The Case for John Cena as One of WWE’s All-Time Greats
Many “smart” wrestling fans like to think they’re above kayfabe, but every once in a while we let ourselves get sucked into the ballyhoo of professional wrestling and logic flies out the window. Your author is no different.
For years I have been a John Cena detractor. His character is lame, he always wins and he still uses the same five moves in every match. He’s booked like superman, winning matches where he’s savagely beaten the entire time, only to “Cena-up” and quickly dispose of his opponent.
Unfortunately, here’s where kayfabe prejudices get in the way of sound thinking. Cena, believe it or not, does not have control over how he is booked. Cena doesn’t have creative control, nor does he script his own material. One could argue that he should — that whatever he could come up with would be far superior to the oftentimes hideous material he’s provided with. Yet he doesn’t. Cena plays ball the same as everybody else, and that includes the laying out of his matches.
It’s also about time we accept the fact that Cena may not be the horrible wrestler he’s considered to be in many circles. Does he always look smooth in the ring? No, he doesn’t. Does he always crisply execute moves or apply holds correctly? No, he doesn’t. However, there’s more to the game than knowing the difference between a hammer lock and a wrist lock.
Cena is one of the most charismatic wrestlers of all time. His facial expressions, his ability to sell pain and the way he makes the crowd part of his match are top notch. How many Cena matches have you seen where the crowd just sat on their hands in silence?
Another element of the game we must consider is delivering in big matches. I’ve lost count of how many huge matches Cena has been involved with, but it’s a rare occasion indeed when he doesn’t deliver. You may not like the outcome, but the very fact that you cared about the outcome of a fake pro wrestling contest is a testament to how good John Cena really is.
Let’s take this debate one step further. If John Cena really “sucked,” as the chant often goes, would he still be on top in WWE? Cena has been a steady main-eventer in WWE since 2005. He still sells the most tickets and the most merchandise in 2014. Make no mistake, if Cena wasn’t still the top dog, somebody else would have taken his place by now. That’s how the business works. There are no favorites.
People discount the fact that he’s an eleven-time WWE World Heavyweight Champion. While there’s no question the title has been watered down over the years, when you wear the strap you are the face of the company, and many fans don’t understand the pressure and responsibility that goes along with that.
If the average person was confronted with Cena’s yearly schedule they would vomit. From Saturday into Sunday this past weekend, Cena worked the main event at a house show in Madison Square Garden (which I attended), spoke at a conference in Austin, Tex. the next morning and followed it up by working another house show later that day in Jonesboro, Ark. This is par for the course for Cena, and he’s not even the company’s world champion. Not to sound sycophantic, but he’s also found the time to legitimately fulfill more Make-A-Wish requests than anyone else in history. When you’re the top dog, let’s just say you’re not home all that often. Not everybody is cut out for it.
In terms of combined days as champion, not including Cena’s three reigns as World Heavyweight Champion when the company was using two heavyweight title belts, Cena ranks fourth all-time with 1,191 days. The only people ahead of him are Bob Backlund, Hulk Hogan and Bruno Sammartino. Pretty elite company.
You don’t have to like Cena, but give the guy his proper due. Few men in the history of the business have accomplished what he has, and it’s not because he’s the golden boy who won’t let go of his spot on top. Let the arguments begin!
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