If there’s one constant criticism John Cena draws to this day, it’s that he’s supposedly responsible for burying superstars, resulting in them never reaching their potential in the WWE.
You can understand that side of the argument. You only need to do a quick search online to see hundreds of threads discussing the same thing and more often than not, the stars that Cena has ‘buried’ are usually the same, with Bray Wyatt and Wade Barrett names which continuously pop up.
But for every Wyatt and Barrett, there are stars that Cena has put over. Whether it’s to cement their status in the main event scene or to make them look dominant, Cena hasn’t always used Triple H’s infamous shovel time and time again. Here are five occasions where Cena has massively put over WWE superstars.
Fans can’t be blamed for instantly thinking about Brock Lesnar’s return match where he lost to John Cena in his first event back. Although that decision was not only questionable but also unforgivable for some, their next and most memorable encounter is what shines Cena in a favourable light. Considering Lesnar was coming off an incredible year where he had defeated The Undertaker at WrestleMania, there was no way their SummerSlam match in 2014 was going to see Cena reign supreme.
Instead, Cena was thrown from pillar to post for almost 20 minutes. Cena - who had overcome the biggest of obstacles with his never-say-die attitude - was utterly destroyed by Lesnar as he introduced both the world and Cena to Suplex City in what ended up being an incredibly popular and powerful trend. It was something nobody had ever seen before. If a win against The Deadman wasn’t enough to prove how dominant Lesnar was, then the one-sided beatdown against Cena for the WWE Championship showed that Lesnar wasn’t going to roll over for anybody as he’s still going strong four years later.
Another SummerSlam match which shines Cena in a positive light, despite losing an important match, saw Daniel Bryan reach the pinnacle for one night when he claimed the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. You could say that Cena choosing Bryan as his opponent was enough to get both men over - Bryan got the title match fans wanted to see and Cena would receive the praise for putting Bryan over.
Despite the cash-in by Randy Orton, Cena effectively cleared the way for Bryan to become the top face in the company in the build-up to WrestleMania XXX by taking the backseat and letting Bryan enjoy one of the most compelling storylines in recent memory. After taking the sudden loss by eating the Running Knee - which took many by surprise - it allowed Bryan to become that number one star, a position occupied by Cena for so many years.
It says a lot about a superstar when your main roster debut comes against John Cena. That’s precisely what happened with Kevin Owens, as he answered Cena’s United States Championship open challenge in his own unique way. Owens laid out Cena with a Pop-up Powerbomb - as well as stomping on his championship title - to show that he had arrived in what was a strong enough message to the world that Owens isn’t someone Cena was going to bury, despite not being what a typical WWE superstar looks like.
A lot goes into Owens being a star Cena put over massively during their feud. There’s the aspect that a newcomer on the main roster immediately wiped out the most prominent name, he picked up a debut win at the Elimination Chamber over Cena while it’s also important to remember that Cena allowed an NXT star to walk away the victor. That's still unheard of. Of course, Cena did go on to pick up more wins over Owens down the line, but the destructive arrival was enough to cement Owens as a main roster threat.
Again, Cena might have gone on to defeat AJ Styles down the line during their highly anticipated feud, but there’s no denying that Cena put over The Phenomenal One in an epic way when they finally met. It was about WWE’s best meeting the best the independent scene had to offer, and even though the world knew Styles was the better performer, fans wanted to see whether or not the WWE would have an effective ‘outsider’ overcome the face that runs the place.
Cena put over Styles on three occasions, with one of them being at SummerSlam - again - to turn Styles into arguably the number one star in the company. Everyone knew Styles was good, but there was always that doubt when he joined whether he’d be able to overcome Cena or not. When he did that, credit rightfully went to Cena for his role in helping Styles become a huge part of WWE’s and SmackDown’s recent success.
Love him or hate him, Sheamus has proven to be a vital asset for WWE which all kicked off with immediate impact on the main roster. You could say that Sheamus, who was a relative unknown at the time, debuted similarly to Owens by having his first real feud against Cena, but made a much more significant impact.
After an impressive stint at Survivor Series before winning a battle royal, The Celtic Warrior was randomly thrown into the championship picture. At TLC in 2009, Sheamus did the unthinkable when he pushed Cena through a table at the height of his success as WWE Champion to shockingly claim the title. Obviously, it wasn't a convincing win, but credit needs to go to Cena to allow a newcomer to defeat him in borderline-embarrassing fashion to claim the WWE Championship; it was simply a massive risk. It took him 166 days to claim the title, and he just so happened to defeat the top star in the company to do something as epic as that.
They might have been known beforehand, but there’s no denying that Cena did help to put the likes of Owens, Styles, Bryan and even Sheamus on the map when they went up against him for the first time.
Who else do you think John Cena has successfully put over in his WWE career? Have YOUR say in the comments section below.