John Cena’s run of dominance in WWE featured almost a full decade as the face of the company. WWE viewed Cena as their next big star around 2005 when he defeated JBL to win his first WWE Championship at WrestleMania 21. Cena would get a highly protected run for many years that featured him rarely losing, and his losses were almost always with controversy associated with them. Later years would see Cena take pride in helping elevating talents once he was established.
The wrestlers to work with Cena could be helped or harmed by their association with the top name in WWE. Some wrestlers were rumored to be held down by Cena with them passing blame to him for some of their poor moments. Meanwhile, others have been put over by Cena to become a major star after working with him. We will look deeper into both sides with five wrestlers that John Cena was rumored to hold back along with five he had no issues putting over.
10 Held Back: Mr. Kennedy
The average WWE fan may not have any idea how strongly WWE pushed Mr. Kennedy looking back today, but he was a huge prospect in the 2000s. Kennedy had a charismatic personality that WWE wanted to push quite a few times with suspensions and injuries causing each plan to fizzle out.
Following his eventual release from WWE, Kennedy claimed that John Cena and Randy Orton played a role in management getting rid of him. Both wrestlers reportedly viewed Kennedy as unsafe, and Orton showed unhappiness in Kennedy’s final match. Cena was a scapegoat for the end of Kennedy’s time in WWE according to Kennedy’s side of the story.
9 No Issue Putting Over: Roman Reigns
The feud between John Cena and Roman Reigns had fans wondering if Cena was burying the company’s new top star due to the vicious promos. Cena created must-see television by calling out some of Reigns’ weaknesses to add tension to the match.
We would learn that Cena had no issue putting over Reigns when the two faced off at No Mercy 2017. Reigns won the match cleanly and had his hand raised by Cena following the match. Cena created an edgy feud to make fans more invested so that he could put over Roman in a more important manner.
8 Held Back: Ken Doane
A real-life love triangle behind the scenes featured Ken Doane having an issue with John Cena. Doane was involved in a relationship with fellow WWE star Mickie James for quite some time until Cena reportedly came into the picture.
James began dating Cena shortly after her relationship ended with Doane, and their relationship would become a short-term storyline on WWE television. Doane ripped Cena in interviews claiming the bigger star used his power to hurt Doane’s career due to the tension of the love triangle.
7 No Issue Putting Over: CM Punk
The rivalry between John Cena and CM Punk created a culture change on WWE television that made the product more unpredictable. Punk became a legitimate top star thanks to a feud with Cena over the WWE Championship.
Cena went out of his way to make sure Punk looked great with amazing promo battles and classic matches together. Punk always delivered great work, but the feud with Cena putting him over on the big stage is what made him a bigger star and legend in WWE.
6 Held Back: Alex Riley
WWE viewed Alex Riley as a top prospect when he joined the main roster as the protégé of The Miz. Riley had a short singles push of his own, but he would never reach the level of a top star or even sniff the main event picture.
Reports circulated for years that John Cena had buried Riley backstage quite a few times. A few wrestlers confirmed it in interviews, but Riley spoke out last year calling out Cena on his personal Instagram. The belief is that Cena used his power as a top star to hold back Riley from reaching his potential.
5 No Issue Putting Over: AJ Styles
The career of AJ Styles would see him take a longer journey before getting to WWE than most. John Cena among others respected Styles for all his hard work to get to the big stage. Styles had the biggest feud of his career when working with Cena leading into Summerslam 2016.
The classic match featured both men leaving it all I the ring, but Styles would score the win cleanly to become a true top star in WWE. It was no coincidence that Styles won the WWE Championship just a few months after the Cena victory.
4 Held Back: Wade Barrett
Wade Barrett had the potential to become a top star for WWE thanks to his great introduction in the Nexus. Fans were left in awe when Barrett and his group of young wrestlers took over WWE with a few vicious beat downs that felt unlike anything in WWE.
John Cena feuded with Barrett as the leader of WWE trying to stop Nexus from their hostile takeover. The two went back and forth in match finishes, but Cena scored all the important ones. Edge and Chris Jericho revealed on a podcast that they tried to talk Cena into losing to Barrett with no success. Barrett lost all momentum at the end of the Cena feud and never won the world title.
3 No Issue Putting Over: Kevin Owens
Kevin Owens scored the best debut possible in WWE when he entered a feud with John Cena. The debut of Owens came when he was still the NXT Champion attacking Cena during his reign as the United States Champion in 2015.
Owens gained instant credibility with the fans by defeating Cena in his first main roster match. They had a tremendous match to put over Owens along with a few impressive rematches that gave Cena victories. Owens would eventually have a path to the main event picture as a Universal Champion thanks in part to Cena putting him over as an instant star.
2 Held Back: Ryback
Ryback has become an outspoken wrestling personality on his podcast taking aim at other wrestlers that wronged him in WWE. John Cena was one of the top targets of Ryback when discussing his time as a heel working with Cena in a top feud.
The term “poison” was used by Ryback to describe Cena’s impact on the WWE landscape. Ryback claimed that Cena often buried wrestlers backstage during their matches, and it would hurt their standing backstage. Their feud together did not help Ryback as he never returned to the main event picture.
1 No Issue Putting Over: Daniel Bryan
The unlikely rise to the top of WWE for Daniel Bryan came partially thanks to John Cena wanting to work with him. Bryan found momentum in 2013 with consistent incredible matches against the entire roster. Cena defended the WWE Championship against Bryan in the main event of Summerslam 2013.
The match ended with Bryan cleanly defeating Cena at a time when Cena rarely lost. Randy Orton and The Authority stole the title from Bryan shortly after, but Bryan was a made man in the eyes of the fans after beating Cena.