In retrospect, it's amazing that they managed to keep him off of television for a whole week to sell his loss to Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam. Anyone who doubts the importance of one John Felix Anthony Cena to WWE need only look at how they've handled this week.
On Sunday night, the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion handed Cena what was probably his worst ever televised defeat. It was a bold booking decision, and WWE and the 15-time world champ himself deserve credit for trying something so outside of the norm.
Monday night on Raw, the vanquished Cenation leader did not appear. His sitting out the live show sold the impact of the loss, and cleared the stage for Lesnar and Paul Heyman to make an even bigger deal out of the happenings from the pay-per-view (PPV).
But WWE didn't want to keep him out of the news for too long, and last night on WWE Network's Main Event and via the internet, the company announced that Cena would exercise his rematch clause in order to face Lesnar again at September's Night of Champions event.
And while he was kept off the taped portions that will air Friday night on SyFy, he did appear at the Phoenix Smackdown show last night. Cena mentioned that doctors had told him not to return to the ring, but that he couldn't stay away from the fans. He then worked with Roman Reigns against The Wyatt Family.
Here's some fan-shot video of his appearance last night, while it last...
Those of us hoping for a length absence from Mr. Hustle, Loyalty and Respect should look at this and remember that while Brock Lesnar is the company's biggest attraction, John Cena is the company.
Brock's not going to work house shows, or even every Raw and PPV. Cena, even at 37 years old, with a surgically repaired body and, to the minds of many, in desperate need of a character refresh, will.
I'm not saying he's going to win the belt back at NoC. I'm not saying that he won't begin a lengthy losing streak / struggle to reach the top again storyline (I am saying that he won't turn heel, though). But as we consider, discuss and debate those possibilities, we need to keep in mind how dependent the WWE is on John Cena.
Dependent enough that they could only keep him off of television for a week, and out of the news and off of house shows for a day, in order to sell a major story featuring a very expensive part-timer with mainstream appeal.