Power Ranking All of John Cena's Career SummerSlam Opponents
On Aug. 17, John Cena will enter Staples Center for a WWE World Heavyweight Championship match against Brock Lesnar that will headline the annual SummerSlam pay-per-view.
Already enhanced by some stellar mic work on the part of Cena and Lesnar spokesman Paul Heyman, the feud figures to attract thousands of viewers to the WWE Network for the contest.
It is hardly Cena's first high-profile SummerSlam bout. Since 2004, the leader of the Cenation has thrilled audiences and captivated fans with memorable matches against Hall of Famer Booker T, Chris Jericho, Batista, Big Show and CM Punk.
His wars with Randy Orton and Edge helped define him as a performer and solidify him as the face of a generation.
In preparation for the older, wiser and more experienced Cena's latest contest at the summertime spectacular, relive his epic clashes with a countdown of his greatest SummerSlam opponents.
10. Nexus (2010)
The Nexus was the hottest act in wrestling when it rolled into Staples Center in Los Angeles for SummerSlam 2010 and a huge seven-on-seven Tag Team Elimination match against a team of WWE all-stars led by John Cena.
The faction was still in its infancy but it was clear that several of its members had bright futures ahead of them. Wade Barrett was the star of the group, standing out from the others thanks to superb mic skills. That he had presented Cena with a fresh new opponent helped the overall quality of the WWE product and elevated him instantly.
Heath Slater and Justin Gabriel had proven themselves to be solid ring workers, Skip Sheffield had an insatiable appetite for dealing out pain and punishment and Darren Young had a charisma about him that indicated he may one day have success on the main roster.
Aug. 15 simply was not meant to be their shining moment. Rather than defeating their much more experienced, established opposition, their youth reared its ugly head and Cena was able to overcome their onslaught.
The leader of the Cenation overcame the odds (again) and knocked off Gabriel and Barrett to win the match, much to the dismay of fans and critics who had hoped a win for the renegade Superstar of the future would be the beginning of something truly special.
Rather than being legitimate threats to Cena and his status as the top babyface in the industry, they were simply the latest obstacle for him to overcome if he wanted to prove his greatness for the umpteenth time.
9. Booker T (2004)
Booker T provided John Cena with a legitimate, veteran challenger for the United States Championship in summer 2004.
The Doctor of Thuganomics was surging and on his way to the top of WWE. The response he was getting from audiences already established him as one of the most popular Superstars in all of wrestling and the Best-of-5 Series for the coveted U.S. title with the hated Booker only helped intensify the love and support given to him by the WWE fans.
Booker was essential in the development of Cena into a legitimate main event performer. While their chemistry was never particularly strong, Booker imparted years of knowledge into Cena. Having worked with so many legitimate Hall of Fame competitors, he knew what worked and what did not. He was able to impart that knowledge on the leader of the Chain Gang as he prepared for a WWE Championship push.
More importantly, Booker was an over heel who understood what it took to elicit a desired reaction from the crowd. He was the perfect foil for the attitudinal Cena, who showed little respect for his veteran opponent and endeared himself to that ever-important 18-35 demographic that loved everything about the Doctor of Thuganomics.
Cena defeated Booker to go up one on the former WCW champion in the Best-of-5 Series, which would conclude in October with Cena regaining the title he never should have lost.
8. Big Show (2012)
The Big Show was enjoying the latest push of his career as he entered the Staples Center in Los Angeles for SummerSlam 2012 for a huge Triple Threat match for the WWE Championship.
A recent heel turn by champion CM Punk had siphoned a great deal of Show's heel heat entering the show and the giant was left largely as an afterthought by bell time. A tackling dummy for his higher-profile opponents, Show was hardly a threat to leave with the top prize in the sport.
Cena had been embroiled in a feud with the big man entering the summertime spectacular but had shifted his focus to Punk, leaving Show to wallow as the third wheel in a match that would have benefited exponentially from being a singles match between the champion and the face of the company.
Show did a fine job throughout the match, thanks to being motivated and determined to sustain his latest push, but fans cared little about anything he did. By the end of the bout, all of the heat was squarely on Cena and Punk, to the point that the giant would be exiled to SmackDown shortly thereafter to feud with Sheamus over the World Heavyweight Championship.
7. Chris Jericho (2005)
John Cena's first SummerSlam event as WWE champion occurred in 2005. His opponent at that show? Chris Jericho, a Superstar who had wrestled every major star of the last decade and was on his way out of the company for some much needed time away from the squared circle.
One of the most respected stars in the industry, Jericho had built a resume for himself that ranked him among all-time industry greats. Beating him still meant something and working with him was beneficial for anyone, regardless of their experience.
Given the fact that Cena was still impressionable, he would learn a great deal working from someone with the ability of a Y2J.
Jericho and Cena worked extremely well together, demonstrating tremendous chemistry as they captivated the Washington, D.C., crowd. Cena delivered the Attitude Adjustment, known then as the FU, and successfully retained the title.
It was during that match that the fans began letting their displeasure for the superhero-esque qualities of the Cena character be felt. They booed the champion and cheered Jericho, whose performances over the years had built up such a wealth of goodwill that it was hard for them to root against him.
It was only a sign of things to come over the next decade.
6. Batista (2008)
For the first time since capturing the WWE title three years earlier, Cena was not involved in the championship picture at SummerSlam 2008. That is because his match with Batista far exceeded the title. It was a monumental clash between the era's two biggest babyfaces, a big-money match the likes of which are usually reserved for WrestleMania.
The fanbase was split, some rooting on Cena while others appreciated the edgier and more serious side of The Animal.
With nothing but pride on the line, the Superstars traded high-impact moves and signature offense, all in hopes of putting the other down and securing a major win. Eventually, Batista caught Cena flying through the air with a massive Batista Bomb. He scored the victory, proving himself to be the more dominant star on that night and one of the rare stars to cleanly defeat the face of WWE.
5. Daniel Bryan (2013)
The leader of the Yes Movement was in the infancy of a main event push that would see him become the most popular star in the industry over time. Daniel Bryan was an explosive talent whose intensity, aggression and unmatched wrestling skill had helped him overcome booking missteps and comedic angles.
By the time SummerSlam 2013 rolled around, there was no denying the fans' support for the Aberdeen, Washington, native. It was growing by the week and overpowering the receptions given to established main event stars such as Triple H, Randy Orton and John Cena.
Speaking of Cena, for Bryan to achieve the championship glory he so desperately sought, he would have to knock off the franchise player of WWE and overcome any beliefs that he was not main event material. With Cena equally determined that he could hang with the worker so many considered the best in the world, Bryan would have to turn in the greatest performance of his career.
Expectations were understandably high as they took to the ring and every one of them would be met. Despite a torn triceps, Cena delivered one of the best matches of his career while Bryan fed off of the passionate Los Angeles crowd and tore through the champion like a buzzsaw.
Bryan won the match, and the title, with the running knee. The win allowed him to join fellow Cena SummerSlam opponent Batista as one of few to score clean, decisive victories over the industry's most influential star.
4. Brock Lesnar (2014)
When Brock Lesnar takes to the ring for his WWE World Heavyweight Championship bout against John Cena on Aug. 17, he will instantly become one of the Superstar's greatest SummerSlam opponents, thanks to his star power and impressive resume.
Lesnar is fresh off a history-making victory over The Undertaker at WrestleMania XXX and has the great Paul Heyman serving as a mouthpiece for him, ensuring tremendous heat for the main event of the 2014 edition of the annual extravaganza.
Heyman has already done a tremendous job of drawing a more passionate and aggressive side out of Cena than fans have been exposed to recently, as evidenced by his goosebump-inducing promo on the July 28 episode of Raw.
History indicates that Cena and Lesnar will have an outstanding bout, if they are allowed to open things up and move beyond the confines of a traditional match. Their contest at Extreme Rules 2012 was one of the best that year and will be revisited enough over the next three weeks to ensure that expectations will be high come match time.
Whether they live up to said expectations remains to be seen but early indications are that they will have no problem.
3. Edge (2006)
The 2006 edition of SummerSlam was headlined by a huge WWE Championship clash between two men who, in an eight-month span, developed a rivalry that became the hottest in the sport.
Edge had risen to prominence as a main eventer in January when he cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase and captured the WWE title from John Cena at New Year's Revolution. It was a controversial moment but one that greatly enhanced the opportunistic Rated R Superstar character.
As the animosity and hatred between them grew, it was clear that the company had to strike while the iron was hot. Potential existed to ignite a rivalry that could carry the industry for years to come and they jumped at the opportunity.
At SummerSlam, Cena showed great motivation while working in front of his hometown fans. The Boston crowd, however, was far more interested in expressing their support for Edge, who capitalized on interference from Lita and utilized a pair of brass knuckles to help retain his title.
It was a big win for Edge and key in setting up the excellent TLC match a month later in Toronto at Unforgiven.
2. Randy Orton (2007; 2009)
The Viper is one of two men to have faced John Cena at multiple SummerSlams, competing in WWE Championship bouts against him in 2007 and 2009.
The first bout was the culmination of a renewed push for the third-generation star. After sidelining Shawn Michaels and Rob Van Dam, Orton was as hot as he had been in years and well on his way to capturing his first WWE Championship. To do so, he would have to defeat Cena, a Superstar whose rise to the top of the industry came roughly at the same time as Orton's.
The main event of SummerSlam 2007 was a dramatic affair that saw Cena and Orton withstand the other's finishing maneuvers, only for Cena to retain following the Attitude Adjustment.
Two years later, Orton would get the last laugh when he used interference from Brett DiBiase, brother of Legacy member Ted, to deliver the RKO and retain the WWE title.
Cena and Orton have always managed to cross one another, regardless of their status as babyface or heel or their place on the card. They are two Superstars whose careers will forever be linked, as evidenced by their SummerSlam resumes.
1. CM Punk (2011, 2012)
At SummerSlam 2011, CM Punk and John Cena competed for the right to call themselves the undisputed WWE champion. Each had a claim to the title, though Cena's was far more flimsy than the self-proclaimed Best in the World. On the heels of a five-star instant classic at Money in the Bank, they would be faced with a scenario in which expectations would be almost unrealistically high.
Still, they managed to turn in a stellar match, proving that they were each other's greatest opponent.
A year later, they would renew their rivalry in a match also involving Big Show.
Punk and Cena stole the spotlight as they continued to demonstrate their exemplary chemistry.
When Punk pinned Show following an Attitude Adjustment from Cena, it ensured that the rivalry between the two greatest Superstars of this generation would last well into the future.
Like Randy Orton, Punk's career will forever be linked to Cena. The two have had so many outstanding matches with one another that fans immediately point to their battles as some of the best of the last decade. Their wars at SummerSlam are simply a sample of what fans can expect when they clash.