Is John Cena unofficially retiring from the WWE? After last night's clean loss to Roman Reigns at No Mercy, there is currently a lot of fan speculation going around online that Cena may indeed be quietly calling it quits as a WWE superstar. A lot of said speculation seems to be based on the way Cena stopped to play to the crowd and soak up the cheers as he left the ring last night, complete with the crowd opting to chant "Thank you, Cena."
There are several logical reasons fans are jumping to the conclusion that Cena might be retiring from WWE. For one, his career as a Hollywood actor is exploding as of late, and the profile of the roles he's being cast in just keeps getting higher. Cena looks poised to become an A-list movie star, and one needs only to look back at how quickly The Rock fled WWE for a full-time acting career to see how tempting the bright lights of Hollywood can be to a pro wrestler.
Secondly, Cena's in-ring career is clearly winding down, with "The Champ" turning 40 earlier this year. While 40 is by no means ancient, it's definitely on the downward end for most professional athletes, especially someone as well-known for giving his all and busting it like Cena. Cena has a reputation for being almost superhuman in his ability to come back from injuries, often returning to the ring months earlier than doctors had estimated he would be able to. Pushing oneself like that takes a toll on the body, even on someone as well-conditioned as Cena.
Lastly, it's far from unheard of for wrestlers—even huge top-level talent—to have their last matches before retirement without much fanfare. For example, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin quietly retired after his loss to The Rock at WrestleMania XIX, and he never wrestled again. While some fans would readily point out that Austin retired due to long-term injuries catching up with him, the same could be true for Cena, who has undergone multiple major surgeries for various injuries over the years.
While the reasons are definitely there to suggest that Cena might be retiring after last night, there are also plenty of reasons to believe that he isn't. For one, Cena appeared on Raw Talk—the WWE Network's post-show for Raw brand pay-per-views—last night, and was asked point blank about his future as a competitor by Jerry "The King" Lawler. While Cena seemed to be choosing his verbiage carefully, he stressed that he wasn't done as an in-ring performer.
That said, it seems likely that fans might soon be forced to adjust to a WWE landscape with much less Cena, as the 16-time world champion also stressed that he wasn't sure if he could continue to keep up the pace he usually does as far as performing for the company. As Reigns pointed out repeatedly during his feud with Cena, the latter has been spending more and more time on hiatus from WWE to work on outside projects, then coming back for a few months to have a feud or two.
Based on what Cena said during Raw Talk—and during a recent podcast interview with former WWE Superstars Edge and Christian—it appears that he is trying to subtly prepare fans for the possibility that while he won't be going away completely, "The Champ" will not be here as often. In fact, it wouldn't really be surprising for Cena to soon become a special attraction, such as Shawn Michaels was during his last few years active, and how The Undertaker was until his apparent retirement match against Reigns at this year's WrestleMania.
Michaels and Taker eventually became wrestlers who only showed up for the biggest shows such as WrestleMania, Summerslam, Survivor Series, and the Royal Rumble along with appearances in the TV episodes leading up to them. Taker, in particular, has been a primarily WrestleMania-based attraction since his match with Triple H in 2011, and it allowed him to remain a part of WWE in some form for nearly another decade. With Cena being a lot younger than Undertaker or Michaels, if he goes the same route, it's anyone's guess how many more years he might be around to pop in and make a big WWE event feel just that much more special.
From a creative standpoint though, one wonders if WWE would be better off if Cena opted to retire within the next couple of years. That's not a knock on Cena, who has long-since proven himself as an elite performer. The problem is that whenever WWE brass runs into a creative wall or notices that ratings are dropping, their seemingly go-to solution has been to run back to the welcoming arms of Cena, rushing him back to the top of the card in the hopes that his presence will be able to right the ship. Whether this has always worked is obviously a matter up for debate, but it would arguably be a positive move for that commonly used tactic to be taken out of the equation.
Plus, whatever one thinks of Roman Reigns, he is clearly the guy WWE sees as their next Cena. They want "The Big Dog" to carry the company into the future, but as long as Cena is around, he'll be overshadowed. While Reigns may eventually get there, he's just not on Cena's level in the ring or on the microphone yet.
That makes sense really, as Cena has been a top star for over a decade, and Reigns has only been in that role for about three years. Cena also worked his trade longer by the time he got called up to the WWE main roster. On that level, there's just no substitute for experience. If WWE truly wants Reigns to take over the top spot, they need to be prepared to treat him as such, which is hard to do when John Cena is constantly being referred to by the announce team as "the greatest of all time."
So, to answer the question posed by the title of this piece, is John Cena retiring from WWE? No, or at least it certainly doesn't appear that way. However, fans should be prepared for his in-ring contributions to continue to decrease in the foreseeable future, leading to Cena truly becoming a part-timer at best. The man has been pushing his body to its limit for 15 years, and everybody has their physical breaking point.
As Cena's WWE duties continue to shrink going forward, one wonders if the fans who have taken such joy in telling him how much he sucks will eventually stop and realize just how much quality entertainment he gave them. After all, one doesn't know what they've got until it's gone.