Brock Lesnar is officially set to get a second opportunity to gorge on John Cena, this time at Night of Champions 2014.
The expected rematch promises to be a Match of the Year candidate and a display of guts and brutality. The dominant aura that WWE has painted around Lesnar, both men's résumés and the star power involved promises to make the upcoming world title bout an instant classic.
As noted on WWE.com, Triple H announced on Tuesday's Main Event that "Cena invoked his automatic rematch clause and will get his chance at a 16th World Title at Night of Champions."
That news comes out just two days after Cena lost the title by way of annihilation at SummerSlam. That bout was great in terms of shock value, delivering a one-sided beatdown that no one expected.
A humbled, damaged warrior now has to rise.
Cena would normally be a good bet to take back his championship, but the beating he suffered at Los Angeles' Staples Center creates doubt about his chances. He's not just stepping into the ring with a man—a bloodthirsty conqueror awaits him.
Building a Beast
WWE has amplified everything intimidating about Lesnar. He walks into Night of Champions with momentum dripping off him; the king of beasts, peerless, seemingly unstoppable.
Cena didn't even look like he belonged in the ring with Lesnar at SummerSlam.
The wrestlers told a story of a man tangling with an immortal and faring horrendously. Cena spent much of the night on his back, his hands up to protect his face. Lesnar snatched him up and smashed him down to the mat with a total of 16 German suplexes.
Suddenly, every heroic comeback and triumph Cena had achieved was pushed to the back of the audience's memory.
The last images fans have seen of Lesnar are of him breaking a chair over Big Show's back, ending Undertaker's undefeated streak at WrestleMania (sending him to the hospital afterward) and abusing Cena while the world watched on.
Forget his losses to Triple H, to Goldberg, to Cena himself; his destruction is what is fresh in fans' minds.
Even after winning the WWE title 12 times and overcoming men like The Rock, Mark Henry and Randy Orton, Cena now enters as the underdog. This isn't the usual false underdog label that WWE usually pins on him, either. This is real.
Some fans will wonder if Lesnar will hand him the same throttling that he received last time. Some will consider Cena putting up more offense this time a moral victory.
That would have been crazy talk just a week ago.
It's amazing how quickly perception can transform. WWE has turned this into a story of Cena having little hope to survive, much less win—like a man slugging it out with a mountain lion.
That will create a compelling energy at Night of Champions. Every time Lesnar knocks Cena to the mat, fans will get deja vu. Every time Cena mounts a rally, it will be far more surprising and thrilling than it would have been pre-SummerSlam.
A Résumé of Delivering
Both Lesnar and Cena are among WWE's best big-match performers ever.
Cena's critics will point at his limited moveset, his less-than-smooth movement in the ring and inconsistent selling and write him off. He didn't get to the position he's in on charm and build alone, though.
In the last four years, he's produced a staggering number of great bouts. It's not surprising how kind Dave Meltzer has been to him in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t ProFightDB.com) in terms of star ratings.
|John Cena's Highest-Rated Matches (2011-2014)|
|Event||Opponent||Star Rating out of 5|
|Extreme Rules 2011||The Miz, John Morrison||4|
|Money in the Bank 2011||CM Punk||5|
|Vengeance 2011||Alberto Del Rio||4|
|Extreme Rules 2012||Brock Lesnar||4.5|
|Night of Champions 2012||CM Punk||4.25|
|TLC 2012||Dolph Ziggler||4|
|Raw-Feb. 25, 2013||CM Punk||4.5|
|SummerSlam 2013||Daniel Bryan||4.5|
|Raw-Feb. 17, 2014||Cesaro||4.25|
|Payback 2014||Bray Wyatt||4.5|
|Wrestling Observer Newsletter, ProFightDB.com|
Lesnar has thrived as of late as well.
The Beast Incarnate has had just eight matches since returning to WWE in 2012. Meltzer has given three of them four stars or better.
(Ratings from Wrestling Observer Newsletter, compiled from ProFightDB.com)
- Extreme Rules 2012 vs. John Cena: 4.5 stars
- Extreme Rules 2013 vs. Triple H: 4 stars
- SummerSlam 2013 vs. CM Punk: 4.5 stars
When WWE.com put together its list of the 25 greatest matches from 2013, Lesnar and Cena appeared a total of six times, including at No. 2 and No. 1.
They are set to produce something worthy of a similar position at Night of Champions.
Fans know just how enthralling a collision between these two can be. At SummerSlam, storytelling was the dominant factor, but at Extreme Rules from 2012, Lesnar and Cena were allowed to go full-throttle against each other.
The result was captivating violence.
Chain-wrapped fists, blood dripping down Cena's head and smashmouth offense made for a match that begged to be rewatched. It now serves as tangible proof of how much greatness these two foes can compose together.
WWE is not going to have Cena stumble again as he did at SummerSlam. The more entertaining story is for him to strike back against Lesnar and to have this become more a case of two titans battling.
Lesnar and Cena can surpass their Extreme Rules clash with higher stakes this time around and the memory of Cena's failures in everyone's mind.
In the time between that match and the one set for Night of Champions, Lesnar has upped his stock by defeating The Undertaker at the event where he had won 21 straight times. Cena has added to his time on top.
WWE's two biggest stars have a shot at the sequel surpassing the blockbuster.
When they meet once more, one star will enter with his reputation wounded. That can only add to the hype and excitement of his attempt at redemption.
WWE knows it has a masterpiece-in-waiting to cap off Night of Champions and the highlight of 2014. It constructed this match to be just that.