John Cena—the face of WWE, the most recognised pro-wrestler on this planet, the same man known by many other adjectives—is simply the most polarizing figure in the pro-wrestling world.
There are millions who love him, and millions who hate him. No matter what we think about him, we cannot certainly stop discussing him. Is he overrated? Would he face the Undertaker at Wrestlemania 27? So on and so forth.
Disclaimer - This article does not factor in John Cena’s wrestling ability, booking or any such thing.
One aspect of John Cena is often ignored in the analyses: his relevance to what happened in U.S. over the course of last decade.
I will try to seek the answer of following questions. Why did a businessman like Mr. McMahon go back to a character similar to superhero? Why was gusty rapper was transformed into a preacher? How the hell are we expected to connect with the character of John Cena? I will also try to prove that Cena's human traits connect us to him.
Enough of the introduction—let us get down to the business.
We all know that WWE is not a very revered form of entertainment. In fact, truth cannot be much farther from it. For a long time, society has looked down upon wrestling as a sport and on those who loved it. Many sociologists spent hundreds of hours on ‘educating’ people about its bad effects on community in general and on children in particular.
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Let us fast forward to the Attitude era. Vulgar visuals, abusive language and pools of blood were integral part of the programming of the WWE. While this programming helped WWE defeat WCW and established its monopoly on the market, it also enhanced its reputation.
Voices of critics in fact reached the crescendo in this era. Many parents banned it altogether for their children. There was a massive social apathy that WWE had to face in this period. Universities published research papers on the wrong doings of WWE. Lack of employment benefits for wrestlers and use of steroids along with the ‘immoral’ programming were the focal point of this flack.
WWE however did not deter a lot from its way despite all this negative publicity. Though Mr. McMahon knew that in the long run it is going to hamper his empire, he also knew that a moment for change was still some way ahead.
Now, with this brief backdrop of society and WWE’s relation, let us look at another singular development during this period.
For the first time in modern history, the U.S. was attacked by terrorists on September 11, 2001. For the first time in the history of the U.S., children were feeling insecure. The era of insecurity and an aggression masking fear was going to last longer than people thought. Successive wars of Afghanistan and Iraq spread the atmosphere that no person would have imagined few years back.
Now we come to the middle of this last decade. This was the time when dust was settled and life had returned to its bustling best. The fear had taken a refuge deep down in the subconscious.
During this period, if we look at the programming of WWE, we will witness a curious phenomenon. Ruthless aggression era, as we call it, remains the only WWE era without a face to embody it. Its ambiguity reflected the hidden undercurrents of the society.
In the year 2005 however, WWE created two megastars—Batista and our man John Cena. Everybody thought that Batista was the one destined for the glory. We were wrong—John Cena superseded him. He became one of the most popular superstars to enter the arena. His rise to fame came as a surprise and his popularity to this day is flabbergasting.
What made this possible?
Well, it was the superhuman traits of his character that went on to clutch success with a tight grip. The two social scenarios I have mentioned above enabled it in every possible manner.
A character that appealed to every good element of human heart was the key. He loved children. He stood up for what he thought. He spoke well and behaved well, outside of the ring too. This was enough for parents to let their children worship him. What he did was he brought one kid and his parents as new consumer to the company.
Secondly, whenever he faced mighty odds, he was portrayed to defeat them in a heroic way. He fought hard, he clobbered his way to victory in a dignified way. His well-showcased respect for marines and military was another key in an era laced with insecurity and undying gratitude for American soldiers.
His character of this sort enabled him to connect with every such heart that wanted to win in spite of the circumstances. His goodness appealed to all those who wanted to be an idol for their brothers, sisters and children. His relentless resilience appealed to all those kids who dreamt of superman with wide open eyes.
John Cena’s charisma, tremendous hard work and contributions to organisations like Make A Wish only helped further.
Lately John Cena’s character seems to be taking a twist. That is why I thought it is the right moment to dwell upon a rarely discussed aspect of Mr. John Cena. Let me know if you loved it or if you hated it. Criticism and debate is most welcome.