This Tuesday saw the return of perhaps the most polarizing figure in WWE history – John Cena. I’m not going to spend the next 800-900 words gushing over him and his return like an infatuated fanboy, but as a fan who’s watched WWE for most of my adolescent and adult life, one can’t help but see beyond the image on screen and more into the person behind it.
I’ll start by saying I’ve never been the biggest fan of John Cena, just as I wasn’t the biggest fan of Stone Cold. The reason for this was purely that no matter the odds, no matter the stipulation, both would inevitably come out on top, and I hated that. I like competition, I like upsets. Perhaps it’s the Britishness in me that forever roots for the underdog, but serial winners bore me. So with that logic in mind, I should be rueing the return of the ‘franchise’ – as John called himself. But, I’m not. I’m happy and here’s why.
He’s going to break Ric Flair’s Record
Let’s not kid ourselves, the stars are aligning to give Cena the opportunity of a title shot – hell, he always gets title shots. I doubt Cena has it written into his contract that he has to break the record, but it makes sense. Cena elevates titles – plain and simple. His win, as celebrated as it will be, will ultimately end somewhere along the line and it’ll make that loss all the more important. I won’t guess as to who will wrench the gold from him, but you can be sure they’ll go through hell to do it. Does Cena deserve to hold the record? How does one determine who does ‘deserve’ it?
He’s a matured performer who will only help others
It was recently revealed that Cena had a big hand in story of his feud with Kevin Owens on Raw. Whatever you think about how that feud ended, there’s no doubt it got people talking and elevated Owens up the ladder. With someone so immersed in wrestling for as long as Cena has been, one can only imagine that he appreciates the ‘old school’ traditions of putting over younger guys. Though this may be difficult to filter through the office and Vince, I can see one or two current stars pinning Cena on their way up. Just his mere presence in the ring splits the audience, giving his opponent more vocal support.
He’s a draw
Love him or loathe him, Cena’s name advertised for WWE shows will bring in fans, audiences and money. He’s a top guy and by threatening to give him free reign to float between both Raw and Smackdown Live, guarantees more eyes on the product. I watched this week’s Smackdown Live opening segment and watched how he spoke as if he’d never been away. His mic skills are top drawer and has to be amongst the best talkers in the company. A few years back I was lucky enough to get tickets to a live Monday Night Raw in Liverpool, UK. The crowd were riled as we’d all found out the WWE Network wouldn’t be available for an undetermined amount of time. Cena opened the show and through deafening chants of ‘Where’s our network?’ he turned every person around and carried on with the task at hand; telling the story he wanted to tell. The guy is seriously gifted when handed a microphone.
Now as much as those three points may indicate I wear brightly-colored shirts and have ‘Hustle, Loyalty and Respect’ tattooed on my arms, while I chow down on Fruity Pebbles, I do have reservations about him, but at this point in his career, they’re moot points. Things aren’t going to change now. However, if you would indulge me:
I wish he was let off the leash more
I’m not talking about a heel turn, I’m talking about his move set and work in the ring. What we see is only a fraction of what John Cena can do. When he has a skilled opponent, someone not built in the WWE Style (think CM Punk, AJ Styles etc.) I think that’s when we see the best of John Cena. With longer matches, he doesn’t rely on the popular moves like the five knuckle shuffle, the ‘you can’t see me’ shtick and the AA. He has to bring more to the table and when he does he delivers. I get why he uses the same move set as it’s what the kids paid to see. The less chance of injury he can suffer, the better both for him and WWE. I just wish he was allowed to express himself more. I don’t think it’s any coincidence his best matches are with non-WWE-built opponents and last longer than ten minutes.
I wish he wasn’t the All-American Hero all of the time
Now, nothing against the US of A, but Cena seems to be the victim of recycled storylines involving an ‘evil’ foreigner facing off against America’s poster boy. He’s better than that. WWE is better than that. I recently wrote about how 2017 could be the year of Rusev if he was booked correctly. His return was teased for weeks and he finally comes back and falls right into the old tried and tested boring storyline with Cena. Try something new WWE. Give Cena something fresh.
I wish he was serious more often
Serious, focussed and determined John Cena is the best John Cena for me. Not placating the kids in the crowd or telling jokes, but threatening and dangerous. His run with the US Title, taking on all comers in open challenges was one of my favourite memories of his time in WWE. You knew he would lose eventually and it made you tune in. As the weeks rolled on and the opponents fell, he became more determined to prove his point. More determined to show us he was the champ. He showed us his pride in being the US Champion and would lay it on the line to prove his dedication. I just wish he did it more often, especially when he held the main titles.
In closing, despite these small reservations, I’m happy Cena is back in WWE. He’s the epitome of passion for the product and is without doubt a figurehead of the franchise. Is he on the Mount Rushmore of wrestling though? Perhaps that question should be for another day?
As always, thanks for reading.