Take a quick look at the card for Sunday's TLC pay-per-view. Notice a name missing? John Cena isn't on it right now.
It is a little bit unusual to not see the big draw of WWE on the card of any pay-per-view, especially the last one of a calendar year. The company has had some difficulty with buys of their events, yet had a lot of people invested in Survivor Series, the last pay-per-view WWE put together before this Sunday's final one of 2011.
WWE needs to keep fans consumed in the product, so why not have arguably the most popular superstar of this generation off of the TLC pay-per-view card this late in the game? WWE is preparing to launch WWE Network in the next year and would be expected to lead with their best foot forward. The network will almost certainly have coverage surrounding the upcoming WrestleMania on April 1. The main match on that night is Cena against The Rock.
Why not market Cena on every event that you can to appeal to his large audience of fans?
For those who support Cena, it cannot be denied that Cena has a permanent spot in the main event for the most part. That leads to a lot of the negativity he gets. TLC will be the second straight pay-per-view without John Cena in a World title match. The last time that happened was exactly one year ago.
During his feud with Wade Barrett and Nexus, John Cena was left out of the World title match on a pay-per-view TLC 2010 and Royal Rumble 2011. He was in the WWE Championship match at Survivor Series, but only as the special guest referee. The two events before that, Bragging Rights 2010 and Hell in a Cell 2010, were also non-title matches for John Cena.
It is forgivable to have Cena out of the title picture every so often, but not on the card? Not having Cena on a pay-per-view at all is almost unheard of. You would have to go all the way back to Cyber Sunday 2008 to find the last event without him. Cena was injured at the time and would return to the title picture the following month at Survivor Series, when Cena would defeat Chris Jericho for the World Heavyweight Championship.
Not including injuries and brand-specific pay-per-views for brands that did not feature Cena, the last pay-per-view to have an active John Cena not be featured was all the way back in 2003 at SummerSlam. Cena did not appear on that event, but did face The Undertaker at Vengeance and Brock Lesnar at No Mercy on either side of that SummerSlam.
This is virtually uncharted territory for John Cena. It has been almost eight-and-a-half years since Cena was healthy and missed out on appearing on an event. Cena is a workhorse and having him miss out on an event, even one like TLC, would be something very strange to see.
Many fans speculate that, due to the attack this past Monday, a returning Kane could be facing Cena at TLC, but that may be way too soon for a feud. There are also reports out there that a special guest referee spot could be in Cena's immediate future.
Regardless of how you feel about Cena, be sure to keep a keen eye on John Cena come Sunday. It isn't too often that he isn't involved in whatever WWE is doing.