John Cena has never faced these opponents

If you haven’t heard, John Cena is coming back. On the Fourth of July, no less. And The Cenation Leader’s first match since he and Nikki Bella knocked off Miz & Maryse and got engaged at WrestleMania 33 is already a subject of rampant speculation.

Given that the 16-time World Champion has faced everyone from Brock Lesnar to B-2, you’d think there wouldn’t be any first-time opponents left for John Cena to compete against in a one-on-one clash.

But these six Superstars would beg to differ.

Roman Reigns-After defeating ‘The Undertaker’ at WrestleMania, Roman Reigns has assumed command of The Phenom’s dominion, touting himself as the standard-bearer of WWE. But couldn’t Cena lay some claim to that spot? Shockingly, Cena and Reigns have never met in one-on-one action. It could be time to change that.

Samoa Joe-These two actually started out together and share a history, but divergent career paths kept John Cena and Samoa Joe apart until the latter finally arrived in WWE earlier this year as part of the Raw roster. And the red brand’s resident punisher has been on an absolute tear of late, powering past four of WWE’s best Superstars — including Reigns — to set himself up for a battle with Brock Lesnar at the WWE Great Balls of Fire pay-per-view. It’s entirely possible The Samoan Submission Machine can do the unthinkable and defeat The Beast. And if Joe does, Cena could conceivably come to Raw with not just a first-time match, but a first-time goal, in his sights: The Universal Championship.

Finn Bálor-By our count, John Cena and Finn Bálor have only once been on camera together: when Cena congratulated the Irishman on winning his first NXT Championship in a brief encounter at Beast in the East in July 2015. Since then, of course, both men have made history: Bálor by becoming the first-ever Universal Champion, and Cena by tying Ric Flair’s record for 16 World Championships. That handshake in Tokyo showed there is mutual respect between the two. Maybe it’s time to see what happens when the fists are closed instead.

Shinsuke Nakamura-Cena and Shinsuke Nakamura were on passing ships in the post-WrestleMania frenzy; The King of Strong Style debuted on SmackDown LIVE right as the 16-time World Champion was making his temporary exit. And since then, Nakamura has thrown himself right into the action on Team Blue, contending for the Money in the Bank briefcase and winning a series of show-stealers against Dolph Ziggler. Should Cena come back to the blue brand, add WWE’s Rockstar to the list of people who won’t be willing to cede their ground so quickly.

Braun Strowman-John Cena and Braun Strowman have crossed paths during the behemoth’s time in The Wyatt Family, but ever since The Monster Among Men’s ascendance as a singles competitor, Cena has been an arm’s length away on SmackDown LIVE, and the two have yet to meet. As we’ve already mentioned, though, Raw is potentially back in play given Cena’s free-agent status. And with Strowman giving Roman Reigns all he can handle for the better part of this year, it’s easy to imagine him taking an interest in another shiny new toy to shatter.

Jinder Mahal-Could Cena’s July 4 return to SmackDown LIVE be specifically to challenge The Modern-Day Maharaja for World Title No. 17 on his first night back? A singles match between The Cenation Leader and Mahal has never happened, and a lot has changed since Cena floated the idea of Mahal challenging him for the WWE Title at SummerSlam 2013 (seriously — he said “don’t hinder Jinder” and everything before choosing Daniel Bryan). In years past, this may have been seen as a layup for Cena. But given that the transformed Mahal has managed to outwit Randy Orton — one of Cena’s most persistent rivals — not once, but twice, this match could be more than a first for the 16-time World Champion — it could be a test of how much he’s still got in the tank.

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