It’s been two months since John Cena last stepped into a WWE ring before his return on Monday Night Raw and boy has it been a long two months.
Sure, in that time we have had the thoroughly enjoyable rise of Roman Reigns, The New Say continue to shine and Kevin Owens is still impressing.
But we have also had to watch the Divas division and United States championship battle stagnate somewhat after thoroughly impressive initial work from all involved.
And while Cena obviously hasn’t been a part of the Divas conundrum, which also had a shot in the arm this week with Becky Lynch’s performance, he was sorely missed from the US title frame.
With his open challenges, series of remarkable matches and superb storytelling, Cena gave the US title greater importance than ever.
Before he relinquished the title to Alberto Del Rio at October’s Hell in a Cell, this column argued that the momentum must not be halted.
The life that Cena breathed back into the championship needed to be maintained but since then it has been gasping for air, in dire need of yet another revival from the face of the company.
Cena did that this week with his return to the ring in typically emphatic fashion.
Here are three reasons why Cena’s return was so refreshing and very much needed.
ENGAGING THE UNIVERSE
There is no other wrestler who can divide a crowd as much as Cena, whipping them into a frenzy of either hate or love.
On his return, this was seen in full glare as the WWE Universe lapped up his comeback to the ring.
Cena’s superb promo that he given was testament to the all-round brilliance of one of the greatest wrestlers of his generation.
— WWE (@WWE) December 29, 2015
BRINGING US TITLE BACK TO THE FORE
Since Cena’s injury the US title has been lacking star power with Del Rio’s dated rivalry with Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter behind the Mexican’s run thus far.
It has been incredibly boring, predictable storytelling.
However, with the League of Nations and Cena’s return, we are set up for the division to once again be elevated to the heady heights it enjoyed under Cena’s reign.
HIS IN-RING WORK
It is undeniable that Cena is one of the best in the business when it comes to his work in the ring.
His chemistry with everyone he has ever encountered (notably Owens and Cesaro in his US title run) highlights his excellence and adaptability.
To see him back in action with Del Rio was a welcome sight and hopefully there will be many more treats to come along the Road to WrestleMania.
To say it’s been a topsy-turvy year for the WWE is as much an understatement as to call Brock Lesnar a good wrestler.
There have been some enormous highs but also a swathe of lows that have rendered it an overall just about above average 2015, a C+ with a lot of areas to improve.
And on this week’s RAW it was time once again for the WWE to give itself a pat on the back for all it has done over the past 12 months as the Slammys were held amidst the normal Monday night action.
– Why Roman Reigns needed to snap and rise to the top
– Will Sheamus ever be more than a transitional champ?
– Rooney pulls off attacking performance of the season
Superstars and Divas were heralded, matches and storylines assessed, voted for and given trophies for their mark on the calendar.
As this column looked on and saw how the WWE celebrated 2015 we nodded in agreement with a few and spat out our dummies and a few more.
In response, here are five alternative awards and winners to some more traditional ones.
MATCH OF THE YEAR – John Cena vs Kevin Owens, Battleground
Honestly, it could have been either one of the three matches between the two but the Battleground decider stands out for it drawing to a close one of the most exciting rivalries in recent history.
In all three of their bouts an aggression and inventiveness sparked new life into Cena and catapulted Owens to the fore of the WWE Universe’s mind.
Watch this one over and over again rather than Slammys winner Undertaker vs Brock Lesnar from Hell in a Cell (although that wasn’t a bad one).
UP-AND-COMER OF THE YEAR – Kevin Owens
Owens missed out to Neville in the WWE equivalent of Breakout Star of the Year, but there is no way he should have.
Neville was without doubt a highlight in 2015 but his fellow NXT graduate Owens served up treat after treat and ended up taking the Intercontinental title in the meantime.
Without a doubt, Owens made a huge impression and will be headlining shows for years to come.
BIGGEST ENTERTAINER – Paul Heyman
This column is a huge fan of Heyman and he is easily our favourite person in every WWE show.
Our only gripe is that he doesn’t feature more prominently in shows, with Heyman’s masterful mic work something we’d like to fill the entirety of Monday Night Raw.
Heyman is an utter superstar and his ability to whip up an audience into a fever kept fans salivating over Lesnar vs Taker despite each athlete’s sporadic appearances.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT – Sting
This is tricky, as we were delighted to see Sting take on Triple H at WrestleMania and then battle it out with Seth Rollins later in the year.
However, a cat and mouse that never really let us see Sting in his glorious best form left his historic crossover to WWE a little flat.
As with a lot of the WWE’s biggest moves this year, this promised so much but delivered very little.
BIGGEST TURNAROUND – New Day
From hated faces to fantastic heels, the New Day have gone from vile to victorious.
The trio fell awfully short as faces but have repaid the WWE’s faith in allowing them time to find their feet and have dominated the tag team division in 2015.
Two title reigns and ending up far and away the strongest team in the WWE, New Day delight every time they enter the ring talking of unicorns and pitting their wits against their rivals in the ring and with a mic in hand.
That is without blowing Xavier Woods’ trumpet too much, however…
After a year in which the WWE attempted to give Roman Reigns a foot up, he finally seized the world heavyweight title with the full backing of the Universe.
He was given the nod of approval at TLC as he set about dismantling Triple H and finally taking devastating ownership of his feud with The Authority.
For the majority of the past 12 months, Reigns has been pushed to the fore, only for his spell in the limelight to come to a grinding halt.
Two ‘Money in the Bank’ winners denied him the gold at times when his standing wasn’t quite fulfilling its potential with RAW, Smackdown and PPV audiences.
His talent is undoubted but there was a certain je ne sai quoi missing from the Superstar that could validate his position as a champion of the people.
At Tables, Ladders and Chairs, however, he finally found his place and in one of the WWE’s finest pieces of booking in an otherwise disappointing year for Creative.
With Sheamus sparked out on the canvas, Reigns looked to climb the ladder to rising boos around the stadium.
It showed that Reigns was not quite ready to be welcomed as WWE champion, but all would change just half an hour later.
Sheamus – with the help of the League of Nations – went on to retain his title but Reigns came out on top after dismantling Sheamus, his stooges Rusev, King Barrett and Alberto Del Rio.
Where Reigns truly stole the show however was by finally unleashing his anger on Triple H, putting him through a table, wrapping chairs round him and spearing him outside the ring as he was being carried out the stadium.
The sudden, brutal manner in which Reigns took apart the WWE COO resonated with the Universe and 24 hours later a RAW show to remember finally took Reigns to the next level.
The big guns were out as Vince McMahon made his first appearance on the show in over a year and Reigns was finally given a heel to build momentum against, the backing of the crowd centred on his hatred for The Authority – a cause they could support.
Reigns went on to dethrone Sheamus and leave the crowd on their feet, lapping up his victory.
Finally, the WWE were rewarded for their faith in Reigns, a masterstroke capping off the year that sets the company on the Road to WrestleMania with a fully fledged champion, grudges to bear and a captive audience ready to tune back into the show.
Tis the season to be jolly for the WWE.