What I thought would happen did happen – AJ Styles defeated Dean Ambrose for the WWE World Title. In doing so, the company that has needed John Cena to carry the torch of success may not reward the 15-time champion with a shot at history.
There is talk that Cena, who is on hiatus, for now, will renew his rivalry with Styles, but this time the title will be on the line, which should mean the “face that ran the place” undoubtedly will finally tie Ric Flair for the most world titles in his career with 16 championship runs. If you were wondering, yes, it matters. It matters in the context of history and it matters in the context of Cena’s career as the company’s biggest character to step in a wrestling ring.
For everything Cena has been – which presents a love-hate relationship with the fans – I have never thought of him as one of the all-time greats. Maybe I have been wrong. As a fan, I was raised in the shadows of the NWA, watching Jack Brisco, the Funks, Flair and Harley Race. Cena is none of them when it comes to “wrestling” and better than almost all of them – with the exception of Flair – when it comes to selling this business.
The number 16 is the biggest, most elusive number in this business. It represents five decades of blood, sweat, and pain. It represents matches with the aforementioned performers with the likes of Dusty Rhodes, Sting, Randy Savage and others added to that list. Cena in his own way has helped to grow this business – but his contributions are far greater than those in a squared circle.
His celebrity, with Make-A-Wish and Breast Cancer Awareness, is unparalleled. For those reasons, he is one of the greatest of all time. The fact that Flair himself has been outspoken about being in favor of Cena making history speaks volumes about what the greatest wrestler of my generation thinks of the man who wrestles in jeans shorts and tennis shoes.
I’ve had discussions with friends who cover this business about what would have happened had it been AJ Styles who had gotten the “big break” and held the company gold above his head multiple times. With the possibility of the continuation of the feud we have wanted to see for years, one has to wonder does this become a one-time meeting with “Title vs. Career” implications on the line, or is this another three-match battle that leaves fans wanting more?
And to further that thought, what happens to Dean Ambrose in all of this? Who becomes his new dance partner? Bray Wyatt? The Miz? Maybe someone we haven’t seen on the roster yet?
With every problem solved in this company, another one presents itself. Even after he turned on the “immortal” Cena, fans still love Styles and would surely support him in a title match with history on the line. The love-hate relationship I spoke of earlier with Cena is the greatest form of respect he could receive. The fact he does not waver in his conviction and has not turned heel shows WWE made the decision a long time ago to give the ball to Cena and see where he takes it. He’s traveled quite a bit.
This time, with history on the line, winning means everything.
In this case, history will be made – if only for a brief period. Cena deserves this honor, but he is well aware the future of this company does not involve him. Let’s see how he and the company handle this moment, and move forward with stars like Styles and others leading the way.