When we think about WWE, William Shakespeare is the farthest thing from our minds.
But given John Cena’s performance on the most recent Monday Night Raw, it’s obvious that someone on the WWE Creative Team is a big fan of Shakespearean tragedy. Why else would we be watching the face of WWE go all Macbeth on us?
For those of you unfamiliar with the works of Shakespeare, here is the 50-cent version of this comparison:
Macbeth is a character whose desire for greatness and power became his downfall. Circumstances surrounding his life, including the manipulation of his wife and the prophecies of three witches send him into an emotional tailspin. He goes from noble hero to detested villain because of his obsessive struggle to gain kingly power and his inability to gain that power because his nemesis is standing in his way.
We have witnessed a great deal of Macbeth-like traits in Cena’s character over the past year or so.
Here was someone on top of the WWE mountain whose own world came crashing down—or so he perceived—when he could not deliver on a promise to defeat The Rock at WrestleMania 28 last year. But instead of letting that loss be a teaching moment and moving on, Cena’s character obsessed on it. He let it dictate his actions for the next year, and the consequences became more and more stressful.
On Monday night, we finally saw Macbeth’s meltdown. Cena’s character became completely unraveled during the Q-and-A session with Rock and a panel of WWE Hall of Famers. The cracks in the WWE Superman’s armor suddenly became large crevices.
The character had finally crossed the line. No, make that pole-vaulted over the line into that dark place that, as Jack Nicholson said in A Few Good Men, “you don’t talk about at parties.”
You could almost see the Cena haters pull up a little closer to their TV screens and listen to his rant about being better than The Rock and how it was Cena, not Rock, who beat Cena at WrestleMania 28. Perhaps they were even...gasp...a little impressed with what they were seeing.
Now, we all know that a WWE storyline is certainly not Shakespeare. And unlike most Shakespearean tragedies where the hero dies, we all have a gut feeling that Cena will in fact live to fight another day. He will defeat Rock at WrestleMania 29 and claim WWE Championship No. 11, chasing away the ghost of Macbeth with the victory.
The arch-nemesis Rock will be vanquished to Hollywood to make more blockbuster movies. And Cena will turn his attention to a restart of the always-great program he has had with his other arch-nemesis, the evil CM Punk.
Meltdowns can do wonders for a person’s character. And if Monday night’s meltdown is any indication of things to come, it could be interesting to see what changes might be in store for the post-WrestleMania John Cena.
Maybe WWE Creative will give him a whole new level of edginess. You know, let him be a hero with a bit of a dark side. He’d still be all smiles and salutes upon his entrance, but later on in the match he would show that he can actually get mad and throw more than just hats and T-shirts.
In the recently televised match with Punk, Cena actually did more than his usual “Five Moves of Doom.” He dropped Punk with a Power Bomb—a move that clearly suits his strength and build—and also hit a Hurricanrana—a move that clearly does not. If we did not know better, that aggression could have been a screen test for what we may see from Cena once WrestleMania 29 is in the books.
In the meantime, look for more Macbeth-like actions by Cena leading up to WrestleMania 29. He’s liable to make Monday’s go-home Raw show in Washington look like a testosterone-laden Shakespeare festival.
No, Cena will not come out, drop to one knee in the ring and ask, “What light through yonder window breaks?” But he is likely to be on the prowl for, as the Bard wrote in The Merchant of Venice, his “pound of flesh” from The Rock.
Follow Bill Atkinson on Twitter at @BAtkinson1963.