John Cena made his WWE debut on June 27th, 2002 on Thursday Night SmackDown in a match against Kurt Angle. Cena was out to answer the call of Mr. McMahon who had asked his rising talent to display “ruthless aggression” in their quest for WWE supremacy. Cena lost that night to Angle, but not without an impressive showing on his part.
Over the course of the next few months, Cena would find himself in various feuds as he was still getting the feel for WWE and coming into his own. Then, one faithful night on a Halloween edition of SmackDown, John Cena, dressed as Vanilla Ice, entered backstage and threw out a quick rap for Stephanie McMahon. Although, only for a few seconds; it was enough to spark the inspiration of a new character for Cena. Thus, setting in the motion the rise of John Cena to mega-star status.
On April 3rd, 2005 from the Staple Center in Los Angeles, California – the site of WrestleMania XXI, John Cena would capture his very first WWE Championship after defeating John “Bradshaw” Layfield in the SmackDown main event. This is widely regarded as the beginning of the “Cena-era.” John Cena was anything but your conventional champion, having changed not only the look of the champion himself but the look of the title. Cena's version of the WWE Championship was blinged-out in gold and diamonds and displayed the WWE logo as a spinning pendant center of the title. John Cena had redefined the championship in his own image, which played a part in some of the hatred directed towards the new champion – a trend that continues to this day.
John Cena has since become the biggest name and draw in the industry. He has been in ever main event imaginable and his face is plastered all over the WWE brand. John Cena is “the guy” in WWE. However, Cena cannot be at the top forever and will eventually have to step aside and make way for the new top dog in the yard. Cena is thirty-seven-years-old and has experienced his share of wear-and-tear. How much longer he has left in the business is anyone's guess. However, Cena is a workhorse and as long as he can go, he will most certainly be willing and able to run down the aisle and into that ring.
The following list will take a look at some potential faces that could replace the current face of WWE if and when the time comes. These are the top 10 superstars who could replace John Cena as the top guy in WWE:
Cesaro makes this list for a couple of reasons. Firstly, he is a phenomenal wrestler who can carry the weight of any match with his natural in-ring ability. Secondly, he is hard-working and determined to get better each and every time he steps into the ring. However, Cesaro's downfall asserts itself when the microphone comes into play, as his skills on the mic are far from top-notch. Luckily, there is a way around that, which WWE figured out earlier this year by pairing Cesaro with the masterful-microphone-maniac, Paul Heyman. With Heyman serving as mouthpiece to Cesaro, he was finally receiving a proper push until the dissolution of their relationship. Cesaro makes this list but we remain realistic; he will never be the top guy in WWE but that still doesn't change the fact that if marketed right he could be a guy to take over for John Cena.
9 Wade Barrett
The WWE has had a number of British talent pass through their system over the years and for some reason they never amount to much past mid-card status. Wade Barrett is a big and charismatic British superstar who has recently adopted the new gimmick of “Bad News Barrett,” which was getting over with the crowd until he was injured. The face of WWE has never been the face of a European but should it ever choose to go that route, Wade Barrett is the obvious choice. Barrett can entertain when given the platform to excel, which he has proven with the bad news segment. Barrett can also stand as the leader of a faction as he has proven when he led The Nexus in their crusade to leave an impact on WWE. Wade Barrett would be a welcome and fresh choice to take over as the top guy in WWE.
8 Damien Sandow
The recent re-invention of Damien Sandow sees him playing stunt-double to The Miz and going by the moniker, “Damien Mizdow.” The schtick is funny and the fans are more supportive of Mizdow than The Miz, but comedic gimmicks can only go so far before they begin to fizzle. That being said, Damien Sandow is a prime candidate to replace John Cena as the company’s top performer. His in-ring work is solid and his mic-skills are strong. Sandow had a good thing going upon his arrival in WWE. The upper-class, better-than-you, superior- being Damien Sandow was in its own right a good gimmick that was not taken to the level it could have gone. Once the Mizdow gimmick has run its course, another re-packaging of Sandow could lead to larger opportunities (let's not forget how Triple H once worked a stuck-up gimmick much like Sandow).
7 The Miz
The Miz is a former WWE Champion whose reign is far from memorable. Two of the main contributing factors of that are John Cena and The Rock. While The Miz did headline and win his WrestleMania XXVII match against John Cena, it was overshadowed by the presence of The Rock and everyone waiting for the inevitable physical confrontation between Rock and Cena. The Miz has never quite gotten back to that level but he could easily adapt if WWE should make that decision. The Miz has a a lot of outside-the-ring qualities that WWE enjoy like his connection to Hollywood and his past as a reality television star – cross-promotion is a big deal. The Miz is a multi-talented performer whose avenues stretch far past wrestling. The Miz could definitely fill in as top guy in WWE.
6 Dolph Ziggler
Dolph Ziggler officially debuted on Monday Night Raw as a caddy before jumping around as a male cheerleader with the infamous Spirit Squad. Ziggler eventually broke out as a solo competitor and slowly worked his way up the ranks. He was afforded one (true) World Heavyweight Championship run with WWE but it was short-lived due to injury and and placing the strap on someone more favorable. Ziggler has since been delegated to the middle of card but his popularity has risen immensely. Ziggler has all the credentials of a top-tier superstar; the looks, the charm, and the talent. The fans love “The Showoff” and patiently await his main event push, that is in fact well overdue. Whether or not that will happen remains to be seen but Dolph Ziggler certainly has what it takes to claim the spot currently occupied by John Cena.
5 Dean Ambrose
“The Lunatic Fringe,” Dean Ambrose, is one of the fastest rising stars in WWE. Ambrose is an eccentric, young, hungry talent who has a bright future ahead. Inside of the squared-circle, Ambrose is a technician with the ability to turn on his hardcore-senses when needed. Ambrose has a unique half-deranged way of working the microphone which provides his own unique sense of self. Ambrose is on the brink of superstardom and one should not be surprised if he achieves that level sooner rather than later. Ambrose is a breath of fresh air in the current WWE product and without a doubt could step up as the company’s top guy on any given day. Dean Ambrose is definitely a suitable replacement for John Cena.
4 Seth Rollins
Triple H has dubbed Seth Rollins “the future of WWE.” While this is part of an on-screen storyline, hopefully that feeling remains true behind the scenes. Rollins is a gifted athlete who can turn the excitement level of any match up way past ten and as the current possessor of the Money in the Bank briefcase, Rollins is all but guaranteed at least one run as WWE World Heavyweight Champion – which should have fans salivating at the thought. Rollins is going to bring a new level of entertainment to the championship and a new appeal. The architect of The Shield has all the makings of a top-level talent and as long as his push continues on its steady path, there is no reason to believe otherwise. Seth Rollins could very well be the next face of WWE.
3 Bray Wyatt
Bray Wyatt is currently the best character in WWE. The strange and sadistic demeanor of Wyatt is surely frightening to some children. Therefore, one may ask, how could Bray Wyatt be the new face of WWE? Well, why not? Bray Wyatt offers something brand new to the main event picture. His promos are epic – some of the best WWE has seen in years. Wyatt could turn face in an instant since many crowds already stand firmly behind the “Eater of Worlds.” While it may be different, change must be embraced in the world of wrestling. After all, John Cena himself was not the conventional looking superstar when he rose to the top of the WWE mountain.
2 Roman Reigns
The #2 entrant on this list is in all likelihood going to be the guy who replaces John Cena at the top of the card. Roman Reigns has the stage laid out before him and is heavily rumored to be the guy who takes the WWE World Heavyweight Championship from Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XXXI (yes, we realize that's in a long time, but it's still a rumor). Reigns embodies the look that WWE strives for – a big, muscular, behemoth of a man. That's not to say that Reigns is untalented, as he posses a great deal of strength, fortitude and his aggressive in-right style comes cross as legitimate. The biggest problem facing Reigns is his mediocre mic-skills, which will hopefully improve over time if he is to be the next big star. Roman Reigns may be the one name on this list that is not just a hypothetical replacement for John Cena, but a reality.
1 Daniel Bryan
When Daniel Bryan won the WWE Championship from John Cena at SummerSlam 2013, only to have it taking away from him moments later – such an act was not just what the “script” called for – it was a real consensus among those backstage. The jokes and ridicule that followed. The labeling of Daniel Bryan as a “B+ player.” The constant attempts at turning the crowd's support away from Bryan. That all went down because Daniel Bryan was never meant to be a top guy in WWE. The organic growth of his fan admiration was unlike any superstar/fan connection in recent memory. The pops Daniel Bryan began to receive from the live crowds were reminiscent of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin reactions. The fans let WWE know that Daniel Bryan was their guy and that their opinions could not be altered. Which is why in large part Daniel Bryan became the WWE World Heavyweight Champion at WrestleMania XXX. Daniel Bryan winning the title in the main event of WrestleMania was a reminder that the top guy in the company does not necessarily have to fit the mold. Unfortunately, nagging injuries forced Bryan to relinquish the championship and he has been sidelined ever since. The man who won that vacant title was none other than John Cena. Daniel Bryan may never actually be considered the face of WWE by those in charge but by the standards of many fans; he has already replaced John Cena.