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John Cena: WWE’s Bright Knight by T.J. Love

“You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become a villain”— Harvey Dent.

Let me tell you, folks, John Felix Anthony Cena will never die. Until he actually does. But smart money would bet on Cena no-selling death. I kid. I’m not one of those Cena-bashers, and I sure as hell am not one of those “TURN CENA HEEL” sophists. No, I’m one of those fans who have been long supportive (and critical) of Cena and, despite the glaringly obvious overexposure and staleness of his character, I know a few things about Cena to be true: he’s an amazing person in real life and his in-ring evolution has been equally as amazing. Also, dude’s freakishly strong and was crafted with the same adamantium skeletal system that Wolverine was, which is why he heals almost automatically. (Re: That time he smuggled a tennis ball in his arm, the nose that decided to go rogue from his face, his triumphant return from neck surgery.)

I’m not gonna try to sell you on how John Cena has deserved everything he’s ever gotten because he’s worked his jorts off for it, nor will I delve into the backstory of the de facto face card of the WWE, because the super-jacked whiteboy rap fan from West Newbury, Massachusetts narrative is run into the ground. But rather why, despite all the accolades and achievements (or perhaps, because of them), he continuously garners the ire of WWE fans.

Also, take a shot every time you see the name “Cena”, starting now; give someone your keys, it’s gonna be a fun night.

As long as professional sports have been in existence, there have been sports figures or teams who emerged as heroes; rising up against the odds to become the odds-on favorite. The Showtime Lakers weren’t always the powerhouse that they were during the Magic Johnson era. Early in his career, Magic’s Lakers were pretty terrible. But then things gelled and suddenly the Forum became the place to be. However, with that progression, there needed to be a rival, someone to take the place of the “something from nothing” heroes, as they, themselves, became the status quo. Enter the Boston Celtics. (Ugh. Native New Yorker here.) Everyone loves a winner, till nobody loves a winner. As much as I hate the Patriots, and God help me, I really do, I don’t know why I despise them so much, other than the fact that I’m genetically predisposed to dislike anything from the Boston area (ironically I’m writing an article about a (sort of) Boston boy)…I always surmised that because they won so much, they had to be doing something shady and underhanded to retain their top spot. Bill Belichick, of course, didn’t do them any favors with the whole “Spygate” fiasco, and neither did the “Deflategate”, or most recently “Headsetgate”, but even though I playfully fed into the rumors, I don’t believe that the Patriots cheated to win multiple rings in the formerly new millennium, they’re just that damn good (all royalty checks should be made to Paul Levesque). And that’s why I hate them. It’s why people hate LeBron James. It’s why people hated Derek Jeter. And it’s why people hate John Cena.

Some people just want to watch the world burn.

I gave your liver a break with that last paragraph, let’s continue. Have your designated driver at the ready.

You might not want to admit it, but if you’re a Cena hater, chances are, you can’t stand him because he seemingly never loses. Which you have a slight point, but Cena doesn’t go to the office and say “I’m gonna win this match tonight and if I don’t, I walk” (Hey, Punk, how ya doin’?)…the front office (Vince) thinks it’s what you want to see, dammit, and it’s what puts butts in the seats, sells merch and keeps the money flowing because, let’s face it, diehard fans or not, we are outnumbered greatly by the largely underage citizens of the Cenation. We all collect paychecks, but a good deal of us have kids that have us by the short hairs demanding a brightly-colored armband that says “Never Give Up”, thus, we may collect paychecks but after bills are paid, the kids are usually the ones who spend it. I’m speaking as a witness as I currently have no kids, but I have a lot of friends who post pictures of their offspring dressed to the nines in Cena-Approved merchandise that funds the Cena marketing machine. When the money is factored in, it’s easy to see why Cena will one day soon eclipse Ric Flair’s record as the sixteen-time World Champion.

It’s simple, right? We stop spending money on Cena’s stuff, Cena stops getting pushes, right? WRONG!

Cena is a workhorse for the WWE. He’s a public relations gold mine. WWE loves PR, especially positive press. It’s why we see The Miz at all, because as worthless as he pretty much is (my factual opinion), he does a lot of press and has utilized his former reality star status well. Cena has mirrored that, in spades. He is easily the most recognizable face currently on the full-time roster and is approaching, if not surpassing, pre-racist Hogan status as the most household name in pro wrestling. Between movies and shows, talk shows and Make-A-Wish appearances and seemingly 24-hour pressers, Cena is overexposure personified, and he does it without a wince. If you don’t believe me, check out his John Cena Experience documentary and see how crazy this man’s schedule is. WWE is milking the PR cash cow that is John Cena till every last wholesome, family-friendly drop.

He is literally the poster boy for the image the WWE wants to present: tough, strong, but smiles and makes crappy jokes only sophomoric humor enthusiasts enjoy, and is the kind of guy you can take home to mother.

"LOOK AT YOU GO!"

All right, all right, T.J., I get it. He makes the company money and gets the company good exposure, hence the reason why he’s the face of the company and LOLCENAWINS. But what about his in-ring performance? Surely I can hate him for that?! Sure you can, but then you’d have to hate The Rock (how dare you), Ultimate Warrior, pre-racist Hulk Hogan and all the other larger than life superstars who aren’t mat generals like Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart. Instead of relying on technical savvy, their star power and mannerisms disguised their in-ring shortcomings. Here’s the thing, though. When Cena started catching fire in the mid-2000’s, Good Ol’ Jim Ross would cover up his glaringly obvious greenness with buzzwords like “unorthodox” and “he’s a fighter, folks”…but once you got hip to the game, John Cena of that time period wasn’t that great. I thought he had a fantastic match with Kurt Angle when he debuted, and another classic (two classics actually) with Shawn Michaels. But the argument could be made that that was because he was in the ring with proven technicians.

Fair enough, but fast forward to 2015 and look at his body of work, especially with the United States Championship Open Challenge. There are multiple matches that could be selected as the best of the year, and likely John Cena will have been a competitor in that match. From his triple threat with Seth Rollins and Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble, to his multiple great matches with Kevin Owens, to his matches with Cesaro, the list goes on. This year has been an on-fire year for Cena in terms of match quality. Yes, he still sells like Valentine’s Day Candy on Labor Day, yes he needs to put that God-awful springboard stunner away and never bring it out again, but his chain wrestling has improved, he’s telling great stories in the ring, and he’s doing aerial moves that veer on the dividing line of awkward and HOLY CRAP DID CENA JUST DO THAT?? JOHN FREAKING CENA?? Cena was never a terrible wrestler, he just missed little nuances that, as a thirteen-year veteran, he’s just now beginning to display. Also, not everyone can be a Shawn Michaels or a Daniel Bryan. You have to get in where you fit in.

Whatever, T.J., screw you and your good points, I’m just gonna continue to boo him anyway. And that’s your prerogative. In fact, Cena encourages it. He embraces it. He’s taken your “JOHN CENA SUCKS” chant and made it a concerto. He holds the mic up to the sky to amplify your jeers. It fuels him. Remember that Kurt Angle guy I alluded to earlier? He turned your YOU SUCK chants and used it against you in promos and fuel for his fire as well. And you finally relented and admitted, no Kurt, you don’t actually suck, but we’re gonna chant it anyway because we love you and as wrestling fans, we hurt the ones we love the most.

This will be the only time I will ever compare the apples and oranges that are Cena and Angle, but it’s gotten to the point where people are only booing Cena and saying he can’t wrestle almost in a perverse, playful sort of way, like they did with Angle.

Put down your pitchforks and hear me out. Watch a John Cena PPV match from this year. Literally pick ANY one. From entrance to pin, listen to the way the audience goes from JOHN CENA SUCKS to cheering him to saying the (itself) overdone THIS IS AWESOME chant. It’s because the cool thing to do is boo Cena, but those peer pressure boos give way to the respect you secretly harbor towards the match this man is putting on for you.

For further reference, let’s wind the clocks back to 2011, Money In The Bank, Chicago. The most hostile crowd response I’ve ever heard in my life. That was actual hatred. I thought Cena was gonna die out there. But even through the course of that match, smatterings of cheers for Cena’s offense began to grow; not swell, but grow. To the point where, if even in very small instances, the completely-pro-Punk crowd seemed to give credence to the perceived bully John Cena. That was literally the most antagonistic crowd I’ve seen since One Night Stand 2006 where we first saw “If Cena Wins We Riot”. Yet Cena got a good deal of them on his side throughout the match, because, you know, LOLCENAWINS.

You’re not gonna make me like John Cena. Stop trying. Hey, you’re the one with the eyes, reader. I’m not trying to convince you that Cena is the second coming of Christ or anything. But to sit there and deny the man any sort of props is narrow-minded and fed by your own preoccupation of unfounded Cena hatred.

I completely agree that his character could use a refresh. But it’s not gonna happen. I completely agree that he’s overexposed and could probably use a bit scaling back and possibly an extended vacation. But it’s not gonna happen. John Cena is the Boston Red Sox. He’s the New York Yankees (still waving at ya, Punk). He’s the dynasty you love to hate, whether it be because you want to see him unseated or because you think he doesn’t deserve to win as much as he does. And to that final point, yes, Cena has approached Wrestlemania Undertaker status that whoever is booked strongly enough John Cena will have his career made, and how disappointed was I that they dropped the ball with Kevin Owens to that end. But conversely, think of how made the man that does finally beat Cena will be.

At the end of the day, Cena is here to stay, like Ric Flair says, learn to love it. But learn to love it for what it is, a man who works harder than anyone else, has corny Dad joke moments but can get it done on the mic and in the ring, is a future first ballot Hall of Famer and has more color in his wardrobe than Joseph’s Technicolor Dreamcoat. Continue to boo him. He loves it. All I ask is that if you hate him, ask yourself why you hate him? Is it because he’s not good? Because he is. Is it because he’s always winning? Not his fault. Is it because he’s just always there? He’s Vince’s prized possession, of course he’s always gonna be there. I’m sure there’s a reason to hate John Cena. Just make sure it’s a valid one.

"I think you and me are destined to do this...FOREVER."

(45 shots. I’m calling you a cab. Or a coroner.)

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