WWE's John Cena: The Critics Are Right, but Here's Why I Root for John Anyway
I am a John Cena fan.
Out there, before countless computer screens, my mind's ear can hear the "Let's go..." and "You suck..." chants lift to the heavens in response to the above statement.
It is a reaction mirrored across the WWE Universe whenever John Cena appears before an audience, be it in a dark match or on live TV. It is a testament to the fact that few superstars have been so polarizing a figure as John Cena.
Now I believe that those who have read my previous articles could attest that while I am a John Cena fan, I handle issues relating to him pretty much down the middle. I feel as a commentator, it is important to leave fandom, if not behind, then in the background.
But this article is not about any particular issue or storyline and can be considered a bit more of an op-ed piece. It is one fan, me, looking at a character and explaining to you, the IWC, why I am a fan of John Cena.
Now you might be wondering—Well, who cares?
I can understand that reaction. It is not an ego thing per se (though all writers to some degree have a big ego), it is to provide some balance.
There is an awful lot from those who hate Cena. While I will give a rebuttal to many their reasons, in fact, much of what they say has merit. But I wanted to put out there why those of us chant "Let's go Cena" do so. Or at least I do, and I think my reasons match the reasons that many Cena fans would cite.
Of course, I could be wrong about that last statement. But this being the IWC, if I am, I will be told so in the comments section.
I'd like to start with Cena's detractors and what I have observed as their reasons for hating Cena.
One of the common reasons for chanting "Cena Sucks" is the infamous "Five moves of Doom."
And let's be honest, there is not a lot of finesse in Cena's main arsenal. It is physical and flashy with moments for flash photography. But not much in the way of substance. Certainly a Bret Hart, Dean Malenko or Daniel Bryan have many more moves and they could utilize those moves with grace and skill. Skill that has garnered them legions of fans.
But let's look at Cena and his move set. Do you want to compare his move set to a Mason Ryan? Or perhaps David Otunga. Oh, how about Ryback? Anyone?
Now, yes, these are not faces of a company nor are these champions nor have there been. But let us look at some of the great champions. Shall we make the case that Hulk Hogan was so much better a worker that John Cena? Well, he had a leg drop and a...well let me see....
HHH made a career from using a construction implement.
HBK is known for his Super Kick. What else other that the Super Kick has he used, to finish a match?
Yet these wrestlers are beloved, considered the greats.
And that is exactly what they are.
The point being that John Cena is far from the Excellence of Execution, there are wrestlers who have far less—and in the case of Hogan, went on to be one of the greatest earners ever and revolutionized the business.
Lets move on to Cena always being in the spotlight. There is little debate that Cena is often at or near the main event of most PPVs and in the hunt for one Heavyweight strap or the other.
But I would ask—how many wrestlers did Hulk Hogan put over in his career?
Dusty Rhodes booked himself into how many main events?
How about HHH? In his hey day, how much did he step aside for the good of upcoming talent?
But of course these wrestlers were at the center of the spotlight. And for a long time. They sold tickets. They sold T-shirts. They sold fake belts and ice-cream bars (still waiting for the comeback of the WWE Ice Cream bar) and whatever other bits of memorabilia that can be hawked at a live event or over the Internet.
Trust me, Cena was never more in the spotlight than Hulk Hogan in the height of his popularity. Trust me, I was there.
Ok, what about John Cena being lame. Corny even. ....Well, I really have nothing there, he has gotten awfully corny. And the Jorts are ridiculous. But hey, at least he is not Doink the Clown.
And then, there is the "Super Cena" argument.
And again, for much of Cena's career, it seemed like the guy could not be beat. I remember him giving Big Show AND Edge and AA. At the same time. Heck, there was a time when I didn't think that John Cena would ever lose the WWE Championship.
But then, look at Hulk Hogan. How many years straight as champ?
Now the above may have annoyed, insulted or otherwise ruffled feathers, but this was not the intention. The above was meant to point out that the arguments that have been leveled at Cena are valid—but then other wrestlers have been just as guilty, if not more so than John Cena. These other greats don't get the same kind of heat for their shortcomings as does Mr. Cena. And hey, the fan has every right to criticize—they are the consumers after-all. I just wanted to provide a little balance to the arguments.
So by now dear reader, I have spent the better part of this article pointing out Cena's drawbacks, and while I have provided a counter-balance to those draw backs, I haven't really disagreed with any of them either.
So why am I a fan?
In some ways, some of the reasons that others hate Cena are reasons why I cheer for him.
I come from a somewhat simpler and in many ways, more complex time in wrestling. I was introduced to wrestling in the 80's at the height of the Rock 'N' Wrestling connection, complete with Cindi Lauper, Captain Lou Albano and the plethora of colorful characters of all shapes and sizes.
And at the top of the heap was Hulk Hogan. If there was ever a superhero, it was he. If there was ever a guy who touted America, mom and apple pie, it was this guy.
Hulk Hogan beat everyone there was to beat in wrestling. He often came to the ring with an American flag in his big mitts waving in the breeze. He defended his championship for years upon years...I mean what champion was the last champion to have a multi-year reign? He even beat the mighty Andre the Giant in the Pontiac Silverdome in front of 93,000 fans.
And he did all this with his promos that espoused training, saying one's prayers and eating one's vitamins...and...a leg drop.
Any of this sounding familiar to anyone?
On one level, I root for John Cena, because he reminds me of Hulk Hogan, and more than one person has made the comparison between these two.
Hulk Hogan and the WWF of the time brings back a lot of great memories. Memories of my Dad taking me to my very first wrestling match where I witnessed Bruno Sammartino—still looking awesome despite being near the twilight of his career—team up with Paul Orndorff to face Rowdy Piper and Cowboy Bob Orton.
Memories of watching wrestling cartoons on Saturday mornings. Memories of the thrill of seeing men who would fit right in on the pages of a cartoon, live, in the flesh and doing things that left a young fan spell-bound.
Who needed Superman. I had Hulk Hogan on my TV and in my ignorance I believed...he was real. And that was enough.
I am no longer the child I was in my youth. My tastes have changed, I have become "smartened-up" to the realities of wrestling and booking, things that would have broken my heart to learn in my youth.
But then, those were simple times. These times now, are not.
The complexity of these times is perhaps the other level upon which I cheer for Cena. So much of the world is unknown and up in the air. So much of what is right and wrong is up for question and debate. So many heroes would once be called villains, and so many that we look up to betray our trust.
John Cena is a Superhero, is nearly indestructible, does stand for Truth, Justice and the American way. Lame as all that may be to some, to me it lends a very small sense of surety that good will triumph and America is great and the size of fight in the dog is worth more than the size of the dog in the fight.
So much of this is in question nowadays. If wrestling is escapism, can I be blamed for wanting to pretend, if only for the duration of RAW, that the world is as simple as it once was?
John Cena may indeed be too much, too soon, too often. He might well be the victim of a WWE Creative that does not quite realize that the PG era has a limited appeal and that there are those who yearn for the days of the Attitude era in much the same way that I look fondly at the Federation era and the costumed characters that characterized it.
I am not naive, nor a fool. I have a life outside of wrestling. I don't even own a wrestling T-Shirt. But in my methods of escape, I like those characters that are larger than life and represent that which is righteous. I want the White Hat to always win in the end.
Call me naive. Call me a fool. Call me what you will. But call me a fan.
As always, I welcome your comments.
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