John Cena has been on top of WWE longer than any other top main event wrestler in the modern era. Hulk Hogan was on top in the 80s for 10 years before leaving for WCW, Stone Cold Steve Austin was, believe it or not, only a wrestler in WWE for eight years, and Undertaker has been around forever, but he was part-time for years and was never the top star.
However, John Cena arrived on the main roster in 2002, won his first world title in 2005, and was the top star in the company until he dropped down to part-time in 2017. That is 15 years as a wrestler and 12 years as the number one guy in the company. You can't do that without great matches, and here are the 10 career defining wins in the WWE career of John Cena.
10 Wrestlemania XX - Big Show
John Cena had achieved success in OVW when he was called up to the main roster. He quickly made his name when he came out and challenged Kurt Angle. While he lost the match, Cena looked good and was clearly a star in the making. His first WrestleMania, he did nothing but then in his second—WrestleMania XX—he got a shot at a title.
On the same show that saw Hulk Hogan battle The Rock, John Cena won his first title by beating Big Show for the United States Championship. It was also a statement win, as Cena lifted Show onto his shoulders and hit the Attitude Adjustment for the win—a massive show of strength.
9 Wrestlemania 21 - JBL
One year after Cena won the United States Championship at his first WrestleMania, WWE felt he was ready for a world title. He set up to battle JBL for the world championship title and took it to the arrogant Texan to capture his first major world title in WWE.
The match wasn't a great one, but the fact that Cena won the world title speaks volumes for what came later in his career. Cena is tied with Ric Flair for the total number of world title victories, and it all started with this win at WrestleMania 21.
8 Wrestlemania 22 - Triple H
In his third straight WrestleMania, Cena picked up his third consecutive win to move his at the event to 3-0. However, fans seemed to tire of Cena's schtick and started to boo him here. Triple H was the heel, and most fans hated him, so it speaks to the polarizing nature of Cena to hear a lot of fans cheering for The Game in this match.
This was Cena and Triple H's first high-profile match. Cena was the champion, and Triple H was the challenger. Cena won the match, and by beating Triple H, he proved he was now the top guy in WWE. They met two years later at another WrestleMania, and this is the match that started their long rivalry.
7 Unforgiven 2006 - Edge
There are a few feuds that have defined John Cena's career. The three biggest names that he feuded with were CM Punk, Randy Orton, and Edge. Out of all the heels that WWE sent out against Cena, these were the three who gave him the most trouble. Edge even made his name with the Money in the Bank matches and cashed in on Cena for his most significant MitB moment.
The two had their best match at Unforgiven 2006. Cena was, by this time, the squeaky clean babyface, never to go heel again. Edge was the dirtiest player in WWE, willing to lie, cheat and steal to win at any cost. In this match at Unforgiven 2006, it was Cena that went to any length to win, hitting the Attitude Adjustment off the top of the ladder, through a table, to pin the Rated-R Superstar.
6 Wrestlemania 23 - Shawn Michaels
Many fans and experts consider Shawn Michaels the greatest performer ever to step foot into a WWE ring. With John Cena as the face of WWE by this time, it only made sense that he would battle The Heartbreak Kid to prove his worth to WWE fans. Michaels had beaten Cena in the past, and it was time to even the score and put over Cena as the man.
WrestleMania 23—Cena's fourth straight WrestleMania appearance was also his fourth straight WrestleMania win. He and Shawn battled for Cena's WWE Championship, and just like he did the year before when he beat Triple H, Cena retained his title again by making Michaels tap out to the STFU.
5 Royal Rumble 2008
In October 2007, John Cena tore a pectoral muscle and ended up losing his title—a WWE Championship he had held for 380 days—the longest since Hulk Hogan held it for over 1,400 days in the '80s. He needed surgery and was out of action for three months.
However, he was supposed to be out for longer than that, but worked hard on his rehab and shocked the WWE Universe when he showed up as the 30th entrant in the 2008 Royal Rumble. Fans actually cheered his return, knowing his legitimate injury, and then Cena eliminated Triple H and earned a world title shot at WrestleMania 24.
4 Bragging Rights 2009 - Randy Orton
Randy Orton was a student at OVW the same time that John Cena was, and both men came up to WWE in 2002. Cena showed up to challenge Kurt Angle and then slowly proved himself against all competition until he won his world title three years later. On the other hand, Triple H handpicked Randy Orton, and he became the youngest world champion in WWE history.
Since both men came up at the same time, their rivalry was natural. Cena ended up with the edge with 16 world title reigns, but Randy Orton is not far behind with 13 world title reigns. They also traded wins through their career, but Cena's career-defining win over Orton came in 2009 at Bragging Rights. This was their 60-minute Iron Man match where anything goes that Cena won 6-5 to win the WWE Championship for the fifth time.
3 Wrestlemania XXVI - Batista
By 2010, there were two men on top of WWE. John Cena was the man, the biggest star in all professional wrestling. However, Batista was easily the second biggest star—and to some fans, the better superstar since Cena was so polarizing at this time. To make their eventual feud big, they had to make Batista as evil as possible.
The once mega-over babyface Batista turned into a complete jerk, and fans quickly chose Cena over Big Dave. The two men then had a big feud in which they wanted to prove which of them was, in fact, the actual top star in professional wrestling. Their biggest match was WrestleMania XXVI, where Cena overcame Batista and won to prove he was still the top guy in WWE.
2 Extreme Rules 2012 - Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar made his WWE return in 2012 after going to the UFC and becoming the Heavyweight Champion there, proving he was a legit fighter in the real world as well as the world of professional wrestling. However, while most fans today see Lesnar as a part-time star who rarely wrestlers and rarely loses, WWE made him earn his way back.
He broke Triple H's arm... and then lost to him. He beat the hell out of John Cena, and even destroyed him in a match at Extreme Rules 2012, only for Cena to somehow pull out the miracle win. Lesnar killed Cena in the match, but Cena won anyway, adding another notch to his belt.
1 WrestleMania 29 - The Rock
Some matches are once-in-a-lifetime affairs. In John Cena's first WrestleMania ever, the biggest match on that card was Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock in a battle of the biggest star of the 80s against the biggest star of the 90s. By WrestleMania 28, it was time for another one as The Rock returned to battle John Cena, and beat Cena.
The two then fought one year later. By WrestleMania 29, The Rock was the WWE Champion, beating CM Punk for the title. He battled Cena, one year after beating him before, and fell to Cena in the match with John getting his win back, winning the title, and proving to the fans that he was one of the best of all-time.