At this Sunday’s SummerSlam pay-per-view, expect John Cena to deliver a great performance against Brock Lesnar, enhancing his reputation and legacy in the process.
After a rather dull run with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship—Cena has held the belt so many times that it’s extremely difficult for it to be interesting anymore—the bout with Lesnar gives the star a tantalizing opportunity to finally put his title reign on the map.
Expect the current champion to fully make the most of this chance.
For one thing, the pair’s tremendous bout at the Extreme Rules pay-per-view in 2012 bodes very well for the SummerSlam match. Easily one of the most brutal, stiff and compelling matches ever held in WWE, Cena and Lesnar fought in the Illinois' Allstate Arena for nearly 20 minutes in a modern classic.
Filled with some stunningly violent spots, terrific exchanges and intense psychological drama, this was probably Lesnar’s best wrestling match ever. Cena’s reckless and wild brawling style gelled perfectly with Lesnar’s vicious MMA-style move set—it really did look like they were in an actual fight.
So there’s really no reason the two can’t churn out something similarly brilliant on Sunday, adding yet another classic match to Cena’s resume.
He will likely go in there and take an extreme amount of punishment, like in the Extreme Rules bout, to help establish Lesnar as a monster. This may not be the smartest course of action considering his age and long list of injuries, but his work ethic will probably make him do it anyway.
The 12 Rounds actor has taken his share of criticism from fans over the years—some of it very justified—but even his biggest detractor has to admit he usually delivers on the main stage.
Besides the in-ring quality, the bout also offers Cena the chance to enhance his reputation in another crucial way: by putting over Lesnar clean in the middle of the ring.
The one flaw in the Extreme Rules match was undoubtedly Cena’s clean victory. Lesnar had just returned to the company, and having him lose in his first match back was totally nonsensical.
Throw in a mediocre feud with Bray Wyatt—which seemingly damaged the former NXT wrestler more than it aided him—and Cena’s ability to put over new stars looks rather patchy (Wade Barrett and The Miz were arguably heavily damaged by feuding with him too).
OK, so he’s not the one doing the booking, but it’s understandable why people get so frustrated with his act. He’s booked like Superman. It’s almost like Vince McMahon and his team of writers are terrified his drawing power will suddenly evaporate if he is made to look even slightly weak or vulnerable.
Putting Lesnar over for the title cleanly, however, would at least go some way to rectifying the mistakes of the past. It would also serve to rehabilitate Cena’s reputation—losing cleanly to the former MMA fighter would make him look selfless and professional. It would certainly be harder to accuse him of blocking newer stars and their paths to the top after that.
It’s not hyperbole to say that this Sunday could showcase one of Cena’s best-ever performances—he’ll have his working boots on, for sure.
Now let’s hope the writers book the bout to have the correct result, too.
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