As Blake Oestriecher eluded to on Forbes.com, John Cena’s current SmackDown hiatus may last even longer than expected. Which means the superstar’s return to WWE may take longer to become reality.
“According to WrestlingInc.com, Cena isn’t advertised to return to the blue brand until July 4th. WWE will be returning to the Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, AZ for RAW and SmackDown on Monday, July 3rd and Tuesday, July 4th, respectively,” Oestriecher wrote. “Cena is advertised for the July 4th SmackDown Live show. It is currently the only upcoming WWE event that Cena is advertised for.”
While SmackDown Live has had to shuffle its deck with the recent Superstar Shakeup – which led to the rise of Jinder Mahal as the opponent for Randy Orton tonight at WWE’s Backlash pay-per-view – Cena’s absence hasn’t been as crippling as some might have thought.
If anything, Cena taking some time away from the ring (since WrestleMania 33) has allowed Randy Orton to thrive as the veteran on deck and Kevin Owens and AJ Styles continue to steal the show on Tuesday nights. Others have also benefit from changes on the WWE roster.
“SmackDown actually is trying to move on without Cena (for the time being), as he was removed from the show’s new opening video and the brand has continued to build up new names like Jinder Mahal and Shinsuke Nakamura during his absence,” Oestriecher explains. “Still, with Cena taking the cake as WWE’s biggest draw, the company is undoubtedly looking forward to his return at a time when ratings couldn’t get much worse.”
When Cena returns, will there be a worthy opponent for the 16-time champion? Does WWE take another chance and push Bobby Roode to the main roster, giving Cena a fresh face to put over? There aren’t enough fresh faces ready to accept the “John Cena Challenge.” If WWE was smart about this, allow Cena to return on his own terms and allow him to pick and choose his battles. Now that he accomplished everything possible in WWE, maybe he takes on a “Sting” role of defending professional wrestling.
The story on Forbes.com eludes to Owens or Nakamura as potential feuds, but they do little to move the dial for me. An Owens-Cena rematch could be as dynamic as the first installment, but it does not excite me. Nakamura-Cena pits two babyfaces, which may be interesting. I like the idea of Dolph Ziggler – giving the veteran a chance to “show off” a bit as a solid mid-card feud.
Will WWE finally cash in another run with these two, which may make the most sense for Cena once he finally decides to make his triumphant return.