Have you ever had a friend or a group of friends that you constantly make fun of because it’s almost like a term of endearment? You know the ones. Ones who call and you answer the phone with, “What’s up, buttmunch?” I mean, “buttmunch” is interchangeable for any number of seemingly insulting terms: Boogerbrain, butthole, poopface, dickwad, fart sucker, and any number of politically insensitive terms that I’m far too professional to list here. Well, that friend…that’s what John Cena is to us wrestling fans.
I love metaphors, so I’m running with this one. See, John Cena was the cool kid when we were in kindergarten. He came in, all dressed like some sorta thug and we were like, “Whoa, this guy is straight gansta.” Then we grew up a little, but, to be fair, so did he. Over time we were like, “Man, this kid is really getting on my nerves.” So that’s when the boos started. They escalated more and more until I would say they reached a climax in 2011. We were sick of him. Money in the Bank 2011, which I would rank as my all-time favorite PPV, was the show that peaked both the complete decline in popularity of John Cena, but also began his rebirth as a superstar.
There is no denying that the man is one of the most famous professional wrestlers of all time. So, what happened? We all know the story, so I don’t need to rehash it. We honestly just got sick of Cena winning all the damn time. There was no more drama to his matches any more. He was always going to kick out of everything, he was always going to hit his same five moves to set up the finish, and he was always going to talk about how much he had to overcome in order to win. He wasn’t an underdog after very little time of being booked like this. At a certain point you are looking at anyone who steps into the ring with Cena as an underdog, yet when they lose it was Cena who had to overcome the odds.
Naturally, we rebelled. That’s when we began to bully him with our loud taunts and cries of, “Please give us something better.” And it continued for years like we didn’t exist. It wasn’t until CM Punk stepped up and agreed with us. He said, “Listen to this crowd. They want something different.” Punk went to battle for us, it seemed. He was the guy who got to finally bring Cena down and kick off a new era of wrestling where those people we backed would be pushed ahead of the people Vince McMahon backed.
Cena lost. That was the day my opinion on him changed. It was never his fault that he won. He didn’t push himself. He won because of a huge combination of things, but most of all because the man makes the WWE a boatload of money, he’s an amazing ambassador for the company, and he’s ungodly reliable. If I were his boss then you’d best believe I would be rewarding the man. And, from the eyes of the boss, having him lose a match clean is terrifying. Yet, Punk did it (mostly). Every part of me believes that Cena himself made the call and said, “Punk can’t just win. He has to beat me.”
I wasn’t alone. The crowds continued to be ravenous toward him, but he smiled on and embraced it. He mentioned it all the time. He talks to the crowds. Not like a heel who is angry, but like a friend who’s like, “You guys are such dicks. Lol.” I know I’m one of those guys who, when he has been to live shows, chants, “John Cena sucks!” If I like him then why? Because it’s funny. It’s fun. He’s a likeable guy and now I say it’s less like we are angry with him and more like we just love to take jabs at him playfully.
Fast forward to 2015. The man is holding the U.S. Title. If you had a time machine and went back a few years to tell your former self that John Cena would be U.S. Champ in 2015 then you would have called you a liar. Then you would have shot you and buried you in the backyard. CSI would dig you up when you came up missing in 2015 and be confused as to how your body has years-worth of decay but you just came up missing a few days ago. Then Horatio Cane would say, “Well, this guy must have been naughty…” then he would put on his sunglasses and say, “…because he got grounded.” Then The Who would chime in: “YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Cena doesn’t just defend the title now and then as we have become so accustomed with that belt. It’s not like when Dean Ambrose had it and would defend it once in 9 months. He’s not even just defending it at every PPV event. Instead, he’s defending it at every single show that he’s on. Sure, now and then there’s some shady situational story that causes him to be put in a tag match or something, but the general concept is that he defends the title every time he comes out. Guess what? We love it. Not some of us. All of us. It doesn’t show in the crowd, which still howls, “John Cena suuuuuuucks!” to the tune of his intro music, but it shows once he’s in the ring. He doesn’t’ get blasted with cries of, “Same old shit.” In fact, on a weekly basis we hear, “This is awesome!” being chanted at him. It takes two to tango, and those chants aren’t just for his opponent. That is us as fans acknowledging that Cena can and does have excellent and dramatic matches. Even when we know the outcome, he is out there giving a rub to some guy who has never been in the ring with him and he’s not just squashing them.
To me, again, this seems like it may be the brainchild of John Cena himself. Think back to his debut against Kurt Angle. It was exactly the same concept as Cena’s Open Invitational. He didn’t win that match, but Angle had the credibility to make him look like a star without losing. That’s the position John Cena is in now. He doesn’t need to lose to help these guys get over. The fact that Neville and Sami Zayn have both had very good competitive matches with him says a lot about them. If Cena could go toe-to-toe with The Rock, but a guy like Neville can push him to his absolute limit…then doesn’t that almost say, “Neville could hold his own in the ring with The Rock?”
We will continue to chant our banter with Cena for as long as he works for WWE. When Kurt Angle’s music hits we still want to sing, “You suck!” to the tune of it, don’t we? Does anyone really think Kurt Angle sucks? No. He’s amazing. The concept is the same for John Cena. Over the past four years he has built himself back up as someone we can respect. We don’t want him to go out and shit all over our favorite superstars, but we enjoy when he goes out and shows them the respect they deserve by making them look like they belong in the ring with him.
Whether he knows it or not (I imagine he does), many of us appreciate what he has done in WWE. In and out of the ring he’s the man to that company. Now he’s not just doing charity work outside of the ring, but he’s almost doing it inside the ring too by saying, “Let me help you.”
Agree? Disagree? Have more PG nicknames for your friends? Share them in the comments or with me on Twitter @JakobDraper.
I have a surgery to repair some damage to my stupid arm, so there’s a slight chance I may be a little high on anesthesia when I hammer out this week’s Smackdown review. Some of you like the format I use, others find it confusing. I split it up between people who did and people who did not watch the show. Those who did like it. Those who didn’t, they don’t like it. It’s a tricky review since we don’t need a play-by-play of it, but we also don’t want to be too vague. So this week I’m going to attempt to cater to those who didn’t watch the show while not alienating those who did. Wish me luck. Or don’t. I don’t care. I won’t feel your wishes either way. Until next time, enjoy those increasingly longer sunny days that you may or may not have depending on where in the world you are.