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Top 5 Matches of John Cena

John Cena's 16-year run of WWE prominence has been storied and marred, lucrative and controversial. Here take a look at his best five matches in his career.

Last updated: 25.08.2021
Best Matches of John Cena

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In late-June, officially 19 years have passed since John Cena made his main roster WWE debut. To put that in perspective, the original run of Hulk-a-mania lasted eight or nine years, while Stone Cold's time as an active WWE wrestler goes about seven.

Cena's 16-year run of WWE prominence has been storied and marred, lucrative and controversial. He's the ace of children's merchandise sales, but a killjoy for masochist fans who never did figure out how to change the channel on Mondays.

Cena has sixteen World titles, to go along with a pair of Royal Rumble victories, five WrestleManias main evented, and parlayed that popularity into a respectable career as a supporting actor in films and TV.


Check out these 5 John Cena matches. This list covers a little more than a decade of Cena's career and while it's not exactly a “greatest hit”, it is a vivid primer into Cena's range and value as a world-class performer.


1. Cena vs. Shawn Michaels (Monday Night Raw, 4/23/07)

Three WrestleManias, three Cena victories in WWE Championship matches. After the victory over Michaels in Detroit, Cena was still being combated by negativity, even from the "You Can't Wrestle" crowd. A 30-minute classic with blood and angst spilled in equal volume was still met with stubbornness from the core anti-Cena league.

Although it should've been obvious after two solid years of wholesale rejection that those fans would never give Cena his due, Cena was still put in positions where he could amaze the crowd.

The near-hour-long match that Cena and Michaels pieced together on Cena's 30th birthday. Michaels credits the match's greatness to having worked with Cena so much previously, that it barely even felt like an hour due to their developed chemistry, as well as the established story points that were in place.

Cena looks every bit the gritty worker in keeping with ring general Michaels, all the way to the thrilling finish.


2. Royal Rumble match (Royal Rumble 2008)

Really, the last ten minutes are all you need to see. By the time the buzzer sounds for number 30, all of the heretofore announced entries had already entered, so there must be some sort of surprise participant. Gag entry? Returning ex-champion? Something even more astonishing? At the risk of sounding like an insipid Buzzfeed headline, what happened next was truly unforgettable. When the opening strain of Cena's "The Time is Now" entrance music blared, Madison Square Garden temporarily forgot that were supposed to hate the man based on some irrational form of insecure machismo, and popped loudly at the reveal.

Cena had been absent for almost four months, mending from a torn pectoral muscle that was reportedly set to side line the man for eight to twelve months. It's worth watching for the initial cheer that betrayed the usual veil of resistance that WWE crowds tack on, as those Garden revellers were genuinely amazed (even awed) by Cena's recuperative abilities.


3. Cena vs. CM Punk (Money in the Bank 2011)

Put One Night Stand inside a normal WWE pay-per-view venue, and throw Cena to the lions. Punk's biting criticism of the elephants in WWE's board room turned tedious weekly television into the "what's going to happen next?"

Mr. McMahon. Cena had six years of practice rising to the occasion against the "If Cena wins, we riot, just kidding, complaining on Reddit is easier," crowds, but this was just something else. Not only was the war of wars in front of Punk's friends and neighbours sound tracked by ear-splitting volume, but the match itself matched that high amplification.

Cena and Punk delivered what might be the best WWE main roster match of this decade, hitting bullseyes on the fronts of crowd response, action, drama, and emotion. Cena's loss was more than just the gain of Punk - it was the gain of everyone who endeavoured to see him lose.


4. Cena vs. The Rock (WrestleMania 28)

Before turning into a walking Skittles rainbow of day-glow merchandise, Cena was the son of Attitude, a throwback to the recent past, someone that would've fit in fending off the Ministry of Darkness, or throwing Mankind from some great height.

Cena "freestyling" on Rock three weeks prior to the showdown was a sobering revelation - Cena was the relative "new guy" and yet he has characteristics that we can be nostalgic for. The match itself was responsible for WrestleMania 28 doing the highest buy rate in professional wrestling history, a staggering 1,253,000 buys. Much of that could be placed on Rock's broad shoulders, as well as the viability of the WrestleMania brand, but Cena deserves credit as well.

A main event of Rock vs. Mason Ryan isn't topping the record books, for instance. The match itself was properly superb, conveying the big fight feel that Rock vs. Cena is supposed to convey. Even the dissenters must agree that Cena looked like he belonged in there with "The Great One", that it was no Muhammad Ali vs. "Bum of the Month". Rock may be the greater star, but Cena has the right to be Dwayne Johnson's neighbour.


5. Cena vs. Brock Lesnar (Extreme Rules 2012)

Imagine if Hostel ended with the abrupt darkness of the Sopranos finale. Fans who were enjoying the one-sided flaying that took place in Extreme Rules' main event were disheartened by Cena somehow seeking out the victory over a fresh-from-UFC "Beast Incarnate".

Before the finish, it was torture-film that paid little heed to the parental guidelines and squeamish sponsors that lift Vinnie Mac's massive arms with the use of marionette strings. The ending was like tacking on a tuba solo at the end of "Paradise City".

 Cena's job in this match was to stand there and take punishment from a roughneck whose offensive strikes are pulled in the same manner that adrenaline junkies observe speed limit signs. Lesnar beat the pulsing piss out of Cena, for whom Chris Nowinski probably placed the opening bid on his post-mortem brain as soon as the show was over.

Cena's toughness is rarely questioned with any sort of serious criticism, but a match like this only underscore what he's willing to do in order to achieve the desired effect. If you wanted to see Cena get beaten within an inch of his life, here's your match. If you wanted him to lose as well, can't help you there.


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