Ever since making his return on the Fourth of July, it looked like John Cena was being put in a position to eventually face Jinder Mahal in a WWE Championship Match at SummerSlam 2017. Following the latest edition of “SmackDown Live,” it’s clear that the 16-time world champ will have a different opponent at the Aug. 20 pay-per-view.

John Cena vs. Baron Corbin appears to be the plan for WWE’s second-biggest show of the year. It’s the second year in a row that Cena won’t fight for the WWE Championship at SummerSlam, which he had done every year from 2010-2015.

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Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Cena clean in a No.1 contender match for the blue brand’s top title Tuesday night. When the show went off the air, Corbin attacked Nakamura with his Money in the Bank briefcase, continuing their feud that included a match at WWE Battleground. Cena came back to the ring to help Nakamura, putting Corbin through the announcers’ table and establishing the upcoming match.


Once Nakamura won a shot against Jinder, Corbin became the only logical opponent for Cena. With Rusev set to face Randy Orton and Kevin Owens getting a rematch against AJ Styles for the United States Championship, Corbin became the one heel on the “SmackDown Live” roster that was without a SummerSlam opponent and is high enough on the card to warrant a match with Cena.

Corbin’s time as the WWE Champion might be coming sooner rather than later. He can cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase for a title opportunity at the moment of his choosing, and doing so at SummerSlam would make a lot of sense. It could continue the Corbin-Nakamura feud into the fall if the Japanese wrestler is able to defeat Jinder at SummerSlam.

If Corbin is going to cash-in at SummerSlam, however, that doesn’t bode well for his chances against Cena. Corbin has little need to win if he’s going to become a world champion moments later, and he’s suffered a few PPV losses in the last few months.

Seth Rollins lost clean to Randy Orton at WrestleMania 31, only to cash-in and pin Roman Reigns for the title a few hours later. Corbin could find himself in a similar situation at Barclays Center.

No matter what happens between Corbin and Cena, it could mark the last time for a while that he faces a member of the “SmackDown Live” roster at a PPV. WWE made it clear that Cena is a “free agent” when he came back last month, which would allow him to start appearing on “Monday Night Raw.”

READ: Who Will Leave SummerSlam 2017 As WWE Champion? 

With Reigns set to face Brock Lesnar in the main event of SummerSlam for the WWE Universal Championship, there are already rumors that Cena and Reigns could face off at WrestleMania 34. Cena has never faced Reigns in a singles match.

Following his match with Nakamura Tuesday night, it might be difficult to find a WWE superstar that Cena has yet to wrestle. Samoa Joe and Big Cass are two heels on the “Monday Night Raw” roster that Cena hasn’t feuded with, but might make sense as opponents late in 2017 or early in 2018.