John Cena is the New York Yankees of professional wrestling.
The sentiment was spoken last night on Monday Night Raw by white-hot superstar CM Punk. The words were written back on May 10 by yours truly.
In my debut article here on Bleacher Report, I presented a theory as to why John Cena long-anticipated “heel turn” had, in fact, already happened. You can read the entire article here.
In case you don’t have time to read the whole thing (I’ll admit, it’s on the long side), I’ll summarize. Basically, my criteria for what makes a face and what makes a heel is entirely dependent on fan reaction. Heels can be rule-breakers during kid-friendly eras, like The Million Dollar Man or Dolph Ziggler, or guys who are holier-than-thou during more mature eras, like Bret Hart in 1997 or Kurt Angle in 2000.
Since at least half and often the majority of the crowd boos Cena on a nightly basis, he is therefore, in my opinion, a heel.
I wrote that Cena is a new kind of heel; he (kayfabe) is better than everyone else in the ring, has the most money invested in him by the company, and wins the vast majority of his matches to the point where it becomes annoying for the fans.
These are by and large the same reasons the Yankees are the most despised team in baseball, as well as one of the most beloved. There are fans that have a vested rooting interest in them, while everyone else wants to see someone else have a chance to raise the gold.
The Yankees are the only team in Major League Baseball with an entire fan base of folks dedicated to rooting against them (the so-called Yankee Haters). Likewise, John Cena is the only WWE superstar (or is it wrestler again?) with an entire group of anti-fans that just want to see him lose. To anybody.
Anyway, not to pull the ol’ Bobby Heenan and say I told you so, but it now looks like WWE may be heading down this very path. John Cena, like Derek Jeter, says and does all the right things, and has the titles to back him up, yet both still catch heat everywhere they go.
The question is: does WWE secretly scour Bleacher Report and other wrestling websites for ideas and to get a sense of what the average fan thinks of the product?
Did CM Punk or someone from WWE come across this article two months ago and think it would make only too much sense to use my words as ammunition against Cena in his hometown of Boston?
Please don’t get me wrong. Like I said, this article isn’t to say I told you so, nor is it an attempt to show how smart I am by writing something that was actually incorporated into an epic CM Punk promo.
When the words came out of Punk’s mouth last night, I was excited for an entirely different reason. Of course, there was the “Holy S***, I wrote that!” moment. But more importantly, there was a sense of exhilaration because the WWE seems to have found its edge again with some truly groundbreaking stuff.
Best of all, there’s a chance the company has turned to us, the IWC, in looking for ways to turn things around.
It’s 2011, and it’s time to stop looking solely at ratings as a benchmark for where the wrestling business stands. Just as “wrestling matters,” Tweets and YouTube views matter.
Guys like CM Punk and Zack Ryder get that, and I have no doubt Vince McMahon gets it, too. McMahon didn’t make his fortune by being aloof. Even though his character may be portrayed as someone who is over the hill and “doesn’t know how to build a superstar in 2011” right now, rest assured that McMahon still has his finger on the pulse. He’s certainly heard enough “We Want Ryder” chants to figure out where they’re coming from.
I’ve always said that when wrestling hits the mainstream again, it won’t be because of a revival of the Attitude Era. That was a fad from a time long past. Think of how much has changed politically, economically, socially, and technologically, since the late 1990’s. In this day of reality television, instant gratification, and the 24/7 news cycle, WWE may finally be on the cusp of finding its place in this frenetic landscape.
Despite what Eric Bischoff may believe or wants us to think he believes, the Internet matters today more than ever. Maybe CM Punk read my article and decided to drop that line on Cena last night. Maybe he didn’t. In fact, he probably didn’t. I’m no great wordsmith that my analogies couldn’t be thought up by anyone else, especially one that’s fairly obvious.
But what is undeniable is that over these past few weeks, WWE and the IWC have been closer to the same page than ever before. That can only be good for business.
And that’s great for wrestling fans.