John Cena is the embodiment of everything a superstar is supposed to be: strong, passionate, unrelenting, entertaining, intelligent, fast on their feet, quick-witted, loving and so much more.
Cena is responsible for much of the WWE‘s success in the last decade and is arguably the biggest reason the company was able to move forward with a venture like the WWE Network. Personally though, I feel he can be credited with a much larger and significantly more important accolade: saving the WWE.
Vince McMahon has made some brilliant moves in his time as CEO and majority owner of the WWE, but has been the beneficiary of good luck more often than not. When he needed a game-changing superstar capable of carrying the company? In walks Hulk Hogan. He wants to change the entire industry with WrestleMania? He not only gets the likes of Muhammad Ali to appear, but Mr. T to compete in a match with Hogan (granted, money had a lot do with making that happen too).
Then the days of the Monday Night Wars began and if it weren’t for the exec’s at WCW spending their money unwisely, causing them to lose the faith of the Turner Family, there would be no WWE today. In all fairness, having the likes of The Rock, Triple H, The Undertaker, and Stone Cold Steve Austin around to carry them through the Attitude Era also helped the WWE win.
So what role did Lady Luck play play after the wars were over and Vince had won? She handed him John Cena on a silver platter.
After the Attitude Era concluded, Vince began to see his viewership mightily declining. The Rock left, Austin had to walk away due to injury, Triple H and Undertaker needed to lessen their workloads, Shawn Michaels‘ body was betraying him, and the biggest healthy star they had was Edge (no offense, I loved Edge). Vince needed a new superstar to shoulder the entire company and carry them into a new age.
Cena was around while all of this was happening, but he wasn’t anything more than a white boy rapper character who was okay on the mic and decent in the ring. Over the course of a few years, his character developed, and he became something much more than just that rapper that he walked in as — he became a soldier for the WWE.
In the last 10-plus years, John Cena went from that silly character he walked in as to the biggest superstar the WWE Universe has seen since Austin. Cena makes audiences come out in droves; regardless of how many people claim to hate him or think he’s boring, most of them are still buying tickets, WWE Network memberships, and Cena merchandise.
I was at WrestleMania XXX. I heard the “Let’s go Cena, Cena Sucks” chants, and I couldn’t begin to count all the men who chanted Cena sucks … who were also wearing Cena shirts. Cena has five times more merchandise sales than the next biggest superstar on the WWE roster, CM Punk, which further tells me that all the people claiming he’s not a real wrestler still love and support him.
Sure, a lot of those sales come from kids, which is the demographic the WWE wanted to focus on when Vince saw the potential in Cena, which then led him to change the format from the Attitude Era to the PG Era. Vince knew that he could change things, take away most of the cursing and excessive violence and replace it with laughs and drama, but still see the amount of viewers and merchandise sales skyrocket because of the younger audience he wanted to target.
The PG Era has maintained numbers for RAW and Smackdown, and while they haven’t and never will be as good as the Attitude Era’s numbers, they’ve been enough to keep the company successful.
Cena is responsible for keeping the WWE afloat since the Attitude Era concluded and is the biggest reason why Vince still owns his company. While I may not ever want to see Cena carrying the belt again, I have to give him the respect he deserves. He saved wrestling as we know it and proved that Lady Luck is, and always will be in love with Vince McMahon.