MATCH #1: The Prototype vs. Randy Orton, OVW TV, 1.19.02
This is Randy Orton’s farewell match. They show the promo between the two that led up to this match, in which Prototype displayed jealousy for Orton being called up to the main roster. Prototype has manager Kenny Bolin in his corner. They lock up intensely and it’s clear that these two do not like each other. The pace quickens and Orton is a house afire. Orton hits a back body drop and Prototype takes a powder. When Orton gives chase Bolin tries to block him but gets punched in the mouth for it. Back in the ring a series of reversals ends with Orton hitting a cross body block for two. Prototype responds with a flapjack. That gives Prototype full control, and Bolin takes cheap shots where he can too. Prototype goes for a back body drop but Orton catches him with a DDT. Both men are down. They rise to their feet and trade strikes. Orton wins that exchange and lands a nice dropkick for two. He hits a neckbreaker and goes up top for a high cross body block but misses. Prototype hits the Protoplex to score the big pin at 4:49. That was a solid little TV match, and they did the right thing by having Orton put Prototype over on his way out. You can see both guys had something even at this time.
MATCH #2: John Cena vs. Chris Jericho, Vengeance, 7.21.02
This is Cena’s pay-per-view debut. Jericho tries to attack Cena with a chair before the bell rings but that backfires and Jericho gets cracked with the chair instead. This is Cena’s pay-per-view debut and he’s looking to make the most of it, unloading on Jericho early. The wily old veteran Jericho makes the comeback and wears Cena down. Jericho goes up top but Cena knocks him down and hits a superplex for two. Cena continues on offense until Jericho cuts him off with a dropkick off the second rope. Jericho then jumps right into a belly-to-belly suplex for two. They trade counters back and forth but Jericho appears to have the upper hand after a Lionsault. He goes for the Walls of Jericho but Cena gets an inside cradle for the flash pin at 6:16. Cena was greener than grass but Jericho did his best and the results were pretty solid.
MATCH #3: John Cena vs. Rikishi, SmackDown, 3.27.03
Cena attacks before bell to get this one underway. Rikishi fights back and clotheslines Cena to the floor. He follows Cena to the floor and that proves costly, as Cena reverses a whip that sends Rikishi in to the stairs. Cena removes the padding from the barricade and rams Rikishi’s back into the exposed steel. He does it again before throwing the gargantuan superstar back in the ring for a near-fall. Cena locks on a Cross Face Chicken Wing with a body scissors. That’s an interesting move for him. Rikishi powers out of it and hits a clothesline and a Samoan Drop. He follows with a superkick, and then delivers the Stink Face. Rikishi goes up for the Banzai Drop but Cena gets his knees up. Cena kicks Rikishi back into the referee, who is momentarily turned around. That gives Cena the chance to hit Rikishi with a chain. That only gets a two-count. Cena picks Rikishi up and debuts the F-U as his finishing move to get the pin at 5:18. That was a great re-introduction to Cena after coming back from his injury, and set him up to face Brock Lesnar for the WWE Title. It was short but sweet, just what it needed to be.
MATCH #4: “I Quit” Match for the WWE Championship – John Cena vs. JBL, Judgment Day, 5.22.05
This is the first “I Quit” match for the WWE Title since Mankind defended against The Rock at Royal Rumble 1999. Cena has been the Champion since 4.3.05, and this is his first defense. They start slowly and take it down to the mat, somewhat surprisingly. Cena targets the arm and JBL rolls to the floor to take a breather. JBL gets to the apron and Cena suplexes him back in. Cena goes for a back body drop and JBL stops him with a forearm. JBL hits a DDT and foolishly goes for a cover. Cena fires back and clotheslines JBL to the floor. JBL reverses a whip and sends Cena into the crowd. He follows and hits Cena with a swinging neckbreaker. They make their way back to ringside and JBL preps the Spanish Announce Table. JBL whips Cena into the steps and then whips him with a belt. He chokes Cena with the belt around the ring post until Cena pulls him shoulder-first into the same post. JBL is resilient and brings Cena over to the table for a piledriver. Cena is able to backdrop JBL through the conveniently prepped Spanish Announce Table! The Champion fires up and throws JBL over the announce table. JBL is able to grab a chair and he absolutely waffles Cena with it! That’s just like JBL did to Eddie Guerrero at Judgment Day 2004. Cena is busted open something fierce here. JBL cracks Cena with the steel steps to increase the blood flow. Back in the ring JBL continues the abuse, hitting two Clotheslines from Hell. JBL hits one more vicious Clothesline and then chokes Cena with his own chain. Cena tries to fight up but JBL cuts him off with a low blow. JBL calls Cena a “punk bitch” and that just makes Cena angry! Cena unleashes a flurry of offense, including the Protoplex. He hits the Five Knuckle Shuffle and the F-U! JBL rolls to the floor and starts walking away. They fight up by JBL’s limo and Cena slams the challenger on the hood. JBL comes back with a thumb to the eye and then a swinging neckbreaker. They battle over by some electrical equipment and JBL chokes Cena with a cord. Cena uses momentum to pull JBL head-first through a TV screen! Now JBL is busted open too. Cena throws JBL through one of the windows of his limo. They take it to the roof of the limo and Cena hits a suplex. Back on the floor Cena whips JBL into an open car door twice, taking it off the hinges. They fight up on the truck that Cena made his entrance on and the Champ is dominant. JBL grabs Cena with a quick DDT. He chokes him with another cord and Cena cracks JBL with a microphone, sending the challenger crashing through a table. Cena grabs a smoke stack right off the truck and chases JBL with it. Rather than get destroyed with the weapon, JBL quickly says “I Quit,” giving the win to Cena at 22:42. That was an awesome brawl that finally won the crowd over to Cena’s side. JBL went out of his way to make Cena look like a beast, and Cena pulled off the match perfectly. He was in peril, he made great comebacks, he persevered and retained the title. Try to imagine that at one time that was fresh and exciting! Seriously though this match proved that Cena could be a real tough bastard, and that went a long way towards his credibility as a new Champion. The finish was a little deflating at first glance, but it makes sense for JBL’s character at the time.
After the match Cena hits JBL with the smoke stack anyway, sending him crashing through a glass partition that’s part of the set. Way to set that example, Champ.
MATCH #5: John Cena, Shawn Michaels & Hulk Hogan vs. Tyson Tomko, Chris Jericho & Christian, Raw, 6.27.05
Cena and Jericho start the match and the babyfaces take the first control. Michaels tags in and the heels cut him off and go to work. Michaels is at his best playing Ricky Morton, and the heels work him over for a couple of minutes before Jericho misses the Lionsault and Hogan gets the hot tag! The crowd goes ballistic. The referee loses control as Cena and Jericho take each other to the floor. Christian and Tomko try to double-team Hogan but that doesn’t go well. Michaels hits Christian with Sweet Chin Music to take him out. Hogan then delivers the Big Boot and the Legdrop to Tomko for the pin at 6:27. They felt a little truncated for the guys involved, but they packed a lot in and the babyface trio was just cool to see.
MATCH #6: Extreme Rules Match for the WWE Championship – John Cena vs. Rob Van Dam, ECW One Night Stand, 6.11.06
Cena has been the Champion since 1.29.06, and this is his seventh defense. He is the most hated man of all time in the Hammerstein Ballroom. RVD of course is insanely over. This is the “If Cena Wins, We Riot” sign match. Cena throws his hat and his shirt into the audience, and they throw it back! He tries again and it keeps getting thrown back at him. The fans throw toilet paper at Cena and chant “Cena Swallows.” They chant “You Can’t Wrestle” as Cena hits a Fisherman Suplex for a one-count. Cena tries to follow up but RVD kicks him in the face so Cena bails. Back in the ring they trade shots an d the crowd responded with “boos” and “yays.” RVD wins the battle but Cena cuts him off with a powerslam for two. Cena clotheslines RVD to the floor and the crowd chants “same old shit.” The Champ responds by hitting a club to the back from the top rope. Cena throws RVD around ringside a bit. RVD fights back and hits a moonsault press off the stairs. He goes for another one off the guardrail but Cena shoves RVD out into the third row! Cena bravely goes out into the crowd, which is pretty gutsy. They make their way back to ringside and RVD is able to drape Cena off the guardrail and hit the corkscrew legdrop. Back in the ring RVD is still in control. RVD kicks a steel chair into Cena’s face for a two-count. He follows with Rolling Thunder on a chair, hurting himself but hurting Cena more. RVD slams Cena down and puts a chair on top of him. He goes for a split-legged moonsault but pushes the chair up into RVD’s face. I don’t know how that’s so much worse than what RVD was planning but whatevs. Cena hits a hard DDT right on the chair but it only gets two. He sets up a chair between the top and middle turnbuckles and catapults RVD’s face right into said chair. Again that only gets a two-count. Cena hits a Protoplex and the Five Knuckle Shuffle. The Champ seems to be enjoying being the object of everyone’s hatred. Cena goes for the FU but RVD slips out and hits a spin kick to the face. Back on their feet Cena goes on offense once again. RVD tries to go for a moonsault but Cena pulls him off the top rope with a slam. That gets two. RVD comes back and awkwardly dumps Cena to the floor. He dropkicks Cena off the apron and into the guardrail. RVD brings a table into the ring and leans it against the corner. Cena is able to grab a drop toehold and he traps RVD in the STFU! RVD reaches the ropes and the referee forces Cena to break the hold. Why? It’s an Extreme Rules match. The referee mouths off so Cena takes him out with a clothesline. That ref had it coming. RVD is up top but Cena knocks him down and hits a superplex. Cena goes out and grabs the ring steps. He brings them into the ring and bashes RVD in the face with them. Referee Nick Patrick runs out to make the count but RVD kicks out at two! Cena delivers an FU to the floor. Back in the ring a man in a motorcycle helmet runs out and hits Cena with a Spear right through the table! The man turns out to be Edge! The crowd chants “Thank You Edge!” RVD takes the opportunity to go up top and hit the Five-Star Frog Splash! Paul Heyman comes in to make the count and RVD wins the title at 20:39! That was a classic match for the crowd reactions alone. In addition to that both men wrestled great matches. RVD did his usual thing, which was exactly what the crowd needed to see, and Cena adjusted and heeled it up as much as he could in front of this crowd. This kicked ECW off with a bang, and it would never be this fun again.
MATCH #7: TLC Match for the WWE Championship – John Cena vs. Edge, Unforgiven, 9.17.06
Edge has been the Champion since 7.3.06, and this is his third defense. He is massively over in his home town, and Cena is booed out of the building. This one has a big match atmosphere, which is pretty hard to force so that speaks to how effective this feud was. Cena takes first control,hitting three shoulderblocks. Edge responds with a slap to the face. Almost everything Edge does gets a huge pop. They go to the floor and Edge tries to use a chair but Cena wisely avoids it. Back in the ring Cena hits the Fisherman Suplex. Edge comes back with the Impaler DDT. He sets up a couple of chairs and is able to hit Cena with an inverted DDT! Very cool move. Edge brings in the first ladder and makes a climb but Cena pushes him down. A resourceful Edge lands on his feet and hits Cena with a clothesline. Edge is firmly in control now, and he uses the weapons very expertly. Cena fights back and hits his hiptoss right onto a ladder. The crowd is not pleased with Cena being in control. Cena goes for the FU but Edge slips out of it to the apron. Cena tries to knock him back through some tables set up on the floor, but Edge prevents it. Edge goes up top but Cena crotches him. Cena brings a table in and sets it up. He goes for a superplex but Edge blocks it. Edge goes for a Sunset Bomb but they blow it and awkwardly crumple to the mat. Cena tries a whip but Edge reverses it and catches him coming out of the corner in a powerslam to break the table. Edge notices Cena is out on the floor, so he runs up a slanted ladder and takes Cena out with a dive. Paul London did it in 2002, but this was the perfect time for someone to steal it. Back in the ring Edge unloads on Cena with a steel chair. Edge goes for the Con-Chair-Toe but Cena avoids it. Cena then hits the Throwback right onto the chair. He traps Edge between the rungs of a ladder and locks on the STFU! Cena actually legit chokes Edge out, and it would take a few moments for Edge to regain his bearings. Back on their feet Cena cracks Edge in the face with the ladder. Cena then delivers an FU to the ladder, landing it right on the Rated R WWE Champion. He hits the Protoplex and goes for the Five Knuckle Shuffle but stops mid-way through. Cena climbs up the ladder to complete the move! That was cool. Cena sets up another table but Edge is able to grab a chair and blast Cena between the eyes with it. That was sick. Edge sets Cena on top of a table, and then stacks a table on top of him. He goes up to the top rope but Cena shoves him back into the guardrail. Cena brings a huge ladder in the ring. He climbs up but Cena goes to the other ladder and takes Cena down with a Spear! Edge climbs up the ladder but Cena is able to take him down with a powerbomb right into the other ladder! The fight spills to the floor and Cena cracks Edge with a chair. Cena goes back to the ring and climbs up the ladder. Lita runs out and shoves Cena off the ladder and through a table at ringside! Edge climbs up and Cena tries to stop him. Lita once again interferes and hits Cena with a chair, but Cena’s momentum causes him to shove the ladder over and Edge crashes through two tables at ringside! A distraught Lita doesn’t notice Cena recover. Lita turns right around into an FU! That’s about the first thing Cena did that the crowd enjoyed. Cena sets up two tables just off to the side of the ladder. He climbs up and Edge starts to climb as well. They battle on top of the ladder and Cena Delivers the FU through two tables! Cena pulls the belt down to regain the title at 25:27. That’s still one of Cena’s best matches ever, as the TLC Match was well suited to this feud and didn’t feel forced as a gimmick. They used the weapons well without relying on them, and built up the big spots really well without them feeling forced. The finish was great too. I love these two as opponents.