Analyzing John Cena's Potential Impact on Fan Perception of The Shield

Ryan Dilbert@@ryandilbertWWE Lead WriterJune 16, 2014


The bible didn't mention John Cena teaming with The Shield as one of the signs of the apocalypse, but some fans will be expecting locusts and a rider on a pale horse to follow now that this partnership occurred.

For a passionate, opinionated slice of the WWE Universe, this association continuing would dilute The Shield's cool factor and bring down enthusiasm for the group. Two of the Internet Wrestling Community's favorite sons co-existing with the symbol of the status quo is a hard-to-stomach sight for diehard fans.

It's not just that a pair of former rivals worked together; it's that two entities that represent two vastly different things worked together. The juxtaposition creates a conflict in fandom.

Many fans won't take issue with their alliance, be it short term or long term. Others, though, will bemoan it, just as they did as WWE introduced it last week. 

On the June 9 edition of Raw, Cena joined forces with Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose in a six-man tag match against The Wyatt Family.

The announcers mentioned the strangeness of the pairing but didn't make a huge deal about it. After all, heels-turned-babyfaces regularly find partners in the form of old enemies.

Members of the IWC saw things differently. @RobbytheBrain, for one, was clearly not happy.

@Mrgtbg envisioned poor sleep ahead should this partnership continue.

The Fans Podcast delivered a dramatic response, which at the time of this writing had been retweeted 81 times.

It did feel odd for a unit that had been so close-knit and unified to take on a new member, especially one who had been its rival for so long. It was The Shield's enemies who were taking on new teammates. "The Hounds of Justice" remained the same each time.

With Seth Rollins gone, The Shield turned to an old enemy but one who had animosity with The Wyatt Family in common.

As logical a move as it was in terms of kayfabe, though, there was sure to be pushback from certain portions of the IWC. Cena has long been the scapegoat for much of what is wrong with today's WWE, the man many diehard fans love to hate.

For that group, disliking Cena is a form of entertainment on its own.

He's Justin Bieber to indie rock fans. It's uncool to root for him. The opposite is true for The Shield.

Ambrose's independent-circuit background and his edgy promos as Jon Moxley make him the hip band whose T-shirt one can proudly wear to a party. Diehard fans often back Reigns, although he's not a product of indy wrestling, largely because he represents change.

Cena has been the king of an era that is heavily criticized. Fans imagine Ambrose or Reigns wearing his crowd and see prosperity in the future.

Injecting new blood into the product will earn one gobs of support.

When WWE travels to cities known for diehard, highly invested fans such as Chicago or London, Cena doesn't get a hero's welcome or even a blend of support and disapproval. He gets a chorus of guttural boos instead.

Pair him with someone these same fans are pulling for, and it creates a divide within those fans. How can they continue to roar for a pair of wrestlers who are working side by side with the IWC's public enemy No. 1? 

Cena didn't join The Shield for good. There's no indication how much he will work with Reigns and Ambrose in the future, but should this happen more often, it's going to unsettle a number of fans. Imagine a fan's favorite underground songwriter suddenly collaborating with The Black-Eyed Peas on a regular basis.

One's passion for the songwriter is sure to suffer.

The Shield and Cena may be on the same side in terms of the fan favorite/heel dynamic, but they are opposing sides of a line fans have drawn long ago. It's an imaginary line that anti-Cena fans will either have to redraw or reposition to accommodate the stink of Cena The Shield will be wearing.

It's a line that WWE isn't going to concern itself with too much.

Cena is popular. The Shield is popular. That's what the company sees.

The fans who chant "Cena sucks" are doing so from seats that they paid for. The kind of fans who were torn up about the sight of The Shield and Cena working in tandem are the same folks who travel across the world to watch WrestleMania, tune in regularly, discuss every week's highs and lows and breathe WWE.

Besides, there were plenty of folks not bothered by it. The casual armchair fan books less and enjoys the product at face value more.

For every tweet screaming at WWE for putting Cena with The Shield even once, there is a fan like this one:

Fans often refer to the IWC to mean the older, more critical fans who praise technical wrestling and spit on Cena's name. The IWC is also made up of Cena lovers, such as @crazy_4_CENA, who were thrilled about last Monday's main event, strange pairing or not.

Seeing who shouts the loudest about Cena working with The Shield is an easy way to mark the line between these two types of fans. The ones upset over the old guard teaming with the new guard are going to only get more conflicted if this alliance endures.

Rollins is earning "You sold out" chants while Ambrose and Reigns found an ally in a man whom many regard as the epitome of a sellout.