January 07, 2016
On Wednesday night, the scope for what’s expected to be one of the biggest WrestleManias ever, if not the biggest, changed exponentially as one of the biggest names in the industry announced on Twitter that he would be undergoing shoulder surgery.
Rather upside down start to 2016 as tomorrow I will head to Birmingham for shoulder surgery. Life's full of set backs but #nevergiveup— John Cena (@JohnCena) January 7, 2016
Cena didn’t provide any details other than the above Tweet. PW Insider was the first to report that Cena had suffered a torn rotator cuff which will require surgery that’ll put him on the shelf for 6-9 months.The Wrestling Observer then reported the injury appears to be a torn labrum, adding the same time frame for recovery as 6-9 months. Cena now joins top names Seth Rollins, Randy Orton and Cesaro on the long-term injury list.
WWE.com, to this point, hasn’t provided any updates on how long Cena will be out. If the reported 6-9 month time frame is accurate, Cena won’t return until the Money in the Bank pay-per-view in June at the earliest. He had just returned from a two-plus month hiatus after taking time off from the ring to film a reality series for FOX called “American Grit.”
Cena has returned from serious injuries in the past rather quickly, most notably returning from a torn pectoral muscle three months after surgery in the 2008 Royal Rumble match. Cena is set to appear on Thursday night’s SmackDown episode in a non-wrestling role.
With Cena’s injury comes a very serious blow to WWE’s attempt to sell out AT&T Stadium for WrestleMania 32 in Arlington, Texas. It hurts the star power of the show, in which Cena was expected to face off against The Undertaker in one of the event’s marquee matches. Cena had been feuding with the man who beat him for the United States Championship before he began his hiatus in October, Alberto Del Rio.
In Cena’s absence, WWE has a handful of options to replace his spot on the card with, whether it’s against The Undertaker or just a prominent role on the biggest show of the year. We know Brock Lesnar and WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Roman Reigns, will be on the show in some capacity, so I’m not including them in this list. Here are the top five superstars I would give serious consideration to elevating into Cena’s spot:
After Owens’ feud with Cena in the summer of 2015, he’s been toiling away in the mid-card. Owens has proved he can be a main event level talent, and this could be his opportunity to take that same step that he took last year and grab that “brass ring” that Vince McMahon always talks about. Owens already has the clout to face The Undertaker in a match, and he is the only superstar on the roster right now that can gain the most out of defeating the legendary icon in a match at WrestleMania. A win against The Undertaker could make his entire career.
Ambrose is one of the most popular superstars currently on the roster, and can actually be in the main event level if WWE felt apt to put him there for good. He plays to the crowd, has great charisma in and out of the ring and tells a story as good as anyone in the professional wrestling business.
This was a hard one for me to come around on, because Bryan does have injury issues he’ll need to overcome to become a prominent figure in WWE again. WWE is reportedly keeping him out of the ring because they don’t want him to hurt himself again – something he’s done two years in a row around the same time period. In 2014, Bryan suffered a neck injury that required surgery and he had to forfeit the WWE World Heavyweight Championship after winning it in one of the best wrestling storylines in recent memory at WrestleMania XXX. In 2015, Bryan suffered a serious concussion and was sent home from a European tour and had to relinquish the Intercontinental Championship he had won in a Ladder Match at WrestleMania 31. I’m not sure WWE is keen on putting him back in the ring, but he would easily be able to sell tickets. Just imagine over 100,000 fans chanting, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
Bray Wyatt had his opportunity to take the next step in his superstardom journey at WrestleMania 31 last year, but WWE had The Undertaker defeat him in the middle of the ring. What better way to exact his revenge than giving the Dead Man his comeuppance one year later on his show? The Wyatt Family seems to be being rebranded on television as a feared entity, and Wyatt getting a big win at WrestleMania, where he lost the last two years to John Cena and The Undertaker, respectively, would do wonders for his long-term future. Give Wyatt a chance!
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson announced last week that he would be appearing at WrestleMania 32, but he never expanded on what role he would be in for the event. If the plan was for him not to wrestle, those plans might change now that Cena is out. My first inclination would be to give Cena’s spot to an up-and-comer, but a name value that isn’t The Rock just might not sell out the AT&T Stadium, which is why he would make the most sense to put in a prominent wrestling role at the biggest event of the year.
One name I juggled with – Chris Jericho. Jericho returned to WWE television this past Monday on Raw, but his current direction is unknown further than appearing in the Royal Rumble match at the upcoming pay-per-view. He would be a big name, but I’m not sure he has anything to gain by being put in such a prominent role at WrestleMania, and he’s not as big a name as The Rock that could sell tickets, so he sort of fell out of my top five.
Regardless of how WWE comes back from this tremendous blow, it’ll be interesting to see if they can make the most out of this situation and make Cena’s absence as minimal a blow as possible.