The reinvention of John Cena over the course of the last 12 months has been remarkable.
Since last winning the WWE World Heavyweight title (for the 12th time), Cena has gone from scapegoat for fans bored of his dominance, to the man at the centre of one of the most excititing transitions in the company’s history.
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And throughout, Cena has remained the most marketable Superstar on the WWE roster, despite a large proportion of fans falling utterly out of love with the doctor of thuganomics.
It is a role Cena has admirably held for a decade and although his outside of the ring activities with charities, sponsors, in movies and marketing haven’t diminished, his assault on the most prized possession in WWE has.
However, this is no bad thing.
While Cena has stepped out of the spotlight at the top of the roster, it has allowed for the likes of Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, Bray Wyatt, Dolph Ziggler and Daniel Bryan make the step up to establishing themselves as the next generation of the best entertainers in the business.
The biggest benefactor, though, is Kevin Owens.
The WWE NXT champion added the US title to his repertoire with an historic victory over Cena at this week’s Elimination Chamber, ushering in a changing of the guard as well as promising a fine rivalry between the pair.
Cena had previously brought the US title back to life with his challenge of the previously unbeaten Rusev and a series of weekly open challenges for the title allowed a succession of middle card Superstars the chance to gain notoriety and a shot at a title.
And while Owens’ transition onto the main roster was inevitable, thanks to Cena it seemed natural and carried greater gravitas.
Cena has suffered as the all-conquering baby-face of the company with fans as much as he has gained financially, but he is not to be blamed for his employers’ insistence to keep him at the top.
What must be taken from Owens’ shock win in Texas is that the WWE is taking notice.
A Cena loss to a newcomer at a PPV was unheard of, even up until last week. The fact that it happened is a massive step towards the future and a sure sign that Cena’s time may well be coming to an end as a top-level performer.
With such a strong NXT roster in both the men’s and divas’ divisions, Owens’ victory is an exciting one for fans gagging to see the next crop of Superstars given more sunlight and some of the older names put out to pasture.
Love him or hate him, it was only right that Cena was at the heart of this significant change in thinking and, as he always does, he sold it superbly.
The 2015 WWE Elimination Chamber rolls into Corus Christi, Texas’ American Bank Center on Monday morning (UAE time) with the promise of an intriguing card of matches.
From the WWE’s NXT big thing taking on the face of the company, to an intense championship showdown, there should be enough to keep fans focused on each of the six main fights.
Here, Sport360 previews each contest and shares our prediction of the outcome.
Neville vs Bo Dallas: NEVILLE WINS
Considering the Englishman’s fantastic rise over the past few months, Neville’s appearance at the bottom of the card may disappoint both Superstar and the WWE Universe. Bo Dallas on the other hand has featured less and less as Neville has soared up the ranks like one of his Red Arrow finishers. Both know each other well so the action in the ring should not disappoint but we see Neville coming out on top and continuing his excellent progress.
Nikki Bella (c) vs Paige vs Naomi (WWE Divas title match): NIKKI BELLA WINS
Despite being the weakest in-ring performer of the three it is hard to look past Nikki Bella, who is closing in on the record for the longest Diva championship reign in WWE history. Paige and Naomi are getting closer to ending that record but there is very little to suggest that Nikki will fail to defend her title. A little help from her twin sister may ensure she does just that.
Seth Rollins (c) vs Dean Ambrose (WWE World Heavyweight title match): SETH ROLLINS WINS
— WrestlingNews.Co (@WrestlingNewsCo) May 31, 2015
Despite the Luncatic Fringe’s popularity and the genuine threat he can pose his former Shield partner, Dean Ambrose will likely leave Texas disappointed. Rollins is the golden boy of The Authority and should have far too much for Ambrose. The presence of Kane and J&J Security will always keep the odds in Rollins’ favour and until we see the return of Brock Lesnar or a chance handed to Randy Orton, you imagine he will hold the title.
John Cena (c) vs Kevin Owens (United States Championship match): JOHN CENA WINS
This is one of the hardest matches to call. Cena, long-time face of the franchise, will have his work cut out against NXT graduate Owens. Owens is being sold as a genuine threat and his dominance over Cena in recent weeks suggests a change in hands could be possible for the US Championship. Having to stick our neck on the line, we’re going for a Cena win but not before being put through one of the biggest tests of his career. A highlight on the card.
The New Day (c) vs The Lucha Dragons vs Tyson Kidd and Cesaro vs The Prime Time Players vs The Ascension vs Los Matadores (Tag Team title Elimination Chamber match): THE NEW DAY WINS
— Wrestling Phobia (@WrestlingPhobia) May 30, 2015
Another tricky one to call with so many teams going into the relatively unknown concept of a tag team Elimination Chamber match, the title is anybody’s. While all competitors have a genuine chance, the most likely new champions would be The Lucha Dragons or Los Matadores. They have both improved massively over the last couple of months and would be popular champs. The New Day most certainly aren’t too popular but their turn heel has certainly made for interesting viewing and might be enough for the WWE to see them remain at the top of the pile.
Sheamus vs Ryback vs R-Truth vs King Barrett vs Rusev vs Dolph Ziggler (Elimination Chamber match for vacant Intercontinental title): DOLPH ZIGGLER WINS
It is both refreshing and exciting to see an Intercontinental title so fiercely contested by top athletes and reward is the headline act at this year’s Elimination Chamber. Like the other Elimination Chamber match on the card, the title could genuinely be won by any of the combatants. However, wins for either Ziggler or Rusev would ensure their rivalry not only continued but also had a championship on the line to intensify it. It would also make for great stories down the line once Danuel Bryan (hopefully) returns to action considering his history with Ziggler.
It is a rare treat for each WWE title to be fiercely contest between a number of superb in-ring performers who can all master the mic.
These periods of time are to be savoured like a keenly contest Premier League title run-in.
To see the most talented athletes in the world peaking at the same time and bringing real character to the screen is what makes premier athletic events so exciting.
At present, the WWE is just that: exciting.
While Brock Lesnar remains conspicuous in his absence since losing the title at WrestleMania and crowd favourite Daniel Bryan is out for the foreseeable future, the rest of the WWE roster is flourishing.
The battle between former Shield members Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns (and their brief reunification at Payback) has softened the blow of not seeing the dominant Lesnar take opponents to Suplex City.
Sheamus’ return to the ring and his face-off with man-mountain Ryback have equally negated Bryan’s enforced exit.
And no sooner had we said goodbye to the John Cena-Rusev rivalry than two cracking prospective storylines were thrust upon us.
While Lana’s turn-face was a long time coming, the love shown to her by the WWE Universe and the hatred directed at Rusev has made the shift one that has united fans. With Lana seemingly picking Dolph Ziggler as her new fighter, you can be sure of an ensuing rivalry that will draw great response from the stands.
The less expected change of paths came to Cena.
The United States champion was on Raw greeted by NXT title holder Kevin Owen who ended up putting Cena on his backside and sending a strong message in his first performance of note on the main show.
A great deal of credit must go to the performers who are currently providing some of the best in-ring work for some time. Equally, WWE Creative deserve a huge pat on the back for maintaining such momentum.
Similar to the Raw that followed WrestleMania, this week’s PPV follow-up built on the feuds that developed and instantly geared viewers towards Elimination Chamber.
Some of that momentum was lost in the ensuing weeks after WrestleMania and you hope that is not the case this time around.
Considering the chemistry the current roster has, it will be an opportunity missed if that is the case.
MOVE OF THE WEEK – The Shield triple powerbomb
For many this was the highlight of this week’s PPV. Seeing Shield briefly reunite was a great sight and brought back some superb memories of the faction’s utter dominance in the WWE.
TWEETS OF THE WEEK – #LanaFightsBack
— WWE Universe (@WWEUniverse) May 19, 2015
— WWE (@WWE) May 19, 2015
— Dolph Ziggler (@HEELZiggler) May 19, 2015
— WWE (@WWE) May 19, 2015
— Justin LaBar (@JustinLaBar) May 19, 2015