John Cena hating season is open as it always is.
Fans have a myriad of reasons to groan when seeing the WWE champ enter the ring or start talking into a microphone. His sense of humor, wrestling skills and hustling and loyal character are all fodder for his detractors.
Taking apart fan complaints about the Superstar reveals that some are born from misconceptions and some are indisputable.
The colors of his T-shirts may change, but Cena has essentially been the same character for over seven years.
Fans often complain that they are bored of Cena's Boy Scout routine and his stagnant character. Many fans pine for Cena to become a heel as he was early in his career.
Turning WWE's top hero into a villain isn't necessary, but evolving to maintain audience interest is.
Daniel Bryan, for example, has shifted from submission specialist to sneaky coward to a man suffering from a Napoleon complex. CM Punk has gone from self-righteous straight edge messiah to The Voice of the Voiceless to a man who rejected the fans and bathed himself in the ashes from Undertaker's urn.
Cena's character has stayed put, its feet dug into the ground while other Superstars undergo metamorphoses.
Compare a Cena promo from 2007 to the ones he delivers today.
Replace Carlito with a current Superstar and change Cena's shirt to his current one and it'd be hard to tell what year this happened in. Cena is the same goofy guy who slips into a more focused, rage-fueled side when needed.
Begrudging the lack of movement in his character is one of the most valid and accurate complaints from fans. Bruno Sammartino was the same guy throughout his career and Hulk Hogan spent a lengthy part of his career playing the "real American hero."
It's a different era now, one in which fans expect personas to morph over time and that's something Cena has failed to deliver since abandoning his Dr. of Thuganomics gimmick.
Inability to Wrestle
When fans chant "You can't wrestle" at Cena, they’re off base. To be completely accurate would require a much longer and more difficult chant of "You can't wrestle as smoothly and with as much versatility as the elite wrestlers!"
Expecting Cena to be Curt Hennig is preparing for disappointment. He's clunky and lacks crispness in the ring. He's a different kind of wrestler from men like Hennig, William Regal, Ricky Steamboat and Bret Hart.
Like Sammartino, Cena is a powerhouse with a limited move set.
When Cena steps out of his comfort zone, performing moves we don't often see from him, his less-than-stellar ring skills reveal their cracks. Take for example, the dropkick.
When Dolph Ziggler nails the dropkick, it's a beautiful work of art. Athleticism, grace and violence combine for an instant. That's not the case with Cena's version.
Cena doesn't get much height on his jump and there is a distinct lack of smoothness to the move.
That goes double for his hurricanrana. Watching someone like Evan Bourne hit the move is an awesome sight. Cena tried the move against Punk earlier this year and the result was uncomfortable to watch.
His failings with these two athletic moves only proves that he's not athletic.
Cena is much more of a clothesline and shoulder block kind of guy. It's a move set that works for him. He's no great high-flyer and isn't much of a technical wrestler either, so there's plenty of ammo available when shooting down his wrestling skills.
On the scale from the Great Khali to Kurt Angle in terms of wrestling ability, he's certainly not near Angle, but to put him anywhere near Khali is an exaggeration. Cena may not get there in graceful fashion, but you don't produce as many excellent matches as he has without being a good wrestler.
Carried in Great Matches
To discredit Cena's in-ring ability, some fans say that other more talented Superstars carried Cena to his greatest matches.
According to this segment of the audience, each time that Cena has been a part of a thrilling, unforgettable battle all the credit should go to his opponent. While a great wrestler can certainly bring out the best in another, classic matches are a two-person operation.
Were Cena's only great match opposite Shawn Michaels, one might argue that he got lucky and that it was Michaels who made that clash as compelling as it was.
The problem with this argument is that Cena's list of classic matches is too long. At some point, one has to give Cena credit and consider him just as responsible for crafting masterpieces as the man opposite him in the ring.
Here are the Cena matches that Wrestling Observer Newsletter rated the highest since 2009, per ProFightDB.com.
- John Cena vs. CM Punk-WWE Raw Feb. 2012 (4.5 stars)
- John Cena vs. Dolph Ziggler-TLC 2012 (4 stars)
- John Cena vs. CM Punk-Night of Champions 2012 (4.25 stars)
- John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar-Extreme Rules 2012 (4.5 stars)
- John Cena vs. Alberto Del Rio-Vengeance 2011 (4 stars)
- John Cena vs. CM Punk-Money in the Bank 2011 (5 stars)
- John Cena vs. John Morrison vs. The Miz-Extreme Rules 2011 (4 stars)
- John Cena vs. Batista-Extreme Rules 2010 (4.25 stars)
- John Cena vs. Randy Orton-Breaking Point 2009 (4.25 stars)
- John Cena vs. Edge- Backlash 2009 (4.5 stars)
Punk and Edge have a history of greatness. So those classic bouts against Cena might have detractors saying that those guys carried Cena.
Did John Morrison and The Miz carry him in their cage match? Batista isn't one most would consider capable of carrying another Superstar so who then did he and Cena create a match that earned 4.25 stars from Wrestling Observer?
The fact is Cena is adept at the drama and storytelling required to have a great match. The "carried" argument has no validity.
Even in his greatest matches, Cena is often presented in unrealistic fashion.
How Cena wins despite being destroyed throughout a match and his propensity to kick out of finishers are complaints difficult to argue with.
His match against Dolph Ziggler on WWE Raw's 20th anniversary was a microcosm of the issue.
Short of stabbing Cena with a shiv, Ziggler hit him with everything and Cena not only kicked out each time, but popped up after the match looking nowhere near as drained and in pain as one would expect.
Kicking out of finishers is a product of the times, an easy to increase drama in a match, but it seems to involve Cena more than anyone. He often comes off as an immortal battling lowly mortals.
He's one of the only men to kick out of Randy Orton's RKO.
He's shaken off the best attacks from the best WWE has to offer including Edge's spear, Miz's Skull-Crushing Finale and the Batista bomb. Couple this with the perception that Cena rarely loses and it's no wonder he grates on so many fans.
Cena comes up short in his matches more often than fans might think, but Cena also goes on stretches that splinters the realism of experience. Cena is on one of those stretches now as he has yet to lose a pay-per-view singles match in 2013, per TheHistoryofWWE.com.
Cena often wins in Superman-like fashion, but his win-loss record shows that perception about his invincibility is exaggerated.
Cena is too often more birthday clown than gladiator.
WWE is certainly just as much about entertainment as it is about combat, but Cena ruins potentially stirring segments with silly humor and detracts from the emotion of a big match with his childlike exuberance.
When he is focused, Cena is one of the best talkers in the business.
Too often though, he dips into a juvenile toolbox for jokes that appeal to the third-grade demographic. A prime example is his speech following his battle with Wade Barrett at Tables Ladders & Chairs 2010.
He takes the moment of dispatching Barrett and Nexus and turns it into a melange of dancing, hugging, grinning and fat jokes.
He comes off as a kid at heart and a fun-loving guy who is plenty cheesy. For fans who grew up watching edgier stars like Steve Austin, Cena's antics are a letdown.
The way he approached his huge WrestleMania 28 match with The Rock made it feel more like a friendly game than a historic match between icons.
When fans discuss Cena turning heel, it might just be that they want him to develop more of an edge and do away with some of his juvenile humor. Unfortunately that trait has been his key to locking down the younger demographic, so we'll likely never see that change.
The divisive star has a unique place in WWE history, a man booed as loudly as he is cheered. He stirs up such passion, both positive and negative that his some of his failings will continue to be exaggerated by some and ignored by others.