John Cena did not wrestle in the main event of WrestleMania 30 or Extreme Rules 2014. His upcoming Last Man Standing match against Bray Wyatt at Payback 2014 could mark the third consecutive pay-per-view (PPV) where John Cena's match takes place prior to the main event. Has this ever happened before during the John Cena era?
I am going to define the "John Cena era" as the very beginning of 2005 through today. This is because 2005 is the year where John Cena won his first WWE Championship and started to become a reliable fixture in WWE's main event scene.
The "main event" of a given PPV will be defined as the very last match on the card, excluding Money In The Bank cash-in matches.
WWE has hosted 128 PPV events since the start of 2005 and John Cena competed on 105 of these cards. Out of those 105 events, Cena wrestled in the main event on 62 of those shows and wrestled prior to the main event on the remaining 43 shows.
John Cena did not wrestle on 23 of these 128 PPV events. Those 23 PPVs have little relevance to this study. and so they will be excluded from consideration. Nearly half of these PPVs that Cena missed took place in 2005 and 2006 when brand-exclusive PPVs were in effect.
I am primarily focused on the 43 shows where John Cena did wrestle on the show but failed to wrestle in the main event. When considering the set of 105 PPVs that John Cena has wrestled on since the start of 2005, does there exist a consecutive list of three such PPVs where John Cena did not wrestle in the main event?
The Complete List
Here is the full listing of who John Cena fought against on those 105 PPV events where he competed.
The 43 PPVs in bold are the focus here; these are the shows where Cena wrestled on the card but not in the main event.
The remaining 62 PPVs without bold are the ones where Cena wrestled in the main event.
The goal is to see if 3 consecutive entries on the list appear in bold.
- Royal Rumble 2005 - Royal Rumble match
- No Way Out 2005: Kurt Angle
- WrestleMania 21: John Bradshaw Layfield
- Judgment Day 2005: John Bradshaw Layfield
- Vengeance 2005: Cena vs Christian vs Chris Jericho
- SummerSlam 2005: Chris Jericho
- Unforgiven 2005: Kurt Angle
- Taboo Tuesday 2005: Cena vs Angle vs HBK
- Survivor Series 2005: Kurt Angle
- New Year's Revolution 2006: Chamber - Cena/Carlito/Masters/Kane/Angle/HBK; Edge
- Royal Rumble 2006: Edge
- WrestleMania 22: Triple H
- Backlash 2006: Cena vs Triple H vs Edge
- ECW One Night Stand 2006: RVD
- Vengeance 2006: Sabu
- SummerSlam 2006: Edge
- Unforgiven 2006: Edge
- Cyber Sunday 2006: Cena vs King Booker vs Big Show
- Survivor Series 2006: Team Cena vs Team Big Show
- Armageddon 2006: Cena and Batista vs King Booker and Finlay
- New Year's Revolution 2007: Umaga
- Royal Rumble 2007: Umaga
- No Way Out 2007: Cena and HBK vs Undertaker and Batista
- WrestleMania 23: HBK
- Backlash 2007: Cena vs Orton vs Edge vs HBK
- Judgment Day 2007: The Great Khali
- One Night Stand 2007: The Great Khali
- Vengeance - Night of Champions 2007: Cena vs Foley vs Lashley vs King Booker vs Orton
- The Great American Bash 2007: Bobby Lashley
- SummerSlam 2007: Randy Orton
- Unforgiven 2007: Randy Orton
- Royal Rumble 2008: Royal Rumble match
- No Way Out 2008: Randy Orton
- WrestleMania 24: Cena vs Orton vs Triple H
- Backlash 2008: Cena vs Orton vs Triple H vs JBL
- Judgment Day 2008: John Bradshaw Layfield
- One Night Stand 2008: John Bradshaw Layfield
- Night Of Champions 2008: Triple H
- The Great American Bash 2008: John Bradshaw Layfield
- SummerSlam 2008: Batista
- Survivor Series 2008: Jericho
- Armageddon 2008: Jericho
- Royal Rumble 2009: John Bradshaw Layfield
- No Way Out 2009: Chamber - Cena/Edge/Mysterio/Jericho/Kane/Knox
- WrestleMania 25: Cena vs Edge vs Big Show
- Backlash 2009: Edge
- Judgment Day 2009: Big Show
- Extreme Rules 2009: Big Show
- The Bash 2009: The Miz
- Night Of Champions 2009: Cena vs Orton vs Triple H
- SummerSlam 2009: Randy Orton
- Breaking Point 2009: Randy Orton
- Hell In A Cell 2009: Randy Orton
- Bragging Rights 2009: Randy Orton
- Survivor Series 2009: Cena vs HBK vs Triple H
- TLC 2009: Sheamus
- Royal Rumble 2010: Royal Rumble match
- Elimination Chamber 2010: Chamber - Cena/Orton/Sheamus/TripleH/Kingston/DiBiase; Batista
- WrestleMania 26: Batista
- Extreme Rules 2010: Batista
- Over The Limit 2010: Batista
- Fatal 4-Way 2010: Cena vs Orton vs Edge vs Sheamus
- Money In The Bank 2010: Sheamus
- SummerSlam 2010: Team WWE vs The Nexus
- Night Of Champions 2010: Cena vs Orton vs Sheamus vs Edge vs Jericho vs Barrett
- Hell In A Cell 2010: Wade Barrett
- Bragging Rights 2010: Cena and Otunga vs Cody and McIntyre
- TLC 2010: Wade Barrett
- Royal Rumble 2011: Royal Rumble match
- Elimination Chamber 2011: Chamber - Cena/Punk/Orton/Sheamus/Truth/Morrison
- WrestleMania 27: The Miz
- Extreme Rules 2011: Cena vs The Miz vs Morrison
- Over The Limit 2011: The Miz
- Capitol Punishment 2011: R-Truth
- Money In The Bank 2011: CM Punk
- SummerSlam 2011: CM Punk
- Night Of Champions 2011: Alberto Del Rio
- Hell In A Cell 2011: Cena vs Punk vs Del Rio
- Vengeance 2011: Alberto Del Rio
- Survivor Series 2011: Cena and The Rock vs The Miz and R-Truth
- Royal Rumble 2012: Kane
- Elimination Chamber 2012: Kane
- WrestleMania 28: The Rock
- Extreme Rules 2012: Brock Lesnar
- Over The Limit 2012: John Laurinaitis
- No Way Out 2012: Big Show
- Money In The Bank 2012: MITB - Cena/Jericho/Kane/Miz/BigShow
- SummerSlam 2012: Cena vs Punk vs Big Show
- Night Of Champions 2012: CM Punk
- Survivor Series 2012: Cena vs Punk vs Ryback
- TLC 2012: Dolph Ziggler
- Royal Rumble 2013: Royal Rumble match
- Elimination Chamber 2013: Cena/Sheamus/Ryback vs The Shield
- WrestleMania 29: The Rock
- Extreme Rules 2013: Ryback
- Payback 2013: Ryback
- Money In The Bank 2013: Mark Henry
- SummerSlam 2013: Daniel Bryan
- Hell In A Cell 2013: Alberto Del Rio
- Survivor Series 2013: Alberto Del Rio
- TLC 2013: Randy Orton
- Royal Rumble 2014: Randy Orton
- Elimination Chamber 2014: Chamber - Cena/Orton/Bryan/Sheamus/Cesaro/Christian
- WrestleMania 30: Bray Wyatt
- Extreme Rules 2014: Bray Wyatt
The list above shows that there exists only one time in the John Cena era when he did indeed go at least three shows in a row wrestling below the main event. This occurred in 2009, where John Cena actually wrestled on 7 consecutive PPVs without competing in any main events. His opponents during this time were Big Show, Miz, Triple H, and Randy Orton. Here is a list of what the actual main events were for those 7 PPVs:
- Judgment Day 2009: Edge vs Jeff Hardy
- Extreme Rules 2009: Edge vs Jeff Hardy (followed by a Punk MITB cash-in)
- The Bash 2009: Randy Orton vs Triple H
- Night Of Champions 2009: CM Punk vs Jeff Hardy
- SummerSlam 2009: CM Punk vs Jeff Hardy
- Breaking Point 2009: CM Punk vs The Undertaker
- Hell In A Cell 2009: D-Generation X vs The Legacy
A fun fact that stands out in this list is that CM Punk is the only man in the John Cena era who was able to wrestle in 3 straight PPV main events while John Cena was featured lower on the card. When you consider how much Punk struggled to take main events away from Cena during Punk's 434-day WWE Championship reign , it seems noteworthy that a less famous Punk in 2009 was actually more successful at this feat.
The other thing that stands out in this list is just how big of a star Jeff Hardy was in 2009. He received the main event nod on four out of the final five PPVs of his WWE career. If Jeff Hardy was able to keep his demons under control, he may have had a legit chance to become the top star of the company.
2008 wasn't a great year for Cena either when it came to consistently landing main events. When 2008 and 2009 are taken together, John Cena only main evented 8 out of 25 total PPVs.
After Cena's relatively rough stretch in 2008 and 2009, he went right back to consistently dominating the main event scene of just about every PPV he wrestled on. His rate of main eventing PPVs from 2010 through 2012 was a whopping 80% (28 out of 35)!
Here is the summary of how many PPVs Cena main evented each year out of the ones he competed in:
- 2005: 4 out of 9 main events
- 2006: 8 out of 11 main events
- 2007: 9 out of 11 main events
- 2008: 4 out of 11 main events
- 2009: 4 out of 14 main events
- 2010: 8 out of 12 main events
- 2011: 11 out of 12 main events
- 2012: 9 out of 11 main events
- 2013: 4 out of 10 main events
- 2014: 1 out of 4 main events
When you add all those numbers up, it results in 62 main events for Cena out of 105 total PPVs.
Stealing Main Events Away From John Cena
It has already been noted that Jeff Hardy and CM Punk were very successful in 2009 at stealing PPV main events away from John Cena. So now here is the full list of how many times a superstar wrestled in one of those 43 PPV main events while John Cena wrestled lower on the card. The Royal Rumble match gets its own entry in this list - the individual 30 superstars did not receive any credit for stealing main events away from John Cena in that match type.
- 14 PPVs: Triple H
- 9 PPVs: Randy Orton
- 8 PPVs: CM Punk, Undertaker
- 7 PPVs: HBK, Edge
- 6 PPVs: Jeff Hardy
- 5 PPVs: Batista
- 4 PPVs: Big Show, Daniel Bryan, Royal Rumble match
- 3 PPVs: JBL, Kane, Jericho
- 2 PPVs: Rock, Lesnar, Mysterio, Henry
- 1 PPV: Hogan, Lashley, Carlito, Masters, Angle, Spirit Squad, King Booker, Umaga, Cody Rhodes, Ted DiBiase Jr, R-Truth, Morrison, Barrett, RVD, Sheamus, Christian
Triple H hogs the spotlight on this list. Out of the 105 PPV events that John Cena has wrestled on since 2005, 77 of them included at least one of Cena or Triple H in the main event match.
Many of those names on the "1 PPV" entry are guys that popped up in group matches like Elimination Chamber matches, Money In The Bank Ladder matches, Triple Threat matches, Survivor Series tag team matches, or other tag team matches.
When you take out all of the group matches and focus on just the one versus one matches, 30 out of the 43 Cena-less main events remain. Here are the superstar tallies for just those 30 main events:
- 9 PPVs: Triple H
- 7 PPVs: Undertaker
- 6 PPVs: Punk, Edge, Orton
- 4 PPVs: Hardy
- 3 PPVs: Batista
- 2 PPVs: Lesnar, Rock, Big Show, HBK, Kane, Henry, Bryan
- 1 PPV: Hogan, Angle, JBL, King Booker, Barrett
Once again, this is the number of times that these men had a one-on-one match that main evented a PPV while John Cena wrestled lower on the same card.
Wade Barrett's name sticks out like a sore thumb, so it should be noted that his main event match versus Randy Orton at Bragging Rights 2010 did heavily feature John Cena as the focal point of the story. In fact John Cena was in Barrett's corner for the match and Cena would have been fired if Barrett lost the match. So while Cena did indeed wrestler lower on that card than Wade Barrett, Cena was still a key player in that main event match and story.
Not Good Enough To Main Event
Finally, here is the list of how many times a given superstar fought with or against John Cena in one of those 43 Cena matches that were not deemed worthy of the main event. Once again, the Royal Rumble match is given its own separate entry. I am also excluding the 30-second Batista vs Cena undercard match from Elimination Chamber 2010, as it was essentially an alternate version of a MITB cash-in angle.
- 9 PPVs: Orton
- 5 PPVs: JBL, Big Show
- 3 PPVs: Triple H, Jericho, Sheamus, Del Rio
- 2 PPVs: Sabu, Angle, Kane, Umaga, Batista, Edge, Ryback, Wyatt
- 1 PPV: Christian, Lashley, RVD, Test, MVP, Finlay, Miz, DiBiase, Kingston, Barrett, Otunga, Cody, McIntyre, Punk, Shield, Henry, Rumble match
Bray Wyatt has a chance to quickly climb up this list if his current feud with Cena is really going to extend all the way towards SummerSlam, unless those matches start to actually main event the shows.
Cena Versus Orton...Part 21
This is a bit of an aside, but these lists really demonstrate just how exhausted the Cena/Orton rivalry has become over the years.
Orton faced off against Cena in at least 9 of the 43 Cena PPV matches that did not main event the card. 6 of these were one-on-one matches, 2 were triple threat matches (both featuring Triple H as the third guy), and one was an Elimination Chamber match.
One more match can also be appended to that list, as Orton and Cena were both participants in the 2013 Royal Rumble match that failed to main event the card that year. So Orton actually wrestled in 10 of these 43 matches.
Orton also battled against Cena in 11 of the 62 PPVs that Cena did actually main event. This includes 1 Six-Pack challenge, 1 Five-Pack challenge, 3 Fatal Four-Ways, 2 Elimination Chamber matches, 1 singles TLC match, 1 Iron-Man match, 1 basic singles match, and the 2011 Royal Rumble match.
That adds up to a total of 21 times out of 105 Cena PPV matches (20%) where Orton has stood across the ring from John as an opponent.
Twice In A Lifetime?
So there you have it, Cagesiders. If John Cena fails to main event Payback, it will mark only the second time since the start of 2005 that a span of at least three consecutive PPVs will feature John Cena competing below the main event. What do you think Cena's chances are of avoiding this fate? The Evolution versus The Shield match appears to be the main obstacle in his path, as Triple H is in position to steal a 15th PPV main event away from John Cena.
If Cena fails to main event for the third consecutive PPV, do you think this is just happenstance? Is this an indication that WWE is finally trying to find a new main event scene after years of constantly falling back on Cena? Or is Cena's current main event slump going to be instantly corrected once he moves away from Bray Wyatt, a character who has yet to wrestle in the main event of a WWE PPV?