Things in WWE aren’t always cyclical, but John Cena returning to Raw to help Kevin Owens fight The Bloodline feels quite apropos. The December 16 episode of SmackDown was a dull affair—arguably the worst show Triple H has been involved with since taking over the booking in late July. That’s an incredible hot streak, but the blue brand certainly got a boost with a surprise appearance from Cena on the Jumbotron as the show closed. Fans knew he’d be appearing on that show, but news that he’d be wrestling was fresh and welcome.
It was supposed to be the night Roman Reigns officially inducted Sami Zayn into The Bloodline family, but the persisting Kevin Owens problem prevented that from happening. The Tribal Chief Challenged KO to a tag-team match on the December 30 episode of Raw, allowing him to pick any partner he wanted. He reached out to John Cena, who was all too happy to accept the challenge. This is a true full-circle moment for Kevin Owens and, to some degree, Roman Reigns. Cena was integral in getting both of those men over and is at least partially responsible for the star power they still carry to this day.
Kevin Owens Proved He Was Main-Roster Ready Against John Cena
Kevin Owens’ road to WWE’s main roster was long and winding. He eventually found himself in NXT alongside longtime friend Sami Zayn, and he would go on to become one of the best champions in that brand’s history. Success at the Performance Center in Florida—where the same fans are in attendance night after night—and success on the main roster, doesn’t always go hand-in-hand. More often than not, NXT standouts melt away into the backdrop on Raw or SmackDown. That was never really an option for Owens. Not with John Cena standing inside the same ring and willing to put him over in a massive upset on a pay-per-view.
Cena’s reputation as someone with a “golden shovel” was so prevalent that he spoke openly about it during promos. There was a time when it seemed like WWE’s version of Superman never lost a big match. That perception started to change by 2015, as the veteran began his legendary United States Championship open challenges. It was a perfect way for WWE to see how NXT wrestlers would translate to the main roster. They might not be cut out for a call-up if they couldn’t have a good match against the company’s standard-bearer. John Cena’s open challenge run is littered with fights where he made guys look like a million bucks, but no one benefited from this open challenge run more than Kevin Owens.
While still holding the NXT Championship, Owens made his main roster debut on the May 18, 2015, episode of Raw. Opportunities don’t get much more significant, and KO stepped up to the plate in a massive way. Cena is one of the best promos in sports entertainment history and has belittled more than his fair share of up-and-coming stars. However, that night, Owens felt like he belonged in the same ring as one of the biggest megastars in WWE history. This confrontation led to several high-end matches, but Owens beating Cena clean at Elimination Chamber was a star-making moment that propelled him to where he is now.
John Cena Returning To Help Kevin Owens Is (Still) A Huge Rub
WWE doesn’t get John Cena matches very often these days. Anytime the former Doctor Of Thuganomics makes an appearance, it’s a big deal for the company. His wrestling on the final Raw of 2022 should lead to a nice ratings boost to end the year, and it’s also a big rub for everyone involved in the match. Roman Reigns has finally solidified himself as the top dog in the company, and it’s been quite some time since he’s come face to face with Cena. It could be a passing-of-the-torch moment between the two. WWE tried to force that in 2017, but Roman just wasn’t there yet. He certainly is now.
The implication that John Cena and Owens remain kayfabe friends is interesting since they were mainly at each other’s throats when John was still wrestling consistently. It implies that KO earned Cena’s respect during their matches, and having a future Hall of Famer willing to step in and tag with you is a great look. Interestingly enough, a few days before Owens made his main-roster debut, Sami Zayn had his first match on Raw against… you guessed it. John Cena.
A half-dozen threads tie Owens, Reigns, and Zayn to Cena. That’s why, oddly, Cena returning to work a main-event Raw match with the three of them is a Circle-of-Life moment for WWE. It could be argued that none of them would be quite where they are if not for their matches and moments with Cena. Owens’ main roster debut started white-hot because he feuded with Cena. Sami Zayn’s first match on Raw was stellar because of Cena’s willingness to keep the match close, and Roman and Cena have a ton of history.
All of this adds up to what should be a fun, star-studded way for WWE to wrap up 2022. Fans might not have many more chances to watch Cena wrestle at this point, and this tag-team match should be enjoyed for its spectacle. A bout featuring several of sports entertainment’s biggest stars on free WWE television doesn’t come together too often. John Cena wrestling a match happens even less frequently. Let’s enjoy it.
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