John Cena returned to WWE television on Tuesday, making his first appearance since SummerSlam on Aug. 21. Within minutes of coming back to “SmackDown Live,” Cena was granted a shot at the WWE World Championship.
Cena interrupted AJ Styles, who won the WWE World Championship by defeating Dean Ambrose at BackLash on Sunday. Ambrose is due a rematch for the title at No Mercy on Oct. 9, but “SmackDown Live” commissioner Shane McMahon inserted Cena into the event, making it a triple threat match with the brand’s top belt on the line.
The upcoming title match will likely mark the end of Cena’s storyline with Styles. The two wrestlers have been feuding since Memorial Day when they met for the first time in a WWE ring, and Styles turned on Cena. Since then, they’ve faced off at three pay-per-views, with Styles getting the better of Cena twice.
Styles defeated Cena at Money in the Bank in June with assistance from Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson. Cena pinned Styles at Battleground to win a tag team match, but Styles pinned Cena clean in a singles match at SummerSlam the following month. With a 2-1 mark against Cena, Styles’ record will likely improve at No Mercy.
It’s hard to imagine that Cena will leave next month’s PPV with the WWE World Championship. He’s expected to take another short hiatus from WWE in the near future as he films the second season of the FOX reality competition series “American Grit.” WWE did make Brock Lesnar the WWE World Champion two years ago, even though he was set to be off TV for a few months, but Styles is much more likely than Cena to win the title match.
Ever since he made his debut in January, Styles has been WWE’s best performer. Regularly putting on the best matches at PPVs with the likes of Cena, Roman Reigns and Chris Jericho, Styles could be in for a lengthy title reign. Ambrose could potentially win the belt back, but his run as the top champion is probably over for the time being, having held the belt from June 19-Sept. 11.
Cena’s quest to win the WWE World Championship one more time should be a constant storyline as his time as the company’s top star winds down. He’s a 15-time world champion, putting him one win shy of Ric Flair’s record.
Cena has been the face of WWE since 2005 when he won the world title for the first time. His days of being a true full-time performer might be finished, and he continues to take breaks from WWE to pursue other opportunities.
Cena hasn't held the championship since Aug. 17, 2014.