John Cena’s WWE return has helped this year’s SummerSlam earn the highest viewership ever for the summer extravaganza. For over a decade, Cena was the face of the WWE, becoming a 16-time World Champion and a mainstream superstar in the process. In recent years, the former WWE Champion’s Hollywood career has taken off, with starring roles in F9, James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad, as well as an upcoming HBO Max show for his Suicide Squad character, Peacemaker. However, after Cena’s name was seemingly everywhere during Hollywood’s summer of releases, he began teasing a return to the WWE.
At WWE’s Money in the Bank PPV in July, the first PPV with a full capacity crowd since March 2020, Cena returned to confront the current top dog and WWE Universal Champion, Roman Reigns. Setting up a blockbuster showdown for arguably WWE’s second-biggest show of the year, SummerSlam. WWE dubbed this past month the “Summer of Cena,” with The Suicide Squad star appearing on Raw and SmackDowns to help build his main event match against Reigns. In addition to this, his presence dramatically boosted the company’s live event (un-televised shows) business, as some shows had an over 50% surge in ticket sales after Cena’s name was announced. Now, it appears Cena has helped the company set more records with SummerSlam.
Last Saturday, SummerSlam took place at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, in front of over 50,000 fans, and in the main event, Reigns pinned Cena to retain his Universal Championship. Although Cena lost, the match was very well-received, and WWE has now announced that “More people watched Saturday’s event live across Peacock and WWE Network than any other SummerSlam in the company’s history.” Its “seven-figure global audience” was a 55% increase from 2020 and a 29% increase when compared to 2019. Also, WWE revealed that SummerSlam’s live gate “was more than four times greater than the last SummerSlam held with fans in attendance in 2019.” An increase in merchandise sales and sponsorships was also revealed.
Although SummerSlam was a loaded card featuring countless big names like Edge, Randy Orton, and Goldberg, the biggest selling point was undoubtedly Cena’s match. So it’s hard to deny, especially considering his impact on ticket sales pre-SummerSlam and the buzz he’s generated by facing off against Reigns, that the wrestling legend had a big hand in helping the company draw its record-breaking sseven-figure audience. Interestingly, in the article, WWE notes that Brock Lesnar’s return at SummerSlam is now its most-watched Instagram video with over 4 million views, eclipsing the previous most-watched video, which was Cena’s Money in the Bank return. The numbers all highlight just how big of an attraction the wrestler-turned-Hollywood superstar still is in the wrestling world and how important he has been to rejuvenating WWE’s business as they return to putting on shows for live crowds.
Unfortunately for wrestling fans, Cena posted a tweet thanking them for allowing him to return and perform before signing off with the words “I’ll C U soon,” signaling the end of this run. Cena will now be resuming his Hollywood duties, and his next film, Vacation Friends, also hits Hulu this Friday on August 27. It’s evident by his tweet that he certainly plans on returning to WWE in the future, perhaps during WrestleMania season next year. Also, considering the buzz, quality of content, and the SummerSlam viewership numbers he has helped bring, WWE and its fanbase will be eagerly awaiting Cena’s next return.
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