Posted by James Tee
We are now less than two weeks away from the Royal Rumble, and it remains to be seen how John Cena will be involved, apart from his inclusion in the Royal Rumble match. We should also discover more about his plans for Wrestlemania 29 after the Rumble. Whatever happens, it will represent a huge journey since his first appearance in the WWE.
PART TWO – RUTHLESS AGGRESSION
John Cena first came to prominence on June 27th, 2002.
Seemingly inspired by an earlier speech by Mr McMahon, encouraging the next generation of superstars to find ‘Ruthless Aggression’, Cena accepted the challenge of Kurt Angle; at the time one of the most dominant superstars in the whole of professional wrestling.
Despite losing to the Olympic Gold Medallist, Cena impressed with athleticism, strength and in-ring skills, even being congratulated by then WWE Undisputed Champion The Undertaker backstage after the match.
Cena’s first serious feud was a big one – the first Undisputed Champion, Chris Jericho. The week after his debut, Cena faced Jericho on Smackdown, once again going close but ultimately falling short. Jericho offered the youngster a handshake at the end of the match, but instead sucker-punched the rookie.
The week after, Cena won his first match on the main roster. Teaming with The Undertaker, Cena pinned Y2J, who teamed with Kurt Angle. The rookie was starting to gain momentum, and the following week challenged The Ayatollah of Rock and Rollah to another singles match, which Jericho got himself DQ’d from.
On July 21st, Cena wrestled on his first PPV, in a grudge match with Jericho, in the process gaining his first singles victory on the main roster. Cena however seemed like he needed a gimmick tweak to ensure he didn’t just fall into obscurity as quickly as he had ascended.
THE HEEL TURN
When Smackdown introduced it’s own brand exclusive Tag Team Championships in September 2002, Cena was teamed with Billy Kidman for a Tag Team tournament. After being eliminated in the first round by Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit, Cena started to show heelish traits. After two singles matches on Smackdown between the two, Cena attacked Kidman, turning heel for the first time in his WWE career.
It was shortly after his heel turn that Cena received his first proper gimmick – an 80’s style white rapper. He also received his first enforcer, in the form of the domineering Bull Buchanan (rechristened B2). It was due to this gimmick and his physical appearance that in some media outlets, Cena was seen as ‘The Marky Mark of Professional Wrestling’.
One of the more notable features of his gimmick was Cena’s ability to rap his promos.
John Cena was now established as a credible mid-card superstar, and heading into 2003, it was clear that WWE wanted him near the top of the card. His first feud of the year began on the first Smackdown of the year. After earlier beating Rikishi on Smackdown, Cena attacked Eddie Guerrero with his chain. The week after, Cena faced Eddie’s Nephew and tag team partner Chavo; Cena picking up the victory with help from the ropes.
That victory set up a tag team championship match between Los Guerrero’s and Cena and B2. With the Guerrero’s successfully defending their titles, Cena lost his cool, attacking B2 and aligning himself with Redd Dogg (Rodney Mack).
However, times were again changing for Cena. On the February 13th episode of Smackdown, Cena faced Brock Lesnar, the winner of that year’s Royal Rumble. After coming up short against his former OVW rival, Cena was F-5’ed into the ringpost, taking Cena off TV until the middle of March.
When Cena returned, on the last Smackdown before Wrestlemania, he debuted not only a new finisher (The Death Valley Driver), but also a new gimmick.
THE DOCTOR OF THUGANOMICS
After Cena had impressively defeated Rikishi, he went looking for revenge against Lesnar; their backstage brawl only broken up by Lesnar’s Wrestlemania opponent Kurt Angle.
That Sunday night, Cena wasn’t involved at Wrestlemania 19 in Seattle, but Brock Lesnar won the WWE Championship in what can only be described as one of the all time great Wrestlemania main events.
Due to the neck injury suffered by Kurt Angle before Wrestlemania, a new number one contender was needed. Smackdown General Manager Stephanie McMahon established a number one contender tournament, with the winner getting a shot at Lesnar at Backlash.
Cena was about to get his first taste of a PPV main event.
In the first round, Cena got the better of old foe Eddie Guerrero, before claiming somewhat of a scalp in the form of The Undertaker to reach the tournament final. On April 17th, John Cena defeated Chris Benoit and in turn, won the right to face Brock Lesnar ten days later at Backlash.
Cena wouldn’t wait until Backlash to get his hands on ‘The Next Big Thing’, attacking Lesnar three days before the PPV, just after Lesnar had defeated A-Train.
Despite not winning, Cena proved that he could hold his own in a main event quality match against one of the best pure wrestlers we have ever seen in WWE history.
Cena was making his way to the Main Event scene permanently.
NEXT TIME – THE START OF THE MAIN EVENT DOMINANCE
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