Question of the Day: How do you define "greatest"? Do you think quality or do you think importance or both? How do you weight those factors, if you do include both?
Doctor's Orders: John Cena's 50 Best Matches (Updated: The Doc vs. WWE)
By The Doc
Jun 30, 2012 - 5:03:34 PM
Well, after reading through the WWE's list of Cena's greatest matches, I think it's clear that the term "greatest" can mean a lot of things. When I think "greatest," I think of quality. I don't necessarily attribute "importance to career" with great. For instance, Kobe Bryant's game 7 against the Boston Celtics two years ago was very important to his career in that it earned him a 5th championship and put him into the conversation with the all-time best. Yet, it wasn't one of his greatest games. Far from it. It was a terrible shooting night - a God awful shooting night. He shot 6-24 from the field.
By the definition of the writers that put together Cena's list on the WWE's dotcom, I'm assuming that they'd consider Bryant's game 7 as one of his greatest.
Cena vs. JBL clocks in at their #50. There's no questioning how big a night that was for Cena, winning his first WWE Championship at Wrestlemania of all places. The match itself, though, left even the most casual of fans suggesting that "it wasn't a very good match." No, it was far from even being a decent match. Calling that one of Cena's greatest, by my definition, is like trying to describe a turd by describing its color as "earth toned" and its smell as "unique."
In total, there were 23 matches on WWE's list that didn't make mine. A few of them were glaring omissions on my part. I couldn't believe that I forgot the 2004 Smackdown match between Cena and Undertaker. Smackdown had undergone a lot of changes with Brock Lesnar's departure and I began to review Smackdown for LOP approximately one month prior to the Cena-Taker bout. It was the type of match that reminded me why I wanted to do the reviewing gig. Awesome TV match that should've been in my top 25. I'd put it in between the Summerslam bout with Batista and the HIAC w/ Orton. I could have also included the rematch with Jericho from the night after Summerslam '05 - which was basically the same match just without the split crowd but sprinkled with the added dynamic of Jericho's job being on the line. It was a mistake, also, to leave off the match with Rey Mysterio from last year. That was one of my favorite TV matches of 2011.
To each their own...
I was perusing the headlines this morning and came across a news blurb that mentioned how WWE’s website had named the 50 best matches of Cena’s career. Initially viewed to see the entire list, the link only contained the top three. Thus, I got to thinking about what the other 47 matches might be. I have watched Cena’s entire career play out in great detail, often reviewing much of his work from 2004-2007 for this very site’s main page. Many a memory proceeded to rush to the forefront, prompting me to postpone going to the WWE’s dotcom and instead write out, first, what I thought were Cena’s 50 best matches. Mostly taking into account quality, but helping to separate bouts from the pack via importance to his career, I have come up with the following list (assume a "Vs." in front of the opponents). I will post it and then I’m going to go back and look at the WWE’s list to compare later. We’ll see how they match up…
1. CM Punk (Money in the Bank 2011) – The only 5-star match of Cena’s career, for the time being, last summer’s classic against Punk came in yet another hostile environment with a lot of pressure to meet or exceed expectations. Mission accomplished. One of the great matches of the last thirty years.
2. Edge (Unforgiven 2006) – Not the best, but by far my favorite. I reviewed this one live. I loved the Edge-Cena rivalry.
3. The Rock (Wrestlemania XXVIII) – Time may move it on the list, but I was completely enthralled with everything about this feud and match.
4. Shawn Michaels (Raw 2007) – Unquestionably the breakout moment for Cena in a pure wrestling match that didn’t involve a gimmick. He put it all together, here, and never looked back.
5. Randy Orton (Bragging Rights 2009) – In my opinion, this was more a showcase for Orton’s insane heel character, but it was still an epic performance from this generation’s Hulk Hogan.
6. Brock Lesnar (Extreme Rules 2012) – I know it was just a couple of months ago, but this was one of the most unique pro-wrestling matches I’ve seen in my 25+ years as a fan.
7. Edge (Backlash 2009) – Perhaps the most underrated of Cena’s matches because it was renewal of a played out rivalry and happened on a forgettable PPV.
8. CM Punk (Summerslam ’11) - Last year’s MITB sequel was, in some ways, better than the original. A casual fan friend of mine enjoyed it more than the original, actually.
9. Kurt Angle (No Mercy 2003) – I love this match. It was the one where I got my personal confirmation that Cena was going to be a superstar on par with some of the greats of all-time.
10. Umaga (Royal Rumble ’07) – Each top star has a signature, go-to gimmick match that he can use to put his stamp on a rivalry and Cena’s, starting with this match, is the Last Man Standing.
11. Triple H (Wrestlemania 22) – Never forget this for as long as I live. Hostile environment doesn’t begin to describe this. Different from MITB because it wasn’t just Chicagoans…this was national and international hate.
12. Shawn Michaels, Edge, and Randy Orton (Backlash 2007) – First match that wasn’t one-on-one to be included, but quality was right up there with many of the above.
13. Shawn Michaels (Wrestlemania 23) – One of my favorite Cena matches, even though it wasn’t epic like it probably should have been and could have been.
14. Bobby Lashley (Great American Bash 2007) – Cena’s finest individual performance, to date, if you ask me. Lashley was a turd and Cena carried him to a fantastic title match.
15. Batista (Wrestlemania XXVI) – None of Cena’s matches with Batista, post-Mania 26, really vibed with me, but I loved the Wrestlemania match.
16. Chris Jericho (Summerslam ’05) – Cena needed this one to get to the next level in his initial championship run. No gimmicks, no non-sense, just a guy in Jericho that believed Cena could be great helping reach the level he needed to be at.
17. RVD (ECW One Night Stand 2006) – Talk about crazy crowds against Cena, this was one of the most memorable.
18. Edge (Summerslam ’06) – My second favorite Edge-Cena match, this was the one where these two put it together and began to click in the ring, leading to an all-time classic series.
19. JBL (Judgment Day 2005) – The Mania 21 match was such a bland, uninspired affair. This rematch was very good, especially when compared to the previous bout.
20. Royal Rumble 2008 – Hard not to include this on the list, even if Cena was the last entrant. It was one of the few times in his main-event career where it was REALLY good to see him and that pretty much everyone seemed to agree about it.
21. Triple H and Edge (Backlash 2006) – A gem of a triple threat match involving three dynamic personalities heading in three different directions.
22. Batista (Summerslam ’08) – The initial encounter between two top stars is always exciting. It was a shame that this wasn’t saved for Mania, but they made that Summerslam more special with this match.
23. Randy Orton (Hell in a Cell 2009) – Modern Cell matches have become more dependent upon storytelling than spots and Cena/Orton always told good stories.
24. The Miz and John Morrison (Extreme Rules 2011) – Just a plain old, thoroughly enjoyable cage match.
25. Randy Orton (Summerslam ’07) – Again, this was more a showcase for Orton than Cena, but the Golden Boy did do well to show off his perseverance.
26. Triple H (Night of Champions 2008) – The rematch from Mania 22 was better in-ring, but didn’t have the intangibles.
27. Chris Jericho (Armageddon 2008) – Jericho and Cena had numerous high quality bouts, but only two of them really lit a fanatic fire under my rear end. This was the other one.
28. Nexus (Summerslam ’10) – Giving credit where credit is due, I wasn’t a fan of the build-up to this match as it pertained to all the other guys involved on Team WWE, but Cena did a great job with all those young pups.
29. Edge (Raw 2006) – This specifically refers to their cage match that proceeded the TLC match. They never had anything but awesome matches after the Summerslam match in ’06.
30. Alberto Del Rio (Night of Champions 2011) – “Unheralded” would best describe this match, I think. I thought these two had a very good title match with a satisfying, surprising finish last fall.
31. Triple H and Shawn Michaels (Survivor Series ’09) – This was a great match that nobody could possibly have cared about outside of the names of the men involved. Non-existent build-up, but a really great match.
32. Kurt Angle (No Way Out 2005) – They never turned up the juice from their No Mercy ’05 match and I’m not sure why, but they did have several other really good bouts like this one.
33. Christian and Chris Jericho (Vengeance 2005) – This should’ve been Christian vs. Cena, but plans changed and we still got a helluva match out of it.
34. Triple H and Randy Orton (Wrestlemania XXIV) – Not overly long, but one of the more logically booked triple threats that I’ve seen. Plenty of three-way spots.
35. Sheamus (Money in the Bank 2010) – This is a cage match that you don’t hear much about from people, I feel. There was a lot of Nexus-related stuff going on, but I really liked it.
36. Triple H (Raw 2009) – Helluva match, but Raw ’09 was nearly unwatchable, in general, taking this one down a peg in the trip down memory lane.
37. CM Punk and Alberto Del Rio (Hell in a Cell 2011) – If you watch it without any knowledge of the fairly bland hype for it, then I think you’ll find it’s quite good.
38. Kurt Angle (Unforgiven ’05) – Somewhere along the line, Cena and Angle stopped clicking at an elite level. This was the match where that showed the most. Hard to choose between this and the Survivor Series ’05 match.
39. Wade Barrett (Hell in a Cell 2010) – I might’ve ended up underrating this. I wasn’t a big fan of their Chairs match two months later. I thought this was their best match and another stellar performance on Cena’s part.
40. Triple H and Randy Orton (Night of Champions 2009) – The Mania 24 rematch that got to go a little longer, but that wasn’t much better. Mania rematches are tough.
41. W/ HBK vs. Batista and Undertaker (No Way Out 2007) – Thoroughly enjoyable main-event is what the February PPV should be all about, in my opinion – nothing but hype for already established matches.
42. Big Show and Edge (Wrestlemania 25) – A step down from the previous year’s triple threat also involving Cena, but still a damn good piece of work from all involved, each understanding the importance of that spot.
43. Triple H, Randy Orton, and JBL (Backlash 2008) – Nothing like the 4-way from the year prior, but still a good match
44. Big Show and Kurt Angle (No Way Out 2004) – I thought that this was a nice way of introducing fans to Cena as a main-event caliber player. It’s been a long time since a mid-card act was that over.
45. Alberto Del Rio (Vengeance 2011) – Cena owns the LMS match and this was no exception.
46. The Miz (Raw 2011) – I liked their Mania 27 main-event, personally, but their best match together came on Raw last fall in an inspired effort that clicked.
47. Chris Jericho (Survivor Series ’08) – Cena’s hometown return from neck surgery was too long and too deliberately paced, but it was still a good story told by two consummate pros.
48. Big Show (Smackdown 2003) – Of all the Show-Cena matches, the one all the way back during Christmas time in 2003 for the US title was their best match, if you ask me.
49. Booker T (No Mercy 2004) – The Best-of-Five series between these guys was a disappointment, by and large. The last match was this one and, though also disappointing in that it should’ve been far higher up on this list, it was still a good match.
50. Kurt Angle (Smackdown 2002) – The bout that started it all. I remember seeing Cena come out for the first time, looking ridiculously white meat. He performed quite well, though, and made a splash.