5 Best John Cena rivalries of all time

Greatest Rivalries of John Cena
Greatest Rivalries of John Cena

While John Cena might be quite the polarizing figure in the WWE universe these days, there was a time when his fanbase wasn't quite so polarized. The fans that now dub his character as one-dimensional and boring didn't have the same reaction for the scrappy 'ruthless aggression' newbie or the Doctor of Thugnomics.

As his star rose in the WWE, his feuds became increasingly one-sided. John Cena became the conqueror of all and it was a rather safe bet that he would emerge victorious and defeat most of anyone pitted against him.

Before this phase of his career though, John Cena has had some truly entertaining rivalries that kept the WWE Universe on the edge of their seats.

Whether he was trading insults with the Rated R superstar or proclaiming his arrival with ruthless aggression against Kurt Angle, Cena made sure the audience stayed hooked through his segments. While some of that credit, undoubtedly, goes to the rivals he was pitted against, nothing can be taken away from Cena's ability to entertain.

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So as the superstar gets set to celebrate his 42nd birthday, let us take a look back at some of John Cena's most entertaining rivalries through the span of his career.

#5 Brock Lesnar

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Brock Lesnar convincingly remains the only superstar in WWE history that John Cena hasn't been able to get an upper hand on.

Cena has taken more trips to the Suplex City than he'd care to admit. It was Lesnar's victory at SummerSlam 2017, however, that shocked the fans worldwide. It wasn't so much the win as the way Lesnar won that was surprising. Cena was beaten down and served with 16 German Suplexes in a match that made Cena seem like an upcoming jobber.

The first bout for this rivalry came all the way back in 2002, where The Beast decimated Cena in their match in SmackDown.

The Cena-Lesnar rivalry was also crucial because it came at a point in time where there were no legitimate top guys left in the company. John Cena was the only man who could present any sort of believability as a contender for the demolition derby that was Brock Lesnar.

#4 CM Punk

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This was as much a rivalry of mic skills as it was of physical prowess. This was the rivalry that brought us the infamous 'pipe-bomb', where Punk brilliantly mixed fact with fiction to deliver the best wrestling promo of recent times.

Punk and Cena were both guys that have never shied away from a fight; verbal or physical. Their 2011 Money in the Bank match was proof of just that, as the superstars not only set it up with brilliant promos but followed it up with stellar in-ring performances.

One of the better moments in this rivalry came out on Raw where Punk lay waste to rules and slammed Cena with the banned piledriver.

These are two men who have, through the course of their rivalry, tested the strains of the PG era set upon them by the WWE. The two tore into each other on the mic and put on some exemplary matches to back their claims, respectively.

Another element that was very essential to this rivalry was the crowd. John Cena is a notoriously polarizing figure in the WWE. Half the fans love him, half hate him with gusto but in every scenario, John Cena was the centre of attention. His opponent rarely garnered any attention. However, if there is one thing CM Punk is good at, it is keeping the attention of a crowd.

In Punk, WWE fans finally found an alternative to Cena that they actually cared about. The anti-Cenation forces combined with Punk fans to finally balance out the crowd frenzy.

#3 Kurt Angle

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A scrappy kid comes up to a WWE legend and proclaims he has enough "ruthless aggression" to take him down. Ring a bell? Yes, this was the debut of John Cena and the WWE legend in question was Kurt Angle.

While Angle defeated Cena in the inevitable match, Cena showcased his talent enough to announce his arrival in style.

The story and the rivalry continued at No Mercy 2003, where Cena again faced the Olympic gold medalist in a losing effort. This was a much more technically sound match and lasted a lot longer than their first outing.

Cena finally scrapped his first win against Kurt Angle at No Way Out 2005. This put Cena across as the talent to watch out for and cemented his legacy.

The promo work, while not as wild and risque as Punk and Cena, was still memorable. It allowed for some great comedy moments with one of Kurt's most iconic lines coming into play "I'm Kurt Angle, and what the heck: I won Olympic gold with a broken freakin' neck!"

Kurt Angle can truly be credited as the superstar that helped Cena climb the stairway to success. Cena's never give up reputation was built around his relentless pursuit of a victory against Angle. It was also Kurt's Ankle Lock that provided the inspiration for Cena's finisher STF.

The final encounter for this rivalry occurred in a First Blood match on Raw in 2006 that ended up being brutal, violent and ruthlessly aggressive.

#2 Edge

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Edge vs Cena worked because this was a story of two people who could not be any more different from each other. John Cena, the purveyor of 'Hustle, Loyalty, Respect' and Edge, the rated R superstar who had no qualms about playing dirty.

Sometimes a tried and tested face vs heel formula is all it takes to create spectacular and entertaining viewing. Examples of this are littered throughout wrestling history from Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart to Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat. A good vs evil storyline never gets old and this is what worked so well for Edge and Cena.

The start of this rivalry itself was a spectacle to watch. Edge cashed in his Money in the Bank contract against a battle-weary Cena who had just defended his WWE Championship in a gruelling Elimination Chamber match. Edge, ever the opportunist, seized the exact moment that would not only get him the Championship but give him tons of heat to solidify his heel persona. It was this moment that thrust Edge's career into the top guy trajectory.

This is also the rivalry that gave us the infamous 'live celebration'. Having just won his first WWE championship, Edge wanted to celebrate in a not so family friendly way with his on-screen partner Lita.

Thankfully, Ric Flair interrupted them first and Cena joined in later to attack Edge. The episode, however, got a whopping 5.2 rating proving that Edge could get in the numbers and was a major contender for top tier attraction.

Their rivalry spanned on and off from 2006 to 2009. Their in-ring work was immaculate and they played off each other really well.

#1 Randy Orton

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John Cena vs Randy Orton is the marquee match of an era deprived of The Rock vs Austin rivalry. Cena vs Orton is one of the longest standing rivalries in the history of WWE.

As two of the most promoted stars of the company, Cena and Orton facing off has always had an epic and nostalgic feel to it. They work well together as a result of being paired together numerous times. Their in-ring chemistry shows the practised sleekness that comes from years of facing each other in the ring.

Gimmick wise, Randy Orton and John Cena were perfectly suited to square off against each other. The Viper is always at his best when playing up his villainous tendencies and Cena loves to play up his Superman persona. Orton provided the perfect demented adversary for Cena to vanquish. A perfectly balanced heel and face combo, this pair had greatness written all over it.

They've had some intense collisions over time and it would be hard to pick a favourite. Their "I Quit" match at WWE Breaking Point is a prime example of this. The vicious and brutal nature of Orton's heel persona is at full display here as he handcuffs Cena to beat him down to size. On the other hand, Cena meets him head on with a never give up attitude and employs all the moves in his arsenal to get the win.

The thing that makes this rivalry stand apart from all the others is how deeply personal it got at times. The Viper made things personal when he attacked Cena's dad and punted him. John Cena Sr. even went on to have a match against Orton!

Overall, it is the back and forth between these two that makes this rivalry enjoyable. Neither wrestler has dominantly overpowered the other and it's always a luck of the draw as to who will come out on top.

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Edited by Mustafa Ismail
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