Last Man Standing
John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt
Legacy. Free will. The nature of man. The fate of the world.
WWE has been throwing around some lofty ideas in a feud between one of their most marketable Superstars ever and a brash young upstart whose novel appearance and incendiary speeches have taken their fans by storm. But what does it all really mean?
These two men will head into their third pay-per-view (PPV) match against each other this Sunday, June 1st in Rosemont, Illinois at Payback. But will we have any more answers when the last man is standing?
The Road to Payback
At WrestleMania 30, we were told that Cena's legacy - 14 world championships over ten dominant years - was at stake. Wyatt had declared him a liar who was deceiving the Cenation. John rose to the challenge and won their match in New Orleans.
The Eater of Worlds wasn't going to let his crusade go, and as more and more members of the WWE Universe sang along with him and "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" it seemed like he might be able to break Cena. But the man known for hustle, loyalty and respect vowed to not be broken, and even mocked Bray for not being able to back up his own charismatic words without his Family, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan, behind him.
That lead to their Extreme Rules showdown in a steel cage. Which proceeded to not really settle the issue of whether or not Bray needed his acolytes, who repeatedly interfered in the bout despite the cage which surrounded the ring, or if their presence mattered to Cena, who handled all three men and was about to step out of the door of the structure. But then the one thing that apparently does still matter came into play - Wyatt deployed a young member of the WWE Universe and Cenation that he had "converted" to his cause and stunned John into defeat.
"Little Johnny" wasn't the only fan who was backing Wyatt against Cena. Crowd reaction continues to sway more and more in Bray's favor. This swing has gained momentum even as WWE has pulled out tricks designed to cast Wyatt as a more traditional heel: declaring himself a "god" who will burn down the world and remake it his own image, a necessary evil to cure a diseased world.
For his part, Cena vowed to live up to his "never give up" motto:
In the course of his post-ER speeches, Cena declared that he would be the last man standing in his program with Wyatt. Bray loved the sound of that, and on the May 12th edition of Raw he threw out a challenge for an official Last Man Standing match at Payback. After a dramatic pause, Cena accepted.
Since then, it's been a sneak attack here and a three-on-one assault by The Wyatts there (although John has brought in back in the form of the WWE Tag champs, The Usos); cocky defiance by Cena here and fire and brimstone from Bray there...
After tonight, will this whole feud make any more sense than Bray Wyatt speaking in tongues?
What's at Stake?
I made a joke in our predictions post about this being a program that makes both men look worse. But I don't necessarily believe that to be true. The longer this rivalry goes on, the more it seems like it might be something both guys come out of in the exact same shape they went in.
Does anyone but the markiest of marks think that the Cenation will cease to exist if John Cena doesn't answer a ten count in Allstate Arena? Would even the most cynical of cynics tell you that Bray Wyatt doesn't have a bright future ahead of him (maybe even as a babyface)?
I'd argue that what's at stake tonight is actually very little. At WrestleMania, they proved they could have a good match with one another. At Extreme Rules, they showed that they can't overcome asinine booking. Whatever they do tonight, it probably won't tell us any more about the future arc of their careers or their characters. We'll learn more from where they go once they're done with one another.
Does Cena go back to the title picture, or is he an main event gatekeeper who makes future stars on their way up? Is Bray a maniacal cult leader who doesn't care about belts or a charismatic leader who will have non-possessed children chanting his name by 'Mania 31?
Tonight, we can hope for a good match between two talented pro wrestlers. But for all the sermons and idealistic mottos the two men have spit out over the last three months, it will still be a pro wrestling match - so by making the stakes sound so grandious, they've largely rendered them meaningless.
But that doesn't mean we won't join you in over-analysing and picking it apart, so stay with Cageside Seats for all of the fallout of Cena-Wyatt III and the rest of WWE Payback!