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WRESTLING COLUMNS

The Champ is Here, But is it just the Champ?
December 7, 2005 by James "JT" Thomlison


After reading so much over the last couple of months about how so many things were wrong with John Cena, I have to admit that I myself was inevitably drawn into the conception that this man ... then I went to Survivor Series. 20,000 people, at least half of them against Cena, booing the hell out of him, yelling about how much he sucked... myself included. Then, as I looked around the arena, surveyed what exactly was going on, took it all in, and then for a brief millisecond a thought flashed through my mind. I quickly dismissed it, and kept my rooting for Angle strong.

I thought nothing of it, and was pissed that Angle didn't win the belt... until I had an hour and a half drive home which allowed me time to do NOTHING but sit and dissect the half-second feeling I had during the show; to reflect on the entire situation. To do this, I knew one thing was for sure. If I was going to spend 90 minutes mulling over the answers, I first had to ask myself the right questions. Well, folks, 90 minutes is a long time, and I'd like to share with you what I came up with.

I started at the beginning, to give myself a view of the entire picture of what had really happened over the last three years. After all, to dive into something so vast and deeply rooted, one must have all the facts. And the first fact is that when John Cena first debuted, the only thing we knew was that he was a young upstart wrestler, and he put on a few very good matches with two of the best wrestlers in the entire company in Kurt Angle and Chris Jericho. Could we have a future star?

Then Halloween arrived and Cena decided to dress up as Vanilla Ice, because he's a fan of hip-hop, he's white, and thought it would be funny, which it most certainly was. But apparently, somebody in booking was actually paying attention that night, and decided that they should tweek it a little, and run with it.

Enter John Cena, heel rapper. Now, we aren't going to dive completely into the schematics (you like that Sforcina?) of it, but we had a guy who came on every week, and cut some raps. Now, while this was certainly a questionable gimmick to go with, the fact was that Cena was just quick and witty enough with his "raps" to get over. But keep in mind, he was getting over as a HEEL. Eventually, the face turn came, and the stage was set for WrestleMania 20, where he would go on to win his first title (U.S.) from the Big Show. This was also around the time that the booking team decided it would be a good idea that they themselves wrote everybody's promo word for word for them, including Cena's raps. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Cena's heel raps were anything amazing, but they were colder, quicker, and had more spunk to them. After the turn, they became bubblegum babyface bullshit. However, despite the fact I personally didn't enjoy them as much, he was still entertaining and more importantly, still very very over.

He spent most of 2004 dropping and regaining the U.S. Title, and, despite being a more entertaining heel, he was getting more and more over as a face; something I have no problems with unless your name is Randy Orton (like most of us, except for Randle, who loves face Orton). And then, the time eventually came when John Cena could no longer be ignored. It was time to put the belt on him.

So, at WrestleMania 21, John Cena defeated the ever-unpopular (that's for another column) JBL to become the WWE Champion. Everybody loved it. Everybody went nuts. All was good in the world... for about two months. April rolled along, the champ is here. May rolled along, the champ is here. June rolled along, the champ is here... sort of. By the time August hit, we were cheering for another man, Chris Jericho; but we'll get to that. By the time the Angle feud rolled around, things had started to change. And by last Sunday, as with much of the shows over the last two months, the message was sent loud and clear: We can't stand you John Cena.

The thing we often forget is that we are here to like or dislike a CHARACTER, not a MAN. When we see Angle, we boo the CHARACTER, but cheer for the MAN. When we booed a heel Rock, we booed the character, but cheered for the man. When we booed a heel Austin, we were booing the character while cheering for the man. Being a good little mark, I'll even point out that when we booed a heel Christian, we booed the character, yet cheered the man. But it seems that when we've booed Cena, we aren't booing the character, we are flat out booing the man.

Which of course brings us to the matter at hand. Asking the right questions. Is it really John Cena we can't stand? Am I being fair to John Cena? Was I wrong in my assessment? Was the entire IWC wrong in its assessment? Were we crucifying the wrong man? Was John Cena becoming the scapegoat for everything that we didn't like about "him"? Was it possible he had been so overexposed and over-marketed that instead of blaming the ones in charge we blamed the one we saw every week on TV?

Finally, the questions had been asked. But now, I needed the answers.

Part A: First we'll start with an easy one. We'd answer if he's good on the mic, but we all know the answer. Yes. We might not always enjoy what we're hearing, but the fact is the man is guaranteed gold with a microphone in his hand. His promo abilities are about the one thing we aren't slinging shit his way about. Moving on.

Part B: Can John Cena wrestle? The common fan would tell you that he is worse inside a squared circle than Hulk Hogan himself, but I beg to differ. Anybody who saw any of his work in OVW knows that this guy can go.

Cook: I can validate that statement.

JT: Thank you, Steve.

Not only did he wrestle well in OVW, but he was impressive in his first few matches on television versus Kurt Angle and Chris Jericho. Now, some would argue that anybody can be made to look good in the ring with those two. I cannot argue that. But I didn't say he looked good. I said he looked impressive. The thing to remember is that through actual wrestling ability, John Cena almost made us BELIEVE he could beat them. Don't think I'm crazy. Don't dismiss me. Honestly, if you saw it, think back to it. Forget everything you know now and think back to those first few matches... Our boy Cena almost pulled off some upsets in convincing fashion. I'll even remind you of the STF hold he used to win Monday night on RAW. Think back, when he was just a young buck trying to make it, all was good in the world. He didn't ask for a gimmick that required a street brawler, thug type fighting style. He AGREED to one. So perhaps the real question is "Should we be booing creative for not letting a talented wrestler do just that... wrestle?"

Part C: Over-marketing. John Cena the man and John Cena the character had no problems going out there every week in a throwback jersey of his choosing and a backwards hat to match. Sure, the CD was his idea, and it's always nice to have your own T-shirt, but surely John Cena had nothing to do with the ridiculous heights marketing has gone with this. Do you honestly think John Cena suggested to somebody to have FIFTY TWO items on Shopzone? That's right, read it again... FIFTY... TWO. John Cena Wuffle Ball set? John Cena Zipper Pull? John Cena Wastebasket? Who the hell is approving these? Think back, when he only had the "Word Life" (wrestlemania-ish) T-shit, Lock Pendant, DVD and CD, all was good in the world. John Cena didn't ask to be plastered all over Shopzone, including his own section entitled "Top John Cena products", and right under it "Additional Cena products". He AGREED to have 874 items created for him. Even then, he probably didn't AGREE because he probably has no say in it whatsoever. So perhaps the real question is "Shouldn't we be booing marketing for going overboard in an attempt to make a fat pile of cash?"

Part D: Over-exposure. John Cena the man and John Cena the character had no problems appearing on television ONCE a week, sometimes twice if promo and match are both required. John Cena didn't ask to be on television five times a week. John Cena didn't ask the production crew to run vignettes of him all the time during recap shows. John Cena didn't ask for "5 questions with the Champ" to be plastered all over WWE.com, or be on CoachCast, or be on ByteThis 6 or 7 times this year, or ....I could go on and on, you get the idea. Think back, when he was only on TV (no wwe.com, no nothing) a few times a week, all was good in the world. John Cena didn't ask for ANY of this. John Cena AGREED to this. He said "you know what, you want me to do this, I'll do it". So perhaps the real question is "Shouldn't we be booing production for ramming this man down our throats at every opportunity possible?"

Part E: Over-booking. John Cena the man and John Cena the character (since WM 20) had no problems losing to guys like Chavo, Dupree, Booker, Kenzo Suzuki, Carlito, Taker, and even Orlando Jordan. Wins and losses are a part of the business, and Cena understands this. John Cena didn't ask to have FOUR losses since winning the belt, three of those being in tag matches, and the other being unclean. John Cena didn't ask to get put over guys like Jordan, Dupree, BOTH Bashams, JBL, Kurt Angle, Jericho, Christian, Tomko, and Carlito. Think back, when he was getting over with the crowd, and it meant he suffered a loss once in a while, all was good with the world. John Cena didn't say "Hey, let's have me win EVERYTHING", including handicap matches against two, three, and even FOUR people. He AGREED to it.

Let me tell you something, John Cena, no matter how popular, has NO pull backstage; has NO pull politically; and has NO pull in terms of booking. Think back. So perhaps the real question is "Shouldn't we be booing booking for turning him into an indestructible super-hero that seemingly NOBODY can beat?"

After proper deliberation, I have determined that the answer to all the questions above marked in bold is a resounding YES. Our problem isn't with John Cena. It's with everything else associated with Cena. The problem? Cena is the only one we see on TV. Well people, get off your high horse, put your boo-birds down, and cut the man some slack.

The fact is, John Cena - the MAN, the wrestler, the character, the whatever - has done nothing but go out there and be a complete company man and do everything that everyone has asked of him. I can no longer fault him for this. I can no longer say that John Cena is the one pissing me off. Especially in a time where we're in a down period, we have to... HAVE TO remember that as the Champion, he is shouldering more of the burden, pressure, and blame than everybody else in the company (sans Batista). I will no longer ignore the fact that he is living his dream, and sometimes, living your dream means doing what "other people" think are right for the "company".

I reviewed everything and realized that for the longest, I may have thought I was booing John Cena, but in reality my subconscious was already booing the people really in charge, and it finally decided to include me.

John Cena the man or John Cena the character won't be taking any more shit from me. John Cena has done nothing to merit it. Now - booking, creative, marking, and management - might be taking some shit from me, but no longer with John Cena unfairly be the scapegoat for the fact he has been over-booked, over-marketed, and over-exposed. The fact is that he is a good wrestler. He is a good character. And he is MOST DEFINITELY good for the company.

So the next time you want to boo the hell out of him, think about who you're really booing, and if Cena is REALLY the man who should be bearing your wrath. If you ask me, no he shouldn't. From now on, until I see something that is really his fault, I'm cutting John Cena a break.







But... this wouldn't be right if I didn't include the fans on this one. So what do you think? Have I gone bananas?, or I have pointed out something that's been in the back of our minds for months but we've ignored it? It's up to you people.

Yes JT, we have been unfair, and we're booing the wrong man.

JT, you're out of your mind, Cena sucks!


Have fun sleeping on that one folks... it killed me too.

by James "JT" Thomlison
Edward Delgado wrote:
I just wanted to add that I agree with your column. However I do still like John Cena, no, I'm not a mark for him. I just think he does have a lot to offer. Especially if he would stop trying to kiss the fans butts so badly. When he was a heel he went out there and just said what he wanted he didn't care but now he is always trying to make the fans cheer for him or laugh at the corny things he now says. Did you see the Raw segment when he ran around backstage trying to get Raw superstars thoughts on Kurt Angle..the diva part was hilarious but after that straight down hill.. And let's face it his wrestling arsenal isn't exactly impressive anymore..I mean he starts off a match like a firecracker real fast w/punches and kicks. After that he gets whooped for about 7 minutes then comes the come back with a bunch of clotheslines flying shoulder tackle the side powerbomb the 5 knucle shuffle then the FU. That in a nut shell is all you can expect from a John Cena match...Whatever happened to the Throw back?...I liked that move..but for the most part listen closely at a Raw and you'll notice that the crowd is catching on. The Chain Gang is about to turn on their leader. He needs play up as a heel to stay fresh and stop kissing up to the fans. WORD LIFE!!!
Josh Schaidt wrote:
I am not so sure this argument is the strongest that you could come up with. For you to say that Cena has no backstage pull may be a bit of an overstatement. Every Champion has some pull. Even further, if you say that Cena did not ask rather he "agreed" to do all of these promos and such shows weakness to Cena the man, not the character. Any one who allows themselves to be used by a company without boundaries is kind of nuts. Look at Mr. Hogan, the company used him but he turned that into all the backstage pull in the world. Bret Hart, the Ultimate Warrior, and Shawn Michaels did the same. Even though not everything went their way backstage they at least had a voice. They were smart enough to realize that a company hates to lose it biggest attraction and will do more than enough to keep their money maker happy.
Kevin Luu wrote:
This is a pretty long-ass column man. But I'll tell you right now it was definately worth the read. I, like so many others have grown tired of John Cena. You're right on the money with the whole 'the character' vs 'the man' thing. I've never based my judgement on the man (except for Edge but I try so hard to look forget that). In regards to your five main points, I can only honestly agree with four. A) Yes, Cena in good on the mic. He was great as a heel though. I personally don't who wrote which promos but i prefer the heel one's better. B) I can't agree coz I didn't see any matches from OVW or his first two matches in WWE. I always hear about how good Cena was at OVW but I'd rather see it rather than taking someone's word for it. C) Fifty two items is absolutely out of control. Nuff said. D) I agree. Too much Cena. You don't see 5 questions with Batista. E) It's annoying when someone always wins like Goldberg back in the day or Cena now. Well thought out, good column.
KevVversion1 wrote:
Nice column, which made me think, and you have some great points. I agree any genuine hatred towards the man is completly unwarranted as it is with any wrestler in my opinion. They are all going out there to entertain by doing something they love and they will pretty much do what's asked of them. Every last one of them has my respect for that so I would never boo the man personally and would shake each and every one of them by the hand given the oppurtunity as I am sure most respectable wrestling fans would.

However, I think if WWE fans dont like the character or anything about the way he has been pushed, his in ring skills or storylines etc, they are entitled to boo and in fact I think the WWE would want them to boo. Personally I did boo Cena simply because I would like to see Shawn Michaels or Kurt Angle as champion because I believe they deserve it more, and it is my way of expressing that. I like Cena and find him very entertaining in the most part, but I still boo him with a smile on my face. Hell I even cheered a few things he said but seriously it's all part of the show and part of the job, he's not the first face to go through it and wont be the last. The fans shape a lot of the direction of where characters go and this interaction with the crowd makes it a far more exciting spectacle.

The fact that people are booing John Cena is the biggest talking point in wrestling right now. Secretly he knows this is good for his career. This attention has garunteed a fan reaction for the rest of his career, wether it be good or bad. What would be worse is if the fans were not reacting at all. I doubt he takes much of it personally, he's a very rich and succesful man. He's big enough to take it and it will make him stronger and help him learn what works and what doesnt and what the fans want from him in the future.
Spiro K. (Queens, NY) wrote:
You make some very good points BUT you want us to go to shows and cheer for guys that the WWE thinks we should cheer for? You must be insane if you think I am going to go to an event and follow every other idiot's opinion in the arena that is buying the shit that the company is selling. It is not John Cena's fault but if we keep cheering guess what? He will be shoved down our throat even further. Not that the WWE cares what its viewers opinion is to begin with. I rather go to an ROH show then waist my money and time on sports entertainment...at least there, I will be heard!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you
Joe Poulton wrote:
Great article why don't they just make him into a violent heel, then the boos wont matter
Scott d Sandry wrote:
Taking another 90 min to re-think your theories might not be such a bad idea. Yes you had some points but not good points. If an actor does bad in a movie, do you blame the screenwriter, the director, the editor, the makeup artist, the producer? No you blame the actor. This type of "Wrestling" and acting are the same thing ones live theatre and ones filmed for later. You said Cena has no backstage pull, I would re-think that if I were you. Hey if someone like HHH has the guts to say let me job to someone like Bautista 3 matches in a row for the title, I'm sure Cena can say hey this doesn't seem right we should change it.

His mic skills aren't as good as people make them out to be, its just one of the "I should say yes they are to fit in" type of things, his skills are and will probably never be up to the level of Christian, Piper, the rock, etc... A lot of his lines I have heard him use have already been used by the rock, or close to them, but not any where near as close to as well done. He says he's many times that he's just like the people in the crowd, not just in caricature but he also says that out of caricature, I never new that most of the wrestling fans grew up in a $500,000 house and had mommy and daddy pay for all the stuff, in a neighbor hood where the minimum income must be $125,000 a year.

You talk about his in ring ability and that he's actually really good the only good matches for me to know of him in would be Angle, Jericho, Christian, and JBL, yes JBL the one that you stated is ever-unpopular, you better mean that he's not popular in a "face" way because he's Extremely popular as a heel especially at the time that match happened, people wont agree that JBL is a good wrestler, but that's because of 2 things A) he's a heel and B) its not the style these young people are used to, remember Bradshaw caricature, the Texan beer drinking bar brawling guy, the one everyone loved, he is actually really good in the ring for his style. The older type of wrestling. Back to Cena's in ring, why doesn't he actually attempt to show it then, instead of doing basically 2 poor moves, a lousy finisher the "F-U" and the "The Five Knuckle Shuffle" (a move road dogg started and Cena took)

I read the WWE's power 25.

Why are the most boring talent-less most pointless waist of time and space people the top 2 still?

They need to get the titles off of Bautista (yes his actual spelling not this crap Batista) and Cena. Faces as the champions are extremely boring, especially for this long period of time, especially at the same time. These writers have no talent and need to be removed and bring in talented writers, (just like SNL needs to do with there cast).

If you couldn't tell Yes I dislike the caricature AND the man.
Jon F. wrote:
Finally, someone sees the whole Cena ordeal from my point of view! People who criticize Cena never look at the big picture, Cena is'nt shoving himself down our throats, the bookers, the writers, and other management are. Cena can wrestle, but management won't let him use his abilities because they don't fit his character, so they limited him to a brawling style. In a way, you can say their holding back his talent. I'm not mad at Cena "The Man," because I respect him, all he's doing is what's required of him. I'll admitt, I don't like "The Character," but I blame management for that, not Cena "The Man."
PolyphonicAllan wrote:
Just a quick thought on the column, I notice you use the word formulated a few times. Is it not true that all wrestling, by its very nature is "formulated"? The problem is that sometimes the formula works for a while before becoming stale - as is the case with Cena. You didnt appear to offer any solution though (eg. turn him heel, strip title from him or whatever) so all we know having read your column is that Cena is being booed, but we already knew that!
Jamerye wrote:
Listen cena is good but he could be better. first turn him heel the fans would love it his face act has gotten stale. Like Eddie (R.I.P) he started getting stale as a face nut when he turned heel i loved it. So by him being as face for so long it has gotten stale . Plus he acts like a insecure heel one minute he goes off second he's calm. So basically he can wrestle but only as a heel it could give him more moves live using the chain or brass knuckles. Finally don;'t say batista is a face he is neutral and he wrestles worse than cena he is too slow.
Jamerye wrote:
In my opinion cena is good but a little stale. i think the reason fans booed him so bad is that he has held the title for too long. But the boos will only make him stronger. It is just a point in his career where he should turn heel.
Petit Hana wrote:
I think it isn't fair that people are booing John Cena, just because they don't think he's funny, or they get tired of seeing him so much. If they don't wanna see him, they should turn away, and if they don't think he's funny, than be it. There are millions of people who enjoy watching him, as often as they get, and we all have to admit, he is really entertaining. I think he's funny. He's one of the only reasons I like wrestling. It's just not right that people are so mean. I like his songs too. So what if he's overexposed? I love watching him anyways. I bet, that alot of people at least like to see him every once in a while. So, I think people should just get over their little, 'BOO JOHN CENA!' faise, and just try watching him for a while before they make their final opinions. They might find, that they can actually get to like him.
wrote:

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