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Ryan Dilbert's 10-Count: John Cena Having His Best Year as an in-Ring Performer

Published by Bleacher Report on Wed, 08 Jul 2015

1. 2015 Proving to be John Cena's Finest on the MatWith the emergence of talents like Seth Rollins, there has been ample discussion about who will supplant John Cena as WWE's centerpiece. There has been a lot of talk about who will be the company's future.Cena is making sure that he's been talked about as well, and that fans don't start referring to him in the past tense.This year has been onecrammed with in-ring masterworks from the United States champ. When it's time to tally up 2015's best and most thrilling matches, Cena's name is going to be all over that list.This is not a new phenomenon for Cena, but he's putting together a collection of classics in a single calendar year that already rivals what he did in 2007, 2009 or last year. And there's still over five months left to add to it.In 2007, he and Umaga delivered a brutal Last Man Standing bout that was among the year's best offerings. Cena went on to produce two instant classics against Shawn Michaels, the first being their WrestleMania clash and the second their rematch on Raw.Add his work against Randy Orton and Bobby Lashley, and it's hard to argue that 2007 wasn't Cena's peak.Against Triple H, Chris Jericho and Edge, he put together another impressive run of bouts just two years later. Cena had home runs atBreaking Point and Backlash in 2009.At 38 years old, with his critics hoarse from saying they want to see someone take his spot, Cena is outdoing his best. The year has seen him put onstrong work against Rusev and be a big part of a potential Match of the Year inBrock Lesnar vs. Rollins vs. Cena at Royal Rumble.His resume for the year also includestwo classics against Kevin Owens that rank among the two best contests in which Cena has ever participated.In the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t ProFightDB.com), Dave Meltzer rated both of those 4.5 stars. Lesnar vs. Rollins vs. Cena netted a 4.75 rating from the longtime wrestling journalist.As subjective as those star ratings are, it's worth nothing that Cena has had more bouts garner a 4.5 star rating this year than he has in any year prior:2015 (3)2014 (2)2013 (2)2012(1)2011(1)2009(1)2007 (1)Yes, Meltzer rated Cena's collisions with Michaels in 2007 too low, but it's still clear that something special is happening in 2015.Aside from those bouts already mentioned, Cena has consistently delivered the best match of the week by way of his open challenge for the U.S. title. He and Neville clicked. Cena vs. Stardust and Cena vs. Dean Ambrose were both very good.And then in the last two weeks, Cena and Cesaro made every All-Time BestMatch of Raw list obsolete.Each time out, these titans put on a show that felt like the main event of a pay-per-view. Each time out, Cena and Cesaro made it easy to forget all the show's low points and simply marvel at what these two men were doing.Cena has a date with Owens at Battleground. Judging by their past meetings, that promises to be an in-ring fireworks display.Then the champ is likely to get several more high-profile opportunities against quality opponents. Cena's history says that he will make the most of several of those. And by the time December wraps up, Cena will have made 2015 his opus.2. An Eye on the ClockThe women's division isn't making progress as quickly as many would hope.The two big things fans have been clamoring to see are better, more developed stories and longer matches. On the second point, WWE has teased making improvements there, but things have leveled out.While recent Divas title bouts aren't being cut down to three minutes or 35 seconds like at last year's Survivor Series, the women certainly aren't getting to work in-ring marathons either. The standard throughout the year has been to give them around seven or eight minutes to work with.Don't expect that to change at Battleground: WWE doesn't even have a women's match on the card yet.And whatever combination of Paige and the Bellas the company throws on there later, it won't have enough hype behind it to warrant a longer battle. Continually keeping the women's matches under the 10-minute mark ensures that the wrestlers have less of a chance for a classic each time.3. Throwback Video of the Week: WWF JapanBeast in the East was the first time WWE aired a show live from Japan, but it certainly wasn't the company's first trip there.In 1990 for example, WWE paired up with All Japan Pro Wrestling for a super-show in the Far East. That merging of rosters led to intriguing matchups like Genichiro Tenryu vs.Randy Savage.Seeing the juxtaposition of styles here was fascinating. And this ended up being the best bout on the card, despite the fact that Bret Hart took on Mitsuharu Misawa, who was then wrestling as Tiger Mask II.4. Backbreakers No More'In head-scratching news, Dave Meltzer mentioned onWrestling Observer Radio (h/t Wrestling Inc) that Vince McMahon may have decided to ban the term "backbreaker" from WWE broadcasts. There is no reason given in the report, leaving one to assume that McMahon may be looking to avoid using such a violent term.If that's the case, it's misguided.Pro wrestling is ashow built around violence. Warriors promise to destroy each other and then proceed to do so with flesh-stinging strikes and crashes through announce tables. Of course the lexicon is going to reflect that.Grapplers employ neckbreakers and the Torture Rack. Sting used the Scorpion Deathlock. To start stripping away that element of the product doesn't make sense.5. The King of Swing Missing OutIf Cesaro doesn't appear at Battleground, being backstage during a pay-per-view won't be a new sensation.WWE has often pushed him aside when it's time to divvy up the spotlight. He wasn't booked forlast year's TLC or Battleground pay-per-views.Money in the Bank 2015 was sans Cesaro as well.The Swiss Strongman was only on the pre-show or in a dark match for WrestleMania, Survivor Series 14, Beast in the East and SummerSlam 14. While not every star can be on every show, his frequent absences speak to how low he sits in the WWE hiearchy.You don't see Cena or Roman Reigns sitting on the bench that often. All Cesaro can do is continue to make emphatic statements when he does get in the ring.6. Brock Lesnar, the Real-Life Incredible HulkBrock Lesnar had plenty of clear space to hurl the car door that he ripped from J&J Security's Cadillac on Monday night. The only problem was that he's superhuman.Lesnar sent the debris so far that he struck a fan, as one can see in a video that Bill Neville shared courtesy of Wrestle One:The fan is fine, as PWInsider reported. He can now tell his grandkids the story of the time he saw a man-beast rip a car apart.7. The Lone Wolf Should Go After Finn BalorNow that Balor is NXT champ and Kevin Owens is free to fully move to the main roster, it's time to start dreaming up ideal scenarios for future title bouts.Balor vs. Hideo Itami is an obvious choice, thanks to the two men's history. WWE should also consider giving Baron Corbin a crack at the belt.With Balor playing ring general, Corbin could easily put on the best match of his career. His power will juxtapose well with Balor's speed. And the story of Balor's surviving a test from a force this formidable is a compelling one.And if Corbin performs well, this bout could be the launchpad that moves him from "guy with a lot of potential" to sitting on NXT's top tier.8. Cesaro's Best Outside of His John Cena BattlesCesaro and Cena clearly have stellar chemistry. The Swiss Superman's two masterpieces with Cena are a reminder of what he can do when given a real opportunity.Those bouts add to an already strong list of standout performances:Cesaro vs. Kofi Kingston: Main Event, May 1, 2013Cesaro vs. Daniel Bryan: Raw, July 22, 2013Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn: NXT ArrivalCesaro vs. Sheamus: Night of Champions 2014Cesaro and Tyson Kidd vs. Dolph Ziggler: SmackDown, Nov. 14, 2014After watching all these and seeing how well Cesaro works under the spotlight against a variety of foes, one is left wondering why WWE isn't finding more ways to use him.His mic work may hold him back from being a true company cornerstone, but he sure makes his matches feel like main events.9. Little Spark for The Big GuyRyback has to be impatient to see his feud with The Miz and Big Show end.Their Triple Threat match at Battleground is the least appealing match on the card.Their feud in general is underwhelming.While John Cena is contending with a fresh face in Kevin Owens for a rubber match sure to be a classic, the best that Ryback can hope for is a decent outing that has critics saying, "That wasn't as bad as I thought it would be."There is little chemistry between Ryback and his opponents. WWE Creative's writing hasn't helped much, either. An absence of creativity is leaving the rivalry lacking.Once The Big Guy makes his way through this test, other more appealing feuds await him, from Bray Wyatt to Sheamus.10. "Stone Cold" on The BeastIt's difficult to describe just how special Brock Lesnar is. His presence is unparalleled. It feels as if he was created in a lab for the express purpose of being in a wrestling ring.Steve Austin did a good job capturing what Lesnar does for any given show.Austin toldtalkSPORT,"You can have eight matches (on a show) and they can be okay, then all of a sudden they announce Brock Lesnar, and you go: 'Alright, everybody shut upthe real stuff's happening now.'"
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