WWE: Can John Cena as a Face Produce a Big-Fight Performance Again?
At last month's Money in the Bank pay-per-view, John Cena versus CM Punk was the match. There were of course the now annual ladder matches but the main event had many, including even the most disillusioned fans, on the edge of the seats.
For the first time, perhaps since WrestleMania XXVI, an outcome to a match was far from certain.
The art of creating this kind of atmosphere is difficult. It requires genuine interest from an audience inside an arena, which correlates to the viewers sitting at home. Therefor, Big Show versus Mark Henry is not a candidate.
The fans often vote with their feet. Keep them standing for the duration of a match and they like what they see. Alternatively, see them walking to the concession stands, and you know it's probably time for a Divas match.
In history there have been many moments that can be described as having a "big fight" atmosphere. We can all draw memories that seem to have had us on tenterhooks as to who might win. It inevitably involves our marked favourites in a major event; our hands go sweaty, our hearts race, we begin shouting at the TV .
All goes into creating a distinctive atmosphere for one match.
The Undertaker versus Shawn Michaels match at WrestleMania XXV and Hulk Hogan versus Goldberg at the Georgia Dome are the two best examples I can think of in recent memory. There was in both instances, special reactions from the crowd—sendng a message to viewers that something was about to happen.
And so the question remains, can John Cena, superman, have such a moment?
Surely with nine world championships he has had his share of supposed WrestleMania moments right? How many more times can he possibly come back from near defeat to upset the odds and win? How original can it be?
John Cena is not the most technically gifted wrestler in the WWE today. He may be able to sell more T-shirts than Abercrombie & Fitch, but as with Hogan a generation before, this does not necessarily translate into a catch-as-catch-can style of wrestling.
Doing a leg drop or a modified fireman's carry are hardly technically astute moves. But this is irrelevant because ultimately people like the character.
Still, how long can it last? The rise of CM Punk which has all the hallmarks of a second coming of Steve Austin-style mayhem, seems to be showing Cena to be relatively weak and predictable.
Would you buy a PPV because of John Cena?
The next year is going to be a big one for Cena. His opponent at WrestleMania XXVIII has already been decided and so it is likely that he will not carry the belt through to 2012.
His match with The Rock is an unpredictable affair. Fans will be divided, perhaps on a generational basis. But if John Cena wins a straight win and celebrates with his fans as he done before, thus squashing the Rock, will anyone other than the front row be celebrating?
John Cena needs to change. We all know this. We have clambered for a heel change for years. However, what he needs is to become proficient in the art of losing. Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart knew how to lose well.
Sometimes the greatest victory requires you to be pinned for a three-count.
Whether this can ever happen, or whether he will turn heel remains to be seen, but if John Cena wants to be more than a marketing golden goose, he needs to realise that fans are fickle and can only watch so much before they demand something more for their money.
Cena's recent WrestleMania moments have been overshadowed by a Deadman and a Showstopper. As his song suggests however, this is "his time;" but if he wants to be at the top of the billing in his own right, Cena needs to offer something new.
Punk sold Money in the Bank; Cena was simply his opponent. And for a franchise boy, that relationship has to be the other way round.
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