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2015: The Year John Cena’s AA Stopped Working

At Royal Rumble, John Cena faced Seth Rollins and WWE World Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar in a Triple Threat Match. It’s widely considered to be among the best WWE matches of 2015.

At one point, Cena gave his signature Attitude Adjustment to Lesnar multiple times, in succession. Cena had to keep delivering the AA, because the Beast Incarnate kept shrugging it off and getting back up. Later in the match, Cena hit Seth Rollins with an AA. Rollins kicked out too. What was once John Cena’s most powerful maneuver was suddenly no more effective than a hip toss.

Little did we know at the time, but this was just the beginning.

You can argue John Cena in 2015 was North America’s best professional wrestler in a decade. His weekly U.S. Title Open Challenge was one of the few bright spots on Raw over the past year.

Cena put on great matches with a wide variety of opponents, and one of the key ingredients was the almost comical ineffectiveness of the Attitude Adjustment.

Countless guys kicked out of the move that was once the death blow for any Cena opponent, and not just upper card talent like Cesaro and Dean Ambrose. Do you remember this match against Bad News Barrett?

By the middle of the year, I was repeatedly using a punchline about NXT trainers teaching new recruits how to kick out of the AA on their first day at the WWE Performance Center.

Let’s be clear. Cena himself kicked out of finishers in a lot of these matches. That’s no big surprise, and it’s part an issue in professional wrestling that extends beyond Cena. Guys and girls kick out of one another’s finishers all the time. It’s out of control. In my opinion, there’s far more drama to be extracted from the desperate attempt to avoid a feared, devastating finisher maneuver than in someone simply kicking out of it.

Getting back to Cena, it’s not like his AA never works. It’s just that it now seems like he needs to hit it 2 or 3 times in any given match to get the desired result. Not all hope is lost, however. Cena’s AA did keep Jon Stewart down.