John Cena is lapping Roman Reigns on the mic on WWE Raw in their increasingly personal feud.
The Big Dog has grown more comfortable on the big stage opposite Cena. He's landed some solid verbal punches. But he's still getting schooled.
Cena is still king. Reigns remains the crown prince.
Ahead of their clash at the No Mercy pay-pay-view on Sept. 24, Cena and Reigns have engaged in a nothing-is-off-limits promo battle for three weeks straight. In the process, both men have broken the fourth wall, making references to a failed drug test, to criticism each man receives from the fans and heel turns.
The battle began on Aug. 28 when they crossed paths during the contract signing for the big bout.
Reigns reminded Cena that he retired The Undertaker. He said Cena's time on top was over. The Cenation Leader then proceeded to flay his soul on TV in response.
Cena dismissed Reigns as a protected golden boy, calling him a corporately created knockoff of him. And When Reigns appeared to draw a blank about his lines, Cena nailed him in the gut.
"It's called a promo," Cena said. "If you want to be the big dog, you're going to have to learn how to do it."
Cena won that night in emphatic fashion, going up 1-0.
In their next go-round the next week, Reigns made fun of Cena for taking too long to dispatch of Jason Jordan. His best shot came when The Big Dog called him a "fake ass lying b---h."
Cena retorted by pointing out Reigns came out to the ring with his zipper down. Reigns fired back and handled the improvised moment albeit with a reliance on a homophobic tone.
Cena dug into Reigns, bringing up how Reigns has struggled to win over fans. The Big Dog's response was more generic, saying he didn't respect Cena.
Thanks to better, more personal lines, a stronger delivery and bigger presence, Cena took that matchup, as well. That made their series 2-0 in favor of the 16-time world champ.
On Monday's Raw, the powerhouses went at it again. While Braun Strowman and Brock Lesnar said little and spoke with violence, Reigns and Cena continued their promo battle.
This was The Big Dog's best outing of the three.
He didn't seem as out of his element as he did in the previous weeks. He was intense, focused and convincingly confident. Reigns' best shot went largely unnoticed by the crowd, but he was perfectly smarmy when he said he knew someone (presumably The Rock) who could help revive Cena's failed Hollywood career.
Cena, however, got the last line, one that became the talk of the segment. "Consider me like a drug test, homes. You ain't getting past me," Cena said in reference to Reigns violating the WWE Wellness Policy in 2016.
And where that stung thanks to bleeding into reality, Reigns' rhetoric felt more made up. Figure Four Online writer JJ Williams pointed out Reigns undercutting Cena's in-ring ability didn't ring true:
Still, Reigns edged out Cena on Monday night, bringing the tally for their promo clash to 2-1 Cena.
Cena has looked like more of a star consistently throughout. He's had the more buzz-generating barbs. Jason Powell of ProWrestling.net wrote: "Cena shines with these insult promos, whereas Roman's comebacks were decent at best."
A WWE.com poll on who spoke the most truth on Monday's Raw has Cena winning convincingly at the time of this writing:
Cena's been the victor overall.
Reigns hasn't yet touched on Cena's divorce, so he has at least one haymaker left to deliver. Even so, there is just one more Raw left before the PPV, so Reigns isn't likely to catch and surpass him.
But Reigns is poised to do his winning in the ring. This all reads like a setup for The Big Dog clobbering Cena in retaliation. And ultimately, fans will remember Reigns towering over a fallen Cena at No Mercy longer than they will Cena outdueling him on the mic.