John Cena is the most popular wrestler in WWE today. He is also one of the most hated.
How you feel about him depends upon who you are in the WWE Universe.
If you are a woman, a kid or a member of the military, you are likely to be chanting, “Let’s Go, Cena!” at WWE shows. On the other hand, if you are like most of the men at these same shows, you are likely to respond to those chants with “Cena SUCKS!”
That sounds like a stereotypical statement. But it’s true.
John Cena is the most polarizing figure in WWE today and probably in the last several years. You either love him or you hate him. There definitely is no gray area.
It’s been like that throughout most of his WWE career, which began in 2002 and, with the exception of late 2002 to late 2003, has seen him as a face character.
Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Cena has been so successful in his career, holding as many as 19 championship belts in 10 years. For all its benefits, success does tend to grate on some people’s nerves, especially when it is thrown up in their faces week after week.
It also could have something to do with the fact that Cena’s character has remained fairly unchanged since late 2003. He is the white knight overcoming gigantic odds, espousing all-American values of Mom, country, apple pie and self-belief. He strongly supports the Make-a-Wish Foundation, breast-cancer research and military organizations.
WWE has created storylines to try to expose Cena’s flaws. They made him subservient to The Nexus. They had him lose to The Rock at WrestleMania 28, an action that actually started to make him look human.
But that did not change how people felt about him. He eventually overcomes everything against him, and all is right in Cenation.
Cena’s character is the ultimate good neighbor…the ultimate hero…the ultimate son or son-in-law. He’s WWE’s Superman.
He is everything a man should be, right?
Wrong, according to most of the men in the audience. Call it latent jealousy, but they are the ones likely to boo him.
After all, it was the male-dominated audience that drove the antics of the Attitude Era. Back then, there were no gray areas, no charities and no guys in pastel-colored shirts. It was sex, violence and rock ‘n’ roll, baby. Ever since WWE went PG-13 four years ago, some of the more hardcore members of the WWE Universe have not been willing to embrace that family-friendly tag.
Cena is a veteran of the Attitude Era, but he always seemed to be on the outside looking in. Even as a true face, he still had his detractors. He could pound the villains of the day into submission, but there still were those who hated him.
Perhaps Cena is too one-dimensional. True-blue, he-men wrestlers have to be full of spit and vinegar. Their bite was far worse than their bark.
If that was not enough, Cena actually dared to disparage true Attitude Era heroes like The Rock. Cena haters loved Rock’s promos on Cena’s penchant for bright colors (remember Fruity Pebbles?) and his “lady parts.”
Cena frequently acknowledges his critics as well as his supporters, claiming they make doing shows like Raw so much fun. Until his character changes that mindset and starts to turn away from the light—which seems unlikely at this point—he will continue to live at the intersection of love and hate.
Follow Bill Atkinson on Twitter at @BAtkinson1963.