You're Time is Up: How John Cena Should Retire From WWE

John Cena returned to offer Cody some championship advice and reinforcement against The Bloodline. With his career coming to a close, how John Cena should retire from WWE is likely a topic of discussion for creative. He will want it to be worthy of his time and the people from whom he has drawn energy for decades.
John Cena fires up the crowd during the WWE Fastlane pro wrestling event Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023, at
John Cena fires up the crowd during the WWE Fastlane pro wrestling event Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023, at / Hali Tauxe/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK

Cody Rhodes and the fans in Philadelphia were shocked when John Cena returned to offer Cody some championship advice and, crucially, reinforcements against The Bloodline. His recent returns could have been better, which is what John Cena himself told fans to look for when he decides to hang up his pads. With his career coming to a close, how John Cena should retire from WWE is likely a topic of discussion for creative. He will want it to be worthy of his time and the people from whom he has drawn energy for decades. 

How do you say goodbye to an icon like John Cena? Cena has always been the type of performer who wants to entertain the fans above all else. He's already had a character retrospective with the legendary Bray Wyatt in the Firefly Funhouse. So, this time, nostalgia can't be the only selling point. Instead, the past and the future must be intertwined equally to tell the tale of John Cena's final year in WWE. 

It starts with an Intercontinental Championship win for John Cena

The legendary career of John Cena has but one missing piece. An iconic piece of WWE hardware, the Intercontinental Championship has never been a part of John Cena's title collection. So that is where the final chapter in the Cena saga should begin. Before John Cena calls it a career, he has to win his Grand Slam Championship and the IC title. 

A heel Intercontinental Champion, perhaps Chad Gable, presents an open challenge sometime after WWE's Money in the Bank show. John Cena responds, and a quick match follows. The champion's rival, a rising face superstar like Ricochet, interferes in retaliation for a previous gripe, and a quick roll-up nets John Cena his first and only Intercontinental title. Backstage, the new champion gets congratulations from former champions, including Randy Orton. In an interview, John Cena says that he is ready to defend this title at SummerSlam for the great fans of Detriot. 

Before getting an opponent for SummerSlam, he has to handle an irate Chad Gable and an ambitious Ricochet. For a month, Gable and Ricochet are both trying to get the title shot at John Cena, who is staying out of the fray directly. Then, the two both go at Cena to earn his ire and get called out for the opportunity. On the go-home Raw, a tag team match is announced. John Cena and Randy Orton vs Chad Gable and Ricochet. If the challengers win, they both get a title match. When it looks like Cena is about to lose the match, he makes a hot tag to Randy Orton, who wins it for their team. After the win, John Cena decided to bring back the Cena open challenge at SummerSlam to kick things off. 

When the show starts that weekend, Cena comes out and says he won this title as an open challenger. He made the concept of the open challenge famous not long ago. He adds a stipulation before his challenger comes out. This was his first Intercontinental title, so he also wanted his opponent to be going for their first title. With the challenge thrown down, an energized Bron Breakker answers the call. The match begins and quickly turns into the iconic Brock Lesnar SummerSlam squash. Spear after agonizing spear, and Cena has no way to stop him. Cena's brief run with the title ends after being ou worked and brutalized in the ring yet again at the WWE Universe's biggest party of the summer.  

An energized John Cena starts his championship fight camp.

To accommodate his Hollywood career, John Cena will need to go away for a while. When WWE gets into the weeks leading up to their November Crown Jewel Saudi Arabia event, Cena returns. He admits he got outclassed by a younger athlete who is on the rise. He acknowledged that he was surprised at just how impressive the next generation has been. However, he tells the crowd that he is John Cena, has seen a thing or two, and knows how to be the world champion. He always wants to entertain the fans and thinks that the best way he can do that now is...but he is interrupted by the World Heavyweight Champion, a heel like Drew McIntyre. We never hear what Cena initially planned to do at that moment.

After a heated exchange, they make the match official. Drew offers some parting advice. He tells Cena to take the next three weeks to get ready for the fight of his life. Orton, who is backstage, also mentions the danger of being underprepared again in the match. So Cena makes his John Cena fight camp to prepare with some of his past rivals. He takes on Seth Rollins, who beats him, Kevin Owen, who he wins off a countout, and AJ Styles, who he beats. All this while getting advice from the trio before and after they fight. 

This rouges gallery gives Cena confidence for his title fight at the end of the month. He addresses the WWE Universe on social media throughout the month, posting his workout routine and sit-down commentary to all his world title wins. Every sign that WWE can give to fans they do; this is the John Cena 17 title match. He tells the fans before going to Saudi Arabia that it will be a celebration when he returns. Next time he is in the building, the WWE universe will know that the champ is here. With that, Cena arrives and puts on a solid match for the championship in Saudi Arabia. 

He and Drew work for a decent amount of time, and after a few near falls, Cena hulks up and closes in with the Five Knuckle Shuffle. He gets a close two-count on McIntyre, less than a second away from history. However, Drew manages to escape the situation while Cena is shocked at this kickout. Worse still for Cena, he gets hit with a final Claymore and takes a pin for McIntyre to retain after coming so close to that last belt. Before leaving for another break, John Cena talks about the thrill of having one last match, a title match, in front of the WWE Universe. 

John Cena makes a final run for his 17th world title win. 

In a sit-down interview exclusive, John Cena tells Corey Graves he always said at this point in his career it was about giving back to the fans. He also promised never to lie to them and won't start now. The thrill of almost winning that title, beating Ric Flair's record, was the most intense thing he has felt in a long time. So, while he has to leave again, business is business; he wants to stay here, and he wants that world title. He then declares for January's Royal Rumble match and intends to win it. Closer to the Rumble match, John Cena turns up on WWE programming. He interacts with the top stars like Cody Rhodes, LA Knight, Randy Orton, CM Punk, and Drew McIntyre backstage. 

John Cena enters the match late, a ball of fire running into the three other competitors in the ring. He squares off with CM Punk, but they are both jumped by Solo Sikoa and a recently eliminated Tama Tonga. Solo dumps him over the top rope as the last man and eventual winner, The Rock, passes Cena on the ramp. On Raw, the two champions, Cody Rhodes and Roman Reigns, meet Cena in the ring. John Cena knows that the Rock could choose either of them. Both have had issues with Rocky over the last year. Cena believes he was good enough to win that Rumble match, and he still wants a title match at WrestleMania. After talking with both of them, John Cena promises that he won't use his pull to take this opportunity; that is what other stars do. He says he will earn his shot at a match in the Elimination Chamber. 

The Rock makes his decision Cena agrees to a qualifying match. Shawn Michaels informs John that only one "free age t" is eligible for the WWE Championship Chamber match. He says that NXT also wants that opportunity, so his match is against Trick Williams. Trick and Cena battle it out, with the veteran using his brain to try to trip up the young star on the big stage. Ultimately, he comes up short. A demoralized Cena amits on Smackdown that he was stepped behind again, costing him the WWE Championship. He makes a promise to the fans in attendance and around the world. Cena will earn his way into the World Heavyweight Championship contenders chamber, and if Cena loses again, he will retire. That same night, John Cena faces Miz in a competition match, and with a roll-up after Miz has kicked out of Attitude Adjustment, he earns his spot. 

Drew McIntyre wanting Cena out of the match for "his" title goads the champion on the go-home Smackdown to face IC champion Bron Breakker again, hoping Cena loses and must retire. Drew even comes out mid-match to try to ensure Cena loses. Randy Orton makes the save, and Cena wins over Breakker in the main event. Come Elimination Chamber, he and Drew face off again early, but a hooded CM Punk attacks him and Drew. In the brawl, Cena is knocked hard into the chamber, suffers a concussion, and is pulled from the match. 

Start up one last WrestleMania rivalry as John Cena says goodbye. 

John Cena addresses the WWE Universe in a bright pastel suit, with no towel and no patented Cena smirk. He is mad that he lost that at Elimination Chamber, that Drew's beef cost him a title match. Even worse, he is angry that it cost him his career so close to WrestleMania. A deal is a deal, and it may be for the best. He explains that it is time to head home if he can't keep up with the competition any longer. All of Cena's friends and rivals come out to thank Ena for a career of highlights. Cody Rhodes, Randy Orton, Kevin Owens, The Miz, and eventually Triple H come out as well-wishers to send Cena off into the sunset. When the John Cena theme plays one last time, the group walks up the ramp together and turns around on the stage to see the WWE Universe one last time. Then Cena goes down. Randy Orton lines up the punt kick but is held back as Triple H gets Cena to safety. 

Orton explains that the next week, he will be madder, and then John will be over how everything went down. John Cena never once turned to him, possibly the one person who knows Cena and his game better than anyone else. At no point did his oldest friend and one-time rival ask Orton for help. Even after all Orton did for him anyway, Cena didn't care. The feud that fed the industry and everyone in the company for years was ignored by the legend of John Cena. Orton explains that if Cena doesn't see it that way, then so be it. However, he is not letting the man he put on the map retire off a fluke or on his own terms. Orton will put down one last legend if John Cena wants to retire. 

Cena comes out and agrees to the match at WrestleMania. John clarifies that if the last time doesn't count, that is fine. Everyone gets a mulligan, so he will beat Orton one last time and get back to his hunt for 17. Orton laughs it off; he says Cena has repeatedly fa led for a year. Like Charlie Brown and the football, the kick always gets pulled. Orton says his kick won't miss. He is doing this for John Cena, so he knows now that he isn't good enough to return. They build the match only on the microphone, with no physical altercations. His Cena camp offers to help, but John refuses. There isn't anybody alive he knows better than Randy. Nobody can teach him a thing about Orton that he has yet to learn and overcome. 

At WrestleMania, Randy Orton and John Cena square up one more time. They wrestle a standard match. Orton does not cheat, but an extra viciousness is palpable from the Viper. Cena, throughout the match, keeps kicking out. He embodies his slogan under the bright lights; he will not give up after several RKOs and even a punt. Orton also survives the early onslaught of Super Ce a. They can take one another's best; they have done it for decades. Cena hits an Avalance AA, but Orton kicks out at the last possible moment. Cena is stunned, looking to the referee. He tries to stand and capitalize, but his leg gives out. He searches the crowd one more time, then smiles. Without returning to his feet, he turns to an exhausted Orton, who is back in the corner. He tells Randy, just one more time. Orton nods and hits the ground, ready to strike. Cena charges forward into an RKO, and the three deadliest words end John Cena's run on the grandest stage of them all. 

There is a balance for booking how John Cena should retire from the WWE.

John Cena will forever be one of the greatest WWE superstars. He needs one more solid run to solidify his exit. He defined a generation of professional wrestling and was the face of a multimillion-dollar entertainment empire. He didn't reach those heights alone, though, and in his goodbye, he should get to pay homage to the people who helped him do it. Not all of his opponents can be there, but many of them can, and his arch nemesis, himself looking at the twilight of his active career, is still around to say goodbye the right way, the wrestling way. 

John Cena was also given a chance to thrive, coming up at a time of great upheaval for WWE. A change in programming and a clearing of the "usual" stars created opportunities for young guys like John Cena to reach the pinnacle. In his final scenes for the promotion, the best thing that John Cena can do is to give other talent at that stage. Performers in his position circa 2002 could use his assistance to raise their platform. Now, merging nostalgia and a forward-looking story, two seemingly opposing demands may be challenging. Luckily, this modern era of WWE has proven capable of telling longer stories with limited appearances. If John Cena is game, and it's reasonable to assume he is, he can have one last year to remember on a legendary WWE career.