246. WWE Championship: John Bradshaw Layfield vs. John Cena

Timeline:
WrestleMania 21
April 3, 2005
Staples Center
Los Angeles, CA

It’s always been strange to me how a career midcarder would go from competing with his long-running tag team at WrestleMania to winning the World Championship in mid-summer and collecting wins over Hall of Famers like The Undertaker and Eddie Guerrero (from whom he won the belt). That’s not even to mention that JBL would go on to hold the belt all the way to the following WrestleMania.

John Cena had moved on to The Time Is Now from Basic Thuganomics, but he was still fully in on his rapper gimmick. Cena had skyrocketed up the card, including his US Title reign that begin one year prior, but was already seeing more than his share of crowd backlash, even before his first World Title win.

Both power wrestlers, they were never going to put on a five star match. The success of this match would lie with how well they could sell the drama of John Cena’s inevitable ascension to the top of the company.

JBL would control the action early, allowing Cena to further cultivate his underdog, never give up image that has become the most polished gimmick in WWE history. By the midway point of the match, Cena’s offensive maneuvers could be counted on one hand. It isn’t until nearly the end of the bout that Cena has a Hogan-esque run of his signature moves followed by a quick FU to get the three count out of nowhere.

An unpleasant harbinger of a reign of doom that would last longer than the Hulkster’s that epitomizes the concept of five moves of doom. One of the least inspired World Title matches in recent memory.

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