WWE/TNA Landscape: Could John Cena Make "Wrestling Matter" Again?
“Vince, the day will come when you will suffer a much greater wrath than the one bestowed upon me by an egotistical ex-boss.”
Vince Russo, Rope Opera: How WCW Killed Vince Russo.
Stop whatever you’re doing at this exact moment; clear your mind of everything except the words you’re reading here in this article.
I want you to get a specific image in your head, an image that requires your complete attention and focus to materialize.
What if right now, at this exact moment at the height of his popularity, John Cena joined TNA Wrestling?
Believe it or not, I would like to see it happen. Scratch that; I would love to see this happen.
As seen in some of my previous pieces, I firmly believe that the sports entertainment offered by the top two companies in this country is severely lacking when it comes to the excitement and intensity present during the Attitude Era and Monday Night Wars.
For the most part, I’m sure most fans can agree that their loyalty to TNA or the WWE lies in the fact that they’re use to watching either company’s product, not solely because it’s “entertaining.”
The truth of the matter is that Vince McMahon’s product has become unnecessarily mediocre because he and Bonnie Hammer (President, USA Networks) have no immediate challengers.
Thus the product from the company has become stale. Add to that the glaringly complacent minds at TNA that are currently managing to execute magnificent figure eights on thin ice, and what you have is the sports entertainment equivalent of white noise.
TNA’s product, on the other hand, is still searching for a solid direction to focus on and has yet to really make a definitive statement that separates them from their competition.
An unexpected John Cena jump from the WWE to TNA would be the single event to reanimate the hardened hearts of both companies at the same time.
Given TNA’s track record, the first question would be whether or not the company would “use” him correctly. In all honestly, it really wouldn’t matter how they used him.
With all the controversy surrounding Cena’s popularity, they could have him read the New York Times in the middle of the ring for 30 minutes a show and fans would flock to Spike TV just to watch it.
Cena’s supporters would follow him to the ends of the earth, probably seeking answers to why he made the jump in the first place. The beauty of it is that Cena wouldn’t need a lengthy, life-coach speech to explain the situation!
“I did it because I wanted to make…an Impact…” would be the only thing he’d have to say. The rest would write itself.
Cena’s detractors would follow him for the same reason, but it would be a tad bit more difficult to keep them engaged in the product.
In this instance, a Cena heel turn would be very necessary in order to give him an edge that keeps his diehard fans interested, and turns his detractors into supporters.
In a perfect world, Cena would make his leap over to TNA unannounced, taking out the top superstars for maybe three weeks without explaining himself.
The interesting part about it all is that this shift would vanquish the WWE’s vice-like grip on the sports entertainment genre, more than likely causing the company to descent into an abyss of chaos from the loss of tons of viewers and revenue.
Fans could only imagine how sick Vince McMahon would get if this happened.
The WWE would have to tread foreign ground lightly, wandering across a barren landscape they had not traversed for more than 14 years.
They would actually have to create compelling storylines and characters for their product.
For far too long the WWE has been coasting on the shoulders of a scant few to push their product to fans.
With no real competition, the company has gone through numerous lengths to diversify its product and create its own little kingdom in order to keep fans interested (creating “brands,” reviving ECW, NXT, Tough Enough, WWE Superstars, WWE Saturday Night Main Event, etc.)
The company has also dabbled in several other ventures to promote their product to casual fans as well by expanding their product into the film industry through their WWE Films Co.
While all this is going on, John Cena has pretty much carried the entire WWE on his back, with his counterparts more so playing the roles of assistants rather than co-chairs. As such, the product has grown boring and not “predictable” as some might claim.
Keep in mind that we’re discussing a company that, in 1999, averaged 5.9 in the ratings share for the year! The 2010 average for the company was a 3.3; what’s going on with the product?
One can blame the fans, the Internet, smarks and the IWC all they want for ruining the sport. Once that person finishes their tirade, the bottom line is that there is very little that is compelling enough to make fans invest completely in the company right now.
A Cena jump to TNA would shake the WWE to its knees, bringing to light this harsh reality that without him the company has very little to stand or rely on.
Without John Cena to shill merchandise, to grant wishes for infirm children, to appear in Nickelodeon movies and banter incessantly with The Rock, the WWE Empire would begin to crumble faster than the reality of a Zack Ryder main event push.
Without John Cena to stand as the invincible face of the company, the WWE would have to rely on an underdeveloped (Alex Riley), neutered (Randy Orton), or back-burning star (The Miz) to become the new face to carry the company.
There is no doubt that they would fail miserably as Cena truly is the cornerstone to their business right now.
One can only blame the WWE for this. In the years that Cena has remained the company’s work horse, they have not really used him to “put over” any other stars.
That is to say, Cena hasn’t been used by the company to create new stars just as other red hot stars were used to “create” him.
When you think of the stars Cena’s faced, he’s pretty much been booked to dominate the entire WWE roster.
One could argue that he put over Wade Barrett and the first iteration of the Nexus, but Cena eliminated each and every member in an embarrassing fashion and subsequently neutered Wade Barrett in the process.
Look where Barrett is right now, but I digress.
Cena’s defection to TNA would almost irreparably damage the WWE, but it would also bring back the essence of the Monday Night Wars that made sports entertainment and pro wrestling so incredibly profitable.
The WWE would have to fire back and dig deep into the minds of their fans to produce a product that they would kill in order to watch weekly.
They would have to have a veteran (who can still go in the ring, perhaps Shawn Michaels and Batista) around to really launch young stars into the stratosphere.
The WWE would need stars on the rise like Randy Orton to really develop their characters to a point where they can begin to build up younger stars.
It would be vital for the WWE to utilize all of their championships to elevate stars. The championships would have to be honors bestowed upon the best and not just fancy footnotes to demarcate the survivor of a lackluster feud.
The pay per views would have to have build-ups that made them worth the fans’ hard earned $60 dollars, and would have to be a lot more than just expensive and extravagant episodes of RAW and Smackdown.
All TNA would “have” to do is ride the wave of momentum created by Cena’s defection and not screw up the character they would capitalize off of.
The end result of such a momentous move would electrify sports entertainment. Something this big would get EVERYONE talking, from folks in the entertainment industry all the way to the fans typing away on blogs in their parents’ basement.
The move wouldn’t be about making more money, nor would it be about burying the competition completely.
Such a move would benefit the business all around because the shockwaves would be felt everywhere, sparking a renewed interest in the overall product and forcing everyone in the business to bring their A game to the table for the fans.
The fans would respond and we’d see sports entertainment’s return to the days where 3.4s and 1.3s were frowned upon instead of praised and given parades.
Cena’s move would give TNA that surge of momentum to thrust them out of the unknown, giving them widespread exposure and the perfect superstar to pimp, so to speak.
The WWE, on the other hand, would leap into action and fight vigorously to maintain their spot as the top promotion, having more of a reason to produce high octane television that could no longer rely on being the best because there were no other viable competitors.
It’s a win-win situation for the fans and the companies, and it could all happen if John Cena would only make that simple, unannounced leap to TNA Wrestling.
A fan can dream, can’t he?
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