He's been one of the most polarizing figures in the WWE for years. With a WWE Universe that was starting to boo him more than cheer him, John Cena was getting ready to pass the torch after being "the guy" for an entire generation of fans, with his match against Roman Reigns being his last opportunity to turn the crowd to his favor. It appears he may have done so.
It was inevitable that Cena would eventually step aside and let Reigns take the helm in the company, Reigns leading the WWE as Cena slows down and transitions more into Hollywood. Leading up to the match, Cena was even considered tough on Reigns after a series of in-ring promos that mixed real-life and storylines and brought up behind-the-curtain issues that felt a little too personal. In the end, it was all to set up the idea that Reigns could overcome and be the "big dog" he's claimed himself to be.
It was a gesture that the WWE Universe appreciated. After an all-out war, Cena delivered two F-U's to Reigns only for Reigns to kick out, then with one Superman Punch and one spear, Cena was done, cleaned pinned in the middle of the ring. When the match was complete, Cena raised Roman's arm, said a few words and then took a moment to soak in the fact that he was no longer the man.
Reigns left, the fans paused and then eventually, everyone started to clap, cheer and stand for Cena who appeared as though he might be taking a break from the WWE for a while. Cena remained in the ring, slowly walked around outside and left to chants of "thank you, Cena."
The way Cena departed, he milked the ovation and inside probably appreciated the fact that maybe, just maybe, the fans actually do appreciate all he's given to the company and the WWE Universe. Like him or not, the appreciation is well deserved.