John Cena and CM Punk went out and had one of the best matches in the history of the Monday Night RAW telecast this past week. It was lauded on Twitter, with many people claiming that it, not the match it set up, should have been the main event of WrestleMania this year.
The problem with that line of thought is even as “The Internet” becomes an increasingly inaccurate moniker for the hardcore fan and as more and more “casual” fans discover the things we have known for a decade, we don’t make up nearly a large enough portion of the crowd to matter in a macroscopic sense. Sure, WWE has started catering to us in minor ways, and they’ve also started placing wrestlers that we’ve been marking for over the years in the main event. Wrestlers like Punk, Daniel Bryan, Antonio Cesaro, Dolph Ziggler, Dean Ambrose, and Seth Rollins haven’t stayed in their spots without the support of the fans at large.
No greater sign of this dichotomy exists than with the crowd’s interaction with Cena. The main thrust of the show is still very much a cult of personality around the wrestler. Some say that it’s fed by WWE’s overpush of him, but the fans at live events certainly play into it. Every match is a referendum on Cena, one which the only answer that would befall him would be no reaction at all. The dueling chants he gets do not consist of “Let’s go Cena!”/“Let’s go [opponent]!” The refrain goes “Let’s go Cena!”/“Cena sucks!” It’s the same whether Cena is against Punk, John Laurinaitis, The Big Show, or even The Rock. Yes, even The Great One now steps into Cena’s world.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that I’m telling you to grin and bear it, nor am I advocating WWE continue to ram Cena down our throats as the only option. They’re long-overdue on pulling the trigger on Punk as a WrestleMania headliner. However, wanting Cena to step completely aside is a ludicrous proposition. The man is still the straw that stirs WWE’s drink. He elicits emotional responses from all facets of the crowd. Why would WWE throw that away, along with all the dollars that come with that kind of emotional investment?
WrestleMania is the biggest date on WWE’s calendar, so they naturally have to put their best foot forward. In this case, Rock vs. Cena, a match that did bonkers numbers, is the one they’re going to go with. I’d like to think that they make it up to the fans of more critically-acclaimed styles of wrestling with the other pay-per-view events. You know, like the three straight events featuring some iteration of CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan for the WWE Championship? It’s like the difference between movies that make a bunch of money and ones that are up for the Academy Awards each year. There’s nothing wrong with either kind of movie, and really, the studios end up using the cash made from, say Transformers to fund the art house movies that get critical buzz.
Tom Holzerman is a lifelong wrestling fan and connoisseur of all things Chikara Pro, among other feds. When he’s not writing for the Camel Clutch Blog, you can find him on his own blog, The Wrestling Blog.