How John Cena is winning over WWE fans who used to hate him
John Cena is always going to have critics, but he is starting to win more people over through hard work and great performances.
We may be only a month into 2017, but we already have a Match of the Year candidate on our hands. John Cena and AJ Styles tore the house down at the Royal Rumble while fighting for the WWE Championship, and the bout received universal praise on social media for somehow managing to top their encounter at SummerSlam.
As usual, Cena entered the arena to mixed reactions. He had his usual cheering section, but any given crowd is also going to have a significant amount of his critics. By the end of the match, everyone in the arena was giving him a standing ovation.
The reaction from the crowd was for both men's performance, but Cena was the one holding the WWE title above his head, triumphantly while they were cheering. Two nights later on SmackDown, he came out to another mixed response, but, this time, it was even split between his supporters and haters.
Cena is no stranger to having fans boo him, but the past couple of years have seen a shift in the way the WWE Universe responds to him. There was once a time where it seemed like every fan in every arena hated him, but some have started to change their tune.
There are a few different reasons why the perceptions of the 16-time champion are shifting, and one of the biggest is the quality of his work in the ring. He isn't just consistent, he is evolving as different opponents force him to up his game.
Cena spent years facing the same few people over and over, so his matches became repetitive. However, the roster has changed quite a bit over the past five years. New Superstars have emerged as top talents, and WWE has recruited some of the biggest names in the business to beef up the locker room.
It all started with CM Punk in 2010. He was one of the first people to come along in the modern era who didn't conform to the WWE style of wrestling. His skills were developed on the indy scene, and hence his matches had a totally different feel than what we were used to.
When Punk began his feud with Cena, they made each other better because they were the best at what they did. Cena helped Punk realise his true potential as a top star, while Punk forced Cena to work outside of his comfort zone. They challenged each other to rise to a new level.
Their matches were always show-stealers, and fans began to understand that there was more to Cena than five signature moves and an outdated pair of jorts. He began to show more depth, and some fans reacted by showing their support for the man they once despised.
Chants of "You can't wrestle” became "This is awesome.” Shirts with the slogan "Cena sucks” became less commonplace in the crowd, and surprisingly, some of his harshest critics began buying Cena's gear and wearing it proudly.
As time went on, more Superstars came along who would force Cena to add more moves to his repertoire. He has been incorporating manoeuvres like the tornado DDT, powerbomb and even the occasional hurricanrana. Even something as simple as a dropkick changed up his usual routine.
His matches with Kevin Owens were especially entertaining, and seeing him fight with a wrestler who was just starting out on the main roster showed he was willing to help build new stars to ensure the future of the company.
Being a 16-time world champion is his greatest accomplishment, but his United States Championship open challenges is what helped change some of his more cynical fans to acknowledge his ability to wrestle just about anyone and produce a great match.
The list of people who challenged him for the title is like a fantasy roster of incredible wrestlers. Sami Zayn, Cesaro, Alberto Del Rio, Neville, Big E, Xavier Woods, Dean Ambrose, Stardust and Zack Ryder are some of the people he stole the show with.
By taking such pride in defending the U.S. title every week against a different opponent, Cena restored some of its lost prestige and helped the midcard scene at the same time. Most main eventers wouldn't willingly take themselves out of the world title picture, but Cena is one of the exceptions.
His work in the ring has won a lot of people over, but it's his charitable activities which make it hard to hate the guy. He is the most active celebrity in the Make A Wish Foundation and works with WWE to promote other worthy causes like The Special Olympics and cancer research.
Gaining critical praise for his comedic performances in films like Trainwreck and Sisters helped him gain even more fans from outside the wrestling world, which brings more attention to the wrestling industry as a result.
His drive is admirable, and it's no surprise WWE has kept him in such a prominent role so he can be a good role model for fans of all ages.
John Cena is always going to have detractors, but his hard work and dedication have earned him a large following that never seems to stop growing. Even if he stops working a full-time schedule, expect Cena to be a major part of WWE for a long time.