On the first WWE SmackDown of 2019, a returning John Cena teamed up with Becky Lynch, but "The Man" ended the night by tossing him from the ring. While she's been a popular fixture on WWE programming for several years, it wasn't until Lynch turned heel back at SummerSlam 2018 that the phrase "straight fire" really started to apply to her career. Instead of booing Lynch's seemingly villainous new character, the fans stuck by her side, and before too long, the "Irish Lasskicker" had morphed into a badass, uncompromising fan favorite, drawing comparisons to "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.
Now dubbing herself "The Man" - initially as a swipe at rival Charlotte Flair, whose legendary father Ric Flair coined the famous saying "to be the man, you've gotta beat the man" - Lynch claims she's the best performer on the WWE roster, regardless of gender. The fact that she sports SmackDown's best win-loss record of 2018 suggests that she might just be right. Lynch is arguably the hottest act currently in WWE, and there are rumors she might end up headlining WrestleMania this year against Raw Women's Champion Ronda Rousey, which would represent a major step forward for gender equality in professional wrestling.
Meanwhile, Cena spent most of 2018 away from the ring, furthering his film career with projects like the heavily praised Transformers spinoff Bumblebee. Tuesday's SmackDown was Cena's first appearance on WWE TV since October, and his first in-person appearance on anything other than a pay-per-view since April. Cena began the show by issuing an open challenge, as he's done in the past. To his surprise, Lynch answered the challenge, and unleashed a verbal assault. WWE rarely allows any kind of physicality between men and women, so the segment led to Lynch and Cena teaming up against arrogant heels Andrade "Cien" Almas and Zelina Vega. While Lynch and Cena won the match, the way it happened is raising some eyebrows.
Cena looked well on his way to defeating Almas after hitting his Attitude Adjustment finishing move, but then Lynch took it upon herself to grab Cena from behind, and physically toss him through the ropes and out of the ring. Lynch then set her sights on Vega, making her opponent tap out to the Dis-Arm-Her submission move. After the match's conclusion, Cena tried to initiate a respectful handshake with his partner, but Lynch had none of it, taunting Cena with his own "you can't see me" hand gesture.
Obviously, there won't be a match between John Cena and Becky Lynch anytime soon. While WWE's women are sometimes allowed to briefly attack a man - such as when Stephanie McMahon lets loose one of her infamous slaps - rarely does the reverse happen. Many would argue that it's unfair for WWE to be okay with portraying female on male violence but not male on female, but that's just how the company operates in the current PG-rated era. Still, allowing Lynch to interact with, and ultimately get the better of Cena will only further her rise to the top of the WWE mountain. Despite losing the SmackDown Women's Championship to Asuka at TLC, "The Man" is still clearly the centerpiece of the women's division.