Evan Bourne didn't paint the portrait of John Cena that fans have become accustomed to seeing.
Cena is often viewed as a backstage politician and a man who keeps new talent from rising. Bourne's comments in a recent interview for Kayfabe Commentaries suggests that this perception is not held by everyone.
The idea that Cena routinely pulls handfuls of strings backstage to benefit himself and to keep others from thriving is one that gives him too much credit and overstates his power.
There have been enough glimpses into the locker room to disqualify him for choirboy status. This most recent look backstage, though, betters Cena's image.
It's not hard to find a wrestling fan with a negative perception of Cena. Simply listen to the portion of the audience chanting "Cena sucks!"
Among those fans, one will hear the words "backstage politics" and "buries people" thrown around like mentions of the WWE Network on an episode of Raw.
Take Pro Wrestling Truth, for example, who took a shot at several Superstars, Cena included, in a recent tweet:
John Cena is the overkill of Hulk Hogan plus the backstage politics of Shawn Michaels and the wrestling ability of the Big Show.— Pro Wrestling Truth (@PWTruth_) July 24, 2014
When Ryback lost his championship matches to Cena last year, this same sentiment came up. The folks who run the Blitz Team Twitter account were not the only ones who blamed it on Cena:
Regarding Cena's feud with Bray Wyatt, a fan referring to themselves as Slash theorizes that The Eater of Worlds is now damaged goods thanks to Cena:
A fan going by DZ Guy had similar thoughts but applied them in a more general way:
Cena is a wrestler who have just 5 moves and still buries new talents. He is boring in all ways!— DZ Guy (@Th3Showoff) August 5, 2014
These thoughts aren't isolated. They are part of the broad strokes with which some fans paint Cena.
It's easy to focus on the dirt-dishing interviews that center around him. The more complimentary ones are key to understanding him and his position with WWE as well, though.
Bourne, who was among the slew of Superstars whom WWE released earlier this year, doesn't agree with the unfavorable perception of Cena. In his interview with Kayfabe Commentaries (h/t WrestlingInc), Bourne had little bad to say about the WWE champ.
On whether Cena is a backstage politician, he said the following:
I think people say you play politics on your way up. When I got to WWE, Cena was already a top guy so what politics would there be to play? He's the top guy, everybody loves him, the fans love him, everybody backstage loves him. So when he's talking to people, there's no politicking. He's just getting along with everybody. I think there's an agenda to make sure he's the top buy but that's because they've invested money in him and that makes sense. I don't think there's much backstage politicking.
There are two major things to take away from this. First, in Bourne's mind at least, Cena is well-liked backstage. "Everybody backstage loves him" is not something anti-Cena fans would imagine anyone saying about him, but that's how Bourne sees it.
Secondly, it sounds as if WWE is the one pushing the Cena agenda.
That's not surprising at all, as he has been a top star for so long. WWE officials don't keep him in the company throne just because he demands to be there, but rather because his marketability and merchandise sales compel them to do so.
About Cena being seen as someone who keeps other guys down, Bourne told Kayfabe Commentaries:
I guess I heard the rumors something happened with Alex Riley, I don't know exactly what it was. I think Cena's known for giving the younger guys a hard time and testing them. He came up working Chris Benoit and a lot of guys made it tough on young guys coming up. I don't know if he's presenting a challenge to see how guys react or if he's really being a jerk to them.
This concept of the veteran leaning on the rookies when they first come in is something one hears about all the time in wrestling autobiographies. Bourne doesn't accuse Cena of anything more than following that tradition.
Bourne's peek behind the curtain suggests that Cena is not the bully and diva that many believe him to be. Perhaps he's just playing nice to up his chances of a WWE return, but the high-flyer comes off as rather genuine throughout the interview speaking on smoking marijuana and his partnership with Kofi Kingston.
Much like the idea that Cena can't wrestle and that he employs only five moves, this perception that he leans on backstage politics and keeps other stars from rising is likely an exaggeration and an oversimplification.
Those things may be true to a point, but, like much of what is discussed on the Internet, it's overblown.
This perception came about from what other wrestlers have had to say about Cena once they have left the comforts of WWE.
Chavo Guerrero told Chris Jericho on his Talk Is Jericho podcast that Cena didn't acknowledge him after a match with Rey Mysterio. Guerrero implies that Cena pouted because he and Mysterio stole the show.
(NSFW: Video contains brief profanity.)
Former WWE wrestler Tyler Reks (real name: Gabriel Tuft) took to Twitter to tell an unflattering story of Cena yelling at him for using a finishing move similar to his own.
Anyone want to know what top guy forced me to stop using the burning hammer - even after it appeared on SD/RAW and PPV's? #GabeTuft— Gabe Tuft (@GabeTuft) December 3, 2012
1st house show loop, Cena asks pulls me aside, degrades me like I'm 10 years & tells me if I use it again I'd me fired. #GabeTuft— Gabe Tuft (@GabeTuft) December 3, 2012
He yelled at me & said, "Who gave u permission to use that"? Apparently he hadn't been watching the product 4 the last 8 months. #GabeTuft— Gabe Tuft (@GabeTuft) December 3, 2012
Michael Tarver told In Your Head Wrestling Radio (h/t WrestleZone) that Cena had the power to make and break wrestlers, that Cena treated him like crap and said that he didn't shake his hand at times.
Those are the kinds of interviews that get the most attention. Reks, Guerrero and Tarver's experiences don't tell the entire story, but this is the kind of titillating item that sparks angry discussions. Rob Van Dam telling NoDQ.com that "I've always liked John Cena" won't have the same effect.
That's likely to be true for Bourne's comments as well.
Juxtaposing Bourne's perception of Cena to that of the wrestlers who have spoken out against him shows that there is more complexity to what happens backstage than some fans will admit.
Cena can't be the squeaky-clean guy he plays on TV. Unflattering tales have been too common for that to be true.
The image of Cena being a control-hungry jerk isn't fully accurate either, though. There are undoubtedly struggles for power and general unpleasantness behind the scenes at WWE.
How much of that Cena contributes apparently depends on whom you ask.