The main event of WWE SummerSlam this Saturday night is Roman Reigns defending the Universal Championship against John Cena. Reigns has been champion for nearly one full year since he won it last August. The assumption from most fans is likely that the 36-year-old top guy Reigns should defeat the 44-year-old part-timer movie star Cena. However, what if Cena wins? More importantly, should Cena win? What I’m here to do is make the case for Cena beating Reigns to become a record-breaking 17-time World Champion in WWE. It might sound crazy to you, but I actually think it’s definitely possible and there are five reasons why.
1. Cena Would Break the 16 World Title Tie With Ric Flair
When John Cena beat AJ Styles in a five-star match at Royal Rumble 2017 to become a WWE Champion for the 16th time, it seemed like only a matter of time until he got #17 to break the record he shares with Ric Flair. Cena’s last title reign lasted only two weeks since Bray Wyatt won the WWE Title at Elimination Chamber 2017. In January 2019, Cena stopped competing in WWE as a full-timer, then he came back to put over Wyatt in a “Firefly Funhouse Match” at WrestleMania 36 in 2020 that was more like a mini-movie than a match and now he’s back.
At 44 years old, Cena likely has a few more years as a part-time wrestler. The reality is we have no idea how many matches he has left because as he becomes a bigger movie star, he’s going to be on WWE TV less often. If not now, when can you really plan for it to happen if you don’t know when you’ll have Cena in a WWE ring again? It’s a great time to do it especially with the crowds cheering Cena so much.
My last point here is about Ric Flair himself. We know he got released from his WWE contract. He appeared at a AAA show in Mexico this past Saturday. He’s probably going to be on AEW soon. Flair won’t be there at SummerSlam to shake Cena’s hand if John breaks the record, but Cena is a WWE lifer that won all his titles in WWE. With Flair out of the WWE picture, it’s a great time for Cena to break this record while WWE could shout from the rooftops that he is the “greatest of all time” whether people want to believe it or not.
2. The WWE Universal Championship Reign By Roman Reigns Has Been Very Long
As I write this column on August 17th, Roman Reigns has held the Universal Championship for 345 days. Reigns won the Universal Championship in a triple threat match on August 30, 2020 when he defeated champion “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt and Braun Strowman at Payback. Wyatt and Strowman were both released by WWE this year while Reigns has dominated the Universal Championship picture. While a lot of Roman’s wins weren’t clean, he beat a lot of talented guys to keep that title like his cousin Jimmy Uso, Kevin Owens, Daniel Bryan, Edge, Cesaro, Rey Mysterio and so on.
If Reigns beats Cena then he’s probably going to hold the title to go past 365 days (one year) as the Universal Champion. The record for longest Universal Title reign is 503 days by Brock Lesnar. If Reigns gets by Cena at SummerSlam, who’s going to beat him for it? Maybe Big E by Money in the Bank cash in. Perhaps Drew McIntyre can do it if he’s moved to Smackdown in October. Other than that, I don’t know the answer to that question.
It’s possible that WWE will want Reigns to hold onto the Universal Title all the way until next WrestleMania 38 in Dallas where he might face a big name for the first time ever, The Rock. The two men are distant cousins, which I’m sure you’ve heard. If that match happens, it will be a month before The Rock turns 50 years old and it would be The Rock’s first real match (not counting the 2016 “match” with Erick Rowan that was one Rock Bottom) in nine years going back to WrestleMania 29 in 2013. If WWE does Reigns vs. Rock that’s great, but I don’t think it needs to happen after Reigns holds the Universal Title for nearly two years. In my opinion, that’s just too long.
As an aside, I think Roman Reigns is an outstanding professional wrestler. I’m so happy for him overcoming past health issues and having the best year of his career. We should acknowledge him as the best in WWE in 2021. He is easily going to win my WWE Johnny Award for Wrestler of the Year this year.
3. A Win By Cena at SummerSlam Would Send the Fans Home Happy
A lot of WWE PPV shows in the last year have ended in the same way – with Roman Reigns celebrating a successful Universal Title defense. Most of those shows were at the Thunderdome with no fans, so I doubt WWE cared that much if fans were angry that Reigns beat the conquering hero. The two PPVs with fans were WrestleMania 37 and Money in the Bank.
At WrestleMania earlier this year, I know that some of us picked Daniel Bryan or Edge to beat Reigns in the main event because it would have been a way to end WrestleMania on a happy note. Since it was the first WWE show in a year with fans in attendance, it would have made sense to send them home happy after we have all been dealing with a deadly virus since early 2020. I know I picked Bryan to win. It sounds foolish now, but at the time it felt like the right prediction. Of course, we all know what happened since Reigns got an assist from Jey Uso, which led to Reigns stacking Edge and Bryan onto eachother as he pinned them both at the same time to win in dominant fashion.
At Money in the Bank last month, Reigns was in the main event again, this time celebrating a victory over Edge. That wasn’t a clean win either since Seth Rollins got involved to cost Edge the match to set up their SummerSlam match this Sunday. Reigns got on the microphone for a promo and John Cena showed up as a shocking surprise (Pat McAfee: “WHERE?”) to go face to face with Reigns. Cena didn’t say a word that night during the show, but the pop he got was enormous. It was one of the loudest ovations at a wrestling show that I have ever heard. It was a way to send the fans home happy.
SummerSlam will have the biggest crowd of any WWE show this year since they expect to have 40,000+ people at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas this Saturday night. That’s bigger than the 25,000+ people at each of WrestleMania’s two nights. If you are going to have such a big crowd at SummerSlam, doesn’t it make sense to give them something memorable in the main event? John Cena winning his record-breaking 17th WWE World Championship would be the kind of moment that fans would remember forever. It makes a lot of sense to me.
4. John Cena Appearing on Smackdown at MSG Could Lead to Another Title Change
SummerSlam is not the last time John Cena is going to appear at a WWE show this year. Yes, we know Cena will be filming a movie called Argylle in England at some point after SummerSlam. However, WWE also announced last month that Cena will be appearing on the Smackdown episode at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Friday, September 10.
The scenario that I suggest would be to have Cena win the Universal Title at SummerSlam and if he’s able to be on the next Smackdown then that’s great. Use that episode of Smackdown on August 27 to set up what could be called the biggest match in Smackdown history on September 10 with John Cena defending the Universal Championship against Roman Reigns in a SummerSlam rematch. Do you think Fox would love that? I do. It would probably be the most watched episode of Smackdown of the year.
That September 10 episode of Smackdown would give WWE a few options. They could go with Cena retaining if he’s able to make more shows later in the year, so you could do Cena/Reigns again at a PPV or another episode of Smackdown with Reigns getting the title back. There’s also the option of Big E cashing in Money in the Bank on Cena or Reigns on that Smackdown episode in MSG. (That scenario only works if Big E doesn’t cash in before that September 10 date, of course.) I’m just saying that if you had Big E get involved somehow then it would be a way to put him over huge on a night when you have a bigger than usual audience.
I realize there might be some people complaining if Cena “only” held the title for three weeks. Who cares? His last title reign was two weeks. A lot of great champions in wrestling had short title reigns, including Ric Flair (his last two titles reigns in WCW were less than seven days each). There’s nothing wrong with doing title changes close together if it fits the story.
My suggestion is to put the Universal Title on Cena at SummerSlam, announce the rematch for MSG on September 10 and drop the title back to Reigns on that show. The Big E option would work well too, but if they want Reigns to continue his dominance then having him win it back would be the smart thing. Reigns isn’t going to be hurt without the title for three weeks. If anything, it might add more to his character. Long term, that’s a good thing.
5. John Cena Winning The Universal Title Would Create Mainstream Headlines For WWE
John Cena is a bonafide movie star and perhaps the only wrestler in WWE right now that the average person on the street might know. That’s not a knock on Roman Reigns or anybody else. I just don’t think anybody else in WWE is at their level. Considering that Cena has been in major movies this year like Fast 9 and Suicide Squad this summer, plus hosting TV shows, being in numerous commercials and so on, the guy has become a household name. Cena isn’t on The Rock’s level yet (and he may never be), but he has certainly broken through the Hollywood glass ceiling in the last few years.
If Cena wins the Universal Title at SummerSlam, WWE is going to get more press for that than for anything else they do this year. It’s going to be covered in the sports world, the entertainment world and everywhere else. Think of your family members and friends that know nothing about current WWE. Chances are when they load up their favorite apps or websites, they might come across the news of Cena winning the WWE Universal Championship at SummerSlam. If Reigns wins, it won’t create headlines because he’s already the champion.
It’s important to create buzz in front of 40,000 fans in Las Vegas. I think WWE knows that as well as anybody. The best way they can create buzz right now is for John Cena to lift up that blue WWE Universal Championship this Saturday night at SummerSlam.
This was fun to do. I don’t know if I have convinced myself that Cena should win, but maybe I have convinced you. I don’t know my official prediction, to be honest. I just think it’s a strong possibility that Cena might win even though most people are going to assume that the full-timer Reigns will beat the part-timer Cena because that’s what they usually do in pro wrestling. We have seen it many times. Having Reigns win is the easy way to do things. I’m all for having some twists and turns along the way, though, so putting the Universal Title on Cena intrigues me a lot.
I’m excited about Reigns vs. Cena as a fan of WWE that loves the big matches like that one. I’m also intrigued about who wins and how? I made the case for Cena in this column, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the dominance of Reigns continues. We’ll find out together on Saturday night at SummerSlam.
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