No, smart wrestling fan, you read that headline right.
John Cena is simply unstoppable. He has gone to great lengths to preserve the Hogan-esque notion of being the best good guy one can possibly be. He has faced, and subsequently dominated, every opponent he's faced—save for CM Punk. Very few hardcore WWE fans cheer for the current WWE Champion since his character has remained consistent throughout the years.
And despite this, his character is perfectly fine the way it is.
The John Cena character works because he is loyal to a fault. No matter what the obstacle he is facing might be, he is determined to conquer it at all costs.
Because John Cena has dominated WWE for the latter part of last decade, he set a precedent for the likes of The Shield and CM Punk, wrestlers who have the mindset of going against the status quo— which eventually embodied Cena since he became the standard in WWE.
There have been anti-authoritarian characters in the past. You don’t have to travel that far in time to find D-Generation X gloating with their trademark sexual gestures or Stone Cold Steve Austin flipping the bird at Vince McMahon, but it’s more difficult to set these personas in the new era—unceremoniously dubbed the PG era by fans—because there is so little creative can do to shock and intimidate the wrestling heroes with the new rating.
Cena’s dominance single-handedly has created that stigma, ironically by being the complete opposite. Not messing with Cena’s character has been creative’s way of having their cake and eating it too: Cena has been able to give the younger audience a hero while at the same time creating the disgust for the good guy amongst the older fans.
For years, Cena has been oblivious to fan divide. It has only been a few years since fans have voiced their opinion with the waves of Let’s Go Cena/Cena Sucks chants. WWE has gotten wise to it as well by releasing a shirt for the Cena haters to express their dislike that reads Cena Sucks. And for a while, that was the extent of the Cena backlash, but that changed in the post-WrestleMania Raw.
At the top of his game, the newly minted WWE Champion opened the show and began working the crowd—only he didn't pander to his fans this time. Instead, he offered to show his detractors a heel turn. Now this wasn’t the fabled heel turn that many considered imminent ever since winter of 2011. Instead, Cena turned his heel ever so slightly, mocking the fans who have anticipated the turn. Sorry folks, Cena has gotten wise to you—but his character remains very much the same.
He then went on to give a reliably positive promo, promising to give his all for the greater good of WWE which, on that particular night, meant challenging anyone to a championship match. That did not go as planned, as contender Mark Henry lost via count-out in a non-title match. Again, the script remained the same with Cena at the top.
Ryback's promo last Monday on Raw proved there is still stone unturned in the Cena character. Using all of his past encounters with Cena, Ryback was able to explain how the WWE Champion's action over the past year—while heroic at face value—have been selfish and orchestrated tactics. And for quite some time, fans have only seen through the narrative of John Cena—whether they liked it or not.
Having Ryback express his opinions on the same actions from past few months puts everything into a new and refreshing perspective. Cena becomes an instant heel to those who understand Ryback’s plight, but he still emanates the positivity of a face.
Despite one's personal opinion on the Cena character, you must give him credit for withstanding, and ultimately indirectly developing, the new generation of superstars.
Cena stuck around and gleaned the major championships, and eventually the entire spotlight, when countless superstars fled the company. The long-term success evolved into disdain—after all, who wants to see the top dog conquer obstacles he could easily overcome? Nevertheless, WWE kept placing Cena in matches that hinted at a loss.
Of course, when place at the top of WWE’s totem pole; it is very difficult to suspend disbelief that Cena will lose. He eventually had a few fluke losses, and an injury, that set the stage for the likes of Ryback and CM Punk to take over. Now he’s back, sporting the same go-getter attitude and a shiny new belt.
Rather than being wrestling’s contemporary hindrance, he has become the harbinger of great talent since anyone competing against him is launched to a higher plane in the wrestling world simply by being in the same ring as him—and he doesn't have to change a single thing.
Hector Diaz (iamHectorDiaz) covers sports, music and professional wrestling for a variety of sites, all of which can be found at iamHectorDiaz.com.
Check out his podcast, Pipebomb Wrestling Radio on iTunes, Facebook and Twitter.
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