John Cena is known for several things: winning championships, hustling harder than anyone and returning in spectacular fashion. With his next reappearance less than two weeks away, WWE.com looks back on Cena’s eight greatest returns to date, presented by Cricket Wireless.
8. Survivor Series 2004
In the days of yore that were 2004, John Cena was still far more recognizable as the brash, rhyme-spitting Doctor of Thuganomics. However, there was a notable shift in Cena that fall when he returned to the SmackDown brand and joined a Survivor Series team comprised of legends, all of whom Cena had previously warred with.
Yet, there was far from any issue. In fact, Cena, linked up with Eddie Guerrero, Rob Van Dam and Big Show to decimate Kurt Angle’s squad and win the match in a clean sweep – and in the process prove both his mettle and his growth.
7. Royal Rumble 2010
The future King Barrett and his Nexus terrorized WWE for the majority of 2010, with Cena being one of the main Superstars willing to stand up and defy their tyranny. However, by the time Barrett challenged Randy Orton for the WWE Championship on the Nov. 22, 2010, edition of Raw, Cena had been fired due to a stipulation complications in his ongoing battle with the dastardly seven.
Even while faced with the prospect of an unemployment line, though, Cena found a way to make an impact during the championship match. He raced from out of the crowd to strike Barrett with an AA before the remaining Nexus members chased him off. Orton retained the title, Cena was reinstated several weeks later and The Nexus did not last. Who won that one?
6. Raw on May 13, 2013
Much like The Nexus before them, The Shield arrived on the WWE scene ready to annihilate anyone in their way. This, of course, drew the attention of one John Cena. Despite unsuccessful prior attempts to dethrone The Shield, Cena returned following a brutal match with Ryback to aid Team Hell No in their war against Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins.
The result was a match on the May 13, 2013 edition of Raw that left the WWE Universe begging for more. Cena, Daniel Bryan and Kane prevailed following a physical battle, albeit by disqualification. Cena himself paid a physical toll, but led the charge to the first victory on the battlefield against quite possibly the most dominant group in WWE history.
5. Raw on Jan. 17, 2011
Perhaps it wasn’t on the same level as a Royal Rumble comeback or a WrestleMania surprise, but Cena’s return to Raw following injury in January 2011 is still quite historically significant as it marked his first notable encounter with one of his all-time greatest rivals, CM Punk.
Although the match was marred by interference by debuting New Nexus member Mason Ryan, it would ultimately stand as a precursor to a conflict that would dominate the main event scene for the next year and a half.
4. Raw on December 28, 2015
Although this return was ultimately short-lived, Cena came back to television’s longest-running episodic show in December 2015 with one goal in mind: Avenging his most recent loss. Having been dethroned for the United States Championship by Alberto Del Rio at WWE Hell in a Cell 2015, the always-inspired Cena got on the microphone and belittled Del Rio and his League of Nations brethren, goading The Mexican Aristocrat into a match. Cena won that contest, fully proving his American grit by match’s end.
3. Survivor Series 2008
Homecomings are always tricky. Coming back sooner than expected from injury (a recurring theme with the Cenation leader), Cena challenged Chris Jericho for the World Heavyweight Championship at Survivor Series 2008.
No strangers to one another, the longtime rivals kept things interesting in a contest that featured tons of back-and-forth action. In the end, however, Cena further padded his legacy by defeating Jericho, marking his first reign with the “Big Gold Belt,” and putting an incredible exclamation mark on yet another memorable return.
Fun fact: John Cena defies science. Given a projected recovery of eight months after tearing his rotator cuff, Cena shockingly appeared at WrestleMania 32 – four months before his anticipated return – to aid The Rock against The Wyatt Family.
Not one(s) to disappoint, Cena and The Rock electrified the largest crowd in WWE history by hitting their signature moves on The Eater of Worlds and his cronies, and embracing in a moment that will not soon be forgotten.
Royal Rumble 2008
You know you’ve reached icon status when even your biggest detractors uproariously applaud your arrival. That’s the reaction John Cena received inside Madison Square Garden at Royal Rumble 2008.
Returning months in advance from a devastating shoulder injury, Cena entered as the thirtieth entrant in the Royal Rumble Match, where he ultimately eliminated Triple H to secure his ticket to WrestleMania XXIV. It was a scene so exhilarating that the vocal minority opposed to the 15-time World Champion actually forgot to boo him.