Power Ranking John Cena's 16 WWE World Championship Victories
Sixteen world championships. An incredible, unprecedented feat achieved by only two men in the history of pro wrestling: Ric Flair and John Cena (according to WWE lore, at least).
The latter recently joined the elite club following his hard-fought victory over AJ Styles at January's Royal Rumble event, capping off a long championship chase for The Leader of the Cenation.
Granted, not every single one of those reigns was tremendously memorable, but a majority of the bouts he won those titles in were either entertaining or iconic.
The self-proclaimed "Face That Runs the Place" has cemented his spot in the (WWE) record books in addition to earning John "Bradshaw" Layfield's favored nickname, "Big Match John." Although his latest title reign was cut short at Elimination Chamber, it's inevitable he'll regain the gold and break Flair's phantom record in the process.
In celebration of Cena's "historic" 16th world championship, let's look at where his latest remarkable match with Styles ranks among the rest of his major title wins from WrestleMania 21 to present day.
16. John Cena vs. JBL (WrestleMania 21)
Of all the incredible rivals John Cena has had over the course of his career, it's safe to say JBL is not among them.
They've had a few memorable battles, including an "I Quit" match at Judgement Day 2005 and a Parking Lot Brawl at The Great American Bash 2008. But by and large, their matches were mostly duds, including their initial championship clash at WrestleMania 21.
At that point, Cena was a star on the rise and didn't have much big-match experience. Meanwhile, JBL was known for barely retaining his title time and time again, not for contesting mat classics.
When fans look back at WrestleMania 21, they often remember Cena hitting JBL with an Attitude Adjustment for the win. The match itself is typically forgotten because it was hardly anything special.
What could they do with the 11 minutes they were given? As a glorified television main event, it wasn't technically a bad bout, but it lacked that special spark necessary to cement it as a WrestleMania-worthy encounter.
15. John Cena vs. Edge (Royal Rumble 2006)
Unlike JBL, Edge finds himself near the top of the list of John Cena's greatest in-ring rivals of all time. But that isn't to say every one of their encounters was a masterpiece, which was made evident by their WWE Championship match at Royal Rumble 2006.
Edge's historic WWE title victory three weeks earlier at New Year's Revolution should have solidified him as a star. And in a way, it did, but what fans tend to forget was that his first run with the strap was uneventful.
Not once in the three-week build to their bout at Royal Rumble was Edge made to look like a threat to Cena, and when they eventually went one-on-one, it was clear that Cena was the superior Superstar.
Why such an underwhelming affair occurred after the Royal Rumble match itself remains a mystery, and it's not as if Cena regaining the gold was a monumental moment. Their match was mediocre at best, and Cena forcing Edge to tap out was rather deflating.
Thankfully, this was far from the final time they would wage war over WWE's top title.
14. John Cena vs. Randy Orton (Breaking Point 2009)
Quantity doesn't necessarily translate to quality. That has been the theme of the storied John Cena vs. Randy Orton rivalry for the past decade, as most of their matches together were barely above average.
There wasn't a hotter heel on the Raw roster in 2009 than Orton, who embarked on a lengthy reign with the title that summer. Of course, he inevitably ran into the roadblock that was Cena.
It was merely a matter of time before Cena won back the belt, but it shouldn't have happened as soon as it did at Breaking Point 2009.
The general gist of their "I Quit" match was Orton brutally battering Cena with a barrage of weapons, only for Cena to not give up. It was a simple enough story, but how many times had we seen that before with Cena?
Anyone with the slightest bit of common sense knew he wasn't going to utter the two demeaning words, so the painfully predictable finish marred this match. Cena wrapping Orton's own arm around his neck for the STF via the use of handcuffs was clever, though.
13. John Cena vs. The Rock (WrestleMania 29)
Rarely is the sequel better the original, and John Cena vs. The Rock was no exception. Yes, WWE went the "twice in a lifetime" route with Cena and The Rock at WrestleMania 29, this time with the WWE Championship on the line.
Their initial encounter the year prior wasn't a wrestling masterpiece, but it was that magical aura that made it so epic. The second time around, it was obvious what was going to happen: Cena would win so that The Rock could "pass the torch" to him.
It would be one thing if the match itself was excellent, but it was anything but. There were a few storytelling bits that were done well—such as playing off spots from their first match, with Cena going for the People's Elbow and whatnot.
But for the most part, it was a flurry of finishers with both men constantly kicking out of everything the other guy hit him with.
Up until this point, Cena hadn't held the strap in over 18 months, yet it felt like nothing had changed once he was declared the new champion.
12. John Cena vs. Edge vs. Big Show (WrestleMania XXV)
WrestleManias XXV, XXVII and 29 are constantly in the conversation as the worst WrestleManias of all time—and for good reason.
In the case of WrestleMania XXV, Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker was the only truly tremendous match on the card because the two top title matches failed to meet the lofty expectations of fans.
Going into the event, the story surrounding the World Heavyweight Championship was that Edge and Big Show were involved in a love triangle with Vickie Guerrero. Meanwhile, Cena just wanted the world title back in his possession, making it all the more predictable he was winning the Triple Threat match.
Despite the obvious outcome, they had a chance to produce a fun title match, but they fell flat. Cena, Big Show and Edge all took turns hitting their signature spots on the others, working a relatively safe, standard Triple Threat match. The story was weak, and the in-ring action wasn't much better.
Cena lifting both Edge and Big Show up on his shoulders for a double Attitude Adjustment was a WrestleMania moment, but other than that, this was hardly a world title match worthy of occurring at WrestleMania, much less after Undertaker vs. Michaels.
11. John Cena vs. Alberto Del Rio (Hell in a Cell 2013)
During their on-and-off rivalry that ran from 2011 to 2016, John Cena and Alberto Del Rio never failed to contest compelling matches together. Almost all of their encounters were either good, great or tremendous, but some had better backstories than others.
For example, at Hell in a Cell 2013, Del Rio's World Heavyweight Championship defense against Cena hardly had any juice. Granted, they had history, but this was Cena's first match back from injury, and he was seemingly granted a shot at the strap for no reason.
Nevertheless, that didn't stop them from going out there and contesting one of the better bouts of the night. They just had a natural chemistry as opponents, and this match in particular featured plenty of back-and-forth action that captivated the crowd and kept it engaged throughout.
Del Rio had barely been booked as a credible champion up to this point, so Cena taking the title from him was the best thing for the belt. It also marked Cena's first World Heavyweight Championship reign in over four years.
10. John Cena vs. Chris Jericho (Survivor Series 2008)
Five years prior to John Cena challenging for the World Heavyweight Championship at Hell in a Cell 2013, he first pursued the gold at 2008's Survivor Series event.
Cena had been gone for months dealing with a neck injury but returned ahead of schedule at Survivor Series. And again, he was granted a title shot despite not earning one.
It had been years since Cena and Chris Jericho last did battle, but they quickly proved they were as capable as ever of delivering a delightful main event match with the title on the line. Jericho had been firing on all cylinders as Raw's lead antagonist, so it wasn't surprising he once again brought his best to his clash with Cena.
Meanwhile, Cena hardly showed any ring rust and fed off the adulation of the "hometown" fans in Boston (he's from West Newbury, Massachusetts), who were happy to see him back in action.
As a result, Cena emerging victorious with the title in tow was a triumphant moment and the beginning of a new chapter in Cena's career.
9. John Cena vs. The Miz vs. John Morrison (Extreme Rules 2011)
Needless to say, John Cena vs. The Miz from WrestleMania XXVII will go down as one of the most mediocre main events in WrestleMania history. Thankfully, they had a chance to redeem themselves the following month at Extreme Rules.
John Morrison's presence in the championship match added another element to the story, playing off the history they had as friends-turned-rivals.
Additionally, without being entirely focused on The Rock this time, Cena was more motivated to capture the championship, which would be his first world title in nearly a year. The three opponents worked well with each other, and the steel cage surrounding the ring added to the excitement of the match, with each of them frantically trying to escape the cage.
Morrison didn't feel out of place in his first WWE title pay-per-view main event, and R-Truth's interference allowed that feud to be furthered as well. Once it came down to The Miz and Cena, The Awesome One fell victim to an Attitude Adjustment off the top rope, leading to Cena scoring the victory.
Cena announcing afterward to the live crowd that the United States had killed Osama bin Laden was a feel-good moment to end the evening with.
8. WWE Championship Elimination Chamber Match (Elimination Chamber 2010)
When you're talking about the greatest Elimination Chamber combatants of all time, how can you not include John Cena in the conversation? Over the course of his career, he has survived three Elimination Chamber matches, with only Triple H surpassing him with four victories inside Satan's Prison.
At Elimination Chamber 2010, Sheamus had the tough task of defending his title against five of Raw's most elite athletes, and the likelihood of him retaining his title was not good. But what made this such a quality Elimination Chamber match was the abundance of stories that were told.
Sheamus and Triple H planted the seeds for their match at WrestleMania, The Legacy was falling apart at the seams and Cena was hungry for his next world title.
Similar to any other Elimination Chamber match, it was a brutal bout, with each of the Superstars inflicting punishment on one another via the unforgiving steel and chains.
With three fresh faces involved in the match (Sheamus, Ted DiBiase and Kofi Kingston), one of them should have been the last remaining competitor alongside Cena instead of Triple H, but it was an enjoyable outing nonetheless.
7. WWE World Heavyweight Championship Ladder Match (Money in the Bank 2014)
With Daniel Bryan sidelined with a serious injury, it was announced an eight-man ladder match would be held at Money in the Bank to determine a new WWE world heavyweight champion.
It pinned three fresh faces in Roman Reigns, Cesaro and Bray Wyatt against five seasoned stars in Cena, Alberto Del Rio, Randy Orton, Kane and Sheamus. Thus, it was a healthy mix of the old guard and the talent of tomorrow.
Everyone involved was allowed to shine at one point or another, with spots such as everyone crashing down from atop the ladders. Each individual had his own motivation for wanting to win the coveted championship, and you can never go wrong with so much star power vying for one world title.
In the end, Cena was the only logical choice to become champ and go on to be squashed by Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam. Moreover, beating such an amazing array of Superstars made this victory for him that much more impressive.
6. John Cena vs. Alberto Del Rio (Night of Champions 2011)
During his rookie year in WWE, Alberto Del Rio won the Royal Rumble match, became Mr. Money in the Bank and challenged for the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania XXVII.
Still, he had yet to have that one program that defined him as the megastar WWE hyped him up to be. He had that opportunity with John Cena at Night of Champions 2011.
Aside from a brief one-off on Raw earlier in the year, Cena and Del Rio had never gone one-on-one prior to this point. Despite that, they quickly found in-ring chemistry with each other and delivered an entertaining WWE title match.
If Del Rio wasn't already established as a main event-caliber competitor, he was after this impressive outing against Cena.
Unfortunately, Cena hadn't been without a title long enough for this win to mean anything. Perhaps the match would have ranked higher had Del Rio not tapped out as swiftly as he did, leading to Cena's premature title win.
Of all the matches these two have had over the years, though, this encounter in particular ranks toward the top.
5. John Cena vs. Batista (WrestleMania XXVI)
On paper, you would never expect John Cena and Batista to have anything above an average match. Well, they proved the world wrong by having an awesome icon vs. icon encounter at SummerSlam 2008, and they were ready to make history again at WrestleMania XXVI.
This time around, however, Batista was a heel, boasting about breaking Cena's neck when they first did battle two years earlier. That story alone was enough to put this bout over the top in addition to the suspenseful counters, crowd engagement and sheer electricity in the arena that night.
Although they predictably powered out of each other's moves, it only added to the thrill of Cena's chase for the championship.
What could possibly put The Animal away? It was only after an STF that Batista finally tapped, awarding Cena the victory.
For two men who led WWE through the late 2000s, Cena and Batista both held their own in this match and kicked off their strong series of fights that spring in spectacular fashion.
4. John Cena vs. Rey Mysterio (Raw, July 25, 2011)
CM Punk's abrupt departure from WWE in the summer of 2011 left Raw without a world champion, and in his absence, an eight-man tournament was held to determine a new WWE titleholder.
Originally, it looked like the new WWE champion would face off against the former champ, Cena, at SummerSlam. But because CM Punk ended up coming back sooner than expected, WWE sped up its plans and did the dream match of Cena vs. Rey Mysterio on the July 25 edition of Raw instead.
Entering the twilight of his career, Mysterio didn't seem to have many great matches left in him, but this championship clash proved otherwise. He fought with Cena every step of the way, resulting in a magical affair between the two seasoned stars.
With the vacant championship hanging in the balance, both men were willing to do anything and everything necessary to take that title home.
Cena emerging as the new champion was hardly a surprise, but the match itself was a terrific treat. If the flagship show featured title matches such as this one more often, Raw would be better off.
3. John Cena vs. Randy Orton (Bragging Rights 2009)
As previously noted, the matches John Cena and Randy Orton contested against each other were rarely compelling because their long-running rivalry never seemed to have a definitive conclusion.
But when they said their faceoff at Bragging Rights 2009 would be their last, they meant it, and what better bout to blow off the feud than an Iron Man match?
With 60 minutes on the clock, anything was legal, and they took full advantage of that stipulation by brawling all around the arena. It was the complete opposite of the first Iron Man match. Cena and Orton pinned each other every five to 10 minutes, but that was what worked for them.
If nothing else, the pace was kept consistent throughout, and for a one-hour Orton vs. Cena match, it wasn't nearly as boring as it might sound. They went all-out in contesting a modern-day classic, and they were successful in doing so with the exceptional effort they put forth here.
The journey to Cena winning his latest WWE title on this night was a fun one, and it culminated this storied rivalry with a bang (for the time being, anyway).
2. John Cena vs. Edge (Unforgiven 2006)
John Cena was criticized plenty early on in his career for not being a skilled in-ring competitor, constantly being showered with chants of "You can't wrestle!" Although several Superstars can be credited with elevating Cena to that next level, arguably the first man to do so was Edge.
Their matches throughout 2006 gradually got better with each outing, culminating in a phenomenal TLC match at Unforgiven. With it being Edge's specialty match and the event emanating from his hometown of Toronto, Cena virtually had no chance of coming out on top.
Going to great lengths to overcome his adversary, Cena resorted to putting Edge through tables and battering him with chairs and ladders. He was able to dig down deep enough and find a way to win.
The atmosphere alone helped make this match epic, and Edge more than did his part in putting over Cena.
He had also been undefeated in TLC matches up to this point, so the story they told was just tremendous. Even in defeat, Edge looked like a star, making Cena one in the process.
1. John Cena vs. AJ Styles (Royal Rumble 2017)
No one has brought the best out of John Cena more times than AJ Styles has this past year, and that was on full display in their third singles match, which took place at Royal Rumble 2017. It was almost impossible for them to top their previous encounters, and if they didn't, they came close by contesting a classic in San Antonio.
In addition to the fantastic flow the match had, the bout benefited from the little storytelling devices they incorporated throughout. Following a flurry of finishers, Styles was ready to put away his opponent the same way he did at SummerSlam 2016.
However, Cena had his number when he countered the Phenomenal Forearm into two Attitude Adjustments of his own. And with that, Cena made history by becoming a 16-time world champion.
And after all the terrific title matches he had to win to get to that point, it was a well-deserved accolade for The Face That Runs the Place.
It remains to be seen how many more titles Cena will hold by the time he calls it quits, whenever that might be. But if his next world championship victory is anywhere near as outstanding as this one was, the best might be yet to come for him.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is a Digital Journalism major at Endicott College. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.