There's nothing like the return of an MVP-caliber WWE Superstar like John Cena to make a roster feel complete again.
Injuries and absences have left WWE shuffling around its pieces each week. On Monday's Raw, an invaluable piece made its way back, as Cena wrestled for the first time in two months.
WWE's disabled list boasts a long list of top talents: Seth Rollins, Randy Orton, Daniel Bryan, Cesaro, King Barrett, Stardust and Darren Young are hurting, too. Undertaker and Brock Lesnar are both out thanks to limited schedules.
And so the company needed Cena in a bad way.
He reminded WWE and its fans of his value right off the bat. Cena squeezed his hand tight around a microphone and emphatically addressed the crowd on Monday's Raw. The passion that filled that promo popped off the screen.
Hunger colored his voice as Cena talked about the United States Championship.
This is something WWE has been missing of late. This kind of emotion, this kind of foot-on-the-pedal verbal performance has been rare without Cena (and Rollins) not around.
Cena had a number of outlets handing out praise. Cageside Seats, for one, tweeted about him still being the company's best:
Cageside Seats @cagesideseats
That right there is why John Cena is the best in the business12/29/2015, 3:40:52 AM
The Brooklyn crowd tried to harass him. It tried to push back against his vanilla-babyface routine. He eventually turned them around, though, getting psyched to see him go after the U.S. title.
No one on the roster other than Paul Heyman can pull that off.
Cena and Alberto Del Rio worked the crowd as a non-title match morphed into a championship bout on live TV. By the time the foes were done barking at each other, the audience was frothing at the prospect of the fight. That's impressive considering how many fans are generally apathetic about Del Rio.
Justin LaBar, host of Chair Shot Reality, commented about how well the two revved up the crowd:
Justin LaBar @JustinLaBar
John Cena & Del Rio got the crowd on their feet excited to have a title match. Good work. #RAW #WWE12/29/2015, 3:44:26 AM
WWE can look forward to lot more of this with Cena now around again. He is one of the few talents the company can just throw out there and ask to effectively fill a long stretch of TV time. It doesn't matter what story he's involved in; he can make it seem like the headline narrative.
And once he stepped into the ring, he reminded us of what he brings to the table there, too.
He and Del Rio had a strong match. It outclassed their effort at Hell in a Cell and was one of the highlights of Monday's Raw. That kind of steady, clutch performance has been Cena's M.O. for a long time.
He spent much of the year providing thrillers during his U.S. title open challenges. After his stellar work opposite Cesaro, Sami Zayn, Neville and Dolph Ziggler , you could argue that 2015 has been Cena's best year from an in-ring perspective.
With him now back in the fold, WWE is assured more big matches, more show-stealers, more TV bouts that feel like pay-per-view offerings.
As Benjamin Tucker of Pro Wrestling Torch summed up, Cena improves the show:
Benjamin Tucker @BTuckerTorch
Hot end to Raw, solid match with a cruddy ending but McMahon and Cena make the show a million times better by default12/29/2015, 4:11:34 AM
Not only does the roster once again feature someone who nails it on the mic and in the ring, but WWE's options expand with him around.
He can help make The League of Nations more legit, providing a high-level prey for the new group to pounce on. He can reignite the fire that was crackling around the U.S. title earlier this year. He can create some early excitement about WrestleMania 32 as WWE teases who his opponent will be.
As 2016 begins, WWE will be energized by Cena's presence. A thinned roster suddenly becomes more robust with the leader of the Cenation sitting back on his throne.