Introducing Juan Cena: The Good and the Bad Under the Mask

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Introducing Juan Cena: The Good and the Bad Under the Mask
Cena in a mask? Rumors indicate it could happen.

Wednesday morning, rumors began flying wildly across the internet that the WWE was considering booking a new character, "Juan" Cena, on their house show cards at selected RAW events. With all the crossfire from the upcoming King of the Ring tournament and the Miz cashing in his Money in the Bank opportunity, many of us had lost sight of the most talked about wrestler in the business today.

Monday on RAW, John Cena gave a heartfelt, almost legitimate goodbye to the WWE Universe before playing a huge role in the outcome of the night's Randy Orton/Wade Barrett rematch. While we all expect Cena to continue his seemingly year-long feud with the Nexus, this one could be taking an entertaining and yet all-too-familiar turn.

Juan Cena? You mean to tell me that John Cena will be wrestling under a luchador's mask, thus disguising who he is and writing in the premise that Barrett and Nexus will attempt to get him fired again? Yeah, that's the word. And it has been done time and again.

It isn't that there is so much wrong with the WWE creative team that booking a ridiculous "you know who this really is" gimmick to take center stage, but rather that the whole concept is as hit and miss as it gets. In fact, this whole thing can be drawn back to the American Dream Dusty Rhodes and some shoddy yet hilarious writing.

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Flashback to the mid-80s and the glorious days of Dusty in Championship Wrestling from Florida. Rhodes had been feuding with Kevin Sullivan at the time and had just lost a pivotal steel cage match that would see the American Dream banned from the state of Florida for 60 days. How would the company carry on without their top draw for an extended period?

Within a week, a new character appeared on the scene, bearing Dusty's frame and same voice characteristics. He wore a black hat and a mask over his face to disguise his identity, referring to himself as the Midnight Rider. What followed was a glorious petitioning of the NWA offices from Kevin Sullivan, J.J. Dillon and others to have the Midnight Rider removed from television. They were convinced it was Dusty Rhodes, but try as they might, could never officially prove it.

What followed was a wacky series of events that included even Sullivan getting under a mask as Lucifer until he could settle the score with the Midnight Rider. Everyone just turned a smug blind eye to the obviousness of Rhodes and watches as the Midnight Rider sent Kevin Sullivan packing. He bid the audience farewell at, conveniently, the same time as Dusty Rhodes' suspension was up.

It hadn't been done on a big stage before, and while the tongue-in-cheek humor of the whole angle had its moments, it is hard to argue that it wasn't flat-out dumb.

This, of course, was only the first in a slew of wrestlers pulling off the same basic tactics. Barry Windham reappeared from a "loser leaves town" affair as Yellow Dog. Brutus Beefcake would orchestrate run-ins on behalf of baby faces worldwide as an unnamed masked assailant. Macho Man Randy Savage would appear at house shows during his periods of inactivity and suspension as Mr. Madness. And then, there was Mr. America.

In perhaps the silliest of all of these sketches (or at least the silliest since the Midnight Rider), Hulk Hogan was put underneath a blue mask and given the uber-patriotic gimmick of Mr. America. He came to the ring to "Real American," called his pythons "patriots," and embodied everything the original Hogan stood for. He even threw in a few dozen "brothers" during his promos.

All of this was met with the ire of Vince McMahon, who had been lobbying for nearly a whole year to rid the WWE of Hogan forever. McMahon's plot to expose Mr. America consisted of enlisting "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and others to do his dirty work during a period of sheer chaos on SmackDown! Even with the added hilarity of Hulk Freaking Hogan wearing a mask to cover his face (his mustache still ever present through the mask), the whole program was designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

It ended with little fare as McMahon and Hogan split backstage and the Hulkster left the WWE for just about 18 months. McMahon showed file footage of Mr. America unmasking, thus leading to his subsequent termination from the company and the end of this rehash.

But that was 2003, and we're almost in 2011. Eight years ago, WWE's key demographic (the PG audience) wasn't watching. So you can assume that this angle has expanded its shelf life and is ready for a fresh run with even more lunacy.

If John Cena sports a mask and walks around as Mexican wrestler Juan Cena, then we might as well kill any push Nexus was ever going to receive. Wade Barrett will be made to look like a buffoon, Michael Cole will address the WWE Universe with complete disdain towards Cena and Jerry Lawler will play like this is a completely different wrestler.

Brace yourself for the impact of idiocy that awaits, albeit and entertaining impact. I only hope that they go full-blown luchador with Cena and remix his theme music with a full orchestra of Mariachis.

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