The Champ Is Here. So are his rivalries.
What has caused John Cena to make so many enemies (not to mention angry fans) over a relatively short period of time? For one thing, Cena has been in the top spot for over a decade, necessitating a constant stream of grudge matches. Plus, the somewhat-recent advent of monthly pay-per-views have shortened the length of major feuds.
In counting down the Top 50 John Cena Rivalries, Wrestling Merchandise and Memories looked at the following criteria:
How prominent was the rivarly?
What type of stage(s) did it play out on?
How memorable were the matches and/or segments?
How much did the rivalry do to advance either person's career?
If you'd like to be a part of this conversation, Tweet us at @canadianbulldog using the hashtag #Top50, or leave a comment below.
Ready? Here we go!
Interestingly, Orlando Jordan's first SmackDown appearance resulted in a loss to John Cena (who was a heel at the time). In 2005, Cena lost his United States championship to Jordan thanks to interference from JBL, whom Cena was feuding with at the time.
Right before John Cena was traded to Raw from SmackDown in 2005, he was engaged in a conflict with Christian that included a hilarious rap battle at that year's Royal Rumble. The two competed in a title match at Vengeance 2005 with Chris Jericho also a participant. Years later the two had several matches on Raw.
When John Cena first turned heel in 2002, one of his first opponents was WWE Hall of Famer Rikishi. The dancing Samoan wasn't overly impressed with Cena's new arrogant hip hop gimmick and challenged him to a match. The two had several clashes on SmackDown television, with both men trading wins back and forth.
While pursuing the WWE Championship, R-Truth turned heel in 2011. Shortly thereafter, he began demonstrating a new "conspiracy" gimmick, and accused John Cena of manipulating his fans. This led to a main event match at the one-off Capitol Punishment PPV, which Truth's "childhood hero" won.
Throughout The Authority's reign of terror in the mid 2010s, John Cena was a constant target. The Champ was pitted against several Authority henchmen, including The Big Show, Corporate Kane, Randy Orton and Seth Rollins.
While John Cena has never actually wrestled Stephanie McMahon, they've definitely had a rivalry for years. Whether working for her father Vince McMahon, as part of The Authority or on her own, the two have never quite seen eye to eye.
Carlito's debut match in WWE was a United States Title match on SmackDown against John Cena. Carlito managed to win the championship and feuded with Cena for several months, especially when his bodyguard Jesus injured Cena at a nightclub. The two also battled again when they were on Raw.
Although the rivalry between Vince McMahon and John Cena isn't as pronounced as, say, McMahon and Steve Austin, it still manages to ignite on television every once in a while. The two actually had a match in 2010 on Raw, where Batista helped McMahon pin Cena, though most of their battles have been verbal in nature.
The Great Khali
In the spring of 2007, John Cena was looking for the next top contender for his WWE Championship when The Great Khali attacked him and later stole his title belt. Khali even pinned Cena clean in a match on Saturday Night's Main Event.
Rusev made himself known to John Cena immediately following the 2015 Royal Rumble, and the two battled it out at four PPVs in as many months. Cena lost the first match when passing out from Rusev's accolade, although he won the next three matches, ending The Bulgarian Brute's undefeated streak.
In 2006, the undefeated Umaga was declared number one contender to John Cena's WWE Championship. The two signed a match New Year's Revolution, where Cena handed The Samoan Bulldozer his first loss. Umaga's second loss to Cena came later that month in a Last Man Standing Match.
Years before their forgettable WrestleMania XXXIV encounter, The Undertaker was the first person to shake John Cena's hand following his WWE debut in 2002. The two battled the following year, with Cena allegedly not respecting The Dead Man. They also competed on Raw in 2006.
Before becoming a full-time member of WWE, Daniel Bryan lost clean to John Cena during one of the company's B shows. By 2013, Bryan had been named number one contender to Cena's WWE Championship and captured the title in a hard-fought match at SummerSlam.
In 2009, John Cena inserted himself into the WrestleMania XXV World Title match also involving The Big Show and Edge when he procured compromising information on Vickie Guerrero. A few years later, Guerrero was managing Dolph Ziggler when The Show Off was embroiled in a feud with The Champ.
AJ Styles made the term "Beat up John Cena" popular after turning on The Champ in 2016. The two had an incredible match at that year's SummerSlam and kept going back and forth to the next year's Royal Rumble.
Although John Cena has feuded with the three former members of The Shield, his biggest rivalry among them was with Seth Rollins. The two had an epic match at SummerSlam in 2015, in which Rollins walked away with both the World and U.S. Championships.
In 2007, WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels became the number one contender to John Cena's WWE Championship and prepared for a match against him at WrestleMania III. Before that, though, the two teamed up against Rated RKO, with Michaels constantly teasing dissention on his soon-to-be opponent.
Chris Jericho was John Cena's first opponent on a WWE PPV. Years later, when Cena was drafted to Raw, his first extended rivalry was with Y2J, who began conspiring with Raw GM Eric Bischoff. Eventually, Jericho lost a Loser Gets Fired Match to Cena on Raw.
WWE Hall of Famer Kurt Angle was John Cena's first WWE opponent on the June 27, 2002 edition of SmackDown. The two also feuded when both men were on Raw and Angle was being mentored by Raw GM Eric Bischoff.
Paul Heyman was partly responsible for John Cena's babyface turn in 2003 that Cena has kept intact to this day, when the agent attempted to recruit The Champ for his Survivor Series team. Since then, Cena has battled numerous Paul Heyman Guys, including CM Punk, Brock Lesnar, Curtis Axel and Cesaro.
In 2015, Kevin Owens jumped from NXT (where he was still champion) specifically to challenge United States Champion John Cena. In their first outing, Owens pinned Cena cleanly and came rather close on subsequent attempts as well.
In June 2010, John Cena was attacked by eight NXT rookies that later identified themselves as The Nexus. This led to a vicious six-month rivalry with Cena in which The Champ was briefly forced to be a member of the organization. Cena finally triumphed over Nexus leader Wade Barrett during the TLC PPV.
John Cena and Brock Lesnar have been at odds ever since Cena was a cocky heel challenging the babyface Lesnar on SmackDown. When The Beast returned in 2012, Cena was his very first target. And in 2014, during the WWE World Title match at SummerSlam, Lesnar took Cena to Suplex City, winning the gold.
It's hard to find two more different top wrestlers than John Cena and CM Punk. One is a politically-correct, corporate-friendly type who is booed by hardcore fans; the other one... not so much. The apex of Cena and Punk's feud took place at Money In The Bank 2011, where Punk took the WWE Title and left the company.
The Rock and John Cena have only wrestled each other twice, but both were classics. Between 2011 and 2013, a feud with The Great One's was Cena's priority. Rock interfered in Cena's WWE Title match at WrestleMania XXVII and a match between the two was agreed to the following night on Raw. One year later, Rock was victorious and Cena waited another year to get his match, in which he was victorious and the two finally shook hands.
In 2017, Baron Corbin became one of the few people to unsuccessfully cash in his Money In The Bank briefcase, and it was because of John Cena. Corbin had been mixing in Cena's business, so Cena returned the favor after Corbin cashed in. The two then fought at SummerSlam.
The biggest boost to Austin Theory's career (so far) happened in 2023, when the United States Champion challenged John Cena to a match at WrestleMania XXXIX. While Cena initially declined the challenge, the two did face off at the event, with Theory defeating Cena.
John Morrison's first match on Raw (as Johnny Nitro) was against John Cena, which he lost. He gained a bit of revenge when Cena took on Kevin Federline on Raw, and helped the.... musician (?) shockingly defeat the champ. And as Morrison, he and The Miz both took on John Cena at Extreme Rules 2011.
While John Cena had his first exposure to Dean Ambrose when he was part of the heel trio, the two continued to have bad blood when both were babyfaces. Cena and Ambrose also feuded ver which man would get to Seth Rollins first, while Ambrose answered Cena's open challenge as U.S. Champion.
In 2009, Cena had to go through Orton's stablemates in The Legacy, the team of Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase. Cena battled The Legacy -- whom he nicknamed "The Baby Oil Boys Club" -- in numerous tag team, trios and one-on-one matches over the course of that year.
Alberto Del Rio
Alberto Del Rio and John Cena were at each others throats for most of Del Rio's WWE runs. Their biggest interaction was leading up to Hell In The Cell 2013, where Cena defeated Del Rio for the World Title. The two also had a "Miracle on 34th Street" hardcore match that included outside interference from Santa Claus.
The night after WrestleMania XXIX, John Cena was set to defend his WWE Championship against Mark Henry, when Henry's Mania opponent Ryback came to the ring. Instead of targeting The World's Strongest Man, Ryback attacked Cena, leading to a Last Man Standing match at Extreme Rules.
In 2004, John Cena's feud with WWE Hall of Famer Booker T on SmackDown was turned into a Best of Five series for the United States Championship. The rivalry picked up again years later when Booker became World Champion King Booker.
Believe it or not, John Cena and WWE Hall of Famer Lita have wrestled one another. During Cena's feud with Edge in 2006, Lita was the manager and love interest for The Rated R Superstar. During one Raw, GM Jonathan Coachman ordered Cena to wrestle Lita - with one arm tied behind his back.
As soon as John Cena was drafted to Raw in 2005, he was at odds with General Manager Eric Bischoff. Bischoff was upset that Cena wouldn't interfere in the upcoming ECW One Night Stand show. As a result, Bischoff sent challengers including Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho and Chris Masters at the Champ.
Shortly after his debut on Raw in 2009, Sheamus won a "break-through battle royal" to get a WWE Championship opportunity at John Cena. Later that month, he shocked the world by defeating Cena in a table match to win the strap. The two continued to feud for months after that.
Dolph Ziggler began feuding with John Cena at the end of 2012 with a ladder match at the TLC PPV. Cena was set to win when his then-love interest AJ Lee helped Ziggler win the match. From there, the two feuded on Raw until early in the year of 2013.
In 2012, John Cena had seen enough of Raw and SmackDown General Manager John Laurinaitis controlling WWE with an iron fist. Cena challenged Big Johnny to a match at the Over The Limit PPV where, if Cena won, Laurinaitis would quit.
While John Cena and WWE Hall of Famer Mark Henry have crossed paths since at least 2008, the most important part of the rivalry was in 2013, when Henry teased retiring from the ring. When Cena went to congratulate Henry he was powerslammed, setting up a program between the two.
John Cena and Roman Reigns have had only two big matches to date, but they were barnburners fueled by a very personal war of words. Reigns defeated Cena at No Mercy 2017, and again at SummerSlam 2021.
Surprisingly, The Miz and John Cena have battled at two different WrestleManias. At WrestleMania XXVII, they competed in the main event. Six years later, they competed with their better halves in a Mixed Tag Team Match which ended with Cena proposing to his then-girlfriend.
John Cena and WWE Hall of Famer Eddie Guerrero first feuded in 2003 when Latino Heat was United States Champion. Although the feud was relatively short, it included a "Parking Lot Brawl" on SmackDown where the two rivals fought each other and used weapons within a circle of parked cars.
Bray Wyatt is another opponent John Cena took on at two WrestleManias. At WrestleMania XXX, Cena won, although they would go on to trade wins that year. Six years later, Cena battled The Fiend in a bizarre Firefly Funhouse Match.
Although they'd crossed paths many times before, the most pronounced part of the rivalry between John Cena and Kane was in early 2012, when The Big Red Machine attempted to make The Champ "embrace the hate." Cena refused, even when the two had an Ambulance Match at that year's Elimination Chamber PPV.
The Big Show
John Cena and The Big Show have had (at least) three major programs over the years: At WrestleMania XX, Cena defeated the giant to win the U.S. Title. At WrestleMania XXV, they were involved in a Triple Threat match, and in 2012, Show tossed Cena through a huge spotlight at Backlash.
John Bradshaw Layfield
John Bradshaw Layfield was responsible for John Cena's first main event level feud over the World Championship in 2005. JBL belittled Cena for his middle class upbringing while pointing to his lavish lifestyle. The two had a one-on-one match at WrestleMania XXI in which Cena won the gold.
The rivalry between John Cena and WWE Hall of Famer Triple H began with the main event of 2006's WrestleMania XXII and hasn't let up since. They battled in a Triple Threat match at WrestleMania XXIV, in another Triple Threat match at Survivor Series 2009, and clashed throughout The Game's reign as leader of The Authority.
The rivalry between Batista and John Cena actually predates their WWE days and began when they were training in OVW. On the main stage, they've been ambassadors of their respective WWE brands and clashed several times, including the main event of SummerSlam 2008 and WrestleMania XXVI.
WWE Hall of Famer Edge shocked John Cena when he cashed in the first Money In The Bank briefcase in January 2006, defeating an already-exhausted Cena to win his first WWE Championship. The two would go on to trade the belt back and forth and headline several PPVs with their very unique chemistry.
According to some researchers on the subject, Randy Orton and John Cena have had more than 300 matches against each other, spanning from OVW to WWE and headlining nearly a dozen pay-per-views. They are such natural rivals that it always seems to be an intense matchup, no matter what the background or how many times they fight.