As we head into the No Way Out pay-per-view, John Cena's career looks to be in an interesting position.
Despite being out of the title picture for months now, he remains the company's undisputed main star and top priority. Indeed, WWE Champion CM Punk has been playing second fiddle to The Marine star for the vast majority of his reign—his matches on PPV rarely main-event the show and he rarely gets anything close to the amount of screen-time on Raw that Cena does.
It looks like, at a time when business is stale and ratings are struggling, WWE brass are relying on Cena's star power to carry them through.
This is an astute move. Bleak as it sounds, there really is no one else—CM Punk is talented and popular but hasn't taken off as a draw. Same goes for Daniel Bryan.
While veteran stars like HHH and The Undertaker have better track records as draws, both are part-timers and can't be relied upon to appear regularly.
So, Cena is indisputably the company's biggest star and likely to stay that way until he retires or the company manages to create the next big money-making star (we probably shouldn't be holding our breath on the latter).
What makes all of this so compelling is that, despite his lofty stature in the company, Cena has found himself on something of a losing streak in recent times.
He lost to The Rock in their massively-hyped main event match at WrestleMania 29. Shortly afterwards he lost to floundering mid-card act Lord Tensai on TV.
Then at the Over the Rules pay-per-view last month he embarrassingly lost to Raw and SmackDown general manager John Laurinaitis. Cena dominated over the aging, retired wrestler for most of the bout until The Big Show shockingly turned heel, costing his former friend the match.
(Cena's only brief reprieve from his losing woes was a sterling win over former UFC World Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar at Extreme Rules. Although he got beaten up and knocked around so badly, it can surely be considered a Pyrrhic victory.)
The Big Show's interference has, of course, led to a match at No Way Out, where the two bitter enemies will attempt to settle their differences in the steel cage.
WWE's creative team has gone all out with Big Show's push.
Gone are the days of the lovable, cuddly Big Show—this guy has now transformed into a genuine and scary threat, furious at fans and his fellow wrestlers for what he perceives as their shoddy, unkind treatment of him in the past.
Fueled by self-interest, he sees no problem in using violence to get his point across—as he did two weeks ago when he brutally assaulted and dismantled Brodus Clay, R-Truth and Kofi Kingston all in the same segment.
In theory, he should defeat Cena on June 17, cementing his status as a major heel. A program with CM Punk for the WWE Championship will presumably follow. Certainly a clean loss at No Way Out would serve to severely undercut his new-found credibility and banish him back to the mid-card doldrums.
So, on paper, Big Show emerging victorious from No Way Out and his career continuing on an upward trajectory makes sense. But are WWE writers willing to job out their biggest star—Cena—once again?
This one is intriguing. Cena, as noted, has been losing a lot lately, and the company, leery of tarnishing his star power, may refrain from jobbing him out.
Knowing WWE's fierce protectiveness of him in the past, it's easy to foresee a scenario in which Cena beats Big Show spotlessly clean, derailing the giant’s momentum. WWE could back away from Big Show's monster push on TV and decide that it's time to make Cena look formidable again.
However, Cena's recent losses may signal that management have now grown comfortable with presenting their star as someone less-than-invincible.
They may feel that since he has such a huge, established name that he can afford to have a few losses. If this is their thinking they have a point—the former WWE Champion has surely been on top for so long and is so firmly entrenched in the WWE product that he is practically immune to losses. His hefty merchandise sales and popularity aren't suddenly going to plummet drastically if he loses to Big Show.
Summarily, the main event of No Way Out will deliver the heavily-hyped grudge match that has dominated Raw in recent times. More importantly though, it should serve to tell us something about how WWE sees John Cena. Is he still head-and-shoulders above the rest of the roster, or is he someone the company feels can be utilized to get emerging stars to the top?