John Cena has had his share of critics throughout his whole career. While his character is extremely stale, no one can deny what he means to the WWE. He's constantly been their top merchandise seller year after year and he's the kind of person any company would want to represent them.
His critics tend to be those in the young adult demographic. Among the many criticisms of Cena are that his matches and moveset are repetitive, with a common phrase being his 'five moves of doom'. Cena has had an amazing 2015, possibly the best year of his career from an in-ring standpoint.
While his feuds don't quite equate to those with CM Punk, Edge or The Rock, his three match series with Kevin Owens and his U.S Title open challenge has resulted in Cena facing fresh opponents. He's faced the likes of Cesaro, Sami Zayn, Neville and Rusev. He also engaged in a late summer feud with Seth Rollins. You can name a good five Cena matches this year that could easily be WWE's match of the year.
However, through his long run on top, Cena has had plenty of duds. When you basically play the same character for 10 years, odds are there will be some misses. Cena was constantly booked as an underdog and kept being paired with bigger opponents to make him seem like it. While some of those feuds were successful, like Umaga, not all worked out and thus produced some poor matches. Here are Cena's 15 worst matches of his WWE career. His match with Kevin Federline on RAW is not included, as that can't even be considered a match.
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15 Vs. The Big Show - Judgment Day 2009
Does a John Cena/Big Show feud sound great to you? Well, this match between Show and Cena at Judgment Day 2009 stemmed from their WrestleMania XXV triple threat match with Edge. After Cena emerged victorious in that match, Show cost Cena the title in a rematch with Edge at Backlash in a Last Man Standing match. After Cena was unable to put the STF on Big Show due to his massive size, Cena won with an Attitude Adustment.
14 Vs. JBL - WrestleMania 21
Cena can't be entirely faulted for this one, as the match really felt rushed. Due to the show running late and a Batista/Triple H main event still to go, Cena's WWE Title match with JBL was cut to a mere 11 minutes. JBL was at the end of a nine month reign, set to put over the company's next big star in Cena but the what resulted was a clumsy, run of the mill match better suited for a dark show than a co-main event match of a WrestleMania. JBL controlled most of the match, before Cena was able to mount his comeback, duck a Clothesline From Hell and win with the F-U (ah, felt good to call it that). Clearly not the match a historic moment in Cena's career deserved.
13 Vs. Big Show - Extreme Rules 2009
Of course, WWE wouldn't learn from their first encounter, as they booked Cena and Big Show in a rematch one month after their Judgment Day bout at Extreme Rules. This time, they booked the two men in a Submission Match. It was a complete misfit, as all the stipulation provided was a lumbering, slow pace to the match. After again being unable to apply the STF, Cena used the rope to tie Big Show's leg and performed the top half of the hold, eventually forcing Show to tap out.
12 Vs. Brock Lesnar - Backlash 2003
Many people probably forgot that Cena and Lesnar faced off long before their 2012 Extreme Rules tilt. Their first encounter in a WWE ring took place at Backlash 2003, back when both were still rookies in the company, albeit Lesnar had already headlined WrestleMania and dominated the landscape. Cena was pitted as his no.1 contender and it was probably before Cena was ready for the main event scene. The match included Cena, as a heel, using dirty tactics to sneak a win. When trying to use his signature chain, the ref confiscated it, allowing Lesnar to hit the F-5 for the win. The match was given a 1.25 star rating by the Wrestling Observer.
Following the match Cena was knocked down a few pegs, sticking mostly to the upper-midcard. He'd eventually work his way to the top a couple of years later.
11 Vs. JBL - Great American Bash 2008
Backstage brawl themed matches just don't work in a PG environment. Cena and JBL were booked for a New York City Parking Lot Brawl match back at the 2008 Great American Bash. After a brawl in the parking lot that included Cena knocking a car door off its hinges with JBL, JBL setting fire to a car with Cena inside and Cena destroying a car with JBL in it, the action worked into the arena. Cena went for the F-U off the stage into a windshield, but JBL fought it off and pushed Cena off the stage into the car windshield to pitck up the win. Of all matches, this is the one Cena loses?
10 Vs. R-Truth - Capitol Punishment 2011
It was a little strange that after so many years in the midcard that R Truth was put in a main event match against the company's top star for the title. While Truth was actually entertaining in this run, the match turned out to be the type of match Cena's detractors point to and get themselves a case. Truth dominated most of the match, eventually hitting his signature Scissors Kick and Paydirt. Cena kicked out at two, of course. The match had the most cartoonish ending, with Truth getting a water bottle thrown in his face by a kid, with Cena using the distraction to hit an AA for a win.
9 Vs. Randy Orton - SummerSlam 2009
You can't blame WWE for wanting to book a John Cena/Randy Orton feud. Their careers are perfect parallels of one another. Both men went through developmental around the same time and one emerged as the top face, while the other as a top heel. However they were simply booked in too many matches and they were bound to whiff on a few.
This match was overbooked, with Orton getting disqualified, but the match was ordered to restart from Vince McMahon. Orton then retained his title by putting his feet on the ropes for leverage on a pin. A second referee came down to the ring, informing the official, and the match was restarted again. The next time, an invading fan (Brett DiBiase) ran in to cost Cena the win, as his distraction allowed Orton to hit the RKO.
8 Vs. The Miz - The Bash 2009
It's odd as to why the WWE would place such an established star like Cena against The Miz on a pay-per-view, while Miz was still trying to eke his way up the WWE ladder. Was it to build Miz up? Nah, Cena won, LOL. The match was basically a squash match, only five minutes long, yet it was thrown on the card next to last at The Bash 2009. There really was no point for this match to take place, as the match ended with an Attitude Adjustment and STF.
7 Vs. Bray Wyatt - Extreme Rules 2014
By far the worst of Cena and Bray Wyatt's three match series last year, their Extreme Rules tilt in the steel cage was named the Worst Worked Match of the Year by The Wrestling Observer. The match included a lot of interference from the Wyatt Family, constantly thwarting Cena's escape attempts. Eventually Luke Harper and Eric Rowan entered the cage, but Cena fought off the whole family and made his way to the door.
After all that, what stopped Cena? A singing child. As Cena was leaving the cage, a child began singing in a demonic tone, scaring the 6-foot-5, 250 pound man. The distraction allowed Wyatt to hit Sister Abigail. Wyatt would then escape the cage.
6 Vs. Randy Orton - Unforgiven 2007
This may not have been Cena's worst match ever, but it sure is according to the critics. The Observer gave this a negative-1 star rating. That's right, negative. The buildup to the match included Orton attacking Cena's father to goad John into a rematch from their SummerSlam 2007 tilt. The match began with Cena uncontrollably attacking Orton. Cena refused to stop striking Orton when told by the referee and was disqualified, losing the match but retaining his title.
Would a better alternative not have been a No Holds Barred match if the feud was so personal? Maybe that was the plan, but a torn pec suffered by Cena weeks later would end the feud prematurely, leaving us this stinker as the end of Cena and Orton's 2007 feud.
5 Vs. Wade Barrett - TLC 2010
Cena had feuded with the Nexus, particularly its leader, Wade Barrett through a lot of the summer and the entire fall. By TLC 2010, the feud had gotten stale and Cena had pretty much dismantled the original Nexus. Another aspect of this match that knocks it down a peg was it being a Chair match. It's a stipulation that's never made sense, essentially being a No Holds Barred match, limited to chairs. The ending provided a cool spot, with Cena delivering the AA on a row of chairs. Most of the match was very pedestrian and it capped off a storyline that had such promise, but was ultimately a disappointment.
4 Vs. The Miz - WreslteMania XXVII
This match not only belongs on a John Cena list, but on a list of the worst WrestleMania main events of all time. The Miz despite being champion, was the third wheel in a feud between Cena and The Rock, which was the only thing that made this match anticipated. People were just lying in wait for The Rock to do his thing. Both men had an off night as the pace was slow and tedious. Miz was horribly miscast as a heel that was supposed to pose a threat to Cena, but Miz's offense isn't dynamic enough for a man lacking size. As a main eventer, he essentially tried to be the big monster without the big part, or the monster part.
Granted, Miz eventually suffered a concussion in this match, but the bout was already a mess before that took place. After Miz took a clothesline over the rail, both men were counted out. The Rock would finally emerge and as the host of the show, restarted the match. Now we thought, okay here comes the big action; The Rock's going to do something to take the title, Cena's going to turn heel now, etc... Nope. All that happened was The Rock hitting a Rock Bottom to Cena, allowing Miz to get the pin.
So, The Rock cost Cena the title after Cena was already unsuccessful in his title match, only to restart the match so he could screw Cena himself? What a booking mess.
3 Vs. The Great Khali - One Night Stand 2007
I don't care what kind of super powers the WWE wants us to think Super Cena has. Even he can't get a great main event caliber match out of The Great Khali. The two were booked in a Falls Count Anywhere match at WWE's One Night Stand event, without the ECW name that the event originated with. Maybe it was best that this event didn't carry the ECW name, as the only extreme in this match was boredom. Like any Khali match, no moves were performed or sold well. The big spot was Cena delivering the FU off the stage, but Khali landed on a crash mat just a few feet below. Was the roster that bad that nobody else could have challenged Cena?
2 Vs. John Laurinaitis - Over The Limit 2012
We knew this match was going to be bad, but we also figured the WWE would keep it to a short squash match, right? And surely it wouldn't main event Over The Limit over a CM Punk/Daniel Bryan title match, right? No, dammit! They needed Cena main eventing everything!
Coming off two huge PPV matches against The Rock and Brock Lesnar, Cena was put into perhaps his worst feud, with RAW GM John Laurinaitis. The one funny spot of the match was Cena going to the announce table to provide commentary. The match went nearly 20 minutes, with Big Show turning heel (again) by costing Cena the match after Johnny Ace had fired him on RAW.
1 Vs. The Miz - Over The Limit 2011
Why is this ahead of Cena/Big Johnny? Well, that's because no one expected that match to be good. Being that the year before, Cena and Miz were trying to redeem themselves for a subpar WrestleMania main event, with the I Quit stipulation, you figured they'd be extra motivated to steal the show. Unfortunately, what was booked was just about the worst possibly booking one could do in a match. This was Super Cena on steroids and where all those IWC fans that sound whiny all the time had every right to complain about this one.
Alex Riley accompanied Miz to the ring and the two proceeded to make the entire affair an unofficial handicap match. Cena was tied up and beaten with everything from kendo sticks, to steel chairs, to leather belts. The amount of torture Cena took was ridiculous, although it wasn't as much torture as the paying fans had to go through.
After over 20 minutes of this, a tape recording played of Cena saying "I Quit". The referee figured out it was a recording and the match was restarted. All of a sudden Cena regained ALL his strength, chasing Miz up the ramp, whipping him with a belt. He caught Miz in the STF on the stage and just like that, Miz screamed "I quit!" ending the match in a heap. Cena was beaten for over 20 minutes, yet Miz couldn't take 30 seconds of offense?
What an embarrassing display of "entertainment" this was.
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