After watching last week’s C.M. Punk /John Cena classic on Raw, I was inspired to present a list of my favorite matches involving Cena. While Cena will never be remembered as the smoothest in-ring performer of his generation, it’s impossible to deny the fact he’s been involved in many of the best matches of the last decade in WWE. The man knows who to deliver the goods in a big match situation.
Like any great wrestler, he perfected his craft by working with some of the best in the business. The matches on this list are just as much of a testament to the opponents who helped him to produce such classics. Speaking of the word classic, it’s a term I don’t throw around lightly when it comes to wrestling and every match included is a bonafide classic in my opinion.
While Cena has been involved in many memorable bouts I decided to narrow it down to five. Why five you ask? Simply because there are enough top ten, fifteen, and twenty lists saturating the world wide web as we know it, so I wanted to try something different and really narrow down the five matches that best defined the essence of what Cena is all about. So without further ado enjoy!
5. Vs. Edge, Last Man Standing Match, Backlash 2009
What better way to start things off than with an Edge match. These two wrestled one another on numerous occasions during their on and off again feud from 2006-2009. A strong argument can be made that Edge was Cena’s best opponent and vice versa. Cena has publicly stated that he learned more from working with Edge than anyone else. I consider that to be high praise of Edge’s abilities since Cena has worked with every major name in the company over the last decade.
I’m typically not a fan of the last man standing stipulation because I find it too predictable. However, they used every trick in their arsenal to make it an entertaining spectacle from start to finish. The story of the match is that it was their last major encounter. Edge was at the peak of his heel persona at that point in time and Cena had his usual never give up mentality.
The first half of the match was heavily wrestling oriented before they began using every means at their disposal to kill each other. It featured one death-defying spot after another and was the very definition of two men leaving everything they had inside (and outside) of the ring. Both took inhuman amounts of punishment and the ending is as good as you will ever see for a match of its kind.
4. Vs. Shawn Michaels, Raw 2007
Cena had a lot to prove in early 2007. Although he was clearly established as the top guy in WWE, many critics questioned his lack of actual wrestling ability. It was on this night that Cena silenced everyone by putting on a 45-minute clinic against Michaels.
Fresh off their stellar main event at WrestleMania 23, they treated fans to an even better match. There aren’t too many instances where a WrestleMania rematch on free television eclipses the original. It was the definitive WWE match of 2007.
3. Vs. Brock Lesnar, Extreme Rules Match, Extreme Rules 2012
My personal pick as the best match of 2012 was as close to a shoot-style match as you will ever see in WWE. Lesnar, the former king of UFC, had returned to take out the leader of the Cenation and the result was nothing short of a brutal masterpiece. In addition to taking unheard of punishment, Cena also delivered the best pure babyface performance of this career. By the time it was over the Chicago crowd (a traditional anti-Cena market) was ecstatic that he overcame his most dangerous threat yet.
2. Vs. CM Punk, Raw 2013
There may be a kneejerk reaction on my part to placing this at such a high position, but it deserves the spot for being so darn good. You had the two biggest full-time stars in WWE today fighting for a shot at the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 29. While I expected a good match, I did not expect it to wind up as the frontrunner for the best WWE match of the year. It was one of the truly great matches in the 20-year history of Raw. Unfortunately WWE removed the full length match off their You Tube channel, but this clip of the finish gives you a feel for the intensity of the match. Please seek out the full match if you have not done so. You won’t regret it.
1. Vs. CM Punk, Money in the Bank 2011
The match that established Punk as the #2 guy next to Cena was one of the great matches in wrestling history. It was a rare occasion where the right guy won the right way on the right night in front of the right audience against the perfect opponent. It ranks alongside seminal WWE classics as Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin and the first Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon ladder match.
Though the buildup to the encounter was brief, it was among the best and most believable storylines the company produced in many years. Punk’s contract was set to expire on the day of the show and he vowed to leave the company with the championship. It also helped that Punk delivered some of the most off the cuff promos to ever air on WWE television in the weeks leading up to the event.
It had the drama, intrigue and on the edge of your seat suspense that few matches ever have and fans were guessing to the very end as to who would emerge victorious. Did I mention it was in Punk’s hometown of Chicago? To both their credit, they lived up to a match that was worthy of the hype and the consensus best match held anywhere in 2011.