World Wrestling Entertainment has been without a full-time John Cena for over half a decade. The 16-time world champion transitioned into a part-time role following WWE WrestleMania 33 in April 2017, returning for one-off programs with the likes of Baron Corbin, Elias, and Roman Reigns. With his future firmly set in Hollywood, Cena now encounters the same scheduling obstacles that have prevented the likes of The Rock and Batista from making it back to the squared circle, as well as the talent contracts that bar him from getting physical off set, as potential injuries could result in production set backs.
Regardless of his business, Cena has never strayed too far from in-ring action. Even in the beginning weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cena still laced up his shoes for a cinematic match with "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt, which resulted in his longest hiatus from the company. Cena would return 15 months later at WWE Money in the Bank to confront Undisputed WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns, setting up a generational clash for the following month's WWE SummerSlam. Cena would be defeated by Reigns and would depart WWE once more.
Three months ago, Cena returned to Monday Night Raw to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his WWE debut. While he solely came out to the ring to give thanks to the WWE fans and roster, Cena did tease that his wrestling days are not over just yet.
"It's been 20 years and I'm 45 years old, I only state that because I don't know when you're going to see me in the ring again," Cena said. "I'm not saying you won't, I just don't know when that's going to be."
A backstage segment with Mr. Money in the Bank Austin Theory has many believing that the two are due to collide at some point in the future. That said, if that bout doesn't go down until next year's WWE WrestleMania 39, 2022 would mark the first calendar year in Cena's career that he did not wrestle either a televised or live event match.
This is somewhat expected for the veteran superstar, as his Hollywood career has forced him to put full attention on acting. Still, Cena has been able to drag out a consistent part-time run for five years now, which is significantly longer than his fellow wrestlers turned movie stars.
If Cena doesn't wrestle this year, it likely signals the beginning of the end of his WWE appearances. Stars like The Rock and Batista returned for some one-off programs that had them consistently on television for weeks, but they would depart shortly after without a clear return set. Beyond his inevitable feud with Theory, Cena has a big story to tell revolving around the WWE Championship. Considering he is one world title away from breaking Ric Flair's record, many have speculated that Cena will get one final championship run before his career comes to a close.