Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Of course WWE needs John Cena

I was reading a column yesterday, written by a guy named James Wright, at Wrestling Truth (they apparently reveal the truth behind the headlines) that asked if WWE needs John Cena. My immediate reaction was "what kind of stupid question is that?" but after seeing people re-tweet the story on Twitter dozens of times, I felt the need to make a proper response. The article itself lacks any sort of coherent point, jumping around from clich├ęd Cena hating to whether or not WWE should abandon "kayfabe" (that's old carny language for keeping up the illusion that wrestling is real), and the effects of WWE's shift to PG programming, so I'll just tackle those three points separately.

-"John Cena [is] a waste of space as a wrestler and a negative force in the WWE, stealing the spotlight for other, more deserving, superstars."

This is just wrong on so many levels. If you're going to use the tired argument of John Cena being a bad wrestler, I suggest you hop in your DeLorean and head back to 2005 when you may have had some inkling a point. He had some good matches before (like the I Quit Match with JBL), but after WrestleMania 22, you don't really have a leg to stand on when bashing Cena's in-ring performance. He's put on incredible matches with guys like Triple H, Edge, Umaga, Shawn Michaels (including their hour-long battle on Raw), Randy Orton, Rob Van Dam, Batista, Chris Jericho, and he was also the first (and possibly only) person to ever get a watchable match out of The Great Khali. Aside from The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels, there is no one in the wrestling business today who can out-perform John Cena in a big match situation.

As for the ridiculous claim that he "steals the spotlight" from more "deserving superstars," I simply ask, who? John Cena is the biggest star the industry has seen since Steve Austin, who is possibly more deserving a top spot in WWE than him? It's funny, a lot of these things people say about Cena, they said about Austin back in 1998: "he's not good in the ring," "he steals the spotlight from better wrestlers," "he does the same thing over and over," etc. Cena may not go down in history as the best pure wrestler, but he will likely be remembered as the most passionate and dedicated. He eats, sleeps and breathes the wrestling business, that's the kind of guy I want at the top of the card, not some guy who is athletically gifted, but could walk-out to pursue MMA at any given moment.

-"Maybe the whole idea of kayfabe should just be scrapped all together."

It has been scrapped, it was scrapped a long time ago. As you suggest in your article, Vince McMahon already revealed the man behind the curtain, so I don't understand what exactly it is that you're proposing. Aside from a ticker to go along the bottom of the screen that says, "ATTENTION WWE UNIVERSE: THIS ISN'T REAL!" I don't know what else they can do to clarify that it's sports entertainment. Vince presents his product like every other scripted show on television, we know it's fake, but it's still fun to watch. I know Matthew Fox isn't really Lost on an island, but I don't want them reminding me of that mid-show, the fun comes from getting immersed in the story, the same concept applies to wrestling.

-"I personally hate the kids initiative, it does nothing for me as a wrestling fan"

Well, it's not 1999 anymore, the Jerry Springer days of "Crash TV" are over and that's not what wrestling fans want. In 2002 and 2003, WWE struggled to find an identity because they were hung up on the Attitude Era, but fans were over it. Since 2004, WWE's shifted their focus away from edgy storylines and back to the in-ring product and in my opinion, they've become increasingly better in the following years.

I got into wrestling when I was really young and the big deal back then was Hulk Hogan, along with other larger than life characters like Jake "The Snake" Roberts, "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase, "Macho Man" Randy Savage and The Ultimate Warrior. When fans like me began to grow up, the product matured with us and we got characters like Steve Austin, The Rock, Mick Foley, and DX, and it gave WWE another huge boom period, but that was over ten years ago. Think of it like this, someone who was just entering college in 1998 is almost 30 now, they could have kids of their own and if they do, that's where most of their disposable income will be spent. So the kids who grew up watching Hulk Hogan are now the people taking their kids to see John Cena, it makes perfect sense for WWE to be appealing to that youth demographic. I'll have a full rant on this PG uproar in the near future, but it's really just another example of the smark community making a mountain out of a mole hill.

So according to this Wrestling Truth column, Cena sucks but the kids like him, but appealing to kids sucks, so WWE should break kayfabe (which they already have), but have storylines to set them apart from MMA. I don't know what it is exactly that Mr. Wright is looking for, but I'm pretty sure what he described is exactly what WWE has been doing - presenting a product that's a little something for everyone. Bottom line, John Cena is the most valuable commodity in wrestling today, regardless of "kayfabe" or who little kids like, WWE needs him just like they needed Austin in the 90s and Hogan in the 80s.

1 comment:

  1. I am what you would call a reborn wrestling fan, as I was out of the flock from the early 1990's until the middle of last year, and honestly as an outsider, I can see the value of most of the people working on the shows in terms of characters and angles and such, and I don't really have a problem with Cena. He isn't my favorite, but I don't have any animosity towards him and he is good at playing that character.

    Part of me thinks judging Cena based on that Jericho match in England is rather shallow in my opinion because, let's face it, Jericho is really good at playing a crowd... I mean, he is a heel, but I love watching him work. He is like Hannibal Lecter... he is a villain, but you can't help but enjoy watching him do his thing.