July 1, 2012
#19 2008 Royal Rumble Match (Jan. 27, 2008)
On an Oct. 2007 edition of Raw, John Cena suffered a serious injury to his pectoral muscle, and had surgery the following day. With an estimated recovery time at seven months, Cena was stripped of the WWE Championship, ending a reign that was the longest since Hulk Hogan’s first reign ended nearly 10 years prior. Cena was put out of sight and out of mind by the fans, but Cena shocked everybody with his return.
At Madison Square Garden, Cena made a stunning appearance as the surprise No. 30 entrant in the Royal Rumble Match. This unprecedented recovery time of less than four months shocked even the knowledgeable New York City fans. Cena came face to face with Triple H, the bout’s original favorite, and eliminated The Game to win the contest and earn a spot in the WrestleMania main event. Cena broke the record of the shortest time a winner has competed in a Rumble Match at far less than nine minutes, completing a return that only be described as triumphant.
#18 John Cena vs. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels: Survivor Series 2009 (Nov. 22, 2009)
John Cena was all but doomed going into his Triple Threat Match against Shawn Michaels and Triple H at Survivor Series in 2009. Defending his WWE Championship against both members of DX simultaneously, the Cenation leader was at a clear disadvantage inside Washington, D.C.’s Verizon Center.
Cena had squared off against and even teamed with HBK and The Game at different points in his career, but to stare down both Legends with the WWE Title on the line raised the stakes. Lucky for The Champ, both HBK and Triple H wanted to reclaim the WWE Championship and the match quickly became every Superstar for himself. Battling each member of DX separately before the trio of Superstars all skirmished at once, Cena managed to wear them down enough and keep himself in the battle. The Cenation leader retained the title after HBK took out Triple H with Sweet Chin Music and Cena gave Michaels an Attitude Adjustment onto the prone Game.
#17 John Cena vs. The Undertaker: Smackdown (June 24, 2004)
Today, John Cena is confident. In 2004, he was arrogant. So much so, that he stood in the center of the ring and challenged The Demon from Death Valley to a match on Smackdown in June 2004. In fairness, Cena wasn’t exactly out of order. The week prior, an angry Undertaker had leveled the WWE upstart for no good reason, leaving Cena with little choice but to stand up for himself. Death sentence? Maybe, but anything less from the future WWE Champion and he would have been labeled a coward by every competitor in the locker room.
So Cena stepped up. He looked The Deadman in the eye, gave him his best shot and damned if he didn’t nearly beat one of WWE’s most iconic figures. In a nail biter of an ending, Cena laid The Underatker out with an Attitude Adjustment, but couldn’t get a three count, because the referee had been downed earlier in the bout. By the time the official came to, The Deadman had smashed Cena with a chain and spiked him with a Tombstone. It may have been a loss for the young Superstar, but it taught him more about what to expect in the squared cricle than a win ever could.
#16 John Cena vs. Big Show: WrestleMania XX (March 14, 2004)
The 20th edition of The Show of Shows was John Cena’s breakthrough.
Battling Big Show for the United States Title at Madison Square Garden, the brash, young Superstar had a tall task ahead of him. The World’s Largest Athlete tossed Cena around with ease, forcing the challenger to reassess his game plan.
After Big Show kicked out of the Attitude Adjustment, the determined competitor saw he had little chance of overpowering the giant. Cena knew he would have to outsmart him. He tossed his trademark chain and padlock across the ring, distracting the official and giving Cena the opportunity to clock Big Show with brass knuckles. The Cenation leader then brought New York City to its feet with an unbelievable show of strength, picking up the 400-pound behemoth for another AA to pick up his first championship.
#15 John Cena vs. Rob Van Dam: ECW One Night Stand 2006 (June 11, 2006)
John Cena is accustomed to hearing a few jeers when he makes his entrance, but nothing could have prepared him for the reception he received at ECW’s One Night Stand in 2006. Defending his WWE Title against “Mr. Money in the Bank” Rob Van Dam on the ECW turf of Manhattan’s Hammerstein Ballroom, the Cenation leader entered to such a heavy gust of boos that he was nearly blown back by the animosity.
Still, the ECW diehards could boo all they wanted. The WWE Champion’s focus was on defending his title. Silencing his critics early, Cena proved he could handle the agile RVD, but the bout fell out of his favor when a mysterious individual in a black motorcycle helmet drove Cena through a table. Knocked silly, the WWE stalwart was squashed by Van Dam’s Five Star Frogsplash and lost a match that he fought so hard to win.
#14 John Cena vs. Chris Jericho: SummerSlam 2005 (Aug. 21, 2005)
After Cena was drafted to Monday nights in 2005, Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff set out to prove that the Cenation leader was unworthy of holding the WWE Championship. The Superstar he chose to prove his point was Chris Jericho, a ring veteran whose pure technical ability was the perfect to counter Cena’s bruising style in the ring.
When the two finally faced each other at SummerSlam, Jericho was able to wriggle his way out of the Attitude Adjustment and floor Cena with a DDT that reverberated throughout Washington, D.C.’s MCI Center. Y2J locked Cena in the Walls of Jericho on several occasions, but the resilient WWE Champion refused to give up.
Eventually, Jericho’s frustration led him to accost the referee, giving Cena time to recover. Y2J walked right into an Attitude Adjustment that connected, allowing Cena to retain his title and prove Bischoff very wrong.
#13 John Cena vs. Booker T: No Mercy 2004 (Oct. 3, 2004)
The most daunting challenge of John Cena’s early career was a “Best of Five” series for the United States Title against then-champion Booker T. With the series tied at two apiece, Cena and Booker definitively ended their epic struggle in East Rutherford, NJ., at No Mercy.
Easily the best match of the series with the highest stakes, Cena and the former WCW star traded momentum with each competitor executing their signature moves, but to no avail. The bout truly highlighted Cena’s resilience as he bounced back from a crushing Book End that nearly ended the contest. In the end, the Cenation leader managed to keep Booker T at bay long enough to counter the five-time WCW Champion’s Scissors Kick and regain the U.S. Title with an Attitude Adjustment.
#12 John Cena vs. Rey Mysterio: RAW (July 25, 2011)
When CM Punk absconded with the WWE Title following his victory over John Cena at Money in the Bank, Mr. McMahon announced a tournament to crown a new champion. Rey Mysterio defeated three Superstars en route to winning his first WWE Title, but Cena, who did not receive entry into the tournament, was given an immediate chance to regain the title from Mysterio.
Wrestling his second WWE Championship Match in one night, Mysterio took on Cena in a competitive back-and-forth affair. Both Superstars looked to have the match won on several occasions, but each finishing combination was reversed to provide a dazzling level of unpredictability. In the bout’s thrilling conclusion, the champion looked to have Cena in position for the 619, but Cena’s “Never give up” mantra shone through. He snatched his opponent, threw him onto his shoulders, and executed a picture-perfect Attitude Adjustment to become WWE Champion for the ninth time.
#11 WWE Championship Elimination Chamber Match: Elimination Chamber 2010 (Feb. 21, 2010)
2010’s WWE Elimination Chamber event was a night of highs and lows for John Cena.
After defeating Sheamus, Triple H, Ted DiBiase, Kofi Kingston and Randy Orton inside the unforgiving steel asylum to win his second Elimination Chamber Match, the Raw Superstar had a brief moment to bask in his sixth WWE Championship victory. But mere minutes after surviving this hell, Cena was interrupted by Mr. McMahon who announced that the Superstar would have to immediately defend the title against Batista. Battered and broken, Cena was easy pickings for The Animal, but the resilient Superstar knew he’d gain retribution against his ego-driven rival soon enough.