We’ve Cena Nuff
By Mother Brain
As many of you have read in my previous wrestling-related blogs and PPV match predictions, I am not a fan of John Cena and the Cena Nation (or Chain Gang or whatever he calls it now). While I do admire his passion for the wrestling business, the fatal combination of limited in-ring ability and Superman-esque booking has done more harm than good for WWE. Obviously heâ€™s not the first superstar to be built up this way (i.e. Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, etc). But unlike his predecessors who were constantly protected by the WWE machine, this past year alone has proven how badly Cena needs a change in his character, preferably a bad guy turn.
To give a little back-story on the rise of this man who dresses up like a 12 year old boy, Cena first made his mark in WWE just a few months after his arrival in 2002. He worked as an Eminem-type white rapper who nicknamed himself the â€˜Doctor of Thuganomicsâ€™ and the gimmick consisted of Cena dissing his opponents before his matches. This gimmick ultimately got him over with the fans and by 2004, Cena became a full-blown babyface.
The following year, a void was sorely missing in WWE. Stone Cold Steve Austin had retired from active performing, The Rock was out making movies, Shawn Michaels refused to work full-time, and Brock Lesnar gave up the business for an ill-faded stint in the NFL. The time was right for younger stars to earn the main event spot in WWE. Wrestlemania 21 in Los Angeles would be the night in which Cena defeated JBL for the WWE championship and would make the jump from Smackdown to Monday Night RawÂ as it returned to the USA Network after a 5 year absence. He became the official face of the company without any torch-passing from previous WWE superstars.
Over the course of the next 6 years, Cena would be loved by mostly women and children while hated by adult men and the so-called â€˜marksâ€™ in the internet wrestling community. Those who loved him felt he was a clean-cut hero like Hulk Hogan and Bret Hart who preached the values of â€œhustle, loyalty, respect.â€ Those who hated him felt that dropping the rapper gimmick made him a phony and the Superman image he displayed in the ring was just too played out for the post-Attitude era. Never before did any top star of the company get such a mixed reaction from the fans and had to acknowledge it on television. But under no circumstance would the WWE attempt to change Cenaâ€™s image. He sold more merchandise than anyone in the roster, headlined major movies produced by the company, and represented the company in a respectful manner at charity organizations and media outlets.
Fast forward to early 2011. Cena still remains the top WWE star and multiple time champion despite the rise of his contemporaries (i.e. Randy Orton and The Miz); however, ratings are stagnant, business is down across the board, and fans tune out little by little. In a desperate attempt to pick business back up again, WWE lures The Rock back to host Wrestlemania 27 in Atlanta. While the main event was Cena vs. Miz for the WWE championship, the real feud being built up was Cena and Rock as they traded back and forth jabs in promos every week leading to the event. Rock attacked Cena for his babyface image while Cena attacked Rock for turning his back on the company for movies. Once Wrestlemania ended, Rock challenged Cena to a match at Wrestlemania 28 in Miami which was just one year away.
Following the bombshell announcement, Cena went on to beat The Miz for his 9th championship title win at Over the Limit, a PPV that scored the lowest buyrate in WWE history. Lower than the disastrous turkey known as ECW December to Dismember. Ratings fell even more with Cena in second rate feuds on Raw. But then came the rise of a disgruntled CM Punk who let loose on WWEâ€™s problems and within a month became WWE champion and made the company relevant again with his realistic but controversial promos. Yet, as soon as Cena went back after the title against Alberto Del Rio in the fall, ratings fell down again and only picked back up as Survivor Series was coming around with Rockâ€™s in-ring return being advertised.
The idea that Cena desperately needs a change in character became more clear in the past couple of weeks. First he was booed in his home state on Monday Night Raw. Even Mick Foley hosting a â€œJohn Cena: This is Your Lifeâ€ segment could not sway the Cena haters. Then the Cena/Rock vs. Awesome Truth main event at Survivor Series went down. I watched it live at Madison Square Garden when the Rockâ€™s presence alone drew more of a hugely positive fan reaction than Cena. In the end, Cena getting booed and Rockbottomed in the worldâ€™s most famous arena made him look weaker than ever. But instead of turning heel that night, Cena tweets on Twitter about not being Mr. Nice Guy anymore and then cuts a promo on Raw in which he respects Rocky by saying how Rocky never lost it. Really Cena? Pardon my ebonics when I say YOUR PUNK-ASS GOT GOT AT MSG LAST NIGHT! It’s like getting jumped in the schoolyard and then coming back to school the next day thanking the bullies for the beatdown! Could you imagine Randy Savage praising Hulk Hogan the night after Wrestlemania V when he lost his title and his woman to Hogan?
The excuses for keeping Cena as a babyface do not work anymore. For years, WWE management worried that without Cena, there was no one else on the roster with his merchandise drawing power. Today, however, guys like Randy Orton, CM Punk, Sheamus, and Zack Ryder draw bigger fan reaction and merchandise sales than Cena. CM Punk, Rock, and Miz are bringing mainstream media outlets to WWEâ€™s attention when they do something major like win a title or appear on a late night show. Randy Orton is on the cover of the new WWE â€™12 video game. All this is happening and yet Raw is lacking in major heel performers. To put Cena back into the title picture as a babyface will just be the same old crap. Why not turn against the Little Jimmies in frustration for the lack of respect he gets? They have plenty of top babyfaces to turn to now.
I also believe that heâ€™s not exactly winning his arguments against the Rock for leaving WWE. If it were not for Rock pursuing his film career or Brock Lesnar going to NFL and then UFC, would Cena really have his current spot? Does Rock have to prove himself against younger guys who are being held back by WWE management and creative? Does WWEâ€™s decision to bring Rock back mean that deep down they lack faith in Cena carrying the company the same way they brought Hogan back in 1993 to lure fans back in the Bret Hart/New Generation era? Above all else for a Cena heel turn to work, he has to make it clear that he NEEDS to beat Rock in order to be taken more seriously by the fans as well as giving credibility to his legacy. Though no matter what, Rock will go into Wrestlemania as the fan favorite with Cena facing the most heat from fans in Miami.