John Cena has been a member of the WWE Universe for 20 years, as his 20-year anniversary celebration earlier this year was held to celebrate. He’s wrestled in 2,218 matches, according to Cagematch, won 25 championships in the promotion – 27 if you count OVW – and at the tender age of 45, could theoretically still be an active and healthy member of the WWE Universe, as other performers like Chris Jericho are still going strong despite being out of the key demographic of 18-49 by a few years now.
And yet, WWE has a problem, one they admittedly created themselves, but a problem nonetheless: Cena no longer needs to be a professional wrestler. Much like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson before him, Cena has become a legitimate movie star outside of the “House Vince McMahon Built,” going so far as to even appear in and sometimes lead pictures for major studios instead of WWE’s in-house production arm. He voices the Experian Cow, does car commercials, and even led his own television show, Peacemaker, for HBO Max based on his character from Warner Brothers’ The Suicide Squad. If Cena were to suffer an injury in the ring, it could cost some studios tens of millions of dollars and potentially cost him future opportunities like Killer Vacation, his new movie that was just announced co-starring Jason Momoa.
Still, after appearing in at least one match for WWE every year since all the way back in 2002, would Cena risk breaking his streak with just 14 days left in the calendar year? Nope, after receiving a call from his long-time frenemy Kevin Owens, it looks like he doesn’t have to, as the “The Doctor of Thuganomics” will be gracing the Smackdown ring later this month after all.
“So let me get this straight,” Cena said. “I haven’t had a match in 2022, and we are… running out of chances. And you’re asking me that on the last SmackDown of the year, December 30th, if I wanna partner with Kevin Owens? Against the ‘Uciest’ Sami Zayn? And ‘the Tribal Chief,’ the Undisputed WWE Universal Champion, Roman Reigns, in a main event match that can’t be missed? H*ll yes I’ll be there! H*ll yes I will be your partner, h*ll yes we will bring the fight to The Bloodline in the final Smackdown of 2022. Make your list, check it twice, The Bloodline’s been naughty, and won’t it be nice when Cena Claus is coming to town. Ho ho holy sh-“
Ho ho holy sh- indeed; after being out of (televised) in-ring action since he lost the Universal Championship to Roman Reigns at SummerSlam 2021, it looks like “The Champ” is headed back to the company that made him a Super-Duperstar to give back to the fans, provide a little post-Christmas cheer, and, most importantly of all, beat the bricks off of the “Head of the Table” and his “Honorary Uce.” Merry Christmas, indeed.
SURPRISE! @FightOwensFight has found a tag team partner for his match against @WWERomanReigns and @SamiZayn for the DEC. 30th episode of #SmackDown….
and his name is @JohnCena! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/sYclbnE5cW
— WWE (@WWE) December 17, 2022
Road Dogg details the challenge of booking WWE booking John Cena in 2022.
So why, you may ask, does WWE not bring Cena in more often for some additional in-ring effort to pop a rating or get the fans talking? Well, Road Dogg, the DX member-turned-WWE producer, discussed that very topic on Oh…You Didn’t Know back in July, as transcribed by Wrestling Headlines.
“He can’t come back forever, you know what I mean?” Road Dogg said. “He’s only going to come back for a certain amount of dates, because he’s got other you know, career opportunities. So that would be great, you could bring Cena back. You put him over, you put him up for the title, he wins the title. Yeah, it’s not possible because he’s not gonna be there. I got three dates. I can show up on the go-home, I can show up on the pay-per-view, and you got one more so sprinkle it in where you can, you know what I mean? Like that’s the deals that are made.”
“It’s not we got Cena, let’s do whatever we want. So who beat Cena in that, was it Kurt? So Kurt, they were putting some equity in Kurt to try to make Kurt and Hunter a thing going forward to build toward that big Mania match. And so it all made sense. If you don’t have all the information, of course things don’t make sense to you. You know what I mean?”
On paper, RD is completely correct; no one really believed that Cena was going to beat Reigns at SummerSlam 2021, and every appearance he’s made since extensively leaving his full-time wrestling career via his match with Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania has been to provide some fun for the fans, to do voice over for something like Tribute to the Troops, or to sell some tickets. While it would be fun to see one final Cena run for 9-18 months or so, whether his exact end date isn’t necessarily telegraphed, at this point, he’s just not a full-time player any longer.