major chance to impress when SummerSlam 2014 arrives in August.
It will be the latest time of many that Cena has been the headliner for that show.
Cena has already been in more SummerSlam events than any other wrestler. That includes Hart, Triple H and Hogan.
When he takes on Brock Lesnar for the WWE title this year, he'll increase his lead, marking the sixth time that he will compete in the event's final bout.
The following wrestlers have wrestled in the most SummerSlam main events:
- John Cena: 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2013
- Triple H: 1998, 2000, 2003, 2012
- The Undertaker: 1994, 1997, 1998, 2008
- Hulk Hogan: 1988, 1989, 1991, 2005
- Edge: 2006, 2008, 2010
- Bret Hart: 1992, 1997, 2010
- The Rock: 2000, 2001, 2002
- Shawn Michaels: 1996, 2003, 2005
That number is a testament to Cena's longevity. There was no one hotter than Steve Austin at his peak. Austin, though, was only the main attraction at SummerSlam twice, in 1998 and 1999.
Even if you include Hall of Famer Michaels' appearance as the referee for the 1997 SummerSlam main event, he's still one short (soon to be two) of Cena.
While Hogan, Austin, Hart and others have all been the face of the event for stretches, Cena's time on top has been longer.
His resume as a SummerSlam main eventer is also an indication of WWE's confidence in his drawing power. While the company has certainly leaned on him too much, it knows that putting his name on the marquee is going to be a smart financial move.
WWE has been more adventurous about who it puts in the main event of smaller pay-per-views, as we saw with Ryback getting that slot at Hell in a Cell 2012 and Payback 2013. When it comes to the summer blockbuster show, though, WWE turns to its biggest star.
For longer than anyone else, that has been Cena.
Should he have just fallen on his face with all those opportunities, it'd be hard to dub him Mr. SummerSlam. That's far from the case. While Cena has had some poor matches at the event, his collection of classics compares favorably with anyone.
Cena still has work to do in this department, but he only trails the Hitman and Kurt Angle.
While the oft-criticized star often receives "You can't wrestle" chants, his SummerSlam record says otherwise. He has nailed a large majority of his performances at the big event. That's what a megastar is supposed to do—shine when then spotlight is brightest.
Using Dave Meltzer's ratings in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t ProFightDB.com) as a guide, the following is a list of the wrestlers with the most SummerSlam matches rated 3.75 stars or higher:
- Kurt Angle: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004
- Bret Hart: 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994
- John Cena: 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012
- Shawn Michaels: 1995, 1996, 2002
- Triple H: 1998, 2000, 2002
- Edge: 2000, 2006, 2008
Cena just needs one more excellent showing to eclipse Hart and catch Angle. That could come as soon as this year with as talented of an opponent as he has waiting on him.
Brock Lesnar's hard-hitting style and superb amateur wrestling skills give each of his bouts a chance to be great.
There will be no shortage of hype heading into this next one, either. The drama surrounding the battle for the WWE title, the spotlight of the main event, the talent involved and Lesnar looking to avenge his 2012 loss to Cena promises a realistic opportunity for their collision to be a classic.
Count on Cena thriving. His resume says he will.
|2007||Randy Orton||WWE Championship||4|
|2013||Daniel Bryan||WWE Championship||4.5|
Wrestling Observer Newsletter (ProFightDB)
That's not counting CM Punk vs. Cena in 2011, which Meltzer rated (h/t ProFightDB.com) 3.5 stars. That rating is underselling the work both men produced that night. While not as captivating as their effort at Money in the Bank that year, this was still a standout bout.
Pumping those out has been a habit for Cena at the summer pay-per-view.
His highest-rated matches have come against a variety of opponents and stretch as far back as 2006. His success is no blip. Time and time again, he's been fantastic in the ring at SummerSlam.
An instant classic against Lesnar would have him tied as the most prolific in-ring storyteller at that event. Unless, he leaves behind his wrestling boots for Hollywood for good, 2014 won't be his only opportunity either.
By the time Cena's retired, he'll have contributed more to SummerSlam's timeline than Hogan, who was the center of the show early on, and Hart and Angle, both of whom repeatedly made the pay-per-view their stage.
Cena becoming Mr. SummerSlam is as inevitable as the summer ending.