His match with CM Punk at Money in the Bank. While mostly the definitive Crowning Moment of Awesome for Punk (which covers a lot of ground), credit must be given to Cena for delivering a stellar performance for over half an hour.
And then there's at the end when Vince tries to repeat the Montreal Screwjob. Cena instantly runs out and decks John Laurinaitis to stop him from telling the timekeeper to end the match in Cena's favor. Sure, Cena lost because of it, but doesn't distract from the awesome.
One of the IWC's biggest complaints about Cena's character is his tendency to turn into The Cape. Then again, it did cost him the match, which no doubt didplease the IWC a bit.
In fact, this match is so good, it's considered by many to be the greatest match of Cena's career, beating out both his matches with Shawn Michaels.
One of his matches was a back and forth match that lasted 57 minutes (which is around 4 to 5 commercial breaks), with Shawn ultimately getting the pin.
This is the match which Chris Jericho credits with making him want to return later that year.
Cena's Judgement Day '05 "I Quit" match with JBL.
The match was brutal, with Cena's head completely covered in blood. However, by the end Cena took the win by threatening to kick JBL's ass with an exhaust pipe. Even after he won, Cena still hit him with the pipe.
His match with CM Punk on Raw in Febuary '13 was almost universally acclaimed, going over twenty minutes and ending in a clean pinfall finish without any of the chicanery or interference one would expect in an important main event. It was very refreshing and especially notable with the lack of smarks complaining that Cena was "carried" to a great match by a more talented opponent; in this case, both men put in a stellar effort and both were recognized for having one of the top ten Raw matches in the last decade.
People remember that Punk during his feud with Cena gave some of the best promos possible but how can we forget some of Cena's impressive mic work on a particular night. On the 8/8/11 Raw, after Punk states that he will walk out WWE Champion and Cena will still have his legion of fans and Wrestlemania match, Cena can only grin and offer Punk some advice.
Cena: Fine speech. Do you realize how much pressure is on you this sunday? No, no, no, no, no... You have no idea. Congratulations, Punk. You won one match... In Chicago, at Money In The Bank. You did a hell of a job. You beat me, straight up. You have every right to be called the WWE Champion. You ever thought about what happens if you just might lose at Summerslam? Your little diatribe about me going on and facing Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson at Wrestlemania is exactly correct. Win, lose or draw I'm headed to Wrestlemania to face The Rock. You... You need this match. You need this more than anything in your life because you now have people watching you. You have explained that that *points to the mic in Punk's hand* is a pipe bomb, and I commend you for that... But if you don't back it up when the bell rings, especially this Sunday, do you know what you are? You're a loud-mouthed one-hit wonder. You... You. You will be known as Buster Douglas, Yahoo Serious, Milli... *asks the crowd* What's the other guy? Vanilli. If you don't produce on Sunday with everything on the line, for you... All of this? *snaps his fingers* Gone, just like that... Good luck.
On the July 19, 2011 edition of RAW, Vince McMahon calls Cena to the ring to fire him. Cena doesn't let Vince get a word in edge wise, telling Vince to save his tirade for when he's finished. He then proceeds to lay into Vince with a picture perfect "The Reason You Suck" Speech, calling Vince out for trying to recreate the Montreal Screwjob and for the black mark said screwjob had left on Shawn Michaels' career as a result. He goes on to tell Vince that he'd rather be fired than have the same happen to him. Even better, despite the fact Vince banned the saying of CM Punk's name due to his rage, Cena practically spits in Vince's face by thanking him for the great match directly in front of Vince! For the first time in a long time, the crowd was firmly behind Cena without one boo directed his way the entire promo!
On the August 8, 2011 edition of RAW, he and CM Punk have a face off. Punk airs a video of the Rock bashing Cena over his Broken Base, then proceeds to do the same thing himself. Cena turns it around in a way that's completely incharacter for him by pointing out the fact he likes being a Base Breaker who can get that kind of reaction out of people because he enjoys seeing people really get into his matches. He then goes on by thanking Punk for his "you've become the New York Yankees!" insult after giving it some thought a couple of weeks back, he realized he was right, but in a way that Punk hadn't thought of, that he and the Yankees share their ability to get the crowd to be extremely vocal and involved. This got a huge pop from the crowd as well.
Cena coming to Rey Mysterio Jr's rescue by storming the ring and going berserk on Alberto Del Rio. It wasn't so much that moment as Cena's acting for it. He looked truly furious, which added to "The Reason You Suck" Speech that followed. The best part, the sighted reason for his rage was that Del Rio had kept trying to screw the new champion out of the title after a hard fought win, then turning tail and running the moment he sees they can still fight him until he finally found CM Punk in a position were he couldn't defend himself, then acting like he'd actually accomplished something. This perfectly fit Cena's angle in the past weeks, where he'd showed complete disdain for someone trying to take the easy way out to win the WWE title. It makes perfect sense for Cena to be furious that Alberto is acting like he actually earned the WWE title by waiting for someone to be completely defenseless and running off if he found out they weren't.
John Cena vs. CM Punk III was another awesome match, which Cena managed to win this time.
For example, Viscera is very well known for his massive, 500lb frame. And John went for it anyway, just to show you who the hell John freakin' Cena is.
One even more memorable moment was at WrestleMania 25, where he was in a Triple Threat match against Edge and The Big Show, where he lifted both of them on his shoulders for his AA. Edge was in the middle of trying to choke out Big Show and and jumped off before Cena AA'ed Big Show. In case you didn't notice, Cena had 700 pounds of human flesh on his shoulders before Edge ducked out of the way.
According to his My Life DVD, he got into a body building contest when he was around 15-16; he got second place because he looked too good.
Similarly, at Night of Champions 2011, Alberto Del Rio, who's roughly 240 pounds, locked Cena in his Crucifix Armbar, only for Cena to stand up while in the hold and give him a one-handed powerbomb.
Especially awesome since the powerbomb is an actual Mixed Martial Arts counter to the juji-gatame.
His debut against Kurt Angle. Kurt Angle was being his usual cocky self, claiming that he had beaten everyone there is to beat in the Smack Down locker room, and he was letting anyone from the back, who he hadn't went up against before, challenge him to a match. John Cena, looking like a local jobber coming out to jobber music got in the ring with an angry look on his face. Kurt Angle asked who he was. Cena responds by saying his name, and the crowd couldn't be more dead. Angle then asked what he thought it took to get in to the ring with "the very best in the business". Cena then yelled "RUTHLESS AGGRESION!" (a Call Back to Vince McMahon's speech which opened up that week's Raw) and proceeded to beat the crap out of Kurt Angle. Of course, Angle won, but the match proved that Cena wasn't just your everyday jobber.
And to everyone's amazement, he actually was able to get out of both the Ankle Lock and the Angle Slam, and lost to a basic roll-up. And remember, this was his first TV match in WWE.
To put it in perspective: Cena successfully brought an end to one of the most dangerous alliances in WWE currently without even laying so much as a finger on either Miz or R-Truth.
Cena has superhuman recovery. His first major injury required surgery and at least six months of no wrestling. This was in October 2007, just before his match against Orton at No Mercy. Fast forward to the Royal Rumble, that took place January 27 2008 Guess who's No. 30 and winner of said rumble?
Also, when he broke his neck in a match at SummerSlam against Batista. It was the week after, that the announcement was made, that he broke his neck. Cena was back in time for Survivor Series. Also, the day after the surgery, he was up and walking and went to see the other wrestlers at the Smackdown tapings.
After weeks of psychological attacks, physical beatdowns, and having to witness his friend Zack Ryder get destroyed by Kane, Cena finally got a measure of retribution on the Big Red Monster during the 1/30/12 edition of Raw, delivering a satisfying No-Holds-Barred Beatdown, causing Kane to go into retreat for the first time since he made his return in December 2011. The only question that remains is whether or not Cena will actually give into hatred just like Kane wants him to.
2/20/12 Raw: Eve Torres explains to the Bella Twins—in the opening segment of RAW—how she's gonna use John Cena the same way she used Zack Ryder. This even unnerves the Bellas, and just as she plans on putting her scheme into motion, she turns around...and Cena is right there, having heard the entire thing. Cue Cena going out to the ring, and taking Eve to task for her atrocious behavior, telling her "I lost a Broski to a Hoeski!", and driving her to an utter Villainous Breakdown while the crowd, firmly behind the Man Scorned Ryder, boo her into oblivion. And then she tries to throw herself at Cena:
Cena: For your information, I'm disease-free; I'd like to keep it that way!
The night before, Cena fought Kane in an Ambulance Match during the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, and decisively defeated the monster, more than likely rising above the hate, rather than embrace it, as Kane has constantly been preaching to Cena during the feud.
What we didn't know at the time was Cena's promo with Eve was his warm-up, because later that night he delivered a promo that many consider the best of his career or at least the best promo of 2012 to date. With his Wrestlemania opponent The Rock in his crosshairs, Cena came out to his usual mixed reaction and chants of "ROCKY! ROCKY! ROCKY!" when he brought up that the Rock would be live on RAW next week to talk to him. Cena immediately went on the offensive, claiming that at one point, he was a Rock fan too, until the Rock transformed into "Dwayne Johnson" and made it all about his movie career. Cena reminded the fans that just like when the Rock returned to announce he was hosting Wrestlemania 27 and said he was "Never going away again" and left, that that was exactly what was going to happen after Cena/Rock at Wrestlemania 28, because originally "he had only come back to promote Fast Five and launch his twitter account." Reminding the crowd that he was here to stay, Cena delivered perhaps the most shocking moment to smarks everywhere when he said he was looking forward to this match for the dream of every person in the back who had a dream of making a career being not a "WWE Superstar" as the talent is expected to call themselves, but a PROFESSIONAL WRESTLER, then concluded with a guarantee that the headline will read John Cena defeats the Rock in his hometown at Wrestlemania 28. He then said "I'll see you next week, movie star." into the camera, and walked out of the ring. And then Smark Wrestling marks everywhere looked at each other and said "Wait...I think I might like John Cena..."
March. 12. 2012. It wasn't enough that the Monday Night RAW broadcast started with Jerry Lawler announcing the return of "Thuganomics" and Cena coming out in his original theme and wearing the chain, cap, and throwback jersey combo of his original gimmick. No military salute, and wearing an obvious snarl on his face. But then Cena lived up to billing, winding back the clock nine years and delivering one of the classic battle rap promos that helped catapault him to superstardom..not to mention leaving the PG image (of which he has become a symbol) battered, bruised, and bloodied in his wake - all in less than five minutes. Short as it was, it had everything. Visual Puns, (he threw his nuts at the camera), words that couldn't air on television, and even a few words that did air on television that were downright shocking for anyone who know what they meant. (And if you don't, do NOT google "Cleveland Steamer." You Do Not Want To Know.) The kicker of the night was Cena's Badass Boast: And no, I don't have balls, but I got something in their place. I'mma beat your ass at Wrestlemania and put my nuts dead in your face!
Cena interrupted John Laurinaitis and Brock Lesnar, walked right up to the middle of the ring and slapped the latter in the face. Without prior provocation (at least on that night). He then persisted in seeking him out during the almighty brawl that followed - all while sporting a bloody mouth. That took guts and he was still smiling. After being Low blowed and later F5'd, he tweets after it ends "that was an interesting Raw."
Whatever people think of Cena's workrate, let it never be said he won't take a real ass-whoopin for the company. Case in point: Brock Lesnar's return match at Extreme Rules. 30 seconds and 3 clean elbows in, Cena is busted open hardway from the head. He then eats more elbows, stiff clotheslines, getting dumped off the turnbuckle upside down while his feet were chained...and still pulled a win out of his ass thanks to an opportune chain shot to the head of Lesnar followed by an Attitude Adjustment ON the steel steps. Even the Chicago crowd, which had the usual Cena split, were firmly behind Cena at the end with the damage he was wearing at the hands of Brock's No-Holds-Barred Beatdown that blurred the line of stiff work and shooting.
The best part of Cena's win over Lesnar? Not only did he defeat a man brought in with the sole purpose of taking him out, but he got the most venomously smarky crowd in the US on his side. He finally did what he had set out to do, he had finally risen above the hate.
The Smackdown before No Way Out, Cena finally got his physical revenge and laid Laurinitis out despite (or perhaps encouraged by) threats of being fired.
Crosses over with Heartwarming. According to Brodus Clay, they were gonna cut his dance sequence at WrestleMania, John Cena who were nearby heard, and said if Brodus weren't going out for his bit, neither would he. And thus Brodus got to dance.
Wrestlemania 23: Drove a Mustang at high speed through the streets into the arena blasting through the Wrestlemania 23 glass panel.
Wrestlemania 24: Had the Jones High School Marching Tigers perform his entrance music.
Wrestlemania 25: Had a legion of people dressed like him line up on both sides of the aisle to his Thuganomics entrance music. His actual music hit and he ran down the aisle between them as they all performed his "You can't see me" gesture. As well as a possible Shout-Out to The Real Slim Shady it was described by Jerry Lawler as perhaps the best entrance he'd ever seen.
Wrestlemania 26: The US Air Force honor guard drill team performed a rifle-trick routine where the captain marched up and down the rows of twirling, loaded, bayonetted rifles before Cena entered as they all saluted.
Wrestlemania 28: Machine Gun Kelly performed Invincible before John entered with a video of the career highlights of John Cena behind Kelly.
On the 9/10/2012 Raw, Cena was in the main event giving a promo with Bret Hart and CM Punk, in Canada. Cena not only gets the notoriously fickle Canadian crowd on his side, he manages to out-shoot CM Punk. Cena even managed all this the night of Jerry Lawler's heart attack, which is really a CMOA for all three men.
On October 15, 2012, Cena shuts CM Punk's mouth by roaring a very loud "ENOUGH!" And after that, he slams his words down and encourages Ryback to accept the challenge in the Hell In The Cell match.
Why has no one mentioned the infamous promo where John Cena MIMICKED RARITY'S tactic from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, calling out Christian and Mark Henry after they said he was whining and giving them a taste of ACTUAL whining! Bronies, Wrestling Fans, and the WORLD erupted at finding out the JOHN FELIX ANTHONY CENA was a brony!
He wrestled CM Punk yet again on the February 25, 2013 edition of RAW, for the #1 contendership to the WWE Title, and thus a shot at The Rock at Wrestlemania. They wrestle yet another classic and an instant favorite for TV match of the year, and both dug deep into their arsenals of moves. Punk proved he knew Cena so well that he countered his trademark shouldertackle to send him flying out of the ring and resurrected the pile driver, and Cena brought out a Batista Bomb (sitout powerbomb), a Benoit-style crossface, and even (for the second time ever) a flying headscissors takedown. Cena capped it all off by getting his first win against Punk since MITB shortly after SummerSlam 2011, and is now looking to redeem himself against The Rock.
And the Fridge Brilliance of how the match was wrestled made it even more awesome. Cena's usual techniques didn't work because he and Punk had wrestled so many matches against each other, most of which have seen Punk counter Cena's usual routine on a regular basis, so it was as if Cena realized that it would take using a couple of moves Punk hadn't seen used against him before in order to finally beat him.
The 04/08/13 Raw immediately following WrestleMania shows us why Cena is one of the very best mike workers in the industry. To begin with, he was in the ring following his winning the WWE title the night before and standing in front of a very hostile crowd filled floor to ceiling with Smarks giving him deafening chants of "Bor~ing! Bor-ing!" after about thirty seconds. He kept his cool, telling the crowd, "No, the Raw after Wrestlemania is anything but boring!", a line that got a bit of a chuckle. He said he wanted to dance to celebrate, going through a few moves and ending with a "heel turn", literally turning his ankle in a dance move. By now the crowd was shifting over. By the time Mark Henry came out to make his interruption and Cena insulted him a few times and played along with a few more crowd chants, the crowd was fully on his side. That all ended by the time he got back backstage of course, but there probably doesn't exist anybody else in the business who could take a crowd from full hostility all the way to laughing and support as completely as he did.
Cena has done this several times since then. Quite often, he'll perform on Raw to a hostile crowd with little to no interest in anything he has to say. More often than not, he'll win them over or at least make them benevolently neutral with a masterful display of showing just enough anger and/or intensity to be interesting, but not so much that he completely breaks his heroic persona. He has even done this while feuding with Daniel Bryan, who in terms of drawing interest from the educated fan is the absolute worst person to be paired against; Bryan is the technically savvy indy darling while Cena in many eyes represents the worst of the "main event" wrestling culture. In one August '13 promo against each other, Bryan tears Cena down for being a parody of "pure" wrestling. In turn, Cena acknowledges his critics and their reasons for disliking him, even using the phrase "Five Moves of Doom" to describe his own style and telling the crowd that those complaints have merit. He goes on to show that he is not like other vanilla faces who are deaf to their critics, but brings up a sizeable portion of the crowd that does support him, and that if he can't win over he one, he'll keep on wrestling for the other; again, showing just enough intensity to be interesting, but not so much as to break character. In short, it's a easy for someone like The Rock to come in and get deafening cheers nowadays without having to try all that hard, but Cena consistently wins over crowds while working with a handicap.
Not something Cena himself did, but the way a monster heel was able to singlehandedly turn a divided crowd in favor of Cena by being such a colossal jerk. On the April 24, 2012 Raw, Brock Lesnar presented John Laurinaitis with his list of demands, including being flown around in Vince McMahon's private jet, being named "the new face of WWE" and having the show renamed Monday Night Raw Featuring Brock Lesnar. At the start of the segment, the crowd was clearly in its usual "Let's Go Cena"/"Cena Sucks" mode. By the time Lesnar was fully into his ego trip, the crowd was firmly booing Brock and supporting Cena.
Before SummerSlam 2013, John Cena was informed that he had a torn triceps that would need surgery. He was told to go home, get the surgery, and they would cancel the WWE title match at SummerSlam. Cena refused, and went through with the match. And it was another classic in a long career of classic matches by Cena. Even though he lost to Daniel Bryan, he did not use the arm injury as an excuse. Instead, he came on Raw the very next day (with a swelling the size of a softball on his elbow) and informed the WWE Universe that he could no longer put off the surgery, and would be gone for four to six months. He may have lost the title, and he may not be on WWE Programming for a few months, but he definitely went out on a high note.
Cena once again returns months ahead of schedule, and beats Del Rio for the World Heavyweight Title at Hell in a Cell 2013. To make things more awesome, the very next night, Damien Sandow cashes in Money In The Bank....and loses after an epic clash. "THIS IS AWESOME" indeed.
Cena pulling off a bunch of new moves against The Real Americans and Damien Sandow on the 11/4/13 edition of Raw, proving his haters wrong of only doing five movesall the time.
Cena attacking Alberto Del Rio on the 11/18/13 Raw.
At Survivor Series 2013, him and Randy Orton having a epic staredown while Cena holds the World Heavyweight title and Orton holds the WWE title. It's just, EPIC.
On the 12/2/13 Raw, after a contract signing for the Champion VS Champions match at TLC, Cena and Orton starting fighting, after putting Orton through Two tables, Cena stands over Orton holding both the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships.