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LaBar: Cena will miss WrestleMania

| Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016, 11:27 p.m.

Some say 40 is the new 30. Try telling that to John Cena, who is having surgery for a torn rotator cuff and will miss WrestleMania 32.

Cena, 38, has carried the heaviest workload for WWE in the past 10 years, and it's starting to take its toll. We've seen Cena sidelined several times in the past 12 months for injuries stemming from a broken nose to an inflamed elbow.

The more matches you work, the greater your odds for injury. You can land hard on your shoulder and get caught flush on the nose by Seth Rollins' knee in a matter of seconds.

This is a most significant injury at a most significant time for Cena and WWE, and the goal for a record-setting WrestleMania at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas becomes an taller task.

In addition to Cena, WWE is missing Rollins, Randy Orton, Daniel Bryan and Cesaro. There are still 13 weeks until the big show, but that's 13 weeks of physical abuse for an already injured roster.

This is a test of creativity and courage for Vince McMahon. The Rock, Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker will be involved in WrestleMania in some capacity; that was determined even before Cena's injury. However, their level of responsibility to the show hasn't been.

Ushering out established but part-time stars in the biggest of matches can get WWE successfully through the run-up to WrestleMania season. But then, the part-timers depart.

I'm not against using established stars who work part-time. The buzz and viewing impact always has been worth it. I'm against the focus being on part-time stars.

There are three months until WrestleMania, so while it is unfortunate, Cena's injury isn't a last-minute calamity.

Before Cena was injured, I was convinced pitting him in a title match against Roman Reigns was the right decision for WrestleMania. It would be a way to establish Reigns as next in line to fill Cena's spot for the future as the ultimate good guy with mainstream appeal. A passing of the torch, if you will.

That torch passing won't happen at WrestleMania, but enhancing roster quality and depth must be a priority.

Cena isn't getting any younger. He'll be 39 three weeks after WrestleMania. Times have changed. A quarter century ago, professional wrestling was a big man's sport. It featured slower matches, and audience standards weren't as demanding in terms of physicality on a weekly basis.

WWE needs to provide an opportunity for young wrestlers to step up and grab the brass ring McMahon so memorably spoke of on Steve Austin's podcast.

Reigns against Triple H might be the best option for Reigns at WrestleMania. There won't be any crowd split for this, just solid support behind Reigns, which is vital. Triple H knows how to manipulate a crowd into hating his character. Imagine the added heat from “smart” fans if both Triple H the performer and executive went to WrestleMania as WWE champion. It could be the perfect storm and validation for Reigns.

Kevin Owens, who had an incredible rookie year for WWE in 2015, should benefit. Use his hot-headed demeanor toward Lesnar. Perhaps Lesnar eliminates Owens from the Rumble, and Owens delivers a vicious sneak attack as retaliation. Talk about an attention grabber for Owens' first WrestleMania match.

Light a torch for someone fresh to the WWE audience, someone who has had a career defined by delivering big-time matches. I heard a wrestler named AJ Styles just returned stateside from New Japan Pro Wrestling.

Justin LaBar is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jlabar@tribweb.com.

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