John Cena has been WWE's top guy for nearly 12 years, building a Hall of Fame-caliber career in the process. He's headlined WrestleMania five times, won 24 championships and has been one of the biggest draws WWE has ever known.
But he's not done yet.
That's because two massive accomplishments could be reached soon. Cena will face AJ Styles for the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble pay-per-view on Jan. 29. He is one title win away from tying Ric Flair's record of 16 world titles, and he may achieve that distinction against Styles.
If that happens, Cena could have his signature moment by beating The Undertaker at WrestleMania 33.
Fans knew that tying the record was coming, and it's closer than ever. Cena's supporters are anxious to see it happen. He's done so much for WWE and has been such an inspiration to fans all over the world. His hard work has put him on top, and fans appreciate him for all he's done during his career.
But beating The Deadman on The Grandest Stage of Them All would be something else altogether.
Cena is accustomed to being at the center of controversy. His fans can't stop talking about him, and the same can be said of his haters. Whether you love him or hate him, everyone has an opinion, and he's always been a major topic of debate.
Even during absences, Cena's name remains a major point of conversation.
Much of that conversation centered on his imminent 16th world title. As the Royal Rumble draws near, the WWE Universe is continuing that conversation. Fans of The Nature Boy would likely be none too happy to see Cena tie the all-time record, and that's understandable.
Flair is an icon in the industry, and he's done more for professional wrestling than arguably anyone else.
But the majority of Flair's championships were won during the territory days, when a top guy was not only the man who sold the most tickets, but he was also the best worker. He could face off with anyone and make them look good.
In Flair's case, he made them look better than they could with anyone else.
The top guy also had to fully have the fans where he wanted them to be. When Flair was a heel, the majority of the crowd hated him. When he was a babyface, the entire audience loved him. Flair held the fans in the palms of his hands, and they followed him with full respect of what he was and what he brought to the game.
Could any of that be said of Cena?
The biggest problem with the comparison is that Flair came along during a much different time in the business. Jim Crockett Promotions booked Flair as the top act with a Hall of Fame supporting cast around him. WWE constantly seemed to depend on Cena to carry the company while trying to build a viable group of Superstars to work the undercard.
From Randy Orton to CM Punk to Daniel Bryan, one guy after another had the potential to become the next top star, but for one reason or another, it was Cena who came out on top. WWE fully invested in Cena to be the face of the company, and it was a role he took seriously.
Flair was the best ambassador the NWA had, and the same is true of Cena in WWE.
WrestleMania 33 will be the defining moment of Cena's career, and it comes at a time when the company is adjusting to life without him as its full-time top guy. As he pulls back and ventures out into mainstream Hollywood, the last remaining milestones of his wrestling career become apparent.
No milestone is bigger than tying Flair's record.
But if he walks into WrestleMania as the champ and beats The Undertaker, Cena would reach a level that no other WWE Superstar ever will. As unlikely as it may have seemed at one time, Cena could be headed to WWE immortality as the man who ended The Deadman's phenomenal ride.
Cena could walk out of WrestleMania 33 with the gold and with The Undertaker's career.
That opens up a whole new debate, and it's one that could be hotter than the one surrounding Flair's record. Like Cena, Undertaker has reached a point where there's little left to accomplish. The Phenom's best years are behind him, and he may decide the time is right to walk away from WWE at The Show of Shows.
If he does it after a loss against Cena, it would be of his own volition.
Undertaker has earned the right to go out on his own terms, and fans should respect his decision for his opponent for his last match. That includes Cena.
Cena's run at the top has lasted longer than any Superstar before him, and his main event moments will be replayed for years to come. But nothing would compare to the moment when he hoists the WWE Championship above his head as The Undertaker's career comes to an end.
The Leader of the Cenation will make world title history, thanks to his hard work and dedication to WWE. Whether he should get it or beat The Phenom is up to the fans. But for WWE and those who respect Cena's work, no one is more deserving.
WrestleMania is the night when legends are made, and there is no bigger legend of his generation than Cena.
Tom Clark can regularly be seen on Bleacher Report. His podcast, Tom Clark's Main Event, is available on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Android, Windows Phone and online here.
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