The feud between AJ Styles and John Cena has been a captivating one, and the main reason goes beyond the feud involving two performers as iconic as Styles and Cena. John Cena, probably by miles, is the more well-known wrestler, evidenced by the smorgasbord of opportunities he has been given outside of the wrestling world.
However, when one questions a wrestling purist about who is the more influential performer between the two, Styles will most likely receive the majority vote, as his worldly wrestling experience trumps that of Cena’s.
This dynamic makes for a damn sexy wrestling feud. For the first time since becoming a wrestling and pop culture icon, John Cena is up against an opponent that holds a legitimate case regarding being superior to the great John Cena, and AJ Styles is playing this role with Marlon Brando perfection.
A recurring point wrestling veterans are making in books, interviews, and podcasts is that a strong portion of the current WWE roster did not have the chance to travel the globe and inherit and study different styles like many of our favorite old school stars did. Chris Jericho and Stone Cold Steve Austin have endlessly expressed that many of the WWE homegrown talents are at somewhat of a disadvantage due to not being exposed to the plethora of wrestling and interviewing styles from various performers from all over the world, an experience that allowed stars like Eddie Guerrero, Bret Hart, Daniel Bryan, Jericho and Austin to construct and alter a skill set that was ready for prime time once they made it to the WWE.
Current stars like Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson will attest to their worldly experience polishing their own careers, preparing them for stage like the one Vince McMahon provides. AJ Styles is professional wrestling’s current embodiment of this experience. In a career that covers the better part of two decades, Styles has wrested all over the world. We first caught a glimpse of the “Phenomenal One” when he was one half of Air Raid along with Air Paris. He would then acquiesce into TNA, where he would become a multi-time world champion and put on wrestling clinics with the likes of Samoa Joe, Christopher Daniels and Kurt Angle. As recently as early 2015, Styles was the IWGP Heavyweight Champion. In addition, he has wrestled for a plethora of other independent wrestling promotions en route to earn an unofficial titles of “King of the Indies” from wrestling critics and fans alike.
This extensive experience with various styles and companies has prepared Styles to compete with just about anyone on the planet. This is not the case with John Cena, who was a failed bodybuilder who has had an iconic career, every minute of it under the tutelage of the WWE. Although his in-ring work has improved in spades over the years and he has become a 15-time world champion and pop culture icon, his professional wrestling resume is still inferior to that of AJ Styles.
This point has not been protected by WWE creative. Instead, AJ Styles has used this fact to place himself in a position that allows him to be perceived as superior to Cena. Various opponents over the years have claimed that were going to be the one to remove Cena from his perch of being the “face that runs the place.” Although this theme has become rather redundant within the timeline of Cena’s career, Styles is the only one who has been presented as a legitimate threat to do so.
Since “officially” becoming the face of the WWE, Cena has never faced someone like Styles, and the WWE needs to be commended for allowing this fact to be showcased. Fans everywhere can argue to their heart’s content about who should creatively come out victorious in this match. However, nobody can argue that a rare occurrence has taken place: This match is not a sure thing for John Cena. Everyone, even those who may not have been educated to the tune of Styles’ work prior to the Royal Rumble, is now aware of the arsenal that AJ Styles is bringing to the table at SummerSlam. Not only is he bringing is innovative offensive arsenal, but he is bringing an encyclopedic memory bank of experiences in Mexico, Puerto Rico, England, Japan, and well as the US, to an opponent that accomplished so much while perceivably experiencing so little. AJ Styles, therefore, may be the biggest threat to the greatness of John Cena.