A week ago, SmackDown commissioner Shane McMahon told Rusev and AJ Styles they would battle for the final spot on the brand's Survivor Series squad. Styles instead won the WWE Championship. Rusev fell to Randy Orton to lose out on his chance.
And in quite the curveball, Cena charged in instead.
BREAKING: @JohnCena has been named the fifth and final member of #SDLive's Men's team at #SurvivorSeries! https://t.co/9DmwJ0boXb2017-11-8 15:07:32
It will now be Cena, McMahon, Bobby Roode, Shinsuke Nakamura and Randy Orton vs. Kurt Angle, Finn Balor, Samoa Joe, Braun Strowman and Jason Jordan. The powerhouse's addition gives the Nov. 19 pay-per-view an instant boost. It helps assure that match will be a winner.
But Cena's surprise arrival causes narrative and booking issues that WWE is apparently willing to accept.
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Pro: Star Power
Any event with Cena on the card is a bigger event. Period.
It looked as if The Cenation Leader would miss the PPV, but now he's suddenly in one of its marquee matches. That's going to create some buzz. It may entice some casual fans who were on the fence about tuning in.
The Raw vs. SmackDown match now features a total of four former world champions, three men who have headlined WrestleMania.
And from a kayfabe standpoint, it makes perfect sense that McMahon would recruit Cena. He's been a dominant performer for over a decade.
Con: Brand Loyalty?
The concept of brand loyalty was already a logical strain. Cena on Team Blue worsens that. The powerhouse has no great ties to SmackDown. Only months ago he was competing for Raw after becoming a free agent.
Cena hasn't wrestled on SmackDown since August, per CageMatch.net.
And yet, he's now moments away from battling alongside old foes in a war on a rival brand. Matt Fowler of IGN wrote of this development: "This seems suspect. For a PPV built so brutally around distinct brand lines and factions, how does the ringer fit in?"
Joshua Gagnon of Wrestling Inc pointed out how strange this all feels:
Joshua Gagnon 📰 @HeelDoors
Cena is a free agent, but it's still weird. https://t.co/st8OgpvX0Z2017-11-8 19:00:24
WWE will look to explain it in the coming weeks, but it's never going to make complete sense. It will be a case of the audience forced to look past a plot hole.
Pro: Match Quality
Cena leaping into Survivor Series is going to result in some exciting action.
The 16-time world champ is a clutch performer, known for coming through on big stages. He's bound to do so again with some intriguing opponents. Cena clashing with Strowman and Jordan will be fun. The titan crossing paths with Balor will be electric.
The last time Cena was involved in a traditional Survivor Series elimination match, the crowd ate up every minute of it.
WWE knows it can depend on him to elevate this year's bout. He's long been a bedrock for the company.
Con: Land of One Less Opportunity
The blue brand could have recruited Rusev, Tye Dillinger, Sami Zayn or Kevin Owens. Instead of one of those rising stars, WWE went with a part-timer and household name.
Cena doesn't need this match the way Rusev does. The Bulgarian Brute could have created a career-changing moment. Instead, he's bound to sit on the sidelines.
Owens and Zayn may figure into the story regardless, but there's no guarantee Rusev and Dillinger get a sniff of airtime come Nov. 19.
And as IWNerd.com pointed out, Team SmackDown is not exactly a brood of young guns:
Every Member Of Team Smackdown Live Is 37 Years Old Or Older Orton (37) Nakamura (37) Roode (40) Cena (40) Shane (47)2017-11-8 19:52:06
This is no surprise at this point. Angle and McMahon, two Attitude Era mainstays, are Raw and SmackDown's captains respectively in 2017.
Be it at WrestleMania or Survivor Series, with Goldberg or Cena, WWE so often goes for the sure thing and leaning on nostalgia rather than building for the future.