John Cena is the current face of the WWE.
During his 10-year run, Cena has main evented pay-per-views and won 12 world championships. His merchandise and star power bring in many young members of the WWE Universe.
Let’s take a different look at how Cena’s career could have gone had he debuted during a different era. How would John Cena have fared in the Attitude Era?
It depends on which Cena we examine. Should we go into his current Superman gimmick? Should we ponder how his rap gimmick would have fared?
Let’s analyze both.
Cena’s rap gimmick lasted from 2003 to 2006. It garnered notoriety from fans with his freestyles on his opponents. He threw constant innuendos and insulted opponents before his matches. Cena always finished with the last word, holding the microphone up so fans could shout the offensive curse.
Cena’s gimmick would actually work well in the Attitude Era. In fact, it might go mainstream and catapult him to superstardom. He would be a successful mid-carder at the very least. Cena would probably carry the Intercontinental Title and now-defunct European Title, if not the WWE Title.
So Cena’s old rapper gimmick would work. The Superman gimmick? That would be a different story.
Fans are divided today over John Cena. If Cena were to use the Superman gimmick during the Attitude Era, he would be a heel. Cena gets a mixed reaction from today’s fans. It would also be mixed in the Attitude Era. He would probably be booed out of arenas every single night.
A perfect example is his feud with The Rock. The hype for their match at WrestleMania 28 showed the Superman gimmick didn’t work among the older generation of fans. They favored The People’s Champion over Cena. In fact, this group of fans has cheered against Cena for nearly seven years.
The Attitude Era would cause Cena to turn heel. It would be the same effect as The Rock suffered during his Rocky Mavia gimmick. He came up as a face, smiling for the crowd. Subsequently, the fans turned on him, which spawned The Rock. Would the same fate occur with Cena? Would the Superman gimmick simply end, or would Cena use it to gain heat?
As you can see, Cena's old gimmick would be better for the Attitude Era. His Superman stunt would leave him as a joke for Rock and D-Generation X. He probably would be squashed by the likes of Kane, Undertaker and Big Show.
There's no guarantee what Cena could do in the Attitude Era. However, it seems Cena would not be the face of the WWE. Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin dominated that era. And there wasn’t room for both to be on top. There was barely room for Undertaker, Triple H and Mick Foley to succeed. They did, but not to the extent that Austin and Rock did. Their popularity endured because of their longevity. Cena would also have to survive through longevity.
John Cena would not have become the face of the Attitude Era. However, he still would have made a strong impact.