I’m sure you’ve seen it by now, but Kurt Angle made some noise on Twitter this week, saying that he feels John Cena is the greatest WWE Superstar of all-time.
As is the case with pretty much anything involving Cena, people’s opinions were strong, and their opinions were also vastly different. Of course, you had plenty of people who agreed with Angle, but the “Cena can’t wrestle” crowd made sure to come out in full force, too. It happens.
Is Cena the greatest WWE Superstar of all-time?
Well, it depends on what you’re using as your judging criteria. Let’s take a deeper look at it.
Is your main criteria the amount of titles someone has won? Cena’s title history is pretty well-documented:
- 13-time WWE Champion
- 3-time World Heavyweight Champion
- 5-time United States Champion
- 2-time WWE Tag Team Champion
- 2-time World Tag Team Champion
- 2-time Royal Rumble Winner
- Money In The Bank Winner
When you look at the most widely-accepted rankings of most major World Title reigns in the history of wrestling, Cena is tied at 16 with Ric Flair. What separates them is that Cena had all of those reigns with WWE, while Flair’s were obviously with the NWA, WCW, and the WWF. To some, that doesn’t mean much of anything. However, if the conversation is about the greatest WWE Superstar of all-time, not the greatest Pro Wrestler of all-time, then it means just about everything, doesn’t it? Flair has had an insanely successful career, but he only has two WWF Title reigns to go with three World Tag Team Title reigns, one Intercontinental Title reign, and a Royal Rumble win. If you’re looking at real competition for Cena in this particular category, you’re talking about Triple H and Randy Orton, but nobody else. Let’s start by looking at Triple H’s title history:
- 9-time WWF/WWE Champion
- 5-time World Heavyweight Champion
- 5-time Intercontinental Champion
- 2-time European Champion
- 2-time WWF Tag Team Champion
- 1-time Unified WWE Tag Team Champion
- 2-time Royal Rumble Winner
- King Of The Ring Winner
Now, Randy Orton:
- 9-time WWE Champion
- 4-time World Heavyweight Champion
- 1-time Intercontinental Champion
- 1-time United States Champion
- 1-time World Tag Team Champion
- 1-time Smackdown Tag Team Champion
- 2-time Royal Rumble Winner
- Money In The Bank Winner
Now, I’m not sure about your math skills, but not only does Cena have more World Title reigns than Triple H or Orton, but he also has more overall title reigns than either of them. The only people who compete with Cena for overall title reigns in WWE history are either names who were involved in “joke” divisions (24/7 Title, Hardcore Title, etc) or people who were largely midcard and/or tag team wrestlers for their WWE tenure. If success and greatness is measured by title victories, then Cena is definitely the greatest in WWE history.
Some of you are now chiming in with longevity being your main criteria. You can have a great year or two, but what if that’s it? How about the people who were around forever, but also around and making a difference? Cena made his television debut for the company on the June 27th, 2002 episode of Smackdown. If you count the Firefly Funhouse Match at WrestleMania as an actual match, and WWE does, then that means the span between his first televised and last (possibly) televised match is nearly 18 years. Of those 18 years, he has been a “top” guy for the last 15 of them. That’s 15 consecutive years of being viewed as THE guy. That might not sound like a ton to some of you, but that’s incredible. Hulk Hogan, for example, never came close to that. If you’re going from the day he defeated The Iron Sheik to win the WWF Title (the day it is written that “Hulkamania” was born) until the day he left the company, you’re looking at about nine-and-a-half years. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin? If you’re generous and use a time frame from the day he won the 1996 King Of The Ring until the day his in-ring career ended, you’re looking at a tad under seven years. The Rock? Just under five-and-a-half years from his first WWF Title victory to the first time he left the company. The advantages for Cena tend to stop around there, though. Randy Orton, for example, won his first World Title a little over 16 years ago, and he very well could be the new WWE Champion once again by the time some of you read these words. He’s also putting in some of the best work of his career right now, and at 40 years old, could be around for years to come if he avoids injuries. That could mean we all have to revisit this subject again in, say, 2025 once Orton has won more titles and had a longer run at the top, but let’s just go with what we have for sure thus far.
If you’re looking at WWE longevity, there’s one name to talk about. A name that is in the news cycle again because of a special anniversary that he’s set to celebrate soon. Of course, I’m talking about none other than The Undertaker. This year’s Survivor Series event marks the 30th anniversary of his debut with the company. This category is where people’s opinions on Taker differ a lot, though. Yes, he’s been around for 30 years, but what’s your definition of someone being “on top” in the wrestling business? He won seven total World Titles, but he spent way more of his career as a “special attraction” type of character, where he’s a big deal, but doesn’t need any sort of title to prove it. Also, his most famous in-ring accomplishment, the undefeated WrestleMania streak, wasn’t looked at as anything special for years. It was mentioned, yes, but it wasn’t looked at as “The Streak” until at least WrestleMania 17, when he defeated Triple H to go 9-0, and then things got bigger from there. With that said, it’s not like Taker was wrestling in dark matches and couldn’t make it to television for lengthy stretches at a time. 30 years is 30 years, folks. Just think about that for a moment. Imagine John Cena showing up for one or two matches every year for the next 12 years. Ironically enough, if he did that, he would be 55 years old, which is how old The Undertaker is now. Taker was still wrestling regularly 12 years ago, working 36 televised matches in 2008. Do you know how far back you need to go to find the last 36 televised matches Cena has worked? The February 7th, 2017 episode of Smackdown alllll the way up to WrestleMania 36. The point is that there’s just no way Cena is wrestling for the next 12 years, even once or twice a year. Hollywood has latched onto him, and he finds himself getting bigger and better roles with each passing year. If you’re talking about WWE longevity, I don’t think anyone will ever out-GOAT The Undertaker.
What about money? That’s a pretty important factor when it comes to looking at the greatest wrestlers ever. How do you calculate that? You can look at the numbers in a couple different ways. You could look at WWE’s yearly revenue, which is the amount of money they received from their normal business activities. You could look at their profit or loss, which takes their revenue and removes whatever they spent on expenses. That’s the key stat. For example, in the 1996-97 financial year, WWE’s revenue was close to $82 million. That seems fine and dandy, but once you remove their expenses, they actually had a loss of over $6.5 million for the year. Just revenue alone would mean Cena is the GOAT of all GOATS, as he was the company’s top star when they got their record television deals, WWE Network money, Saudi deals, and so on and so forth. What about profits? If you’re looking at the profits, you kinda have to take away the current year. The company is making money, hand over fist, but that is largely to do with the fact that they aren’t spending countless millions to travel all over the world and put on shows. Things tend to get a little cheaper when you stay in Orlando for months on end and aren’t having to haul your equipment around. The second quarter of 2020 saw WWE bring in $43.8 million in total profits alone. $43.8 million in profits would be one of the company’s all-time highest YEARLY profit numbers! Things have just changed so much from, say, Hulk Hogan’s era to Steve Austin’s era to John Cena’s era that it is insanely difficult to just look at financials alone, even mixed in with attendance numbers.
What about the matches? Who had the best ones? Who had the biggest ones? Someone like Hulk Hogan has participated in some huge matches in his time with the company, but how of them can you say were good, let alone great? If we’re talking WWE match quality, the first thing some of you need to do is take your bias against John Cena and stick it smooth up your own anuses. He certainly doesn’t have the same in-ring style as a Daniel Bryan or an Eddie Guerrero, but he knows how to shine when the lights are bright. How many “classics” has he wrestled in, though? Match ratings and all that are purely subjective, so my “classic” doesn’t necessarily mean your “classic” and vice versa. If you care about Dave Meltzer’s star ratings at all, he has Cena listed at an average of 3.46 stars for the matches he has reviewed for the Wrestling Observer. For a bit of perspective, Randy Orton is at 3.43, and so is Samoa Joe (for all his matches, not just WWE). Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, considered one of the greatest in-ring technicians to ever live, is at 3.40 stars averaged. Ric Flair? 3.29 stars. Steve Austin? 3.24 stars. Kento Miyahara? 4.40 stars. The Undertaker? 2.83 stars. Enzo Amore? 3.02 stars. There’s no reason for me to bring up any of that Meltzer stuff, other than getting a rise out of certain people. For MY money, on MY personal ratings scale, I would rate Cena ahead of the other candidates for “Greatest WWE Superstar Of All-Time.” Whether it’s Edge, Shawn Michaels, CM Punk, Triple H, AJ Styles, Daniel Bryan, Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins, Umaga, JBL, Brock Lesnar, Batista, Cesaro, Bray Wyatt, Carlito, Kurt Angle, The Rock, Eddie Guerrero, Rob Van Dam, Chris Jericho, Rey Mysterio… you get the point… I have found myself being very entertained by Cena matches, and I’m only talking about singles matches right now. Throw in some more names if you’re talking about Triple Threats, Fatal Four Ways, multi-man Ladder Matches, Elimination Chambers, etc. Before people get this twisted, I’m not saying Cena is the best in-ring wrestler to ever step foot in a WWE ring. I’m not fucking stupid. I’m saying that I have enjoyed his matches, and admire his ability to step up in big match situations, for the majority of his career.
I think what I’m trying to say is that I agree with Kurt Angle. If you look at all the ways you can pick the greatest to ever do it in WWE, I think you have to put Cena at or near the top of just about all of them. Titles won, longevity at the top, money made, best matches, and even things I didn’t mention like cultural relevance and star power… all categories that Cena shines.
While I think Ric Flair is the OVERALL GOAT, I am confident in saying John Cena is WWE’s GOAT.
Weekly Power Rankings
- Jon Moxley: Another big match for Mox. Another win for Mox. We’re about to hit the eight-month mark of his AEW Title reign, and he continues to look very strong, both in the ring and on the mic. A lot of people saw the Lance Archer match as the spot where Moxley was likely to losely the titley, but he pulled off the hard-fought victory. It’s going to be fun to watch him continue moving on.
- Letting Wrestlers Be Themselves: I loved the brief New Day promo we got on Smackdown. They were able to be themselves and speak from the heart. It showed. They weren’t being fed lines to say and reading bullet points from a script. Isn’t it amazing how that seems to work for the better?
- Orange Cassidy: When AEW first started, Cassidy was nothing more than a comedy character. That was the whole point of the gimmick. People wondered what kind of mileage that would have. Well, with his feud against Chris Jericho and now his TNT Title match against Cody, AEW has allowed Cassidy to show that he can actually “go” in the ring. That’s the type of layer added that can keep him fresh (ly squeezed), and it puts him in a spot where he doesn’t have to be just that comedy character that he was.
- Roman Reigns: He continues to excel in his new role, defeating Braun Strowman and adding a submission finisher to his arsenal. It’s the best work of his career, with no real end in sight.
- Fans Of Old WCW Halloween Havoc Gimmicks: Not only is the event name coming back, but we’re also getting “Spin The Wheel, Make The Deal” matches? Sign me up. Hopefully, the following match type isn’t on there, though…
- Keith Lee vs Braun Strowman In The First Ball-For-A-Ball Match: Man, if you thought it was bad when Seth Rollins scooped Rey Mysterio’s eye out, just you wait. I don’t know what the point of having two behemoths give each other nut shots is, but it’s happening, and we have to accept it.
- Lars Sullivan: Whether you like it or not, he’s getting pushed. Until he inevitably derails his own career again, that is.
- Jordan Omogbehin Continuing To Get Paid For Doing Nothing: Standing there and being an imposing ninja. Standing there and being an imposing doorman. Standing there and being an imposing bodyguard. The man is living his best life.
- Drake Maverick & Killian Dain: By God, this is winning me over. That theme song. That “nobody beats my little brother up but me” story. It’s entertaining, and it actually has me invested to see what happens next.
- Eddie Kingston: He continues to find ways to be involved in the main event scene, and he’s making the most of his screen time. As a personal favorite of mine, that makes me happy.
This Week’s Playlist: “Good Morning” by Black Thought, Pusha T, Killer Mike, & Swizz Beatz… “Steak Um” by Black Thought & ScHoolboy Q… “In Your Eyes (Remix)” by The Weeknd & Kenny G… “Save Us” by Atreyu… “Put Your Records On” by Ritt Momney… “Can You Stand The Rain” by New Edition… “Can You Stand The Rain” by Boyz 2 Men… “Cupid” by 112… “Anytime” by Brian McKnight… “Enter Sandman” by Metallica… “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” by Journey… “Return Of The Mack” by Mark Morrison… “Welcome To Jamrock” by Damian Marley… “Tomorrow People” by Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers… “Power To Move Ya” by Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers… “La Bamba” by Los Lobos… “a thousand years (lullaby)” by Christina Perri… “Ric Flair Drip” by Offset… “Utu Bang Bang” by Ka’ikena Scanlan… “Garden Of Black Roses” by Inner Circle