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It's 14 years to this day that John Cena made his WWE debut, answering an open challenge made by Kurt Angle on Smackdown.
I would like to thank the @WWE and its @WWEUniverse for allowing me to live everyday as a dream come true for the past 14 years #NeverGiveUp
- John Cena (@JohnCena) June 27, 2016
It's fair to say that since then, Cena has made a monumental impact in WWE - demonstrated in his 14 WWE World title reigns, just one short of equalising Ric Flair's record. Out of the ring, he has impacted many lives by granting over 500 wishes for kids.
Love him or hate him, Cena lives and breathes WWE. He embodies what it means to be a WWE superstar. He may well go down as the greatest performer of all time and that's fairly apt when you remember that he has been able to stay on top for 10+ years.
'The face that runs the place' has been involved in some of WWE's most legendary match-ups, with a series of Wrestlemania main events. There's plenty to choose from, but I take a look at five of Cena's best matches in WWE.
We start with a match that occurred in May 2015, as WWE brought back the Elimination Chamber back for an exclusive WWE network event. There's no doubt that this match stole the show. To provide some background, Cena had dropped down the card and was doing a stellar job in elevating the United States title thanks to his fantastic open challenges. Then NXT Champion Kevin Owens appeared to answer one of those challenges on Raw but instead attacked Cena, prompting this match to be made. It was incredible to see the NXT Champion and United States square off and they served up an absolute classic back and forth bout, with Owens getting the surprise win.
Cena squared off against another former independent star in Daniel Bryan in the main event of Summerslam 2013, the WWE Champion personally selecting Bryan as his opponent. The two displayed great chemistry and intensity which was rare to see from two good guys, Cena played to the crowd wonderfully. It had a shock result as well, with fan favourite Bryan pinning Cena clean in the middle of the ring, before being attacked by special guest referee Triple H, who then allowed Randy Orton to cash in his Money in the Bank contract to become the new champion.
It's very difficult for WWE to have an enjoyable "extreme" match in the PG era, inevitably they are somewhat limited in what they can produce for the audience. But one exception to this was in 2012 when Brock Lesnar returned and faced John Cena in a chaotic and bloody brawl which was lapped up by fans. And like he so often does, Cena overcame the odds to just about slay the Beast.
Making it into the top two is Cena's thrilling encounter with Shawn Michaels, which happened to take place in London, England. Cena and Michaels squared at off at Wrestlemania for the WWE Championship and though it was a solid bout, this one that happened live on Monday Night Raw blew it out of the water. The duo are considered to be two of the greatest of all time and showed just why in this action-packed match which was lasted nearly an hour. After several counters and near falls, it ended with a deft Sweet Chin Music from HBK.
Cena against the so-called "indie favourites" is just pure magic and prime evidence for that statement comes in the form of Cena's 2011 clash with CM Punk. The build-up was very real, Punk carrying out his famous "Pipepomb" promo. And the match itself was truly special, full of intense in-ring action combined with an electric Chicago crowd. The place went absolutely mental when Punk hit the GTS for the 1-2-3 and ran off into the crowd with the WWE title in his graps. Cena is known for being the man who ultimately wins his matches and feuds; he gets a lot of flack for that. But here, he was totally unselfish, played the crowd perfectly and played his part in a phenomenal match. Punk and Cena had another classic match on an episode of Raw in 2013, furthering their immense chemistry.
Here's to many more fruitful years in WWE for John Cena.
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