At Sunday night’s No Mercy pay-per-view — spoilers if you haven’t seen it yet — John Cena went toe to toe with Roman Reigns for the first time ever. And shockingly to many fans, Cena came up on the losing end of things in his first meeting with the Big Dog. Not even a rolling Attitude Adjustment could put Reigns away, and Cena was in utter disbelief and being unable to defeat the vest in the world.
After the match, Cena had a very, very long curtain call (it was nice of Reigns to not tell Cena to get out of his Yard), and finished it up with a salute to the fans before heading to the back. Naturally, a Cena loss paired with an extended farewell to the live audience leads people to believe that the man is once again taking time off for outside ventures, but this felt different, somehow.
As the curtain call was happening and throughout the remainder of No Mercy, fans began speculating on whether this was it for Cena, and whether he might actually be retiring (or whether this recent run of historic first-ever matches that AREN’T happening at WrestleMania or a similar big show might be part of a retirement tour of sorts).
Cena stopped by the Raw Talk post-show on WWE Network to talk about his loss, and was asked point-blank by Jerry Lawler whether he was retiring. Cena’s answer: not really, but things are different now.
“I just think my role is different. I had a podcast with Edge and Christian and I said the same thing. Regardless of whether I had outside opportunities or not, I’m 40 years old, and I have 15 years of track experience here in the WWE. And not at a normal level. At an elite level. And I don’t know how [much] longer I can keep it up.
“If I had opportunities outside, great. If I didn’t — I gotta know when to say when, at that point. And I’m not done, but I don’t know if I can keep going at the pace that I’ve been going, and I think that’s a major thing for me to try to consider. This is my family. This is my life. I eat, breathe, and sleep WWE. And I don’t think anyone — whether they like me or they don’t — I don’t think anybody can argue that.
“So I guess I’ll be like a weird Batman character. When they shine the light, I’ll come a-runnin’.”
Whenever you’re dealing with a promo where Cena talks about actual life stuff, there’s a certain level of Cena-speak that you need to parse, but he was pretty (relatively) clear here: he’s finally transitioning away from being the top guy, and is stepping aside to be more of a featured attraction than he has in the past. That might mean he’ll be an Undertaker-style special big deal a few times a year, or he could go the Brock Lesnar route of a handful of dates, but it looks like we’ll be seeing less of Cena and more of everyone else in the main event.