The incredible run of John Cena in WWE has seen him enter the discussion among the greatest superstars in company history. Cena did things unlike any other wrestler as his run as the face of WWE lasted about a decade. Countless great matches would come from Cena; he has had as many classics as any other legend in the WWE archives. Quite a few future stars would make their name by having a great performance against Cena.
Naturally, his run featured a hit-list of important matches that people will associate with his career long after he retires. Recent interviews have indicated that Cena may be ready to call it quits, so let’s celebrate his time in wrestling by taking a look back at some of the most important matches of John Cena’s career.
10 John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania 23)
The WrestleMania history of John Cena is not all that great for someone of his caliber. Cena had mostly forgettable matches on the big stage, but this WrestleMania 23 main event against Shawn Michaels was his greatest WM match.
When fans want to look back at a great Cena classic on the biggest stage, they need look no further. Here, Cena proved he could hang with an all-time great like Michaels. This was not even the original plan, as Michaels took Triple H’s place following the latter suffering an injury, but it worked out best for Cena.
9 John Cena vs. Edge (Unforgiven 2006)
Edge is arguably the greatest rival to John Cena, given how important each man was to the other’s career. Cena’s run as the face of the company would see Edge become the first man to develop strong chemistry with him as a challenger.
The first WWE Championship win of Edge’s career came when he defeated Cena with the Money in the Bank title shot. Edge and Cena would go back and forth for years, but their greatest match came at Unforgiven 2006. Cena defeated Edge in Edge’s hometown of Toronto, in a spectacular TLC Match that won him the feud.
8 John Cena vs. JBL (Judgment Day 2005)
The start of John Cena’s time dominating the WWE main event picture came when he won the WWE Championship from JBL at WrestleMania 21. Despite it taking place on the big stage, that match was a huge disappointment. WWE luckily delivered a great rematch idea in the form of an “I Quit” Match.
Cena defeated JBL in a bloody brawl that cemented his title reign as one to pay attention to. A match like this was needed for Cena to get the big win for his first title reign, since the initial match winning it was a bust.
7 John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar (Extreme Rules 2012)
The return of Brock Lesnar to WWE came in 2012, after a long break from his initial run in the company. Lesnar targeted Cena as the first person to attack when coming back to WWE, on the Raw after WrestleMania XXVIII.
Cena and Lesnar had a classic match at Extreme Rules 2012. It was among the top matches of the year and is still in contention for the best match of Cena’s career. The only negative is that a match like this should have come at WrestleMania instead of a B-List PPV.
6 John Cena vs. A.J. Styles (Summerslam 2016)
The last few years of John Cena’s work in WWE have been even more impressive than his peak in some ways. Cena has helped quite a few new stars get to the next level with great matches against him. Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens and Dean Ambrose were a few names to benefit from working with Cena.
A.J. Styles, however, got the biggest benefit when facing Cena in a high-profile match at Summerslam 2016. Both men worked well together and stole the show at the second biggest event of the year. Cena took the clean loss, which helped cement A.J. as a main eventer.
5 John Cena vs. Rob Van Dam (One Night Stand 2006)
The polarizing reaction to John Cena from the live crowds shifted the dynamic of how we view wrestling today. WWE allowed fans to boo Cena, while portraying him as a face that appeased his fan base. The peak of this era would see Cena defend the WWE Championship against Rob Van Dam at ECW One Night Stand.
A hostile crowd heckled Cena without mercy as RVD took home his first world title with a win. It was a captivating match that showed the benefits of having a polarizing top star.
4 John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar vs. Seth Rollins (Royal Rumble 2015)
John Cena would develop a reputation for having incredible matches at Royal Rumble more than WrestleMania. Royal Rumble 2015 would demonstrate this, with Cena having an all-time great triple threat match against Brock Lesnar and Seth Rollins.
The dominant title reign of Lesnar continued and Rollins would get a huge boost with a great performance. Cena was the stable fixture in a match that did great things to help everyone shine.
3 John Cena vs. Umaga (Royal Rumble 2007)
Another iconic Royal Rumble Match for John Cena came in 2007, when he successfully defended the WWE Championship against Umaga in a Last Man Standing Match. This showed that Cena didn’t need to be led by a great worker to have a great match.
Cena and Umaga left all in the ring with this bloody brawl, that saw the ropes being removed from the ring to be used as part of the STF submission. It was a masterpiece that helped Cena continue to rise as a legend in the WWE Universe.
2 John Cena vs. The Rock (WrestleMania 29)
The feud between John Cena and The Rock was met with mixed results from fans. Many disliked seeing the same main event on back to back WrestleMania shows, but the business success was unparalleled. Both WrestleMania XXVIII and WrestleMania 29 broke records, as the casual fan wanted to see the two mega-stars face off.
Cena would pick up his win over Rock at WrestleMania 29 to regain the WWE Championship. It was not as much of a technical masterpiece as the other matches on this list, but this bout defines Cena’s career as a WWE icon.
1 John Cena vs. CM Punk (MITB 2011)
The most important and iconic match of Cena's career will be remembered as the match against CM Punk at Money in the Bank 2011. A storyline of Punk getting ready to walk out as his contract expired while contending for the WWE Championship made it an important match.
The Chicago crowd's support of hometown hero Punk added another dynamic. Both Punk and Cena put out the performances of their career in one of the all-time great matches. No match is as important to the post-Attitude Era of WWE as Cena vs Punk from MITB was. It’s proven to be equally important to both of their careers.