Even the staunchest of John Cena haters would struggle to say that Cena hasn’t been phenomenal in 2015. The character may be the same cheesy, happy-go-lucky guy, but this Cena’s in-ring work has been top notch. In fact, it’s been so good that Cena will undoubtedly have several Match of the Year candidates.
Several of those matches have come courtesy of Cena reclaiming the United States Championship for the first time in over a decade. Cena tore the house down while defending the belt in his open challenges against the likes of Cesaro, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. However, him eventually dropping said title to Seth Rollins felt like a bit of a cop-out. The double champion thing was fun, but Cena losing the strap to one of his surprise challengers would’ve given that man a tremendous boost — one Rollins simply doesn’t need.
With Cena regaining U.S gold at Night of Champions, it seems likely that Cena will reprise his open challenges. After all, they were arguably the most looked forward to aspect of WWE programming the first time around. If Cena does so then who is it that should ultimately topple Cena? Well, there are a host of credible options. Be it an up-and-comer on the main roster or one who’s currently awaiting a call-up from NXT.
One superstar who makes sense is Roman Reigns. The WWE wanted to skyrocket Reigns to the main event and that largely resulted in fan backlash. After realizing the error of their ways they decided to slow Reigns’ rise and the result has been a significantly improved superstar. Reigns and Cena would provide a fresh matchup, and also an interesting contrast. Reigns is a stoic badass whereas Cena never met a microphone he didn’t like. Reigns triumphing over Cena would mark a huge feather in his cap, begin a feud that some would say qualifies as must-see TV and also give Reigns his first singles championship.
Reigns is certainly a safe bet, but he’s far from the only superstar who could use the rub. Cesaro’s been on the wrong end of seemingly infinite stop-and-start pushes, always being on the cusp, but never quite advancing past it. Cena even lavished the Swiss Superman with praise after one of their fantastic Raw matches this summer. This post-match promo could serve as the catalyst to a Cesaro victory and the resulting rivalry. Given the powers that be it’s not entirely likely, but it would serve as a fantastic way to get Cesaro over that hump.
While a number of other current superstars could excel if afforded the momentum boost of a championship victory over Cena, there are several others in NXT that the same can be said about. One such man is Samoa Joe.
Many WWE fans are already familiar with Joe, or at least recognize the name, but a greater deal aren’t. What better way to assert Joe as a force to be reckoned with than with a win over a former friend in Cena? That narrative could undoubtedly result in a compelling feud, one in which Joe laments the fact that Cena — once nowhere near the in-ring technician that Joe is — garnered fame thanks to his looks and his physique. At 36, Joe’s shelf life is limited and if WWE wants to get the most out of him they’ll need to establish his credibility early.
Other NXT superstars appear to have a bit more time in their in-ring careers. Such is the case with 31-year-old Sami Zayn. Zayn surprisingly answered Cena’s open challenge in May of this year and the two put on a stellar match. Zayn even managed to kick out of an AA — a testament to the high hopes WWE has for the superstar. It was later revealed that Zayn was injured prior to the contest and the Canadian-born superstar has been out of action for the past several months. Were he to re-debut and avenge his loss to Cena, it would kickstart what could be a stellar WWE career.
One final NXT superstar who could make a debut for the ages with a win over Cena is Finn Balor. Whether it be his look, his entrance or his finishing maneuver, Balor is one of the more unique presences in wrestling today. Those aspects alone will cement his status as a fan favorite. Add to that a championship victory over Cena and Balor could skyrocket to the top of cards.
As you can see, there’s a wealth of talented options to justifiably usurp Cena as United States Champion. So long as it’s not Big Show or some other retread, the WWE could have a career-making moment on their hands.