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16 times John Cena failed to win the WWE Championship

John Cena is a 15 time World Champion, but Ric Flair’s record of 16 has eluded him.
Nicholas A. Marsico

John Cena is a 15-time WWE World Champion. He won the title for the first time all the way back at WrestleMania 21 in 2005 and has since gone on to win it on 14 more occasions, which puts him second only to Ric Flair (16-time champ) for the most World Title reigns of all time. That also means he lost the title 15 times.

At the most recent SmackDown Live, pay-per-view, No Mercy, Cena was unsuccessful in winning his first WWE Title since losing the belt to Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam 2014. In the spirit of Cena trying, and failing, to win the title for the 16th time at No Mercy, here are 16 times John Cena challenged for the World Title and failed to leave with the gold.


#16 John Cena vs. Edge - WWE Championship, SummerSlam 2006

Edge is one of John Cena’s greatest rivals!

At New Year’s Revolution in January 2006, Edge shocked the world by cashing in his Money in the Bank contract to defeat John Cena after the champion won a gruelling Elimination Chamber match.

It was the historic first ever MITB cash-in, and the Ultimate Opportunist took the title from a battered and bloody WWE Champion. Edge would go on to lose the title back to Cena only 3 weeks later at the Royal Rumble PPV.

Cena lost the title to Rob Van Dam in the second-ever Money in the Bank cash-in and received his title shot in a Triple Threat on RAW on July 3, 2006. He was unsuccessful in that attempt, but the big rematch was at SummerSlam the following month. Cena took on Edge in the main event at SummerSlam and lost.

This was the first time Cena had unsuccessfully challenged for the WWE Title in a one-on-one match. He ended up beating Edge the following month at Unforgiven in a TLC match.

#15 John Cena vs. Randy Orton - WWE Championship, No Way Out 2008

The rivalry between Cena and Orton has been long-lasting and may not be over

Cena held the title for a year and a month, after defeating Edge but had to relinquish the belt when he tore his pectoral muscle in October 2007. He returned ahead of schedule in a shocking moment at the 2008 Royal Rumble and won the show’s namesake match.

He decided to take his title shot in February instead of waiting until WrestleMania, and it turned out to be a bad idea, as he ended up winning by disqualification when Randy Orton slapped the referee in the face in a desperate attempt to hold onto the championship.

The following pay-per-view, WrestleMania, also saw Cena fail in an attempt to reclaim the gold. Orton retained again , this time in a triple threat match also involving Triple H. The Game would then win the title later that month at Backlash, this time in a fatal four-way match with Orton, Cena and JBL.

It was Cena’s third failed attempt in a row and it would be another year and a half until he won the gold again.

#14 Cena vs. Triple H - WWE Championship, Night of Champions 2008

The Game was the better man on this occasion

In a rematch of their encounter at WrestleMania 22 back in 2006 that saw Cena retain the WWE Championship, Triple H put the belt on the line in what was Cena’s first one-on-one shot at the gold since earlier in 2008 at No Way Out.

Triple H’s signature Pedigree would seal that match handing Cena the defeat in what was a hard-fought encounter.

Cena would go on to challenge Chris Jericho a few months later at Survivor Series to win the World Heavyweight Championship for the first time. He would lose it to Edge in an Elimination Chamber match the following year, then regain it at WrestleMania 25.

Edge beat him for it again just a short 3 weeks later, in sweet justice after the same happened to Edge 3 years earlier.

#13 Cena vs. Randy Orton - WWE Championship, SummerSlam 2009

Orton is one of the few men who has won multiple big matches against Cena.

After the World Heavyweight Championship became a SmackDown exclusive title when Edge defeated John Cena, the RAW superstar went after the WWE Title again.

He failed to win it at Night of Champions in a triple threat match against Triple H and Randy Orton, and did the same, less than a month later in another one-on-one with Randy Orton. Don’t worry, Cena would pick up title number 6 a month later at the short-lived Breaking Point PPV event.

#12 Cena vs. Sheamus -WWE Championship, Money in the Bank 2010 (Cage Match)

Sheamus won his first WWE Championship 7 months earlier by defeating Cena in a Tables Match.

Cena lost his title to the newcomer Sheamus at TLC in 2009, in a tables match, but won it back a few months later in an Elimination Chamber match. He immediately lost it that same night to Batista but won it back shortly thereafter at WrestleMania 26. No wonder he has had so many championship reigns.

He ended up promptly losing the WWE Championship to Sheamus again, this time in a fatal four-way match at the PPV event of the same name. He got his rematch at the Money in the Bank event, but lost again, unable to win title number 8.

#11 Cena vs. Orton vs. Sheamus vs. Barrett vs. Edge vs. Jericho -WWE Championship, Night of Champions 2010 (Six-Pack Elimination)

Cena has a long history with each of the men in this match.

Another Night of Champions, another failed attempt to win the WWE Title for John Cena.

This time, Sheamus went in as champion and Randy Orton left. Cena then fell into a dark age for his title dreams because of his ongoing feud with Wade Barrett and The Nexus.

#10 Cena vs. The Miz - WWE Championship, WrestleMania 27

This match led to the physical beginning of the Cena-Rock rivalry.

It was only the second time that WrestleMania came to a close with the bad guy walking out of the main event with the WWE Title. Triple H did it first, a whole 11 years earlier at WrestleMania 2000.

The Miz only won as a means to continue setting up the impending “Once in a Lifetime” match between Cena and The Rock a year later at WrestleMania 28, as he looked like a chump during the contest and only won thanks to numerous instances of interference from the Brahma Bull.

Nevertheless, it was yet another unsuccessful shot for John Cena to win his 8th World Title.

Put that into perspective: only 5 and a half years ago, John Cena had won less than half of his World Titles. It took him 5 years to win titles 1 through 7, and then 8 through 15 happened in the next 3 years (he won number 8 in May 2011 and number 15 in June 2014). And that was with a lot of time off.

#9 Cena vs. Del Rio - WWE Championship, Vengeance 2011 (Last Man Standing)

This match started without ropes because of Mark Henry’s Superplex on Big Show.

Just 77 days after winning the WWE Championship for the 8th time (10th World Title overall), Cena lost the title to CM Punk in the classic clash at Money in the Bank 2011 in Chicago. Sadly that entire saga became a shameful mess, but that is in the past.

Cena would go on to win the WWE Title for the 9th time, which was technically only the interim championship, when he defeated Rey Mysterio on an episode of Monday Night RAW shortly after Punk won the title and “left the company”.

He then lost to Punk again at SummerSlam only 20 days later, then won the belt back at Night of Champions just shortly over one month later, for WWE Championship number 10. He held the belt for a mere 2 weeks before losing it in a triple threat Hell in a Cell match to Alberto Del Rio (also featuring CM Punk).

He got yet another shot later on in that same month but didn’t win his 11th WWE Title, losing a Last Man Standing match to Del Rio. That 11th title reign didn’t come for another year and a half, and he was stuck well shy of Ric Flair’s record, as a 12-time World Champion (WWE Title 10 times, World Heavyweight Title 2 times).

#8 Cena vs. CM Punk - WWE Championship, RAW 1000 / July 23, 2012 (MITB Cash-In)

This was a renewal of their rivalry from one year earlier

After winning the Money in the Bank ladder match, Cena challenged CM Punk to a WWE Title match on the 100th episode of Monday Night RAW. This marked only the second time anybody actually allowed the champion to prepare for their title defence, the first being when RVD challenged John Cena, and defeated him, 6 years earlier.

Cena ended up losing the match thanks to interference from The Big Show, which also made Big Match John the first man to fail to successfully cash in the MITB contract to win a World Title.

#7 Cena vs. Big Show vs. CM Punk - WWE Championship, SummerSlam 2012

Cena continued his difficult 2012 with another loss

Shortly after he failed to defeat CM Punk to win the title on the 1000th episode of RAW, he was granted a rematch in the form of a triple threat at SummerSlam the following month. Cena failed again and was stuck at 12 World Title victories.

He failed to win the title a few more times after this, again losing to CM Punk in singles competition and losing in another triple threat match, this time with CM Punk and Ryback. The drought continued for the 12-time champion.

#6 Cena vs. Randy Orton - WWE World Heavyweight Championship, TLC 2013 (TLC Match, Title Unification)

WWE chose to have these rivals face off again to unify the belts for the first time in over a decade

For some reason, WWE decided that John Cena vs. Randy Orton was the new version of The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin. These two wrestled almost non-stop for years upon years, often trading the WWE Title back and forth.

When Cena defeated The Rock for the WWE Title and his 13th overall World Championship, he held it before graciously handing Daniel Bryan a shot at SummerSlam.

Bryan would defeat Cena, but Randy Orton, holder of the Money in the Bank contract, had different plans. Orton would take the WWE Championship from Daniel Bryan and ‘The Authority’ made sure to keep it from Bryan’s grasp, ensuring that Randy Orton would be able to attempt to make history in December.

WWE finally merged the WWE Championship and World Heavyweight Championship as 2013 came to a close (which lasted all of 3 and a half years) and needed that “era-defining” match. That meant John Cena would become World Heavyweight Champion for the 3rd time solely for the purpose of being fed to Randy Orton in this match.

Cena was now overall a 14-time World Champion.

#5 Cena vs. Randy Orton - WWE World Heavyweight Championship, Royal Rumble 2014

Cena failed to defeat Orton 2 months in a row

Cena got one more chance at Randy Orton, in what was billed to be their final match against each other, for the newly unified title. They did engage in a non-title match a couple of weeks later, but outside of multi-man matches, have otherwise kept their word on that “final match” promise for almost 3 years.

Randy Orton held onto the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, losing it when Daniel Bryan defeated him and Batista at WrestleMania 30. Sadly, Bryan had to relinquish the title after only 2 months, and Cena would win his 15th (and thus far final) World Title at the June 2014 Money in the Bank pay-per-view event.

#4 Cena vs. Lesnar - WWE World Heavyweight Championship, Night of Champions 2014

Cena had to look for a way to win after being destroyed by Lesnar a month earlier at SummerSlam

After being absolutely destroyed by the Beast Incarnate at SummerSlam the month before, Cena received his mandatory rematch at Night of Champions. He fared much better, this time, correcting a lot of the mistakes he made against the Beast, and at one point it appeared that he had a chance at taking the victory.

In a bad stroke of luck for Cena, however, Seth Rollins attempted to cash in his Money in the Bank contract. He cost Cena the match but was unable to actually get his title shot off the ground, and he ran away before wasting his title shot in what would have been a very difficult situation. Alas, it was another failed attempt for Cena to win title number 16.

#3 Cena vs. Lesnar vs. Rollins - WWE World Heavyweight Championship, Royal Rumble 2015

The winner of this match would go on to WrestleMania

Cena’s third-to-last chance was at the very beginning of 2015, a match that saw him get his rematch at the same time against both Brock Lesnar and Seth Rollins. Rollins cost Cena the WWE Title at Night of Champions in his rematch with Brock Lesnar, and then Cena defeated Rollins to get another rematch at TLC.

The Authority, after being eliminated by Dolph Ziggler and Sting at Survivor Series, was reinstated by Cena after Rollins threatened to paralyse Edge. That earned Seth a spot in Cena’s match, which is what created the triple threat stipulation.

In one of the best triple threat matches since WrestleMania XX, Lesnar successfully defended his title against both challengers, again blocking Cena from tying Flair’s legendary record.

#2 Cena vs. Rollins - WWE World Heavyweight Championship, SummerSlam 2015

Jon Stewart didn’t like the idea of Cena equaling Ric Flair’s title victories

John Cena and Seth Rollins continued their rivalry on and off through the year, and at SummerSlam, both men put their titles on the line. Cena ended up losing the match and his United States Championship. Seth Rollins became the first ever man to hold both the WWE Title and the United States Title at the same time.

The finish came thanks to interference from Jon Stewart, who explained his interference that cost Cena the match, by saying that he didn’t think anybody should tie the 16x record set by Ric Flair. This was Cena’s last WWE World Title shot for over a year.

#1 Cena vs. Styles vs. Ambrose - WWE World Championship, No Mercy 2016

John Cena fell short in his most recent bid to become champion again

It wasn’t until this match that John Cena admitted that he really did want to chase history. He wrestled this match with the intention of tying Flair’s record. Cena wanted to use this match to get one step closer to becoming the record-holding 17 time World Champion, but it was not to be.

AJ Styles defeated Dean Ambrose to win the title at Backlash. He defeated Cena the month before at SummerSlam. Cena got involved in Ambrose’s rematch on an episode of SmackDown Live, and it led to Styles having to defend the title against both men at the same time.

Cena was again unsuccessful in his quest for number 16 and has not been seen since he lost the match. Styles won by pinning Cena after attacking him with a pair of chair shots, so obviously it’s only a matter of time before he gets a proper one-on-one rematch. Maybe that will lead to lucky 16.


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Edited by Staff Editor

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