While this may very well get filed in the overflowing "Cena Turns Heel" folder, if you look back at most of the articles I've written, you'll see that even though I criticize John Cena's on-screen character, I do try to have respect for the man behind the colorful shirts wherever possible.
He commits to what he does, he loves his work and he's dedicated to a company that believes in him. I aspire to be half as good an employee at my full-time job as he is to his own.
My only qualm with him has been how much stock the company places into his good-guy character, especially when Hall of Fame legends (Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold and Shawn Michaels, to name only three) have all had their times changing sides between good and bad.
Why is it that Cena is one of the few that has complete immunity when it comes to his on-screen persona?
Recently, the IWC has been on fire discussing CM Punk. Is he leaving or not? Is he re-signing with WWE or not? Is he going home to ROH, starting new elsewhere? Is everything he says true, a work, a shoot? So many questions, very few real answers.
After all, during Punk's first shoot promo two weeks ago, most of us assumed right away he was a disgruntled employee who'd stolen a mic, held the end of the broadcast hostage and actually meant what he said. Turns out, like most situations, we were half-right.
Punk's stealing the show was indeed planned, but everything he said was entirely from the heart.
I haven't seen what the actual ratings have been for Raw last week and this week, but the vibe of the show has changed considerably. What was once a routine broadcast of the company's flagship wrestling show has taken a drastic change of course by bringing forward real-life issues that both casual fans as well as IWC fans have with the product.
Since Cena is from Massachusetts, the support for him in his home state should have been through the roof! Instead, Cena got hardly any support and Punk's name was repeatedly chanted, despite Punk taking a few heelish digs at the crowd during his tirades.
For WWE to deal so heavily with such real issues, the company is truly stepping up their game. This coming Sunday at Money in the Bank 2011, not only will there be two briefcases up for grabs (my picks being Truth and Sheamus, I'm probably wrong,) but the main event has never had more on the line.
Punk has effectively put all of WWE under the microscope. He's aired their dirty laundry and deconstructed their biggest commodity, Cena, about as much as any performer in his position can be picked apart and dismantled.
Thus, this isn't just any old title match, and it isn't any old title match with one little catch. It has many catches, and safely picking this lock and disarming the trap to get to the treasure inside is going to be tricky, but not impossible.
Let's look at the facts. No more than eight months ago (less than one year,) WWE had already pulled a "John Cena gets fired" angle. Channeling his inner Steve Austin, Cena "crashed" Raw the very next night, apparently let in by security guards who wanted to see their "favorite star" get revenge on Nexus for firing him. In reality, Cena made his own choice.
Punk mentioned this silly angle last night, even pointing out his "firing" lasted all of about seven days, and kudos to him for that. Takes a bold soul to move fans like he does.
Thus, even though this mandate isn't the result of a faceless emailing authority and straight from the boss' mouth, I fail to see how WWE can really get away with "firing Cena" yet again.
The easiest surprise WWE can pull on us is that somehow Punk pins Cena, probably with help from Nexus, and wins the title.
However, how much can really result from that happening? Punk looks more dedicated and determined in his choice than any other superstar has in at least a couple years.
For Punk to win the title and show up on Raw, after being so adamant about leaving? It would do more damage to Punk's credibility as a performer, than winning a title dirty while still employed, would do.
Punk has already stated, in off-screen interviews and on-screen on Raw, that he's tired. He's exhausted, he's frustrated, and he wants out. On TV, he makes it look like he's never coming back. We know the truth. Punk is a wrestler by blood and his skills run deep, meaning he'll likely pull a Chris Jericho, take time away, maybe do some TV, movies or other things, then come back to wrestle again at some point.
Even with all the likely kayfabe contract "negotiations" that went on last night, (Punk talking about wanting his own jet, perks out the wazoo, etc.,) his interactions with Cena that ended the show looked to be entirely heartfelt and honest.
This isn't about greed for Punk, it's about respect. He made mention of collector cups and ice cream bars (even getting ice cream chants,) but it's not the money Punk wants, it's the recognition. He probably wouldn't be as pissed right now if he had actually been booked to win a few matches as Nexus' leader instead of getting cast as an egotistical madman who just wants cronies to protect him like a coward.
However, even with all the things he allegedly wanted written into his new contract, he still ripped up the paper and again stated emphatically that he's leaving. Whether or not he comes back? After all the hooplah he's created? I can almost guarantee he will...eventually.
That being said, since we can count on Punk leaving, Vince McMahon doesn't benefit at all if he lets Punk have the title. He's said on TV that he doesn't have faith in Cena, but that doesn't necessarily mean he'll secretly have more faith in Punk. If contracts and employment weren't an issue, I'd say, sure, they could be working together on-screen, they could be in cahoots—but Punk's going to be leaving.
Thus, what other option could there be than for Cena, a guy who isn't leaving at all, to be secretly working with McMahon?
Think back to what occurred many years ago for Stone Cold Steve Austin. Biggest star the company had ever produced, savior of the company's ratings during the Monday Night War, icon of the Attitude Era. He gets his neck broken by Owen Hart, and his career seems to be in jeopardy.
He ended up continuing to wrestle for quite a while after that happened, but during the days that Austin couldn't compete for long periods of in-ring activity, what did they do?
They gave him a badge and made him the Sheriff. Cheesy, but it kept Austin on our screens. They changed his role so we could still enjoy him (in a very new way) and he could recuperate to the point of being able to compete on something of a part-time basis later on.
Flash forward to today. Cena is now the biggest star in the company, and like Austin before him, he's also busy fighting plenty of injuries while competing. Maybe they're not as devastating or life-threatening as a broken neck, but he could still use time off from competing to let his wounds heal.
Furthermore, Cena's on-screen character, while getting a major boost in credibility as a result of Punk's initial shoot promo, is still suffering from the same worn-out problems he has had in the past few years.
I loved when Cena questioned Vince with "What if I say something you don't like, are you gonna suspend me too?" Really sold Cena being a good guy, defending the people.
However, it's not enough to get the entire universe behind him again. If Cena, the biggest hero in the company, can't get standing ovations in his home state, where is he going to get them from?
For Punk to lose in his hometown of Chicago, yes, it would very likely cause a rousing outrage, and fans in attendance would be thoroughly pissed. But is one night of cheers for a hometown hero really worth it?
Look at Lita's last match in WWE. She was humiliated. I'd say it's a fair bet she could get some kind of Hall of Fame mention in another year or two.
Punk has built this persona of being a rebel. For him to claim victory over Cena clean and achieve that boyhood dream? Revolutionaries don't do things like that.
WWE took the belt off Cena at ECW One Night Stand and let Edge be the Canadian who saved Hammerstein Ballroom from getting torn down. The venue in Chicago will be so much bigger, but look at the long term.
Punk wants out, we can figure he's very likely going to be gone soon. His chances of actually taking the belt with him are very low.
However, blind faith of kids be damned, Chicago will be in support of their hometown hero, Punk. And they won't just be in support because he's from there, but because he represents what the fans need.
Punk represents the fans' real desires. Cena stands for truth, justice, the American way, good values, kissing babies, yadda yadda. Punk is a wrestler who stands up for wrestling fans, and right now, that's what we need.
Cena, on the other hand, may not be the type to throw his good values out the window for a whole hell of a lot, but Punk has clearly gotten under Cena's skin. Normally what happens is, people challenge Cena's values, Cena makes fun of his accuser, and the bad guy gets frustrated and throws the first punch.
In a rare showing, Cena actually showed enough human emotion to throw the first punch himself. Punk's in his head, he's under his skin, and the look on Cena's face tells the story.
Cena is infected. He's pissed off, he's enraged the way he should have been years ago, and people who get that way do drastic things.
Nexus and the "Anonymous Raw GM" can say what they want about him being fired. But McMahon is the boss. And if Cena is truly the company guy we all see him to be, he will take help from McMahon in order to ensure the belt stays in WWE.
Like I said, Punk's leaving. To let him have the belt, just to see the bad guys all buddy up, it's too easy. Cena can't get fired twice in a one-year period. It would be too much, too far reaching for fans to buy.
McMahon helps Cena screw a leaving Punk out of the title that's due to him in an epic battle. Cena shows just how deep his passion for WWE goes.
After all, since Rock showed up before WrestleMania and questioned Cena, that's been Cena's whole MO, right?
His love for WWE is so strong that he's been there for the fans all this time, right? He loves WWE enough that he won't let Punk walk out with the title, and if it means taking help from McMahon to do it, so be it.
Don't forget. McMahon has "guaran-damn-teed" victory over powerhouse baby faces like Austin and Rock and achieved the victories he promised. The world didn't end, apocalypse didn't descend on our heads, the Earth still spun. It just means that one particular PPV ends in favor of the bad guys for a change, and one of those bad guys used to be a hero of the people.
We do that with episodes of Raw, why not PPVs? Easiest way to raise PPV buys, you have one PPV end on an enormous note to benefit the bad guys, build momentum for both sides in weeks to come and have the good guys claim a victory in the next one.
In the meantime, this "saves Cena's job," gives Punk a good, legal, business reason to take time off to rest, and in the meantime, the WWE landscape will be busy morphing into something new for Punk to come back to.
Guys like Punk and Jericho are creative. Jericho says if he comes back, he wants it to be with a new gimmick. You think Punk wouldn't want to come back with a better gimmick?
All of it, win-win. Controversy, conspiracy, underhandedness and shocking drama. That's how I remember WWE to be and that's what I want WWE to live up to this Sunday.