Being the face of any product comes with the inevitable fact that you will be compared to your predecessors and successors. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and John Cena have both been poster boys for the WWE and are the names that best represent their eras in the company—the Attitude Era and the PG Era, respectively. It is inevitable that any comparison of the PG and Attitude eras includes the superstars that shaped them.
While comparing the two, I shall try to be as objective as possible and compare them on multiple levels including gimmick, championships, matches, feuds, fan reaction, promo skills and mainstream publicity. A total of five points shall be divided among the competitors in each category.
During his tenure as the poster boy of the Attitude Era, Austin was a trash-talking, beer-drinking redneck Texan who was always at odds with authority. He showed no fear and didn't hesitate to destroy anything in his path. He played an antihero that usually feuded with the chairman of the company (Mr. McMahon) and the people he favored. His motto: "Don't Trust Anybody."
As the face of the PG Era, Cena has played a pure baby face. Like Austin, his character shows no fear. He is usually portrayed as a fun loving, selfless and friendly person who plays within the rules and never gives up. His motto: "Hustle, Loyalty, Respect."
Score: Austin 4-1 Cena (based primarily on entertainment value of the gimmick)
Austin has won multiple singles and tag team championships in the WWE and WCW. He is a six-time tag champion, two-time US champion, two-time World Television champion, two-time Intercontinental champion and six-time world champion. He was the fifth triple crown winner. He has also won the Royal Rumble thrice and the King of the Ring tournament once. He was awarded the "Million Dollar Championship" by Ted Dibiase. He is also a member of the WWE Hall of Fame. He personalized the WWE Championship to a "Smoking Skull" design.
John Cena has also won multiple championships. He is a four-time tag champion, three-time US champion and a 12-time world champion. He has won the Royal Rumble once. While he does not have as much variety as Austin, he has held the major championships more times. He created the "Spinner" version of the WWE Championship, which is still in use.
Score: Cena 3-2 Austin (based on number and variety of title reigns)
Austin's biggest feud was with the boss of the company, Mr. McMahon. He also had notable feuds with Bret Hart, Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, The Rock, Triple H and Kurt Angle. He also feuded with Eric Bischoff as an authority figure, when both of them were co-GM of Raw. He has occasionally guest refereed matches after his retirement. His matches were usually unpredictable and kept the fans on their feet.
Cena has also feuded with many big names, including Brock Lesnar, John "Bradshaw" Layfield, Batista, Edge, Randy Orton and CM Punk. His recent feud with The Rock and their match at WrestleMania 28 was highlighted as the clash of eras.While his bigger feuds have been quite good, the majority of them have been quite predictable.
Score: Austin 3-2 Cena (based on quality of feuds and major matches)
4. Fan Reaction
Austin, as the star of the Attitude Era, has always generated huge fan reaction. His entrance, catchphrases and finishing moves have consistently generated the loudest pops in the business.
Cena has a mixed story. While he does generate a reaction, the cheers are usually either cancelled out or sometimes outnumbered by the boos. Even when he is facing a very villainous heel (as in Brock Lesnar), half the crowd boos him. While this would be okay for a typical wrestler, it just does not cut it for the "face of the company."
Score: Austin 3-2 Cena (based on overall fan reaction to gimmick, role, matches and promos)
5. Mic and Promo Skills
Austin has always been known for his mic and promo skills. His "3:16" promo after winning the King of the Ring tournament is regarded by some to have ushered in the Attitude Era. He has had quality interactions with other good talkers like The Rock, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, etc.
John Cena is no stranger to the mic himself. However, many regard his "rapper" much higher in terms of promo quality than his current pure and baby-faced gimmick. While he has cut very good promos against multiple opponents, he often does not "sell" the opponents' promos, and he acts corny—killing the mood.
Score: Austin 3-2 Cena (On promo quality)
6. Mainstream Recognition
Austin has been in multiple movie and TV roles. His major TV roles include being an announcer on MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch (as Himself) and six episodes on Nash Bridges. His major movie roles include the highly successful independent movie The Expendibles and other not as successful ones like Knockout and Tactical Force. Unfortunately, he has also received some bad publicity over his divorce and allegations of domestic abuse.
Cena has also been in multiple TV and movie roles.Most of his movies, like The Marine and Legendary, have been for WWE Studios and have not fared very well. He is also a rapper and hip-hop musician. He is also an active member of the "Be A Star" campaign against bullying and is the biggest granter for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Score: Cena 3-2 Austin
Austin def. Cena 4-2 on categories and 17-13 on points
So, there is my verdict. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin was better as the face of the WWE than John Cena is. As Austin and Cena are polar opposites in various aspects, it might make sense for the WWE to incorporate some points that made Austin a better "face of the company" into Cena's character in order to make it fresh and more appealing to all the fans, instead of focusing only on the "women and children" demographic.
Thank you for reading this comparative report on Cena and Austin.
Please leave your comments and opinions below.