Hola amigos and amigettes, welcome to yet another Sunday Supplement. Now in the past we’ve done all sorts of things with the mostly legal supplements, but by far my favorite is lists and you guys seem to agree as they’re many of our most beloved Supplements. So this week we’ll be pairing something beloved (lists) with something…shall we say less beloved (Mr. John Cena). All through the allustrious career of Mr. Cena, he’s had his share of critics (and everyone else’s share too) who knocked everything from his moveset, to his lack of selling, to his inability to understand ring psychology. If you asked one of these critics to name a good John Cena match, many would be hard pressed to, whether out of genuine distaste or just stubborness. We here at Cewsh Reviews have been as harshly critical of the man as anyone, including Vice’s 17 verse long epic poem entitled “Sell the Fucking Leg, You Twat”, but here tonight we’ll be looking back at the matches that show that there’s more to the man than fluorescent colors and jorts. So here they are, the 10 best matches of the Doctor of Thuganomics as categorized by yours truly.
John Cena and Edge. Back in a time when we could only hope that CM Punk would rise above midcard status on ECW and when Randy Orton was just finding his feet as a main eventer, Edge was the rival that first took John Cena to his limits. But rather than Orton’s equal physical gifts, or Punks greater wrestling ability, Edge fought Cena by being everything that Cena wasn’t. Edge was brash, arrogant, and would take any opportunity no matter how villainous to get the title that he craved so much. For an entire year these two battled off and on after Edge first cashed in the first Money in the Bank briefcase to beat a battered Cena for the title back in February. The matches were good, but it took Edge fully getting into Cena’s head by slapping his father and throwing his custom title in the river to really get Cena ready to do some damage. In order to get this match, Cena agreed to leave and go to Smackdown for 3 years if he lost and agreed to let Edge choose the place and the match. Edge chose his hometown of Toronto and a match type he helped make famous and had never lost in, Tables, Ladders and Chairs.
It was a great match, with Cena wrestling a kind of match we’ve never seen him try before, and it was one of the few times when Cena has ever shown genuine anger in a match. By the end, an Attitude Adjustment off the top of a ladder made John Cena WWE Champion again, and put this feud to rest.
For the time being, at least.
This may almost seem quaint now, but there was once a time where nobody booed John Cena at all. He was a beloved up and comer and had tons of fan support all around until somewhere around his feud with Kurt Angle when the “smarks” began to turn on him. From there on there was always a smattering of boos to be had here and there, nothing truly major, but WWE never acknowledged it until Triple H won a tournament to get a shot at John Cena’s WWE Championship at Wrestlemania and he promptly began saying all the things those vocal booers had been saying all along. That Cena couldn’t wrestle, that he was all heart and no skill, that he didn’t have what it took in the main event. Cena’s oinly comeback to all of these accusations was a simple “You’ll see”, as his boos grew louder and the heel Triple H’s cheers grew louder..
Then came the match itself, preceded by two of the most legendary entrances in wrestling history with Cena’s gangster drive in (with the widdle CM Punk along for the ride) and Triple H’s crazy Conan the Barbarian shenanigans. The pageantry was great, but the real story was the atmosphere. The dominant star with the crowd in his corner against the beleaguered young champ trying to shake off boos he wasn’t expecting was a story told so well, and over the course of the match Triple H essentially flat out turned face with everything from playing to the crowd to an outright crotch chop tease of DX. Ultimately Cena beat him, going a long way to cementing himself as the top guy of this generation along the way, but while the match is often forgotten when great Wrestlemania main events are discussed, it shouldn’t be. This may have been the hottest crowd for such a main event in our lifetime.
The year was 2002. In those long gone days of yore, there was no “the Champ is Here”, no movie deals or endorsements and not even any “Word Life”. Back then John Cena was just a hungry kid down in OVW who dreamed of hitting in big in the big leagues. On June 27th, he got his wish as Kurt Angle made an open challenge to anyone in the locker room that he had never wrestle before. In response, out came the spikey haired, bright red underwear clad Cena, positively rippling with muscles and enthusiasm. Angle gave him the once over and asked him incredulously what it was that made Cena think he had what it took to be in the ring with an Olympic Gold Medalist. Cena replied in two words, “Ruthless. Aggression.” and the future of World Wrestling Entertainment shifted a bit.
What followed was perhaps the most technically well wrestled match of Cena’s career as he and Angle traded near falls, counters, reversals, suplexes and roll ups all over the ring, with the younger Cena constantly getting the better of Angle. Even here you can see all the hallmarks that turned Cena into what he would become, from the boundless charisma and enthusiasm to the knowledge of how to feed through moves to keep the excitement rising up without deflating the crowd. Kurt Angle walked the newcomers through a really fantastic match before finally beating him and retreating to the back, looking genuinely shocked at the fight that was put up by this total no name. I wish I could tell you that everything fell into place for Cena after that, but it didn’t and he struggled for years to accomplish anything close to as good as his first 15 minutes of fame. But that’s more of a compliment to this match than anything else.
There are some matches that are great because they’re technical wrestling showcases. There are some matches that are great because they contain high risk moments that take your breath away. There are some matches that are great because they achieve something legendary in their storytelling. And then there are some times when a match can be great simply by existing.
When Rob Van Dam won the Money in the Bank Ladder Match at Wrestlemania 22, he wasted absolutely no time in telling the world exactly what the deal was. He walked right up to John Cena on Raw and informed him that since he could decide when and where he’d get his match, he wanted a home field advantage. So he cashed it in for a title match against John Cena at ECW One Night Stand at the Hammerstein Ballroom. Which is somewhat akin to challenging Derek Jeter to a fight at Fenway Stadium in Boston, not exactly ideal for Jeter. Cena took it like a man, even while the fans in attendance showered him with the mother of all boos.
See, John Cena had come to represent everything these smarks hated about wrestling, and now that the anti-christ had walked into their house to face their champion, they let him have it like nothing i’ve ever seen before, or would see until Cena met Punk in Chicago (more on that later). Undaunted by this, Cena produced perhaps his most indelible image as a champion walking to the ring, unafraid and unconcerned. Accompanied by this is an even more indelible image, of a crowd afraid of what may come.
When it became clear that the fans wouldn’t warm to him, he started taunting them, driving them even wilder as he and Van Dam squared off to see which would be champion. Cena’s gradual decent into heel tactics at the behest of the crowd is not only one of his best performances, but was also an ingenious ploy to keep those fans hot from bell to bell. When Edge finally darted in to spear Cena and cost him the title, the man who had been the biggest heel in the building not half an hour earlier was regaled with chants of “Thank you, Edge!” from a joyous crowd.
“Having watched this entire match, I have a jumble of emotions towards it. At various points it was fun, boring, hard hitting, a little weak, fantastic, a little lame, and a million other things that are all wrapped up into one full hour of wrestling. Iron man matches are notoriously difficult to do, because of how hard it is to keep the crowd involved, and there is no way to deny that they did that all the way through, and these two guys have a chemistry that I find it hard to believe that anyone can deny anymore, no matter how little they like either man. Yes, you know what? This was a fucking great match. It takes some thinking in order to wrap your whole mind around the experience as a single match, but greatness is what happened here.
Could it have been better? It’s hard to say, though certain points probably could have been better. Should Orton have won? It’s my opinion that he absolutely should have. But is this one of the best matches this year? Yeah, it really, really is.”
This is the first match on the countdown thus far that we personally got a chance to review. It got a 90 (consider how that puts the rest of these matches in perspective, score wise). It didn’t just get that score because this match had an absolutely epic backstory, or because these two were at their absolute peak in terms of storytelling, or because its another in an endless series of matches proving that John Cena is the king of gimmick matches. It was great because of all of those things, true, but way more because it was just so damned FUN. For one entire hour John Cena and Randy Orton kept their audience’s rapt attention as they pulled every rabbit out of every hat, from announce table spots, to clever reversals, to Randy actually trying to DETONATE JOHN CENA WITH PYRO. It was a rollicking adventure from start to finish and when the smoke cleared, John Cena had won this epic feud closing contest, and quite a few people left an arena having gotten their money’s worth and more.
5. John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels – Monday Night Raw 2007
John Cena and Shawn Michaels don’t have much in common. John tries to be the everyman and does most of his wrestling relying on fist punching related offense, whereas the flashy and beloved Michaels is smooth and athletic and is widely considered one of the best wrestlers ever to live. You might have imagined, therefore, that when these two met for a Raw main event the night after their Wrestlemania matchup, that this would be an example of Cena doing his five moves of doom while Michaels made a decent match around him for 12 minutes or so. 45 minutes later those expectations had been pulverized by a truly incredible match between two wrestlers that melded far better than their styles should have possibly allowed. Michaels was Michaels, of course, but here he was especially good as a man who was bent on proving to himself and everyone that he was simply better than this kid who had seized control of the main event. But this was not in any way a carry job, as Cena held his own, genuinely growing as a performer right in front of our eyes as he kept up with Michaels step for step, frustrating the veteran again and again with his resilience and fire.
By the time the bell sounded, these two men hadn’t just had themselves a good match, they had had a match for the ages that was so good that no less than Chris Jericho himself has credited with inspiring him to get back into wrestling out of jealousy. It was THAT good.
But the funny thing is, it’s not even the best match John Cena had that week.
The year was 2007, and by the time Wrestlemania rolled around, there was no question that John Cena was the king of the WWE jungle. He had won the title, effectively retired Chris Jericho and Kurt Angle from WWE competition, and he had defeated Triple H definitively the year before. He was riding high at the top of his game, when all of a sudden he faced a challenge he never expected from the last man anyone expected to step up.Mr. Wrestlemania himself. See, Shawn had watched Cena rise to the top of WWE, and it had been eating at him bit by bit the whole time. He knew in his heart that he was a better wrestler than this new kid, and he knew that he could beat him to become champion again. So when Shawn won a shot at Cena at Wrestlemania and began to befriend Cena, John was all for it, but there was something sinister in Michaels that wasn’t there before. Wrestler after wrestler tried to make Cena see reason, that Michaels had at one time betrayed every teammate he had ever had as Cena and Michaels pushed forward as dominant tag team champions together, but Cena just refused to accept it. Michaels even went so far as to tell the man:
“I will have your back until WrestleMania. I’ve turned against all my partners and more importantly, I’ve stabbed all my friends in the back. But with you, John, it’s different.”
One week later, Michaels superkicked John Cena directly into his shocked face.
So when this match finally rolled around, Cena was unusually livid and passionate for him. He went after Michaels, while Michaels smoothly cut him off at every pass, working over his leg in some of the most masterful ways I have ever seen as Cena seemed to fade more and more, dominated by his superior. But John Cena is John Cena, and he would not be put down so easily. he fought back and beat Michaels, cementing himself (aside from some unfortunate leg no selling which would later become a hallmark of his) as a terrific performer and one of the highest profile champions WWE had ever had.
I’m sure this one is still fresh in the mind of anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock for the past 6 months. CM Punk turned the WWE on its head to get his revenge on the WWE, by getting his title match in his home city of Chicago. If he lost, he was gone. If he won he won gone too, but he would leave WWE Champion and make history. So everything from the title lineage of the WWE title, to Vince McMahon’s credibility, to his status as a great champion rode on the broad shoulders of one John Cena as he attempted to defend his title in perhaps the only crowd I have ever seen that was even more hostile than the one he faced in Philadelphia. Chicago could sense the winds of change coming, and their beloved native son rode that wave to the kind of heroes welcome more generally heard for conquering war heroes, while Cena himself was met with what could only be called venom from the packed crowd in Chi-Town.
But this match wasn’t all about the crowd. From the very start, Cm Punk and John Cena set about establishing something that so incredibly hard to capture in wrestling. The big fight feel. And not only did they nail it, but they nailed it so well that this 40+ minute match seemed to fly by as each man threw their all into defending the very ideals they stood for. Punk busted his ass here and earned every bit of the hype he had always had, but it was Cena who took this match to incredible heights, not only with his timing and, yes, selling, but also with his acting. For the first time in all his years riding the top of the WWE stallion, he had never truly expressed real doubt that he would be able to win. He had never lost confidence in himself that he had the ability to beat someone. But when CM Punk kicked out of everything he had to offer time and time again you could visibly see it start to rattle Cena and he became more and more unraveled as the match went on. Finally Vince and Johnny Ace came down to help, but Cena decked Ace, demanding that this be a fair match. One Go 2 Sleep later and the unthinkable had happened. CM Punk was your new champion. And he was gone.
Years from now, when we talk about both of these men, we will continually come back to this night and this match as one of the truly defining moments in the careers of each. Each man has had better matches, sure, but and ones more technically sound. But none quite so unforgettable.
John Cena and Bobby Lashley are not exactly high in the pantheon of the great technical wrestlers of all time. Prior to this match, Bobby Lashley’s best performance had come as a result as him being carried as much as is physically possible by Findlay during their feud, and that’s coming from me, the biggest fan of Bobby Lashley not directly related to him. Cena was riding high off of several of the best performances of his career to that point, but there was one thing that he had never even come close to doing. He had never carried a match himself and made it something great with his own skills. Nearly always before this Cena had wrestled guys significantly more experienced than himself to make him look good, but now he was the one with the experience and the responsibility to see that the match worked. Did he rise to the challenege?
Like nobody ever believed possible.
Not only did Cena lead the green but talented Lashley to a fantastic competitive match, but he looked like an absolute mat general in doing so. The match was so far beyond the bounds of what anyone could have reasonably expected from either man that to this day i’m still a little bit in disbelief that it even took place. Cena and Lashley melded so well and made each other look so good that even Ian Rotten couldn’t have dreamed up a way to fuck this up. Unfortunately Lashley soon left due to issues between WWE and his fiance Kristal Marshall, but this match will stand the test of time as a monument to what could have been, and as the day that John Cena took the final step into wrestling adulthood.
“Holy Christ, where to begin?
This is the premiere feud of our generation of wrestling. You can make arguments for a few others here and there, good arguments even, but this is the money feud that will define this generation. The top star of this era verses the greatest heel of the 2000s, and not only are they massively over, and tremendously talented, and have fantastic history together, but they have better chemistry together than any two WWE main eventers that I have ever seen. Its one thing to have great matches sometimes with a few guys, and its entirely another for two great wrestlers to bring each other up to an entirely alien and incredible level each and every time they stand in a ring together. Just seeing them stand side by side, you can almost see sparks flying with how tangible their chemistry is, and WWE has to be so grateful, but I’ve never seen anything like it.
You put Edge and John Cena in the ring together, and you get greatness. Anytime, anyplace.
I couldn’t even begin to tell you how this match was incredible. I couldn’t even conceive of putting into mere words the way that these two men play off of each other, and draw the personality and fire out of each other like nothing I have ever seen. How do you describe a match that takes 3 weeks of weak build, a momentumless and bland Cena, and turns it into the most compelling match that has been wrestled this year? I don’t know, guys. I just don’t have the words. I have never been speechless, but that’s what I am, sitting at my keyboard trying to will the words into existence. But there aren’t any.
I will give this match the greatest compliment that I have to bestow. I can’t remember the last time I said this about a match, but I wanted to be there. I wanted so badly to be at ringside seeing this epic opera of violence unfold in front of me. I want to give WWE my money and follow them blindly in the vacant hopes that I could possibly get to feel this way about a match again. This match didn’t get a perfect score, and if it did not then I truly have no idea what possibly ever could. I truly do not.
Give me another match between these two at Wrestlemania, WWE. Give me this match, unbroken for hours and hours. Give me hope that you can do this again.
I want to be more specific about the actual content of the match, but I don’t think I can possibly do it justice. It’s a 40 minute match filled with enormous spots, a million near finishes, and the most impressive finish of the year by far. I can’t be more specific than that, and I shouldn’t have to. You should already be downloading this. Treasure it for yourself.”