The Superman of professional wrestling and sports entertainment is on the shelf for 6 to 8 weeks. After being forced to cut his Monday Night RAW appearance short this past week, John Cena had surgery on Tuesday morning to have bone chips removed from him right elbow.
Normally this not-so-serious injury to one man on the roster would not result in too much concern. But this is John Cena. Cena is the LeBron James, Derek Jeter, and Peyton Manning of the WWE all in one. He is without a doubt the biggest draw the company has and its most charismatic superstar.
In fact, Cena is such a big star that WWE actually refunded the tickets of fans at the RAW World Tour house show at White Plains, New York this weekend if they asked for it just because Cena wasn’t there. Something like this is typically unthinkable in the WWE, but it just goes to show how big of a star Cena is. Could you imagine the Miami Heat refunding tickets to LeBron James fans if he ever gets injured or takes the day off when the playoff spot is already locked up?
Where does this leave WWE?
Rest assured, John Cena is not going to be missing any of the RAW tapings. Fans at home will be able to see the leader of Cenation as usual. But Cena is likely not going to be at the house shows that are not taped. This might result in a ticket sales issue for WWE, but at the same time it is a blessing in disguise.
With Cena out of the lineup, there is now opportunity for younger wrestlers to jump into the spotlight and show the WWE Universe why they deserve to challenge for the WWE Title.
However, right now Cena is the middle of a huge feud with WWE Champion CM Punk. Cena was originally slated to face off with Punk one more time at the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view next month to challenge for the WWE Title after their last match ended in a draw. But now it seems that those plans are on hold.
Problem for the WWE
The question now becomes: Where does this leave CM Punk? Looking up and down the roster, there does not appear to be a logical plug-in to replace Cena for the next 6 to 8 weeks. Punk is currently in the middle of a strong heel run and the only other big names not already in the middle of programs themselves are also heels.
It is widely expected that Punk will end up defending his WWE Title in the Armageddon version of the Hell in a Cell match against 5 other men. Retaining the championship under those circumstances would make Punk look very strong. It is also the only intriguing match opportunity that would not be awkwardly thrown together the last second.
This series of events would leave Punk as champion in November. At that point WWE is likely to keep the WWE Title on Punk to go into the Royal Rumble to face The Rock. This is where we reach the true issue for the WWE and their future.
Respect Cena or Elevate CM Punk?
It is obvious that WWE has set up a storyline stretching well over 2 years. WWE has brought in Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to feud with John Cena. At WrestleMania 27 The Rock closed the show by attacking Cena and the next night the main event between the two for WrestleMania 28 was set one year in advance. At WrestleMania 28, Cena lost to The Rock. Cena has done the job for The Rock two years in a row.
Now it is time for Cena to get his. It is expected that The Rock will defeat Punk for the WWE Title at the Royal Rumble, and then John Cena will defeat The Rock for the championship at WrestleMania 29.
But this is the perfect time to truly bring Punk up into the same air as men like Stone Cold Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Undertaker, The Rock, John Cena, Hulk Hogan, and Randy Savage. If WWE reverses the payoffs and makes it so that it is CM Punk who defeats The Rock at WrestleMania to regain his WWE Title, Punk would elevate into rare air.
So the WWE now has a choice. Do they show respect to the hardest working man pro wrestling has ever seen in John Cena, who has done more for the WWE than arguably anyone not named Hulk Hogan or Steve Austin? Or do they do what they haven’t done since 2005 with John Cena and create a star in CM Punk who can truly transcend pro wrestling and become a star in the entire entertainment world?