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John Cena Attacked by AJ Styles, Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson in WWE Raw Return

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 23:  John Cena enters the ring at the WWE SummerSlam 2015 at Barclays Center of Brooklyn on August 23, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images)
JP Yim/Getty Images
Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistMay 30, 2016

John Cena made his return to WWE Monday night on Raw, and the 15-time world champion is here to stay.

Cena entered the ring and addressed the crowd, per WWE Universe:

After Cena talked to the crowd about the New Era that had arrived in his absence, AJ Styles approached the ring:

But that wasn't all. The rest of The Club then crashed the party, and with the help of fellow member Styles, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson viciously attacked Cena, via WWE:

The segment ended with the trio standing tall and Cena lying in the ring in pain. 

Cena's last appearance came during WrestleMania 32 on April 3, when he helped The Rock fend off The Wyatt Family:

He delivered an Attitude Adjustment to Erick Rowan, as WWE Universe shared:   

Rather than signaling Cena's return to full-time status, his WrestleMania appearance was more of a treat for the fans. It wouldn't be the biggest show of the year without the company's biggest active Superstar. Once the Cenation leader didn't show up on Raw the next night, it became clear he was still nursing an injury.

It wasn't long after his return from a self-imposed hiatus last winter that he announced he would undergo shoulder surgery:

The Wrestling Observer Newsletter (via Wrestling Inc.'s Marc Middleton) reported that WWE officials weren't expecting Cena to be back to 100 percent until the summer. On April 25, though, he tweeted that he intended to be back on Memorial Day's Raw.

Cena has made almost superhuman recoveries in the past. Most famously, he tore his pectoral in October 2007, with an estimated rehab of six months to a year. In January 2008, he appeared at the Royal Rumble:

Now the question is what WWE will have planned for Cena in the coming months. The obvious answer for the immediate future is a feud against The Club. But what else does the company have in store?  

He could go after one of the secondary titles and have another "John Cena U.S. Open Challenge" every week on Raw. Everything about that series was perfect, with the exception of the way in which Cena dropped the United States Championship to Alberto Del Rio at Hell in a Cell 2015.

Similarly, WWE could have Cena move to SmackDown on a full-time basis with the upcoming brand split. On May 25, the company announced SmackDown will air live on Tuesdays starting on July 19. Along with the move, WWE will have a separate roster for each flagship show.

Having Cena on the SmackDown roster would bring a level of buzz to the show and give it instant credibility.

During the last WWE draft in 2011, Cena famously moved from Raw to SmackDown to begin the show and then ended up back on Raw during the same night:

Going in a different direction, Cena hasn't competed for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in a major way for a lengthy period of time. His last reign came to an end at SummerSlam 2014, which feels like a lifetime ago.

Cena is eventually going to get that record-tying 16th world title reign and then likely surpass Ric Flair. Given Cena's recent injury issues, WWE won't wait around forever to make it happen.

A feud with Roman Reigns makes sense. Reigns planted the seeds for a feud with Cena during his appearance on Today following WrestleMania 32 (begins at the 4:19 mark of the video below):

The two fought for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship on two occasions, the first of which was a ladder match at Money in the Bank in June 2014. The second was a Fatal 4-Way match the next month at Battleground. According to the Internet Wrestling Database, their in-ring interactions have almost exclusively come in tag team matches.

Cena vs. Reigns as a standalone feud would be a lot of fun and create an interesting dynamic between WWE's biggest babyfaces.

Reigns will be tied up with Seth Rollins for the foreseeable future, with the two set to face off at Money in the Bank 2016 on June 19. Once that angle is over, Cena could be the next guy in line for a title shot.

For now, it appears he'll focus on a feud against Styles. Judging by the crowd reaction Monday, most of the WWE Universe is fired up for it.

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