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Ranking Every John Cena Match at WWE SummerSlam

John Cena will be in the main event of this year’s SummerSlam on August 21 in Las Vegas. That’s nothing new for Cena, who has main evented all of WWE’s biggest shows over the course of the last 20 years. Even though Cena is only a part-timer in WWE now due to his movie career, there’s a lot of anticipation over Cena’s match against WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns. Who wins? We’ll find out at SummerSlam.

What I’m here today is to look back on Cena’s 14 SummerSlam matches in his career and rank them from best to worst using the star ratings I used to grade the matches. Five stars is an incredible match, three stars is pretty good and one-star level is bad. You can figure out the rest. I’m not going to post the full play-by-play of the matches, but I will link to them and let you know how I rated them as well. For the top three matches, I will include the play-by-play and analysis of them as well as my original analysis and then some more thoughts as well. You can read my review of every SummerSlam listed in order in my WWE PPV review listing right here. I’ve also included the link to each review after the rating of the match.

What is John Cena’s record at SummerSlam? It’s 5-9. That’s not very impressive in terms of wins and losses, but as you’ll see below, there have been plenty of great matches worth checking out again.

14. John Cena vs. Booker T @ SummerSlam 2004

This was match five in a best of five series with Booker T as a veteran US Champion while Cena was a babyface on the rise. They went just over six minutes here and it was a boring match. The finish saw Booker T hit a flapjack, then he did a Spinarooni and that allowed Cena to hit the FU for the clean win.

Rating: *3/4 (Review)

While the match between Cena and Booker was disappointing, Cena’s pre-match Blue Jays gear was awesome because he was sucking up to the Toronto crowd. As a Jays fan, I thought it was great.

 

13. John Cena vs. Baron Corbin @ SummerSlam 2017

This match opened SummerSlam coming on the heels of Cena playing a part in Corbin failing to cash the Money in the Bank contract. Corbin was looking for revenge, got plenty of offense throughout the match and tried his “slide out of the ring, slide back in spot” for a third time, which was a big mistake since Cena was ready with a clothesline. Cena followed up with an Attitude Adjustment to win in about ten minutes. This was just an average match to make the fans happy in the PPV opener while Corbin was not elevated at all during this feud with Cena.

Rating: **1/4 (Review)

 

12. Randy Orton vs. John Cena @ SummerSlam 2009

This was their second singles match at SummerSlam and clearly, the first match they had was better than this one. Orton was the top heel and Cena was one of the top faces, but it was just like a repeat of their 2007 rivalry. Some fans don’t like Orton/Cena matches very much because there are so many of them. I think they have some great ones. This is not one of them. It was a slow-paced match with a cheap finish with Ted Dibiase’s brother Brett used as part of the finish to distract Cena and Orton hit the RKO to win. It was more of an angle to keep the feud going rather than a great match.

Rating: **1/2 (Review)

 

11. CM Punk vs. Big Show vs. John Cena @ SummerSlam 2012

This was in the middle of CM Punk’s extremely long 434 day WWE Title reign. I don’t think anybody went into this match thinking that Punk was going to lose. We all figured it would be Big Show taking the pin. They did the classic “steal the pin” finish that happens in triple threats often with Cena hitting the Attitude Adjustment on Big Show, Punk shoved Cena out of the ring and Punk pinned Show to win. They got about 13 minutes and it was a typical, solid WWE triple threat match. The match was not nearly as good as most of the Punk vs. Cena matches. Punk appears later in the list.

Rating: *** (Review)

 

10. Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena @ SummerSlam 2014

This is one of the hardest Cena matches to rate with star ratings. I remember the Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer gave this ****1/4 (I just looked it up) and I thought that rating was too high. It just didn’t feel like that kind of a match to me. My original rating was three stars, but I boosted it up a bit watching the whole thing again. I remember some people hated it because they thought it was boring with Lesnar hitting so many suplexes in the match. This really was Lesnar taking Cena to “Suplex City” and looking like a dominant beast. Remember, this was a few months after Lesnar beat The Undertaker at WrestleMania 30, so WWE was all about building up Lesnar in a big way. The energy level in the building was great for the match, so that helped. At the time, it was one of the most decisive ass kicking that you’re going to see in a main event of a major PPV like SummerSlam. Cena was in the spot that Daniel Bryan would have been in if he didn’t get hurt. Lesnar destroyed Cena and he was the new WWE Champion.

Rating: ***1/4 (Review)

 

9. Tag Team Elimination Match: Team WWE (John Cena, Bret Hart, Chris Jericho, Daniel Bryan, Edge, John Morrison and R-Truth) vs. Team Nexus (Wade Barrett, Darren Young, David Otunga, Heath Slater, Justin Gabriel, Michael Tarver and Skip Sheffield) @ SummerSlam 2010

This is one of the more controversial Cena matches at SummerSlam because of the result of the match. I hated the finish because it should have been a win for The Nexus. Instead, it was another example of Super Cena coming through. It was ridiculous to have them do a major spot like a DDT on the cement only for Cena to get two eliminations within a few minutes to win the match. The right booking would have been a win by Nexus. I think everybody that understands wrestling booking would have had the heels go over, but WWE got it wrong. The story goes (according to Edge & Jericho who were on Cena’s team in the match) that The Nexus was going to win, but Cena felt differently and it was changed. That meant that the two months of momentum that The Nexus had as a new faction was stopped with that one loss and they never really recovered.

Rating: ***1/4 (Review)

 

8. John Cena vs. Chris Jericho @ SummerSlam 2005

This was shortly after John Cena was drafted to Raw as the WWE Champion and was positioned as the face of the Raw brand for most of the next decade. What I remember most about the match is that there was a creative finish. From my review: “Jericho charged in, Cena caught him as if he was going to give him a backbreaker and then spun Jericho up to his shoulders and connected with the FU (later known as the Attitude Adjustment) for the pinfall win at 14:49.” The finish drew a huge pop and was a nice reminder of how strong Cena is. Jericho would end up leaving WWE in a “You’re Fired” match and his absence lasted for over two years when he came back. It was smart to use Jericho in this spot to give Cena a win over a credible top guy like that.

Rating: ***1/2 (Review)

 

7. Edge vs. John Cena @ SummerSlam 2006

John Cena and Edge had the best rivalry in WWE in 2006 and they got to main event SummerSlam in Cena’s hometown of Boston with Edge going in as the champion. Even though it was Cena’s hometown, he was still booed by some fans since this was in the “Let’s go Cena/Cena sucks” days. After having a back and forth match, Lita (Edge’s girlfriend at the time) got involved by putting brass knuckles on Edge’s hand. Cena managed to slam Lita off Edge’s shoulders to take care of her, but while the referee was looking at Lita, Edge punched Cena in the back of the head with the brass knuckles. That led to Edge getting the cheap pinfall win after 16 minutes. While I would call this a good match, their most memorable match against eachother was at the next PPV, Unforgiven 2006 in Edge’s hometown of Toronto (I rated that match ****1/2 out of five). That was a TLC match with a big ending as Cena gave Edge an FU off a ladder through stacked tables to win back the WWE Title.

Rating: ***1/2 (Review)

 

6. Batista vs. John Cena @ SummerSlam 2008

This match was a big deal because for the three years prior to this, Cena was the top babyface on Raw and Batista was the top babyface on Smackdown. They weren’t featured in a major singles match since they had become main event guys in 2005, so this was a showdown a lot of people were excited about. Unfortunately for Cena, it was also a match where he got hurt. The injury occurred when Cena jumped off the ropes with a leg drop attempt only for Batista to counter with a Powerbomb. That was an amazing spot that led to a two count. Right after that, Batista picked up Cena and hit a Batista Bomb for the pinfall win after about 14 minutes. That meant that the story of the match was that Cena went for a big move, Batista countered it and it ended up costing Cena the win. Cena suffered a neck injury in the match when he took that Powerbomb counter after his leap off the top. Cena missed about three months of action to surgically repair a herniated disk in his neck. He was supposed to be out longer, but Cena was a freak at coming back from injury.

Rating: **** (Review)

 

5. John Cena vs. Randy Orton @ SummerSlam 2007

This was the first Cena vs. Orton singles match on PPV so they got the main event slot with Cena defending the WWE Championship. Orton was gaining momentum as a heel while Cena went into the match as the WWE Champion for 24 of the previous 27 months. I think this is one of the better Cena vs. Orton matches because it felt fresh. Cena’s selling was fantastic and that’s something that frustrated me about Cena sometimes, but when it came to this match, John sold the idea that he had a concussion very well. It helped make it a more interesting story because the fans got behind Cena as he found a way to overcome Orton to win the match. I loved the nearfall near the end of the match with Orton hitting an RKO and Randy was too slow to cover, so Cena was able to kick out. Not a lot of people get to kick out of the RKO. Cena hit the FU shortly after to keep the title. They did a nice job here and I think this was one of their better matches together.

Rating: **** (Review)

 

4. Seth Rollins vs. John Cena @ SummerSlam 2015

The Jon Stewart match. Rollins was the WWE Champion while Cena was the United States Champion with both titles on the line. I’m pretty sure those words would remind you about this match in case you forgot. It was an awesome match with a hot crowd. There was controversy due to the ref bump as well as Jon Stewart’s interference, but I thought the work in the ring was still excellent. I remember the performance of Rollins really got people talking in terms of how well he did in this match. Cena certainly did his part as well. Here’s what Stewart did. This is from my review: “Jon Stewart ran down to the ring with a steel chair and teased doing something. He nailed Cena in the ribs with the chair! The crowd cheered that! Rollins hit a Pedigree on the chair, the referee got back into it and Rollins wins at 19:44.” The storyline explanation from Stewart was that he didn’t want Cena to tie Ric Flair’s record for World Title reigns (Cena would tie at Royal Rumble 2017). Cena got his revenge the next night on Raw. Anyway, this is a lot of fun with a shocking finish.

Rating: ****1/4 (Review)

 

 

For the top three matches, I’m going to include my play-by-play of the matches, the analysis of the matches and then I’ll add some additional thoughts after that. What do Cena’s top three matches have in common? They were all losses! Here they are.

3. CM Punk vs. John Cena @ SummerSlam 2011

Pre-match notes: Punk was the most popular face, Cena was a face that was cheered by most and booed by some while referee Triple H was also a face in an authority figure role.

There’s not a lot going on early, but the crowd is very loud. There’s a dueling “Let’s go Cena” and “CM Punk” chant. Early control goes to Punk, who gets a high knee to the face that leads to a nearfall. The announcers are doing a good job of setting up the match and its importance although I really wish Jim Ross was calling the match. Cena hits a gutwrench suplex for two followed by a fisherman’s suplex. Cue the “you can’t wrestle” chant as Cena looks out at the crowd. That was fun although I don’t necessarily agree. Cena hits a bodyslam followed by an elbow. Punk comes back with a stiff boot to the face. There’s a nice “Get Lost Cena You Suck” sign in the crowd.

Punk gained control by dropkicking Cena off the apron, which sent him crashing to the floor. The announcers did a good job pointing out that Cena’s endurance is excellent. It’s true. He doesn’t tire much at all and that’s one of the things I like about the guy. We’re at ten minutes now as Punk grounds him with a submission. Cena powers out and hits something that looked like a Bossman Slam. That was sweet. Punk counters a shoulder tackle with a knee to the face. Awesome counter. Cena counters the running knee, then he hits two shoulderblocks and Punk counters the suplex. Punk hits the knee, goes for his bulldog and now Cena hits his suplex. That was a sweet reversal of moves. Cena goes for the STF, but Punk fights out and puts him in a submission. Cena fights out of it and locks in the STF. Punk counters with a key lock submission. Cena counters that into a Crossface variation. Punk makes it to the ropes. That was a terrific sequence of counter wrestling as we reach 14 minutes.

The action picked up with Punk getting a back body drop on Cena that sends him to the floor. Punk dives through the middle ropes to take out Cena. Triple H counts them out. He gets to nine. He stops there, then goes out to the floor and rolls each of them back in the ring. The crowd cheers that move as the announcers point out that this means that we’ll definitely have a winner. I liked that spot. They did the punch sequence so the crowd could do the “yay” (Punk) and “boo” (Cena). Cena wins the exchange with a picture perfect dropkick that got him right in the face. Five Knuckle Shuffle by Cena. The AA is countered into a pinfall, then Cena gets one and Punk powers out to kick Cena in the head. They replayed the dropkick by Cena. It was as good of a dropkick as he’s ever done. Cena hits a Stinger Splash followed by a powerslam for two. Cena goes to the top, but Punk counters with a knee and hits a bulldog off the ropes for a two. Punk jumps off the top ropes, but Cena moves and puts Punk into the STF right in the middle of the ring as we reach 20 minutes. Punk fights out of it. He reaches the ropes.

They have another exchange and there’s the first finishing move of the match as Cena hits the Attitude Adjustment. Great nearfall right there. Cena goes up and he misses his leg drop off the top. Punk hits the Go To Sleep. He doesn’t hook the leg. Cena gets his shoulder up at two. Punk to the top, he does a Macho Man Randy Savage pose and he hits a top rope elbow. That gets two. He argues with Triple H. There’s a “Randy Savage” chant. I’m loving this crowd right now. They do another back and forth exchange. Punk hits a knee to the face. Punk hits another GTS although he didn’t connect very well because it was really Punk’s knee to Cena’s elbow and not close to Cena’s head. As Hunter was counting the pin, Cena’s foot was on the bottom rope. He never saw it. The announcers were immediately pointing it out. The match went 24:07.

Winner by pinfall: CM Punk

Analysis: ****1/2 That was awesome. Another classic match between these two guys although a level below their Money in the Bank match. I think Punk and Cena told a very entertaining story throughout the match although the ending wasn’t as good as MITB either. That’s why I didn’t rate it five stars, but it’s damn close. They had some awesome counter wrestling exchanges as well as submissions. The nearfalls were good. The crowd was loud for 30 minutes. It was another special match between Cena and Punk. For all the critics of Cena and the “you can’t wrestle” chants the guy proved again that he’s very good in big matches. Yes, Punk is the better of the two and that’s obvious, but they both did an amazing job here.

(I stand by that rating from ten years ago. It was one of the better SummerSlam main events ever. I think most fans probably don’t remember this that well because their Money in the Bank 2011 match was better and more important historically. If the finish was booked better then it might have got a higher rating, but it’s still an excellent match.) (Review)

 

2. Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena @ SummerSlam 2013

Pre-match notes: Cena was the WWE Champion that was a face. Bryan was also the face and Bryan was more popular. Triple H was also a face as the referee…at least going into the match. It was well known that Cena had a serious arm injury that would require surgery and cost him a few months of action, so most of us knew Bryan was going to win the WWE Title. I don’t think it hurt the match at all, though.

Triple H showed each man the WWE Title. He shook their hands. Cena had an elbow pad/sleeve on his injured left elbow. Bryan went after it immediately. Cena actually got a nearfall with a bridging pin attempt as Bryan countered with a backslide for two. Cena powered out of Bryan’s surfboard attempt. Bryan was on the apron as Cena charged into him and knocked Bryan into the announce table. The crowd booed that. Bryan took that right in the ribs. Outside the ring, Bryan threw Cena into the steel steps. Loud “yes” chants for that. Cena gave Bryan a suplex off the top of the steel steps onto the floor outside the ring. Hunter really didn’t count them outside the ring, which is nice to see. Cena hit a Powerbomb that almost looked like a Batista Bomb although it was a bit sloppier. That got him two. Bryan hit several kicks in the corner much to the delight of the crowd and then he hit a running clothesline. The crowd chanted “yes” as Bryan had momentum on his side. Bryan hit some kicks to the chest of Cena, but Cena ducked the head kick. Shoulder tackles by Cena followed by the spinning back suplex that we see in every Cena match. Bryan kicked him to counter and then Cena hit another spinning suplex. Five Knuckle Shuffle by Cena. Bryan countered Attitude Adjustment by landing on his feet. Missile dropkick by Bryan off the top rope for two as we hit the ten-minute mark.

Bryan worked on the left elbow injury of Cena with kicks to the arm. Bryan put Cena in the STF as the crowd chanted “yes” for Bryan using Cena’s hold. Of course it’s not really Cena’s hold because it’s been around for many years, but Cena has used it as a submission move for many years now. Bryan hit a bridging German Suplex for two. He did it again for two. Bryan countered the Attitude Adjustment attempt into the Yes Lock. Cena fought out of it, so Bryan applied another submission using a front facelock. Cena eventually powered out of it by sending Bryan into the turnbuckle. Cena was able to hit a desperation Attitude Adjustment that Bryan kicked out of at two. Loud “yes” chants for that. Cena went to the top rope, Bryan hit a running forearm and Cena shoved him to the mat. Bryan hit a dropkick on Cena while Cena was on the top rope. Bryan gave Cena a Superplex as Bryan did a kip up back to top rope. Headbutt for Bryan. That got him a two count. That was a great sequence into the nearfall. Cena went to the floor. Bryan wanted the dive, but Cena blocked it with a hard right hand. Cena went to the top and hit an impressive leg drop to the back of Bryan’s head. Great camera shot of that move.

Cena put Bryan on the top rope, he followed him there and Bryan elbowed Cena repeatedly to break free. Bryan wanted a top rope hurricanrana, but Cena was able to power out of it. He almost drove him face first into the mat. Instead, Cena applied the STF right in the middle of the ring. Bryan tried to roll out of it. Bryan was able to break free and apply the Yes Lock. Cena made it to the ropes. Triple H was checking on Cena’s elbow. Bryan hit two dropkicks on Cena in the corner. He went for a third, but Cena came back with a clothesline. Bryan did a flip to sell it. “This is awesome” chant by the crowd is justified. They exchanged punches in the middle of the ring. Each man charged the ropes and they did a mid-air collision as we neared the 25 minute mark. They got up at the same time as they used each other’s body to get their feet. Cena slapped Bryan. Bryan slapped back. They exchanged slaps. Bryan’s beard is like a protective layer, so he won that battle. Bryan countered an Attitude Adjustment attempt into a DDT. Bryan went to the top rope. He jumped off the top, but Cena caught him. Cena wanted the AA only for Bryan to counter that with an inside cradle for two. That was close. Bryan hit a hard running knee to the face of Cena. Triple H counted the pinfall and it was a three count. Bryan won the match at 26:55.

Winner: Daniel Bryan – New WWE Champion

Analysis: ****1/2 It was an excellent match. Daniel Bryan won clean over John Cena for the WWE Title. Wow. I never thought I’d ever write that sentence. It was evenly booked with both guys getting several great nearfalls throughout. When Bryan won the match with that running knee I was almost surprised by it because we haven’t seen him win matches via pinfall with a move like that, but I didn’t care. I was genuinely happy for the guy. I had a smile on my face like so many fans around the world that were rooting for Bryan to get the job done. I know Cena has his detractors (I’m not really one of them), but he put on a great show in keeping up with Bryan. Obviously, he’s not going to be the guy to counter every hold perfectly the way Bryan does. However, he worked his ass off and was part of an exciting main event match with the guy that is arguably the best wrestler in the world. For a guy who “can’t wrestle” according to some people he sure did a hell of a job of wrestling tonight. It didn’t come across as a five-star match to me, but it was excellent and very close to being at that level.

(I think Cena deserves a lot of praise for his performance in this match. Not only was it one of the best matches of Cena’s career, but he did it with an arm that required major surgery and he still wrestled for nearly 30 minutes. That shows how tough Cena was. They could have easily told Cena to go out there for like 12 minutes and drop the title, but you could tell Cena wanted to make this a memorable moment for Bryan. Both of them were dating the Bella Twins at the time, so they were closer than most friends at that point. It’s an awesome match. Maybe they went a bit too long, but I think it’s a case of Cena wanting to put over Bryan in a match that was as good as they could possibly do. The running knee that Bryan used was called a “Busaiku Knee” that was popularized by KENTA in Japan, who later became Hideo Itami in WWE.) (Review)

 

This is John Cena’s best SummerSlam match and the only one that I have rated five stars out of five.

1. AJ Styles vs. John Cena @ SummerSlam 2016

Pre-match notes: Styles was a heel while Cena was a face. This was a Smackdown match. Styles beat Cena at Money in the Bank in cheap fashion and then Cena beat Styles in a six-man tag at Battleground.

The crowd was very loud early on. No surprise. Styles nailed a dropkick and celebrated like it was a big deal. Cena punched him in the face and then did a hard whip into the turnbuckle two times. I heard Cena say “apron” so Styles went there. It led to Styles hitting a snap suplex on the apron, which is the hardest part of the ring. Back in the ring, Cena with a huge back body drop. Dropkick by Cena gets two. The crowd did their familiar “Let’s Go Cena/Cena Sucks” chant. Styles came back with fists, a clothesline and a forearm to the face. Cena with the shoulder tackles, the spinning slam and the Five Knuckle Shuffle as the crowd booed him. Styles landed on his feet to counter the AA, Pele Kick and he hit the Styles Clash. Cena kicked out at two. Cena hit Attitude Adjustment and Styles kicked out of that. Not even ten minutes into it. Styles put Cena on his shoulders and hit a spinning powerbomb for a two count.

Cena with a slingshot into the top turnbuckle, then he had Styles in his arms, tossed him into the air and hit a Cutter like move similar to an RKO, but not the same move. Styles missed a forearm, Cena tripped him up and Styles came back with the Ushigoroshi, which is like a AA into the knee. JBL thought it was the AA, but Ranallo said the name of the move. Cena with a Code Red (sunset flip powerbomb) with Ranallo referencing that name for two. Styles with a face first slam gets two. Styles with a springboard attack, Cena caught him by the leg and applied the STF submission hold. Styles countered into a Crossface leading to cheers from the crowd. Cena powered out, but Styles applied the Calf Crusher submission hold. Cena turned it into the STF submission. Styles was able to get out of it. Styles with a hard kick to the head. Cena with a back elbow and a Tornado DDT for two. Cena went up top and hit the guillotine legdrop on Styles for a two count. Styles came back with a springboard hurricanrana for two. So good. Styles nailed the Phenomenal Forearm for two. Wow. Another very believable nearfall. The crowd thought that was it. This match is past the 20-minute mark now.

Cena nailed Styles with a huge clothesline to slow him down. Cena went to the middle rope with Styles on his shoulders and Cena hit the Attitude Adjustment, but Styles kicked out at two. Wow. Huge nearfall. Same finish they did at Battleground. Cena was shocked that Styles kicked out of that. He backed into a corner looking stunned about it. Cena went for another AA, but Styles landed on his feet and hit a Styles Clash again. He didn’t cover. Styles went to the apron, hit the Phenomenal Forearm and covered for the pinfall victory at 23:10! Wow, that was awesome. The crowd cheered for the win.

Winner by pinfall: AJ Styles

They aired replays of this classic bout. JBL did a good job of noting this was a career-defining moment for Styles. Styles left up the ramp victorious. Post match, Cena sat up in the ring alone. He looked at his “Never Give Up” armband and left it in the ring. He went up the ramp as the loser, but it was a damn good match.

Analysis: ***** What a great match. Wow. That was very impressive. They only had one televised match two months ago, but they have wrestled at live events too. Clearly, they have built up amazing chemistry together. There were so many believable nearfalls for both guys. I thought Cena had it won a couple of times and then I thought Styles could have won multiple times as well. What a great build-up to a big moment at the end. I liked how Cena reacted in a big way when he didn’t win after the middle ropes AA. He was shocked it didn’t win, which cost him because it allowed Styles to come back. I’m glad that Styles won because it makes sense to give him some momentum heading into a possible feud with Dean Ambrose. Cena’s off to film the American Grit TV show soon. He deserves credit for putting Styles over again and this one was better than their Money in the Bank match. One of the best matches this year. I think it’s my only match with that rating with Nakamura/Zayn at five stars, which is the leader for MOTY at this point. This is second place for me at this point. If I watch it again I may change my mind.

(This match was special. They went 23 minutes while they barely left the ring, they built up so many believable nearfalls and the finish was perfect. I wouldn’t change anything about it. I went with Nakamura/Zayn as my WWE match of the year in 2016, but this one was right near the top too. Cena and Styles also had a five-star match at Royal Rumble 2017 as well.) (Review)

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That’s all for my look back at John Cena’s SummerSlam history. Do you have a favorite or a disagreement with my order? There’s nothing wrong with that. Let me know. My contact info is below.

Thanks for reading.

John Canton

Email mrjohncanton@gmail.com

Twitter @johnreport

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