Roman Reigns might be considered a lot. The Big Dog. The most polarizing guy in the business. One thing we can't deny: Reigns is a legend-killer. Just a few months ago at WrestleMania 33, Reigns beat The Undertaker in the final match of his storied career.
Reigns-Cena was as high profile a bout there is in the WWE. If we didn't know better, this had the look and feel of WrestleMania. Two icons who have never fought each other going at it for the first time after all these years.
On Sunday at No Mercy, Reigns might have been at it again. After an overall uninspiring match that ended with Reigns landing a Superman punch and spear to give him the three-count against John Cena, the 16-time champ sat in the ring soaking in the atmosphere.
Before Sunday night, Cena had the advantage, if only because he had won the war of words in lopsided fashion. But that's Cena's deal. He can trade barbs perhaps better than anyone who has ever stepped foot in the ring.
Then there's Roman. He's not exactly savvy when it comes to mic work, but you had a feeling the torch was waiting for him. The match had an incredible vibe from the start, with Reigns ostensibly ready to take over as the true face of the WWE.
Mind games ruled early on. Fed up with Reign' slow pace, Cena actually began to make his way back to the locker room before Reigns stopped him.
From start to finish, fans were nearly 100 percent on Cena's side, which wasn't totally unexpected given his opponent, but still a wild sound to hear given how polarizing his long run in the WWE has been.
Cena and Reigns spent as much time outside the ring early on as they did in it, with each man flinging the other into the stairs. Still, the pace of the match was slow. Almost painfully slow. Reigns landed a few mundane punches and kicks early on, but nothing to get the fans aroused. "Boring" chants could be heard at one point.
Reigns continued to hold the upper hand, landing a Samoan Drop on Cena.
The 16-time champ rebounded, albeit quickly, with a five-knuckle shuffle, but couldn't convert a subsequent AA attempt.
As the match wore on, so did the jeers for Reigns.
While we know Reigns' capabilities, the methodical pace was disappointing to see, especially if you consider this might have been the biggest match of his career. And that's saying something for a guy who has main-evented WrestleMania the past four years. But in a spurt of action, each man nearly pinned the other, with Cena successfully landing a AA and then Reigns a Superman punch.
A few minutes later, in the best spot of the match, Cena landed an Avalanche Attitude Adjustment from the top rope for a two-count. The crowd began to come alive. Cena then tore apart two announce tables, but that plan backfired as Reigns nailed him with a spear through one of them as he attempted to AA Reigns through one of the tables.
Slowly both men recovered and ended up back in the ring. Reigns had the quick advantage, but then Cena unbelievably caught him with an AA, then rolled through for another. Cena still couldn't get the three-count, despite what looked like the ref hitting the mat a third time.
Cena argued, giving Reigns enough time to recover, and just like that, the finishing sequence. Superman punch, spear and pin. Game, set, match, Reigns had won.
Yes, the match was flat overall, especially compared with the unrelenting action earlier in the night. But that wasn't the story anymore.
Moments after the match, Cena walked over to embrace his opponent and raised Reigns' hand. The act of sportsmanship did nothing to satisfy an already irritated crowd.
As Reigns' music stopped, Cena sat in silence, eerily similar to how Reigns left The Undertaker at WrestleMania 33.
"Thank you, Cena" chants rang through the arena as he stood and took it in.
By all accounts, it doesn't seem as though the career of John Cena could end at No Mercy. A long layoff? Very likely.
Afterward, on Raw talk, when Cena was asked by Jerry Lawler if this was it for his career, he danced around the question, noting he has been going strong at an elite level for 15 years, and that realistically he's not sure how much longer he can keep it up.
Cena made it clear, he still eats, sleeps and bleeds WWE, but he's unsure what his role will be moving forward. "If there is a mythical torch," Cena said, "then Roman stepped up and took it."
Cena then thanked the WWE Universe for everything, saying, "I am not gone, but things are certainly changing."