It was summer 2014.
The Shield, the hottest act in WWE, had just split up. Traitor Seth Rollins and loose cannon Dean Ambrose were feuding, the latter taking every chance he could to club the former until he was peeled away, so the third member of the trio, Roman Reigns, had nowhere to go — but up.
That meant Reigns, riding the momentum of his role as The Shield's enforcer, found himself sharing rings with then-WWE World Heavyweight Champion John Cena.
Both were good guys. They had no bad blood. But the overexposed Cena still didn't stand a chance: Every time Reigns and Cena shared a ring in the summer of 2014, WWE's presumptive next ace got cheered and its current one got booed.
The company even placed the two in one of its classic "testing the waters" segments at the end of one Raw, wherein they raised each other's arms for no other reason than to see how the crowd would react. And when Reigns held Cena's arm high, knowingly smirking as the boos bombarded them, he looked well on his way to supplanting Cena as "The Guy."
Quick: Who's the WWE U.S. Champion right now?
Though Reigns and Cena would mix it up in the Money in the Bank ladder match that summer and again in a Fatal Fourway the next month at Battleground, they never fought one-on-one.
Two years later, three-time WWE World Heavyweight Champion Reigns is indeed "The Guy," as he's rather fond of reminding hostile crowds. And Cena, after several months of injury, a string of great U.S. Open Challenge matches and some fun turns in raunchy comedies, is poised to return to a hero's welcome from the WWE Universe.
Meanwhile, after a lackluster bow — a long, long bow — last month at AT&T Stadium, Vince McMahon must already be thinking about his WrestleMania 33 main event. And he could do nothing bigger, nothing more epochal, than the first real singles match between his new top guy and his last one.
Here, though, I'd just like to take a second and marvel at the possibility: Roman Reigns vs. John Cena in front of 75,000 people, and them cheering, unreservedly, for Cena.
Unless the time between his return and WrestleMania turns the fans against Cena again, too. Then WWE's really in trouble.