It's a little easy to wave off John Cena's anticipated in-ring return to WWE.
That might sound a little strange, right? Cena is one of the best ever and fans haven't seen him officially compete in a match since August of 2021 when he took a loss to Roman Reigns.
But WWE itself sort of waved it off, too, saving the big announcement for a pre-taped video package. The big return itself will happen on the final SmackDown of the year, December 30:
So in essence, Cena will return to tag team with Kevin Owens against Reigns and Sami Zayn. That's not terribly exciting and it's hard to blame WWE for not pumping it up more—everything in Reigns' orbit right now sort of falls into a meh range because it's clear the end of his unified title reign will happen at WrestleMania 39.
It is, after all, a far cry from when he returned at the end of a pay-per-view in person to challenge Reigns for top-dog status.
So the task is to try and dread between the lines.
Is there something more here? Is Cena a lock for WrestleMania in Los Angeles next year? WWE would obviously love for him to be, especially with his Hollywood connections and newfound drawing power.
Maybe that means a match with Owens if the two turn on each other on December 30 and feud every now and then until the big throwdown. That would certainly answer the question of what Owens might do at Mania given the current landscape.
Granted, fans have seen plenty of the two in the ring and on the mic before, but it'd be pretty fitting to see Owens featured in perhaps Cena's last match ever after debuting on the main roster against Cena in a U.S. Open challenge all those years ago.
Before getting to Reigns, we'd be remiss not to mention Zayn. Maybe that's the sleeper move—Cena is the catalyst to getting The Bloodline to turn on Zayn, and rather than feud with guys he still respects and wants to roll with, Zayn turns his attention to Cena for Mania season.
On paper, a bunch of fans would probably rather see Zayn stick in the Bloodline for as long as possible and potentially even get a tittle shot at Reigns down the road. But a long feud and Mania match against Cena would be a nice sort of high-profile reward for his excellent work in reviving the Reigns saga when it had outright flatlined.
And then there's Reigns.
There is something to be said for Cena vs. Reigns. They're owners of the last two "eras" and have been in the ring together plenty. Another chapter, and perhaps the end of the saga, would be deserving of the Mania stage.
It would feel a little old WWE to dip back into that well for Reigns' Mania opponent. More logical would be Cody Rhodes given his big return. Or Seth Rollins, given the history. Or The Rock, for the family storyline. And if not Zayn, why not Jey Uso for the narrative punch?
But the nice thing about thinking Cena-Reigns might be in play now is that Mania is a two-night affair. Maybe they have another classic bout on the first night and Reigns goes on to lose on the second night. There are options to make it work.
The other alternative is this is just Cena gearing up for a Mania run against a yet-to-be-named opponent. Tag match first while he gets the wheels going again, then something like the Royal Rumble for setting up a feud. A passing-of-the-torch scenario with Austin Theory comes to mind.
And hey, maybe it's nothing. Maybe this is a way for WWE to get Cena in the mix when his busy schedule allows it. Bonus points in that it could act as WrestleMania insurance if The Rock isn't available. Plant the seeds, if they don't dig them up, it's all good. But get them in the ground just in case.
No matter what ends up happening, this is exactly what WWE wanted—intrigue around what might happen on December 30. Maybe it's nothing, but we'll all surely tune in...just in case.