As confirmed on WWE Backstage, blockbuster attraction John Cena will be returning to SmackDown Live on February 28th. Rumours have been floating for a while regarding Cena’s WrestleMania status, speculating that the former 16-time World Champion will be competing on the grandest stage of them all. The last we saw of Cena at WrestleMania, he gave Elias’ bars a run for their money in New York, throwing back to the ‘Doctor of Thuganomics’ gimmick for a special one-off roast.
In terms of in-ring competition, Cena has been pretty absent from WWE in the past few years; last competing at WWE’s Super ShowDown event in Australia in a winning effort against Kevin Owens and Elias. It’s high time for Cena to make his triumphant return after being kept away from the squared circle by the hustle and bustle of Hollywood. Fans are more than happy to give Cena a welcoming pop when he does occasionally stop by for a quick cameo.
Presumably we’ll get an idea of who Cena is going to start building a WrestleMania program with on the February 28th episode of SmackDown Live, which should make for some must-watch content as we step closer and closer towards Tampa.
But who exactly is going to be given the honour of stepping between the ropes with one of the greatest of all time? Let’s run down a few potential opponents.
1. King Corbin
As we covered in our WrestleMania card predictions, King Corbin is a very likely contender to become John Cena’s WrestleMania opponent. Corbin has almost wrapped up his feud with Roman Reigns, and with a confirmed Steel Cage match with Reigns in Saudi Arabia on the horizon, it leaves the King’s future open for another big-time feud to keep him in the main event scene.
Cena’s ability to make any heel superstar look like a total chump is second to none. Corbin is the ideal superstar to take a few jabs on the mic, as well as be given a satisfying comeuppance at WrestleMania itself at the hands of WWE’s real-life superhero.
Cena and Corbin have met briefly in the past and actually ended up having a lot of chemistry together. Their SummerSlam match from 2016 was pretty fun and the feud didn’t outstay its welcome, leaving the possibility for them to be paired up again in the future for a bigger series of matches. This could very much be that opportunity.
King Corbin is almost the perfect candidate for Cena’s opponent in Tampa. With Cena confirming that he’ll be appearing on SmackDown rather than RAW, then Corbin stands out as one of the top heel superstars on the blue brand who could naturally enter into a feud with someone on Cena’s level. I’d expect Cena to receive a royal welcome at the hands of King Corbin on February 28th.
‘The Celtic Warrior’ has made quite the impact on SmackDown Live since making his return as a singles superstar. With Gable now behind him, Sheamus is ready to step into a bigger feud as he heads into WrestleMania season. As it happens, Sheamus has become quite the popular superstar since his comeback, fans are happy to see him back and are ready for him to put on some instant classics with some of the blue brand’s biggest stars.
My gut tells me that Sheamus will be facing Braun Strowman for the Intercontinental Championship in the near future, but I think that might potentially be a post-WrestleMania plan for the Irishman. In the meantime, Sheamus could help raise his stock slightly by competing against John Cena in Tampa.
Sheamus and Cena have had history together in the past, Cena being the man that Sheamus defeated in a Tables match to claim his first major championship in 2009. The wrestling world was sent into shock when Cena took the L to the relative newcomer, and it was the start of a big run for Sheamus who would soon become one of WWE’s headliners.
Cena could easily slide into the role of ‘defender of the weak’ as he battles Sheamus in his plight to remove the chaff on the SmackDown roster. Sheamus seems to be happy targeting the smaller, ‘weaker’ wrestlers, so it’d be fun to see what Sheamus could do against a big-man like John Cena a decade after their first encounter.
3. John Morrison
Aside from a brief spat with one another in 2011, Cena and the recently returned John Morrison never had the chance to meet in a singles feud. JoMo’s star power might have dwindled slightly since his comeback this year, but he seems to be recovering some momentum as part of a renewed alliance with The Miz. With Cena stealing headlines, you’d think the two A-List superstars might be a little bit miffed with him.
Perhaps Miz and Morrison crash Cena’s homecoming party and declare their intentions to remain the sole stars of SmackDown Live. Cena and Morrison could be an easy fit for the WrestleMania card, with Morrison now holding significantly more star power than he did the last time the two shared screen time. Not only that, but their in-ring styles would be a true mis-match, making for an intriguing singles bout at WrestleMania.
Morrison needs a big singles feud to help re-establish him as a credible asset to the main event scene. His current rivalry with The New Day might be getting him on TV, but quite frankly, it won’t be enough to sustain him as the year trundles along. A WrestleMania feud with Cena would do him and The Miz nothing but favours for the rest of 2020, perhaps even a big win might put him in line for a shot at the Universal Championship before the year is up.
4. Roman Reigns
Granted, the ‘passing of the torch’ match between John Cena and Roman Reigns already went down in 2017, but honestly it didn’t feel as epic as it deserved to be. Whether you’ve been won over by these two titans of wrestling or not, you’ve got to admit that Reigns has been the guy that has taken up Cena’s mantle and excelled as the poster-boy for WWE. Roman deserves to have one big encounter with Cena, one that can only really take place on the grandest stage of them all.
Cena and Reigns displayed a modicum of chemistry in their match at No Mercy, lending to the idea that if they were given a WrestleMania main-event marathon, they could absolutely steal the show. Now we’re all expecting Reigns to be the guy to challenge and defeat ‘The Fiend’ at WrestleMania this year, but with plans currently under a potential reshuffle now that both Cena and Goldberg are in the mix, who knows where all these names might end up on the card.
I personally would rather see the sequel to Cena/Reigns go down in Tampa. It’s one of those few attraction matches that fans will use as the defining moment of a generation. Think Hogan vs Warrior from WrestleMania 6 and how much that captured the hearts and minds of wrestling fans during the Golden Era. It might not be on the exact same scale as that, what with Cena being a part-timer performer these days and Reigns already holding a victory over the 16-time World Champ, but it’s a match that needs to be given the spectacle factor it originally deserved.
5. The Undertaker
Cast your minds back to WrestleMania 34 in Nawlins; Cena spent the majority of the Road to WrestleMania chasing after the elusive Undertaker, calling him out on a weekly basis only to be met with silence. It wasn’t until the night of ‘Mania that Cena was given the good news of ‘The Deadman’ being in the building. Despite this, Taker kept Cena waiting. Cena eventually hit the ring only to be met by Elias, who was soon dumped on his back with a thunderous AA. As Cena started to make his way to the back, resigned to the idea of his big WrestleMania match not meant to be, Taker sent the arena into a craze with his signature tolling of the bell.
As far as the match itself went, it was a bit disappointing. Undertaker wasn’t exactly in the best shape physically, so it had to be a shorter affair than usual. Cena truly did the honours to the living legend, getting in zero offence and taking the squash. This was in no way a burial: after all, he is John Cena. The match concluded and Cena left in defeat as he departed for his career in Hollywood. Nothing else was ever said on the matter.
Here we are once again with Cena returning in time for WrestleMania 36, the question being who exactly will Cena set his sights on for Tampa this year. Undertaker has also been rumoured to be stepping into the ring for ‘Mania this year, potentially for a match with AJ Styles. The story writes itself, really. Cena should return bitter about the big loss he took two years ago, he wants vengeance, he wants that victory.
This would of course mean that there’d be a rubber match somewhere down the line, but honestly, who would say no to seeing another rendition of a dream match like John Cena vs The Undertaker.