Before we dive deep into this week’s topic, I want to take a moment and go back in time to 2007. At that time, there were two major wrestling promotions on TV: WWE and TNA. While WWE was the established top company, TNA started developing a niche following of hardcore wrestling fans who were excited to see a new, exciting product on their TVs.
The two big stars of each company at the time were John Cena in WWE and AJ Styles in TNA. Wrestling fans dreamed for years what it would be like to see Cena and Styles face each other one-on-one in a wrestling ring. It was a legit dream match for wrestling fans, pitting the “Mr. WWE” vs. “Mr. TNA.” With Styles being such a mainstay in TNA, however, it never seemed that day would come.
And then it did.
And it wasn’t just one match, which would’ve been good enough for the hardcore wrestling fan like me. Instead, we’ve had four Cena vs. Styles televised matches in WWE, and they’ve all been excellent. After the first encounter between the two saw outside interference from Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows, the ensuing three matches all had clean and decisive winners.
Their SummerSlam 2016 match was one of the few bright spots on the card. Seeing AJ Styles defeat John Cena on the second-biggest WWE show of the year showed how much WWE and Cena believed in “The Phenomenal One.”
It was going to be hard to top their instant classic at SummerSlam, but the duo somehow did it six months later at the Royal Rumble. Arguably the WWE match of the year in 2017, Cena and Styles outdid their previous performance, giving us a match to remember. Cena defeated then-WWE champion Styles to win his 16th WWE world championship, tying him with Ric Flair for most world title reigns of all time. It was a brilliant wrestling match that told a fantastic story from start to finish. Both guys ended up looking strong at the end, which is rare in modern-day wrestling.
Then, last week on SmackDown Live, we were gifted yet another Cena-Styles epic. While it wasn’t as great as the prior two encounters, the match was still a fantastic showcase for both men. It once again told a great story, with Cena trying to earn his way into the WWE title match at the upcoming Fastlane PPV. It was the edge-of-your-seat action Smackdown had been missing in the past few months, giving the show a much-needed boost heading into WrestleMania.
The point I want to illustrate is how much we have taken the Cena/Styles matches for granted. I remember watching both WWE and TNA 10 years ago, dreaming of seeing Styles and Cena face off in the squared circle. When Styles first confronted Cena on the May 30, 2016, edition of Raw, it felt like a WrestleMania moment. The execution was impeccable, and it felt like the biggest thing in wrestling.
It wasn’t long ago that a Styles vs. Cena match seemed impossible. Now, we’ve been treated to four excellent matches from the duo, making it one of the most must-see matchups in WWE history.
Rarely does the match live up to the hype. Often when a “dream match” comes to fruition, the final product turns out to be disappointing. In the case of Styles and Cena, though, the product has far exceeded the hype. It has become one of the best series of matches between two competitors in WWE history, something most of us never thought would happen.
So thank you, AJ Styles and John Cena, for making the Cena vs. Styles matches never disappoint. Wrestling fans have been lucky to see this match not only happen but be excellent on every occasion. As a fan, I feel lucky to have seen these matches happen in front of my eyes, and the joy it has brought millions of wrestling fans to see you two work your magic in a wrestling ring. Here’s to more matches down the road, wherever and whenever they may happen.