The Trouble With John

Every era of the WWE timeline is led or associated with one or two faces. Hogan dominates the early 90s, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels for the mid 90s, The Rock and Steve Austin into the new millennium, it seems that for a good three/four year period, the WWE brand is recognised by its top dog.

John Cena has been top dog for eight years.
And a lot of people are not happy about it.

The thirty-six year old Massachusetts born Cena debuted in the WWE in 2002, having spent time training in former feeder company Ohio Valley Wrestling. Shortly after his debut, Cena established himself as a hated white-boy rapper character, ala Vanilla Ice, "wrestling" with an unorthodox street-fighting style and favouring denim shorts and sneaker style boots as his ring attire. Cena's unbearable Dr Seuss-esque raps would piss off the majority of the crowd as intended, but eventually many fans warmed to him, some legitimately and some out of a sort of twisted irony for the old-school campness of his gimmick.

Word to your mother.
Cena turned face in late 2003 and captured the US Title in 2004 which led to what, to this day, is his least controversial period. Fans embraced his amusing gimmick and he could definitely work a solid mid-card match. The dreadful rapping was slowly phased out and focus was put on Cena's iron will and passion to win, he was essentially an underdog fighter, Rocky Balboa style.

A Rocky Balboa who fought professional matches in denim shorts, no less.

Fan on stage, call security.
In 2005, John Cena defeated JBL at Wrestlemania 21 to become the WWE Champion. Cena had a ton of steam going into the show and a lot of vocal support from the fans who had fully bought into his relatable, from-the-streets underdog character, fighting a class war against JBLs arrogant Texan
tycoon. The American Dream come true. The kid came good and went home with the gold.

But, after Cena's WWE title win, something went spectacularly wrong..

protip: Weight belt so logo stays upright
Coming off the win, Cena was given a HORRIBLE "bling-style" spinner championship belt, which looked fucking ridiculous and was considered disrespectful to the title's legacy by longtime fans.
Cena's first feuds as champ were against established wrestlers like Chris Jericho and Kurt Angle, the problem being that although these were heel wrestlers, they had an adoring fanbase that respected their abilities and all that they had achieved in the business. They were also far more experienced and skilled at their craft, whilst Cena was still essentially learning the art of pro-wrestling.

As a result of this, large segments of the live crowd would want Cena's opponents to win, and thus would boo Cena on his entrance, his promos, his comebacks, even though he was the hero. If they could've booed him whilst he took a shit backstage, they would have.
This dissent grew, partly out of genuine dislike of the new champ, who, dressed like a fan, pummelled their long-time favourites with ease, and partly because people started joining in the vocal displeasure because they knew the booing the hero champion was "breaking the script" so to speak, essentially, just trolling the company.
The company foolishly responded with damage control, taking anti-Cena signs off fans at shows and dubbing over the negative noise. This turned it into a fight, and just made the fans more determined to have their voices heard.

First World Problems.

Things went from bad to worse, WWE simply believed the controversy was because people didn't get ENOUGH Cena, so it became all-Cena, all-the-time. Cena pounded through everybody like they were butter, whilst wearing his crappy belt and his own merchandise. The WWE had him release a terrible rap album, even though his debut gimmick was that HIS RAPPING SUCKED, but apparently now we were supposed to think he was the second coming of Eazy E.
Cena's promos were often really infantile, cheesy and homophobic, with Cena frequently "accusing" his opponents of being gay and actually using words like "poopy" all whilst gurning at the fourth wall with his shit-eating grin. 
John would lose the coveted title time and again, just to come out on next night's RAW programme shrugging his shoulders and with a massive grin on his face, as if even his LOSSES were victories.

The hatred was at it's strongest on the internet, with memes and pictures a-plenty, along with forums and social network groups specifically opened just to dedicate time to tearing into Cena and all of his actions, calling for him to lose the belt at best and for his demise at worst. These communities are still going strong today and a quick google of "Anti Cena" or "Cena Sucks" brings up literally thousands of examples of fans irateness of the WWEs golden boy. Some of it well founded, and a whole heap of it foam spewing, death wishing, idiotic hysteria.

Now, it must be pointed out that there is a large portion of fans who LOVE Cena. A lot of them are kids who are willing to pester their parents for the Cena branded hats, sweatbands, neck chains, shirts, action figures, shitty replica belts etc. As such, even if Cena was being booed and dismissed as a champ by a large segment of the audience, he was raking it in from the kids. To be horribly cliched, John Cena had become a licence to print money.
Not only this, but Cena is a dedicated company man. In his entire run in the WWE he has never caused trouble backstage, always showed up wherever he is needed, has always towed the company line in interviews, apparently never suffered from the infamous "demons" of the business and has never refused to go along with company orders.
To this end, he is maybe the best employee that WWE management has ever, EVER had to deal with. For sure one of the most intelligent. This, and he was absolutely killing it in merchandise sales.
A miniscule selection of the thousands of Cena items on offer

The WWE had a reliable cash cow, disgruntled fans and sloppy punches be damned.

As of this writing, Cena is in the middle of his THIRTEENTH World Title reign in his ten year tenure with the company. Cena has defeated almost anyone who is anyone in the business, he has won the Royal Rumble twice, been a former two time tag team champion and has won the Money In The Bank challenge. He even has a few god-awful movies under his belt.

And the people are still booing him.

Because, nothing has ever changed since that first moment the fans disagreed with his status in the company, he still has cheesy promos, he still wears his own merch and sneakers in the ring, he still flattens everyone put in front of him, he still wrestles a sloppy style and he is still wrestling in store-bought shorts.
And his DVD set is fucking called "The John Cena Experience"..


Cena is easily the most controversial WWE Champion of all time, ironically, he has also been consistently in the world title picture longer than any other champion. He makes a fortune in merchandise sales, the kids love him, he'll likely never, ever run out on the company or talk shit about it. Why would they risk going with anyone else?

Personally, I don't hate John Cena (I've spoken to "fans" who literally wish severe injury or tragedy on him to take him out the business, which speaks volumes about their inability to look at life with any kind of reality)
I think Cena is a sloppy wrestler, sure, and he should be far better at his craft this many years and matches down the line, but he's not the worst ever by a long stretch. I genuinely love the work Cena does for charities, he's a hero to the kids and he seems to love and respect this, Cena seems legitimately grateful for his spot in life, his status as a hero to the young and always puts in 100% effort into his work. In his job as a role model, a playground hero and a goodwill ambassador, Cena is arguably the best the business has had since the early years of Sting in WCW.

The trouble with John unfortunately isn't one thing you can put your finger on. It's a collaboration of issues, and not all his fault. Cena was pushed way too hard down the fans throats, a surefire doomsday tactic in this net-savvy age. He's been sold as an early 90's, flag waving style hero to an audience that grew up with ass-kicking, foul mouthed rebels like The Rock, Steve Austin and D-Generation X.
Cena's in-ring ability and obnoxious promo work doesn't match the quality of his peers, both older and younger. He still looks like a pumped up fan who leapt the barrier and snuck into the ring (after raiding the merchandise stand)






But Cena is also a victim of post-internet cynicism. Amongst the self proclaimed smarks who think they "know the business" the trolls who just want to boo all the good guys, and the try-hards who just think hating John Cena gives you some kind of insta-cred amongst teh intarnets, Cena is fighting a  no-win battle for respect on all sides.

John Cena will never be accepted by the fans the way the WWE want him too. It's been EIGHT YEARS since that first title win and he's still getting booed at every show. Cena, however, has a dedicated stable of young fans who see him as an absolute hero and, for those people, he seems to be working hard and making sure he is fulfilling exactly what they expect of him. He signs the autographs and kisses the babies, turns up to the charity gigs and tells the kids to Stay in School.
Anyone who has a problem with that side of Cena needs to get a grip. A man visiting hospitals full of children with terminal illnesses is more impressive to me than how well he applies a stepover-toehold-facelock (Yes, I know, I know, he's terrible at it)

This is awesome.
This. Not so much.

Despite his good-guy status, a heel turn would really refresh Cena's now decade long career. It would give John the opportunity to wrestle a whole different style, against a new slew of opponents and develop a new personality on the microphone. Can you imagine how much frustrated rage must be building up inside that square head of his? Evil Cena, let loose on the fans, could rejuvenate not just the man himself but also the programming of the entire company.
But, heels generally don't sell as much merch, and a loss in John Cena T-shirt revenue is way too much risk for the WWE to take.

And that's The Trouble With John. He's become trapped by his own status. The company can't change him, his gear, his style, his music, his mannerisms, his personality or his matches. Even if Cena himself wanted to change things up (and you can bet, this long into his run, a part of him would love to) there's no way the office would risk slaying the Golden Goose.
John Cena is the status quo until his very last day with the company.

Love him or hate him, he is cemented in WWE history as one of the biggest stars ever and easily the most controversial champion of all time.

"The Champ. Is. Here..."
and brother, it looks like he isn't going anywhere.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The cena kids costume scares me most. The are thousands of mini cena's out there.