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John Cena on 'SNL': Recap, Grades and Highlights of WWE Star's Performance

John Cena in a WWE ring.
John Cena in a WWE ring.Credit: WWE.com
The Doctor Chris MuellerFeatured ColumnistDecember 11, 2016

John Cena has done just about everything you can do in entertainment, from roles in films and television to recording an album to headlining WrestleMania, but until Saturday, there was something big missing from his resume.

Anyone who is anyone has hosted Saturday Night Live, and Cena joined the laundry list of award-winning actors, comedians, athletes, musicians and politicians who have graced the stage at Studio 8H.

Cena has always been known for his ability to draw laughs with his antics, and being the face of WWE longer than most who have come before him made him a natural selection to host the show.

Let's take a look at each sketch involving the 15-time WWE champion and see how he fared.

           

Monologue

After the cold open featuring Bryan Cranston playing a pro-Trump Walter White, Cena kicked off the show with a monologue filled with references to his life as a wrestler.

Bobby Moynihan and Kenan Thompson acted like they wanted to challenge Cena to a fight, only to back down after seeing how big he really was.

Then, Leslie Jones appeared and intimidated the 15-time world champion before admiring his muscles and handing him a key to her hotel room.

Cena looked completely comfortable in this setting, especially considering the pressure he must have felt doing live comedy outside his comfort zone of the wrestling ring.

       

Grade: B-

            

Notes and Highlights

  • Cena traded in his jorts for a suit to deliver his monologue.
  • He assumed only pro-Trump voters would know who he is. I half expected him to mention Linda McMahon being selected for a position in Trump's administration.
  • Moynihan's outfit was a nice tribute to the late Rowdy Roddy Piper.
  • Jones would be an intimidating pro wrestler.
  • Did Thompson's outfit remind anyone else of The Repo Man?

          

Hook A Hunk

Cena's first real sketch of the night saw him play the host of an MTV dating game featuring Cecily Strong as a contestant who would much rather date the host than any of the three men she was supposed to pick from.

The real humor came in watching the contestants try desperately to get Strong's attention while she fawned over Cena's muscles, but Cena took back the spotlight when he started talking about his dead brother for no reason whatsoever.

Once Cena and Strong began making out, the attention shifted back to the three contestants so we could watch Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett fall in love in the span of a few seconds, leaving Mikey Day all alone.

This wasn't a particularly memorable sketch, but everyone involved did their part to make it entertaining enough to keep things moving in the right direction.

        

Grade: C+

            

Notes and Highlights

  • People would actually watch a show called Teen Wolf Mom.
  • Cena looks really weird with anything but a crew cut.
  • The budding romance between Mooney and Bennett was hilarious.

          

Karate Kid Parody

The first pre-taped segment of the evening saw Cena and Mooney play parodies of Johnny Lawrence and Daniel LaRusso from The Karate Kid, respectively.

Thompson usually thrives in every role he is given, but he felt out of place as a replacement for Pat Morita's Mr. Miyagi.

Instead of the underdog defeating his rival, Cena absolutely destroyed his smaller opponent, literally punching him through five walls.

This shouldn't have been that funny, but something about seeing Cena play an over the top villain in a blond wig was hilarious.

            

Grade: C

            

Notes and Highlights

  • Cena would make an amazing villain in a Karate Kid reboot, but only if he wears the same wig he wore in this sketch.
  • Sadly, I could actually imagine Cena calling someone a "fart wipe" in a promo.

                

College Football Science Class

In a sketch meant to draw attention to the special treatment college athletes receive, Cena played a football player from an unnamed Alabama school presenting a science experiment.

Vanessa Bayer and Day played students with legitimate scientific experiments who were forced to watch Cena be lauded for his four bananas and an orange nailed to a piece of wood experiment while they were scrutinized by the judges.

Most of the sketch fell flat, but Thompson's overzealous, football loving judge and Moynihan's aloof coach were definite highlights.

            

Grade: C-

           

Notes and Highlights

  • Cena dancing and laughing at the GIF of the dancing banana was funnier than expected.
  • Nobody outright said which school this was mocking, but we all know which one it was.
  • Aidy Bryant is one of those rare talents who can take a simple line and make it funnier.

             

Dyke and Fats Save Christmas

This was a pre-taped sketch with Kate McKinnon and Bryant playing two cops who have nicknames which describe them in one way or another.

Cena played their chief in what turned out to be a 10-second appearance. The majority of the sketch consisted of fake credits for the buddy cop series, with a short section at the end in the station.

Cena didn't have much to do here. This was all about McKinnon and Bryant having a good time making fun of buddy cop shows from the '70's. You will enjoy it more if you are fans of the two main actors, but it won't make anyone's list of top sketches.

           

Grade: C-

               

Notes and Highlights

  • Where can I find a gun that dispenses mustard?
  • What accent was Cena supposed to have in this sketch?

          

Where'd Your Money Go?

In the second sketch of the night featuring a panel of three contestants competing for something, Thompson brought out his Charles Barkley impression to serve as the host of the financial-themed game show called Where'd Your Money Go?

Cena played a perfect Rob Gronkowski alongside Day's impression of Conor McGregor and Moynihan's impression of John Daly on a quiz show where Barkley was trying to tell these athletes how to better handle their money.

In what might just be the role he was born to play, Cena killed it as a version of The Gronk who was supposed to be an exaggeration of the real person but likely fell short of how ridiculous the man actually is.

Thompson had a hard time keeping a straight face every time Cena said something in character, and you could tell Cena was having just as much fun playing the part. The sketch as a whole didn't break any new ground, but it certainly delivered some laughs.

                 

Grade: B

              

Notes and Highlights

  • Thompson's game show hosts always have similar comments about the contestants, with a prime example being when he said Gronkowski was like if Dave & Buster's was a person.
  • It felt like Thompson forgot he was impersonating Barkley halfway through the sketch.
  • Moynihan is always funny as a cranky older gentleman, and his Daly impression is no exception.
  • If Daly acted like this in real life, golf would be a lot more fun to watch.
  • Somehow, Day's impression of McGregor didn't even come close to capturing how crazy he can be during interviews.

                            

Office Christmas Party

In one of the stranger sketches of the evening, Cena played the boss of an office having a Christmas party that goes horribly wrong.

As Bryant climbed a ladder to put the star on top of the tree, she suddenly fell out of the window with the tree and ends up holding onto the ledge of a skyscraper with one hand and the tree in the other.

Her coworkers seem far more concerned with making sure the tree is safe than saving Bryant's character. After a few missed jokes, she falls to her doom while Santa just passes her by without stopping to help. Cena tried his best, but nothing could save this horrible premise.

                 

Grade: F

                 

Notes and Highlights

  • I'm drawing a blank. NBC didn't even post highlights or pictures of this on social media. That's how bad it was.

           

Donald Cena

One of the night's pre-taped segments was filmed from the point of view of Donald Trump, who foolishly thinks he looks like Cena when he looks in a mirror. Cena didn't have anything to do other than pose in a mirror and hallucinate he was dancing with himself.

The setup was promising, but this segment ultimately killed any momentum the show had coming out of the Gronkowski sketch.

         

Grade: F

             

Notes and Highlights

  • None of the blame for the failure of this goes to Cena. He was just there to look like himself in a suit with a red tie.
  • Every joke in this sketch was predictable and repetitive of something already said earlier in the show.

             

Fabio Cena

In another sketch which took full advantage of Cena's physique, the host played the stock boy of a romantic book store who just happened to look and dress like Fabio.

Every time a customer came in looking for a book, Cena and Bryant would retreat behind the bookcase and have an exchange right out of one of the cheesy romance novels they sell.

Other than a few surprising and random references to the size and color of Bryant's nipples, there wasn't much to this sketch.

            

Grade: D-

                  

Notes and Highlights

  • How is this the only place SNL could manage to squeeze in Melissa Villasenor?
  • It's a good thing Cena never tried to grow his hair out like so many pro wrestlers tend to do. It doesn't look right on him.
  • Despite the long hair looking weird, Cena actually looked like he could be one of the guys from the covers of those romance novels.

            

United States of Talent

The final sketch of the night was easily the weakest offering. Cena played one half of an act on an America's Got Talent ripoff who was supposed to have a trained owl perform some tricks.

Instead of performing the complicated routine Cena and his partner explained, the fake owl proceeded to spray feces and vomit all over its two handlers, who were dressed like members of The Brood for some reason.

The fluids produced by the owl were a perfect representation of the quality of the writing in this segment. Even Thompson's ridiculously named judge, Tay-Tay Dubbs, couldn't save this from being a complete miss.

            

Grade: F-

                         

Notes and Highlights

  • Yes, the F deserved a minus. That's how bad it was.
  • Cena may have been wearing the same wig from the previous sketch, just tied back instead of flowing free.
  • Even Bennett and Strong looked annoyed by what they were being forced to do.
  • Does this count as the third game show sketch of the night?

          

Final Thoughts

Like most weeks, Saturday Night Live had its share of peaks and valleys. As far as Cena goes as a host, he did the best with what he was given.

He seemed more at home than one would expect from a first-time host, especially when that person isn't an experienced actor or comedian. He ended up being in more sketches than you would think for someone with his background.

What we need to remember is Cena has a lot more experience than most hosts when it comes to performing live in front of thousands of people, and millions more watching on TV.

He is at home in front of the camera, and he worked hard, even in the sketches with bad writing. It wasn't surprising when he didn't screw up any major lines and never fully broke character to laugh at himself.

With the direction his career has taken in recent years, it wouldn't be shocking to see Cena invited back to host the show again down the line.

What did you think of Cena's first time hosting SNL?

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