John Cena – Complacent or misunderstood?
When it comes to an organization that thrives on capturing people’s attention, every generation has seen that one guy who carried the company through his era. We had the Bruno Sammartino era, then we had the Hulk Hogan era. These guys had carried the company for nearly a decade, with Bruno holding the WWWF title for that duration, and Hogan carrying the company for the same amount of time. After Hogan left the WWF, you had the Bret Harts and Steve Austins who brought the organization to a new era, and when Austin hung up his boots, Vince needed someone to take the company to greater and better heights.
When Austin and Rock left the WWF, the company was in a transitional period. It had often happened with the organization, and then Vince managed to find that one superstar who could elevate himself when the time needed. When Sammartino’s run with the company ended, he found Hogan. And when Hogan’s time was up, he made Bret the face of the organization, and then the Austins and the Rocks. And when the company needed a new face to build on, there was one guy Vince could capitalize on. A young man who had worked his way through Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW), which was a training ground for the green superstars who were heading to the WWE.
In 2002, a rookie named John Cena made his debut. It was a great year for the WWF/E, as another guy by the name of Brock Lesnar had started creating shock waves in the company. Not only was he strong, he was more athletic than a Cruiserweight, which made him a special talent. Not only did he win the King of the Ring tournament within his first year, he became the youngest WWE Undisputed champion in the history of the company! John Cena was aiming for similar rewards, but his work needed a lot of polishing, and he didn’t have a certain character. Then he got into a feud with the Undertaker, the yard stick of the company, and developed a heel rapper character. People were interested in him, and he was edgy and entertaining, something the WWE needed. And so, the journey of John Cena began as the top dog of the company in ’05, when he defeated JBL to capture the WWE championship at WrestleMania.
Guys like Hogan were despised, and still are, by the hardcore wrestling fans, who can see through the smokes and mirrors. Vince wants to create a money making machine, which he calls the ‘top draw’. With Hogan, you had the same cycle, repetition of everything; his matches were always the same, his promos were always the same, and even his feuds always ended the same way. When all the kids and the parents were happy with Hogan, the real wrestling fans tried to find an alternative, which they did in WCW and ECW. But when Hogan took over WCW, their alternative was no more. The same thing happens everywhere; when you have the same dish every day, soon enough you will despise it. The same thing happened with John Cena. Just after a year, the fans turned against him. His rapper gimmick was replaced by something very similar to Hogan’s in the 80s, which was called the ‘Superman’ gimmick, where they’d defy the odds and come out on top every time. Back in the 80′s, people had no internet, had no other way to voice their opinions. Come to the 2000′s, people were smart, they knew what was happening. As all the kids and women adored Cena, the wrestling fans cast him out.
Vince loves getting a reaction, but what Cena gets is not the kind of reaction you’d want. In wrestling terms, it is called the ‘X – Pac heat’ (Sorry Waltman), which means that the fans just don’t want to see him and that’s why they boo him. WWE twisted this into a ‘Controversial superstar’ angle at first, but then found a better way to capitalize on it. Vince is a genius. He understood that the fans didn’t want to see Cena, but the kids and women were making too much money for him. Cena was their top guy who sold gates and brought in millions in merchandise sales and revenues. Soon, the crowd was filled with little kids and women, and what did Vince do? He made Cena the poster boy for Make A Wish foundation and Anti Bullying campaigns, by starting a ‘Rise Above Hate’ movement. Love him or hate him, but only Vince could have come up with an ingenious ploy such as this.
Although, on a personal stand point, I do not dislike Cena, I do not like him either. But one thing is for sure, he has become complacent. His matches for the past 7 years have been repetitive, similar to Hogan’s. But that is understandable, since he used to work every date and every show, and he did for 5 years straight. The fans have to understand that Vince cannot risk his top star getting injured, but that doesn’t serve as an excuse for Cena for not even trying to put on a good show. When the fans put their hard earned money into the product, Vince is obliged to put out something interesting. Yet, till 2 years ago, we got the same match in the main event for all PPVs. And when the fans were clamoring for a substitute, lo comes the straight edge savior.
John Cena has been the face of the company for far too long now, and that will not change. Come WrestleMania, Cena will defeat Rock in the return match and will win the WWE title once again. The sad part is, though Cena hasn’t been the WWE Champion for over a year and a half, he still was the focus of the company, which is what the fans hate. Even when you had Punk who was on a hot streak, the previous WrestleMania was headlined by Cena. This is a complaint that most fans have, something which is correct. From ’06, the PPV buy-rates have fallen down drastically, and the main reason for that is the fans don’t have a reason to buy the PPV. It has to be remembered that only the hardcore wrestling fans buy PPVs, at least 70% of it. And when you have been put off by the product, you do not have a reason to buy it, which is where Vince is losing money.
I’ve talked to many people who say that the WWE took the PG way because of Cena. That is one statement which is untrue. WWE would have gone the PG way eventually, especially after the Benoit tragedy and Linda taking part in the Senate race, and Cena just happened to be the right guy at the right place. The one thing I expect WWE to do is to at least change his gimmick and give us something fresh. Like Hogan, Cena has become stale. His promos have gotten worse, and his character has become predictable and boring. People also clamor for a Cena heel turn, but that will not happen. When your fans are kids and women, if you become a bad guy, they won’t buy into you, unless you become a Razor/Shawn-esque character, by showing bad is ‘cool’, which would go against the Make A Wish and Anti-Bullying slogans, which will be a no win situation. We need new faces in the company, and although Cena will still be the ‘go to’ guy, he needs to stop being complacent, and needs to work on his technique and promos. Sadly, that is the only possible solution you can get out of this.