John Cena Must Lose at WWE Fastlane 2018 to Push WrestleMania 34 Plans

Anthony Mango@@ToeKneeManGoFeatured ColumnistMarch 7, 2018


The biggest match on the card for WWE Fastlane 2018 is undoubtedly the Six-Pack Challenge for the WWE Championship, not just in terms of the number of Superstars involved but also the importance it holds going forward.

One of those six men will head into WrestleMania 34 holding the most prestigious title in the company's history, while the five losers will be forced to figure out another way to get their moments on The Grandest Stage of Them All.

Within the match itself, there are some other storylines working themselves out, but John Cena's involvement in this feud should have the largest impact on what is to come.

This is strange, as he was the latest addition to the match and hasn't had as many appearances on SmackDown Live to sink his teeth into his competitors. One would think he would be the afterthought, rather than perhaps the second-most important person in the segment.

Why is he not the most important? That is a spot reserved for the winner, whereas Cena has the distinction of being the best possible loser, and in some ways it's almost a necessity for him to take the fall.

This should be the scene at the end of Fastlane 2018.
This should be the scene at the end of Fastlane 2018.Credit:

Cena's storyline recently can be summed up in three words that aren't his typical slogan of "hustle, loyalty and respect." Rather, they symbolize his current status: disappointment, desperation and frustration.

For years, Cena has made a career out of being positioned as the underdog nobody expects to lose as he would be paired up with folks such as The Great Khali, Umaga and Batista only to overcome the odds and remain victorious.

When he would lose, it would be through some kind of chicanery where he wouldn't really lose, as everybody would be left with the impression Cena should have won and would get his win back in no time to revert back to the status quo.

It even happened with The Rock, where he lost their first encounter and followed it up with a championship victory the next year.

Since he isn't at the forefront of WWE like he used to be, Cena has recently taken a step back and isn't booked as the unstoppable force with plot armor. Instead, he's booked like just another legend who is creeping closer and closer toward hanging up his boots.

As such, Cena is able to lose more often than before to help put over the fresher talent who will steer the ship while he's off filming movies and working on other projects.

All that leaves him with the conundrum he's been addressing recently, though, where he doesn't know if he will have a spot at WrestleMania if he doesn't accomplish whatever his next goal is.

At first, it was the Royal Rumble, but he couldn't pull it off. Then, it was the Elimination Chamber that he came up short in, too. Now, it's the Six-Pack Challenge.

Obviously, to keep this storyline going, Cena must fail again at Fastlane. Otherwise, the story would be over as he would be guaranteed to not only have a role at WrestleMania but also a prominent one as he would head into the biggest show of the year holding his 17th world championship.

Cena deserves that 17th world title but now is not the right time.
Cena deserves that 17th world title but now is not the right time.Credit:

However, losing paints a different and more interesting picture for the time being: a Cena who is out of luck and running out of time.

A loss at Fastlane means there are no more pay-per-views before WrestleMania to gain momentum and climb the hierarchy—there are just eight episodes of television between Raw and SmackDown to find a way onto the card.

Cena should leave Fastlane in full panic mode, where he realizes the clock is ticking even faster and there aren't any options left but to pull off something drastic.

Since Cena was on Raw Talk and spoke about how he might need to put his morals aside and do some questionable things to secure his spot, the buzz over whether he could turn heel or something along those lines has been stronger than ever.

The more buzz surrounding the Superstar, the better; it gets people invested in following Cena's Road to WrestleMania as well as wanting to find out who his opponent will be.

Some signs point to The Undertaker, even though WWE clearly tried to dissuade fans from thinking that will happen when Cena said it was impossible. We could also go back and suggest Samoa Joe may be an option if he's healthy enough to perform, as he was picking a fight with The Champ earlier this year.

Everyone from Rey Mysterio to Daniel Bryan, Elias to Braun Strowman should be up for speculation, which makes it fun.

Winning at Fastlane only hinders Cena because it negates all of the gossip and rumors surrounding the "what if" scenarios and turns it into a guaranteed match against Shinsuke Nakamura, with the only thing in question being if AJ Styles is also involved to make it a Triple Threat as Cena himself suggested.

Not knowing what's to come is always more intriguing than having guarantees, so Cena's struggle to achieve his goal is a better storyline to track than just waiting several weeks for an inevitable encounter.

To go one step further, Cena should also be the one who takes the pinfall loss in the Six-Pack Challenge at Fastlane because it makes the situation even more dire.

By taking the pin, no general manager would look at him and say he deserves a shot over the other people involved. He's the definitive loser and the person who should go to the back of the line even before the others who failed to win.

This also helps the other participants, who could stand to go without being the weak link.

Baron Corbin has had a rough year where every push has turned into a retraction, Dolph Ziggler was on the outs for WWE itself until being roped back in, and the program between Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens loses some luster if one of them appears weaker than the other.

Clearly, this implies Styles is the victor, but with all the heavy promotion done to set up The Phenomenal One vs. Nakamura, that should be a given.

Cena doesn't need to be protected at this point in his career, and it would actually help his desperate character if he were to lose again. It would showcase he's vulnerable and may not succeed in his quest.

A loss at Fastlane forces Cena to think outside the box and turn his distraught, hopeless nature into something more productive.

Instead of feeling sorry for himself, he could become so distressed that he looks for every last-ditch effort to cling on to the WrestleMania card, whether it's dangerous to himself or to others.

Fans could call into question, perhaps, if his back is up against the wall, Cena may finally snap and turn heel in a fight-or-flight response. He's not the top dog he used to be, so he needs to even the odds by a drastic attitude change—or, at least, he thinks he does.

Maybe by taking this loss and allowing the other performers to save face, Cena could turn into the reckless and somewhat pitiful type. The audience could sympathize with his struggle and want to see him turn things around.

Then, when all hope is lost, he could truly have his underdog achievement moment by obtaining whatever match WWE plans on him competing in—ideally, against The Undertaker, who could match Cena's lust to regain some spotlight and undo his loss last year to Roman Reigns.

For anybody else to take the fall at Fastlane, it likely won't have any positive effect on the Road to WrestleMania and that Superstar's future plans; for Cena, though, he falls into that rare category where losing now is actually winning in the long run.

Styles would get his win back from Cena defeating him on SmackDown to enter the match, everybody else would be able to say they didn't technically lose the match and The Champ would be able to enter the next stage of his crisis of conscience.

Finally, we would be able to see what happens when the company's golden boy goes from having an easy path in the fast lane on the Road to WrestleMania to suffering the stings of a grinding halt and no momentum to carry him the rest of the way.

That is a story worth tuning into Raw and SmackDown to see play out.


Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.


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