How to Book John Cena After His Return from Injury


What does the future hold for John Cena after his latest injury?

By now everyone has heard the news: John Cena needs shoulder surgery and will be on the shelf for the foreseeable future. This is a devastating blow to the WWE, not just because Cena is the face of the company, but also because the roster is already extremely thin due to injuries to other Superstars.

It was inevitable that, one day, WWE would no longer be able to lean on Cena like they have for past thirteen years, and this injury reveals how neglectful the WWE has been in planning for the post-Cena generation. Shortsightedness is coming around to bite the WWE, but heading into WrestleMania they should be fine if they employ some smart booking and if several other Superstars seize the opportunity to step up and fill the huge void left by Cena’s absence. There’s plenty of talent in the locker room; it’s just a matter of Superstars “grabbing the brass ring” and the WWE supporting them if and when they do so.

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All that aside, there’s still the question of what happens to the former WWE United States Champion when he is fully recovered and ready to return. Earlier this week, fellow staff writer for Daily DDT, Josh.0, suggested it’s time for Cena to follow in the Rock’s footsteps and get on the part-time, Hollywood schedule. Many agree with that approach, and honestly it’s the smartest route for Cena to take. The problem with doing so, however, is that it goes against Cena’s persona as a whole.

Looking back at Cena’s feud with the Rock heading into both WrestleMania 28 and WrestleMania 29, Cena made a point of emphasizing that his heart is with the WWE first and foremost and that the WWE Universe takes full priority over everything else in his life. Both on screen and off, Cena has lived up to those claims, and he has been a pillar in the WWE through and through over the span of his career. Mr. HLR isn’t the type of guy who disappears for eleven months and then appears out of thin air to headline a WrestleMania. Cena is either all in or not in at all.

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When he returns there needs to be an exit plan in place. It doesn’t have to be immediate—nor should it be—but it shouldn’t last more than a handful of years. The best course of action for Cena is to follow a retirement path which replicates Shawn Michaels’: retire one legend and then retire himself.

Cena versus the Undertaker with some sort of retirement stipulation should be the prominent program for Cena upon his return, culminating at WrestleMania 33 with the Deadman’s retirement. This is the match the world wants to see before both men hang up their boots, and given its grandiose nature, build-up could ensue over half a year, if not longer. Afterward, Cena can focus on closing out his career with a final title run.

Plenty of critics dismiss the idea that Cena should tie Ric Flair’s record for most world title reigns, but if there is any man deserving of such an honor, it’s the leader of the Cenation. He has given so much of himself to the WWE, the wrestling business and all of its fans that he deserves to be officially coronated as the greatest champion of all-time. By the time the historic reign could potentially begin, Cena will have been in the WWE for about fifteen years.

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  • Compared to so many other Hall of Famers, there have been few who have consistently been full-time for a duration as long as Cena’s in the modern era. Whether or not people like Cena, his work ethic and commitment is undeniable. He should attain the storied sixteenth world title and wear the WWE World Heavyweight Championship up until his final match—another retirement bout at WrestleMania.

    It doesn’t have to be a passing of the torch by any means. Michaels’ final match was against the Undertaker, and that makes the most sense: a legend should retire a legend.

    There aren’t many legends left, but the WWE will have options. Brock Lesnar still has a few years left in the tank, and he and Cena could main event a dual-retirement match where it’s advertised that both men are walking away for good at the conclusion, regardless of who wins. The WWE World Heavyweight Championship could thereafter be vacated and Cena and Lesnar could ride off into the sunset.

    Cena’s epic career needs to end ceremoniously, and it needs to be absolute. There has to be a moment where everyone stands up and gives him a final, grand applause. Cena has earned that much and is well-worthy of such an ovation.

    Following the Rock’s path would result in the same uncertainty that shrouds the Rock’s career now. No one knows if the Rock has wrestled his last match. And that’s fine for the Rock. The Rock long ago established himself as someone who will always leave the door open in order to come and go as he pleases.

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    But that’s not Cena.

    The consistent thread throughout Cena’s career has been “what you see is what you get.” People love him and people hate him, and all the while Cena has remained himself (and some people solely hate him for that reason). He isn’t, and has never been, a part-timer, and for that reason alone his career shouldn’t end in part-time fashion.

    When John Cena exits the building, it will resonate throughout the WWE Universe, and the most poignant gesture will be him locking the door on his way out.