Like a lot of things in the cartoon world of wrestling (as Bret Hart described it), what happens in the ring and with the talent tends to evoke a very strong response from the fans.
Wrasslin fans are passionate. Whether it’s their enthusiasm for the “sport”," their love of a favorite superstar, or their apparent hate for certain column writers, the fact remains. There are not a lot of shades of grey when it comes to their feelings and opinions.
And when it comes to the newest member of the WWE roster, one Juan Cena, it’s no different.
For anyone who is old enough to remember (or who has taken the time to look it up), the idea of taking an established, well-known wrestler, giving them a new “name," and putting them under a mask (whilst making little to no effort to hide the identity of the performer) is not exactly a revolutionary idea.
Circumstances have existed, and it made sense for a variety of reasons, so they went for it.
In fact, there are a variety of examples of well known wrestlers that have done this.
There was the moderately successful Gregory Helms who transformed into “The Hurricane."
The late Owen Hart performed as the “Blue Blazer”.
Perhaps the most well-known wrestler of all time has done this twice during his career (Hulk Hogan donned the mask as “Mr. America” in 2003 after having first gone undercover as “Hulk Machine” back in 1986). And last but not least, Andre the Giant performed with a mask under the moniker “Giant Machine”.
[Curious editor’s note: There was another “machine” who wrestled for a short period of time. He was known as Piper Machine and wore a kilt… Hmmm, I wonder…]
While it wasn’t something that was done every day, the practice did occur every now and then. The catalyst was nothing more complicated than the wrestler donning the mask to advance a story angle (however complex or simple).
Back in my time (picture an old frumpy grandpa with his wrinkles and his pipe talking) there wasn’t this vast sea of information we call the internet. There weren’t web boards and free access to all the media and information out there. We didn’t ask too many questions or debate everything to death like we seem to nowadays.
We just went along with it because it was something that entertained us and we wanted to kill an hour of time.
It was done in a way that was almost tongue-in-cheek and you certainly didn’t feel as if anyone was trying to pull anything over on you. It was just too blatant and obvious. So it "was what it was." The commentators often played it up and it gave them a little something extra to work with. The crowd got to feel as if they were sort of “in on the joke” or "in on something," and thus they felt more a part of it all. And when your fans feel as if they relate to your superstars, they tend to spend a few more $$$ going to live events, and buying more merchandise.
We now have one of the most popular talents on the WWE roster wearing a purple hood and evidently eating burritos.
That’s right, for those that missed it, as of Survivor Series, John Cena is no longer an employee of WWE and has possibly pulled some strings to get a relative hired.
Or so goes the storyline… The mighty Wade Barrett, with his apparent magical, elf-like powers, has relieved him from his job as a talent on the WWE roster. And he’s going to be replaced by his Mexican cousin Juan on the house show circuit.
While John is supposedly not an employee of the company any more, he was evidently lucky enough to have scored some ringside tickets to this past Monday night’s episode of RAW (he must have connections). And in the process, he took full advantage of his proximity to the ring by leaping the rail, dragging the Wendy’s chick out of the ring, giving him an Attitude Adjustment through the announcers table and then escaping into the crowd.
Nexus beware—John Cena is planning on taking you down one by one.
Now this aspect of the “angle” isn’t a brand new idea either (it’s a little reminiscent of the Outsiders buying tickets for WCW events and showing up to try and shake things up). But it’s a little injection of life into what was starting to become a dull Monday night landscape.
It adds the element of surprise.
Where will he pop up? What will he do?
We know his goals—take out Nexus. But how will it all play out? And with the holidays looming and the spirit starting to make it’s way into the air, I am willing to see were creative will go with things before I pass judgment.
One of the challenges of running two prime time shows a week, as well as a whole slew of house shows, is that it gets very challenging in terms of preserving the continuity between what we see on TV (RAW and Smackdown), versus what we would get at a live show. See, for many months beforehand, WWE has to book out arenas and venues around the country to hold house shows. This includes advertising for these shows as well.
And it’s a pretty safe bet that if Cena was originally scheduled to appear, they’d have had his name plastered on posters or on the radio spots for all to hear. Cena’s popularity, without question, moved tickets. So in all fairness, it would seem like a pretty dirty trick to advertise him, and then turn around and pull him from the event.
To maintain their integrity, there was a need to come up with some kind of plan in order to meet the fans expectations.
So to recap, the situation that exists is this: John Cena is supposed to be (as per tv storyline) "fired." However, John Cena has been promised to the public for various events over the next few months. So how exactly are they going to pull it off?
In this case, the WWE has opted to run with (and most of you already know this) the following.
On cards where John Cena was supposed to wrestle in the coming months, he will now be replaced by his "Mexican cousin Juan Cena." Oddly enough Juan wears a purple mask which hides his face. He just so happens to have the exact same ring attire as John Cena, the exact same build as John Cena, and appears to be very good at mimicking the moveset that one John Cena has been utilizing for some time now.
When Juan delivers that Attitude Adjustment, it’s just, wow. You’d almost think that it was really John Cena under that mask… But that’s just silly right?
So the question remains. Juan Cena… Was this a very original idea? Is creative booking on the fly? Are they just having a little fun? Do we need to take things a little less serious? It’s a storyline, and with all storylines we’re (for the most part) either going to like them or not like them. And according to what I’m reading, the camps are split.
On the one hand you have the naysayers. These are the folks who shake their head in disgust at the idea of "Juan Cena." People are already pointing the finger at Michael Hayes as being the trigger man behind the idea (I have nothing telling me that’s accurate or not).
“How original” they’re saying. How much time did it take to think up such a plot?
It certainly sounds like something that would have been brought up during a drunken orgy of one upsmanship playing “you know what would be REALLY funny”… With all of Michael Hayes experience and supposed talent, should we as the audience be demanding something just a tad more elaborate?
He’s one of, if not THE, primary creative inputs to the WWE product we see put before us today. Just tossing a mask on a wrestler doesn’t exactly sound like it takes a whole lot of originality or genius now does it? The initial gut reaction was that "hey, I could have come up with something better than that." And perhaps that’s not too far from the truth. The idea doesn’t exactly smack of "the leader in sports entertainment."
As a community, the diehard loyals out there expect the best from the best of the best, and WWE is supposed to be the top of the food chain.
Juan Cena? Maybe he belongs in a TNA ring…
But then there’s the other side that says "you know what, it’s really kind of funny." And at the end of the day, who is it hurting? There have been lots of funny t-shirt ideas sprouting up (you can’t “si” me), and while it might not seem original at first, at the end of the day, maybe it’s accomplishing what it set out to do: maintain the overall storyline that they are trying to develop, and still give the people what they want at the house shows.
I mean, if given the opportunity between a masked Cena and NO Cena, as a paying ticket holder I am pretty sure I know which way I would want it all to work out.
And just because it seems like a very simple and basic idea, there’s nothing saying that there wasn’t a lot of serious time and thought put into this. Juan Cena may have been bantered about for months. So at face value, something which seems like a bit of a joke may have long term thought and planning put into it. It just may be coming off a tad bit juvenile.
When it’s all said and done, Juan Cena may end up being a trivia question you’ll get at some point down the road. I confess, my initial reaction to hearing about it went something like “are you kidding me?” But realistically, it’s also a matter of putting it into perspective. And while it’s a great subject for conversation, it’s not anything to lose sleep over.
I don’t have a clue who really was the brainchild of Juan Cena, but if it keeps the fans going home happy, and if it gives people something to talk about, then let’s move on.
WWE seems to be on a bit of an upswing. HHH is almost ready to come back, The MIZ is the new champ, Alex Riley is coming along, Michael Cole is continuing evolve as a major player/heel and John Cena is giving us some level of a surprise factor that hadn’t been in the picture for a while. The product is becoming a bit less predictable, but not to the point where it is becoming unbelievable.
If things end up continuing in the same direction, maybe we’ll look back at Juan Cena and consider him to have been a big medium towards a rebound in the business. But that's your call...
The only thing left to do will be to have John and Juan take a run at the tag titles…