John Cena made his triumphant return to "Monday Night Raw" in Boston, marking his first appearance on the red brand in quite some time and booked a WrestleMania match with Austin Theory for the United States Championship.
It took a little convincing.
Cena got a big pop from the crowd and even got emotional as he hit the stage. He ran into the ring and heard the cheers from the fans in his home state. As he was about to gather himself, Theory’s music hit, and he came out to address the legendary WWE superstar.
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Theory, the reigning United States Champion, said he came out to give a "gift" to Cena – a match at WrestleMania 39 with the title on the line. Cena said no.
Cena explained that Theory has not earned the right to give such a "gift."
"You’re a generic kid in fancy sneakers wearing sunglasses indoors and you got nothing in here," Cena said pointing to his guts. "And dude, I’m not talking to you from a high place. I’ve walked in your shoes. There’s a sign out there that says ‘Austin Theory is a John Cena wannabe.’ Dude, I’m your ghost of Christmas future. And right now, you’re in that phase of ‘Ruthless Aggression.’ And ‘Ruthless Aggression almost got me fired. What a great opportunity it was, but you could see I didn’t believe in myself and the opportunity just wasn’t enough."
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Cena riffed that Theory had "no heart" and "no soul." Cena said the Boston fans were in the building because they believed in him, but they did not believe in Theory.
"You’re a pair of trunks away from being a jabroni," the former WWE champion said.
Cena said Theory had one of the greatest names in the business because "in theory" he should be checking off all the boxes that WWE executives want and that fans should want to see him.
"But no one cares and you’re wasting our time," Cena.
Theory would have some barbs of his own.
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The rising WWE star questioned whether Cena was "giving up" and questioned whether Cena was living up to his calling card – Hustle, Loyalty and Respect.
"You know what I realized, you being my childhood hero and all of this," Theory said. "Boston, I want you to pay close attention to this because they are right and they talk a lot but they are right about this – you don’t want to meet your hero. Because all they do is disappoint."
Cena explained that he did not say no because he "gave up." He said Theory was not ready but left it up to the fans, and they agreed a match was in the best interest.
Cena vs. Theory is now set for WrestleMania in Los Angeles.
Cena last fought on Dec. 30 on SmackDown in a tag-tea match with Kevin Owens. The two defeated Roman Reigns and Sami Zayn and kept Cena’s yearly streak of WWE in-ring appearances alive. Before that, faced off against Roman Reigns at SummerSlam 2021.
On Raw, he last wrestled live in a fatal four way against Finn Balor, Baron Corbin and Drew McIntyre.
Theory won the United States Championship in a triple-threat match at Survivor Series WarGames in November.