Time flies when you are on top of the world. John Cena has become a worldwide superstar. Movies, TV shows, commercials, you name it. But he knows where his home is. Cena was the face of the company from 2005 all the way through 2016 before his career brought him to Hollywood. It was 15 years ago on this day where Cena was crowned at WrestleMania 21 as “The Franchise” of the WWE. You do not stand atop the world without a crowning moment of sorts. Here’s how Cena got to his grandest moment that led him to becoming a 16-time world champion.
Crowning Moment: John Cena Becomes “The Franchise”
Final Two In Royal Rumble
Winning the Royal Rumble guarantees you a world championship match at WrestleMania. Sometimes the main event, even. John Cena had his eyes on the prize during the 2005 Royal Rumble, coming close to winning his first of his career. And while he went on to win two in his career, this night was not the night. And there was even a spot where it seemed it was. The final two in the match would be Cena and Batista. Both men were rising up the board in terms of popularity, making this the perfect moment to make two cornerstones for the company moving forward. This was the infamous moment where Cena and Batista both fell out of the ring, eliminating each other at about the same time.
Vince McMahon scurried down to the ring in absolute anger that saw him blow both of his quads. He would restart the match between these two, demanding a winner. Unlike the time Lex Luger and Bret Hart split the victory, there would only be one winner this time around. Batista eventually got the better of Cena, sending him over the top rope to win the Royal Rumble. The United States Champion was going to have to follow a more difficult path if he wanted to challenge for the WWE Championship.
No. 1 Contendership Tournament
With Batista’s mind on Triple H and the World Heavyweight Championship, SmackDown general manager Teddy Long had to crown the No. 1 Contender for the WWE Championship. A tournament was made between eight superstars, with John Cena entering the fray. Cena would faceoff with WWE Champion JBL‘s associate Orlando Jordan, in the first round. Cena would get through him, moving onto the semi-finals against Booker T. Booker was an opponent that not only knew how to win championship gold but presented an opportunity for Cena to show what he was made of.
Cena managed to defeat Booker, moving on to the finals at No Way Out against former champion and the man Cena made his debut against, Kurt Angle. A real interesting moment, as if there was anyone that was going to show Cena’s ready or not, it was Angle. In a near 20-minute bout, Cena defeated Kurt Angle to secure his spot for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania against JBL.
Losing The United States Championship
With the help of JBL, Orlando Jordan became a pain in the side of Cena. While there was a chance to see a Champion vs. Champion match at WrestleMania 21, it seemed JBL was more determined to injure and annoy his opponent rather than take his title as well in the future. That being said, Jordan would uncrown Cena as champion as The Basham Brothers would get the attention of the referee, allowing JBL to smash Cena in the head with the WWE Championship and have his WrestleMania opponent pinned in the middle of the ring. In the following weeks, Cena’s custom US Championship would be destroyed by JBL and the company to only enhance their rivalry all the more.
WrestleMania 21 – You Can’t See Me, My Time Is Now
WrestleMania is where the top stars in the history of the WWE have their crowning moment. Shawn Michaels defeated Bret Hart at WrestleMania XII. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin defeated Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XIV. Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania XXX. The list can really go on for whoever you think of that has been at the top. At WrestleMania 21, John Cena had his moment. Not the main event, but still fighting for the WWE Championship. The highest title in the company. Cena would have a brawl with JBL. And while it may not be seen as their best match, it was their biggest in terms of what it meant.
Cena would hit JBL with the FU in the middle of the ring to pin him 1…2…3, winning his first WWE Championship (or world title for that matter) in his career. The new champ would celebrate in the crowd with the fans as this company changing moment was upon them. To say people expected the decade-plus run of “The Franchise” would be a lie, but it was history nonetheless.
Custom Championship & 15 World Titles Later – John Cena Has Become One Of The GOATs
Soon after his win over JBL, Cena would officially be made “The Franchise.” Cena completely redesigned the WWE Championship to make it a spinner belt and become the main title for almost a decade. To think that Cena would end up tying Ric Flair’s world title record at this time would have been a crazy thought, but here we are. John Cena put the WWE on his back for years, for better or worse. When he was moved over to Raw, that sealed his future as the guy. The rest, as they say, is history.
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