Ranking John Cena's US Championship Open Challenge Matches

Alfred Konuwa@@ThisIsNastyFeatured ColumnistMay 20, 2015

Ranking John Cena's US Championship Open Challenge Matches

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    Don Feria/Associated Press

    John Cena's run as United States champion has been a tour de force filled with opportunities.

    As I mentioned on a recent episode of the PodNasty Wrestling Podcast, he may not be adding value to the championship itself, but he is adding temporary purpose to the midcarders who challenge for the title.

    Cena's U.S. championship open challenges are just as much about facing off against Cena as they are about winning the title. To willingly and consistently compete against an onslaught of midcarders is virtually unprecedented for a star of Cena's caliber.

    Each of Cena's matches with largely fresh opponents has delivered. Through almost two months of his open challenges, the better matches contained drama, an intriguing opponent and the believable possibility that the championship could change hands.

6. Kane

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    Date: April 20, 2015  

    Live Reaction Rating: 2 out of 10

    IWC Approval Rating: 9%

    Of all the sexy, trendy names to step up to Cena's open challenge and into the hearts of hipsters everywhere, Kane's evoked the least emotion.

    A 20-year veteran of WWE, Kane doesn't fit the bill of the bright young stars looking to cash in on opportunity.

    Kane's match was storyline-driven, as he was trying to prove to The Authority that he was still a monster. Instead, he competed in a satisfactory but basic contest against Cena that was never in doubt.

    The match saw limited back-and-forth action and a lack of the false finishes that have defined Cena's exhibitions.

    The longer Cena's open challenges continue, the more forgettable the match will be.

5. Bad News Barrett

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    Date: April 13, 2015

    Live Reaction Rating: 7 out of 10

    IWC Approval Rating: 40%

    An ice-cold Bad News Barrett lumbered into a standard match against Cena in his home country of England. Even the usually hot crowd seemed somewhat subdued as they awaited the inevitable.

    After one of the worst intercontinental title reigns in recent memory, there was no way Barrett was going to walk out of the O2 Arena with the Cena belt.

    Still, the fan interaction was mildly entertaining, and Barrett had his moments in an otherwise familiar matchup. Perhaps they faced off a few weeks too early, as King Barrett would have made for a more viable contender.

4. Sami Zayn

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    Date: May 4, 2015

    Live Reaction Rating: 10 out of 10

    IWC Approval Rating: 95%

    WWE rolled out the red carpet for Sami Zayn in Canada—with a high-profile introduction homecoming that required the services of Bret Hart.

    And while Zayn could have easily had the best match against Cena to date, it was compromised by a shoulder injury he suffered during his entrance.

    The injury eventually caused an abrupt pause to the match for examination, and the two were clearly working around it in the duration.

    But even with a bad shoulder, Zayn and Cena had an above-average match that felt special thanks to the fired-up Canadian faithful.

3. Stardust

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    Date: April 6, 2015

    Live Reaction Rating: 3 out of 10

    IWC Approval Rating: 40%

    Stardust didn't seem like a threat to beat Cena from the outset, but he took the fight to the champ better than almost anybody has.

    Stardust had one of the better matches against Cena, and WWE even let him kick out of the Attitude Adjustment just two weeks after it took Cena one AA to put away the monster, Rusev.

    This was the first one-on-one meeting on Raw between Cena and the Stardust character, so it was a very fresh matchup but also contained a lot of chemistry. It can't truly rank higher than third, however, due to the limited fan support for Stardust throughout.

2. Dean Ambrose

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    Date: March 30, 2015

    Live Reaction Rating: 8 out of 10

    IWC Approval Rating: 97%

    Dean Ambrose was the first person to accept Cena's U.S. championship open challenge. While the prevailing theory suggested Cena wasn't about to lose his first title defense, anything could have happened on the night after Raw, which at this point is better than several WWE pay-per-views.

    Ambrose and Cena went toe-to-toe, fighting through a commercial break, and the match was in doubt at multiple junctures.

    Once again, WWE tailored Cena's opponent to its live crowd, as the IWC's best joined together to cheer on Ambrose. Though Ambrose lost, he had a good showing against a top star.

1. Neville

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    Date: May 11, 2015

    Live Reaction Rating: 8 out of 10

    IWC Approval Rating: 90%

    It's clearly obvious that WWE views Neville as an underdog, but in a good way. WWE does everything it can to push Neville as a fierce competitor capable of beating anybody.

    Talk of his being undersized doesn't reek of the snide bitterness of the "B-plus player" rhetoric used against Daniel Bryan.

    Neville carried more momentum into his match against Cena than almost anybody, coming off a recent pay-per-view win over Bad News Barrett and a subsequent finals appearance in the King of the Ring tournament. To this day, nobody has come closer to winning Cena's U.S. Championship.

    In fact, Neville is the only WWE Superstar who holds a victory over Cena during the U.S. championship open challenge, albeit via disqualification. This raises the question: Why doesn't he want a rematch?

    So much for adding value to the title.

    Neville personifies with the U.S. championship open challenge is about: good matches against a top star that get people talking.

    Alfred Konuwa is a featured columnist and on-air host for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @ThisIsNasty and subscribe to his weekly wrestling podcast.