Every wrestling fan has an opinion of John Cena.
And there is usually no in-between: You either love or hate the guy. The truth is that you’re not supposed to hate him. In fact, you probably should love him.
So what makes Cena the most polarizing figure in the history of the WWE?
There is no one simple answer to that question. A good place to start, however, is with the children of the Attitude Era. The problem with the children of the Attitude Era is that we are not children anymore. A lot of us still watch wrestling for that nostalgic feeling we get when we do. It’s a pastime.
And let’s face it: There’s a reason why the recently released Attitude Era DVD cover is modeled after The Beatles album cover for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was the greatest era in the history of wrestling.
With that being said, it’s necessary to understand who was idolized during that time. Guys like Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock and Triple H shaped what a whole generation would come to believe a WWE Champion should be. They weren’t role models. They were anti-establishment, and that’s why we loved them.
John Cena is the establishment. He’s the WWE’s golden boy, and everyone knows it. That doesn’t fly with the kids of the Attitude Era. We weren’t spoon-fed our heroes. And when we were, the powers at be were forced to do things like make Rocky Maivia into The Rock.
This leads us to the classic argument of turning Cena heel. It’s no secret that a large portion of the WWE Universe has been clamoring for this move for years. But it goes beyond seeing him turn heel just because people are sick of his squeaky-clean image. Many fans feel as though it is a rite of passage.
And to say that John Cena is somehow above this is completely asinine. If Hulk Hogan could go Hollywood, there is no reason why Cena can’t make a run at being a bad guy.
The reason it won’t happen is because John Cena is the perfect company man. He’s the ideal role model for kids. He’s the dude you can send on Live With Kelly and Michael and The Today Show. He’s got the looks, charisma and overall persona that allow him to crossover into different pop culture venues. And he is certainly more than willing to be that guy.
John Cena overall is a great role model for kids. There is no denying that his work with the Make-A-Wish foundation has been remarkable. And with the WWE currently being a publicly traded company, you need a guy like Cena to be the face of the franchise.
But there are ghosts from which he will simply never be able to fully run. The kids of the Attitude Era we will always long for it to be the way it was. And when it’s not, you’ll hear about it, because that’s who we are. It’s what we grew up doing while watching our favorite Superstars.
Now is this childish and petty on our part to try and ruin a completely new generation’s idol on a nightly basis? Of course it is. But in a way it’s because we want these kids watching wrestling now to experience what we experienced.
It explains why no matter how bad of a heel the company turns CM Punk into, there will always be a contingency of fans that will continue to cheer for him. He wasn't spoon-fed to us as a hero. He’s badass and anti-establishment. He doesn’t care what you think of him. And that’s what we love.
John Cena can say all he wants that he doesn’t care about the haters. It’s just not believable. He wants you to love him. Hell, the company wants you to love him. And like I said, we probably should love him. But there is a generation that will never fully accept him.
And it’s this generation that makes Cena have to sincerely thank the crowd for being on board for something like bringing out three Make-A-Wish kids on Raw.
The current era of the WWE is trying it’s best to mix together all of the old aspects of wrestling that we love, going from the '80s onward. What needs to be understood is that for an entire generation, there is only one era that matters. And being a great role model and Mr. Make-A-Wish just doesn’t cut it for us.
It sounds callous and trivial, because it is. But it’s simply the truth. John Cena is everything kids should look up to. He’s the perfect face for the WWE. And for that he will never be fully appreciated by a large portion of the fans the way he should be.