Monday, May 23, 2022
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A New Appreciation For John Cena

Man, that WrestleMania main event is all kinds of ugly. Randy Orton vs. Batista for the unified WWE World Heavyweight Title? Between them and the ambiguous face/heel indecision of Triple H, it’s hard to believe they really had the nerve to call themselves, ‘Evolution’. If that’s really the definition of ‘evolution’, perhaps Creationism isn’t such a laughable preference there, Bill Nye.

[adinserter block=”1″]Bryan Alvarez is floating around the rumor of an internal WrestleMania line-up that leaves the door open for a third man to enter the World Title match, presumably Daniel Bryan to pay off the groundswell-turned-rapture that is his outpouring of fan support. At least, you’d assume this would be the plan.

Doomsayers of the message board degree will be apt to say, “I told you so,” if Triple H inexplicably makes himself the third man. Doesn’t it say a lot that worst-case scenarios draw tight-lipped solemn nods these days? A lottery winner among the IWC is inclined to believe he’ll get maimed by a wolverine en route to claiming his prize.

The inclusion of the easily-winded ‘Animal’ has been so much more of a soul-crusher, even to many a casual fan, that the rallying cry of, “Well hey, at least CENA’S not in the match!” has yielded little volume. Instead, it’s a relatively plain-spoken, “Oh, Cena’s facing Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania. Aight.”

Leave it to Batista to cast a shadow over Cena’s vivid and occasionally irksome caricature blocking it out like an impossibly-muscled eclipse. This is the same man, mind you, that got the crowd to cheer for How-Bored-Though Del Rio, so forget the Hall of Fame for Batista; just canonize him into Sainthood for his display of hyper-physical miracles. Hey, Joan of Arc was canonized in 1920, and she was burnt at the stake. Perhaps it’s unwise to give angry wrestling fans ideas.

Not that Cena hasn’t had his share of effigies over the years. The man’s been booed out of more venues than every Motorhead opening act of the last 40 years put together, and he eats it up with an, “Oh, you guys” smile on his ring-worn face.

That’s more than you can say for Batista, who took a verbal brown shower from the Royal Rumble crowd in Pittsburgh, and couldn’t bite his tongue before he screamed, flustered, “I’m going to WrestleMania, deal with it!” at the peanut gallery. Then the story emerged that he stuck his middle finger in the face of a fan on the way up the ramp. Being bald, being a headliner, and flipping fans off; that’s three things Austin did better.

There was a time when Batista’s character was a soft-spoken brute, essentially Roman Reigns in a three-piece suit and Gucci shades. He plainly stated what would happen to the rogue before him, and then he came through on threat of a thrashing. Simple and effective. It hasn’t taken long in 2014 to figure out that Batista has a difficult time playing it as cool in the thicket, especially when the very real heat keeps coming.

Seems to be the fundamental difference between Cena and Batista. Either Cena’s naturally the most not-to-be-fazed wrestler to ever carry the Stamford ball, or he does one hell of a job faking it. Batista’s attempts at faking it have been memorable failures.

The more I watch Batista stumble through rind-handed promos where he either claims allegiance to the fans who boo him (sounding about as natural as Don Lapre hooked up to a polygraph) or tells the fans to kiss off because he doesn’t need ’em (the big hero with the movie coming out this summer, remember?), the more I appreciate Cena’s cool-as-ice handling of hostility.

You must remember that WWE tends to turn ‘negatives into positives’ by acting as though certain botches and mistakes are a part of the show. Maria Kanellis was a novice interviewer when she called Edge, “The Edge”, and she was suddenly recast as a well-meaning bubblehead who made frequent verbal faux pas. Ryback had a Chernobyl-ish meltdown on Twitter, thus the following week, his character takes on the dimension of an unhinged toad. You know, as if his fit of social psychosis was merely the genesis of an axis shift.

In less than five weeks, the buzzworded WWE Universe forced the burn out of a hand-picked star. Batista went from virtuous conquering hero to ‘screw the haters’ brat that dresses like Joe Pantoliano with an air hose up his ass.

The company didn’t plow ahead with Batista, underlined good guy, as they’ve done with Cena for the nine years that he’s been the target of ticket-paying vitriol. Batista’s shift has happened swiftly, and it might not have if Batista handled the pressure better. Now the company looks primed to slowly back out of any long-term notions of Batista as lead dog.

Not with Cena. Not for the man who playfully waved off the chants of “YOU CAN’T WRESTLE” by upping his game over the years, more than holding up his end in classics with the Ring of Honor contingent. If you ignore Antonio Cesaro’s NXT epics with Sami Zayn (and if you’ve seen any of them, this is a galling task), then you could say that Cesaro, Daniel Bryan, and CM Punk all had their best WWE matches with Cena: Raw two weeks ago, SummerSlam 2013, and Money in the Bank 2011. In two of those cases, Cena drew enough heat to satisfy Minnesota for the next decade of winters.

Yeah, it’s been tiresome having the colorful shirts, style-ceased jorts, and spoken mock-sincerity as a cornerstone trope for the past decade, but when you step back and really look at what Cena’s done (not to mention his working through serious injuries, and his infinite charity work), you see a man with perspective. So many rewards have been reaped by him, the boos of what’s basically a studio audience amount to little more than paltry.

[adinserter block=”2″]Then again, those same boos concave Batista into the turf, Atlas he isn’t.

The weight of 70,000 die-hards that dropped a fistful of paychecks on WrestleMania tickets would only gut him on a Judas Cradle built by his own fragile ego. That’ll weigh on Big Dave’s mind when, Cena, after likely beating Wyatt to a mixed reaction, passes by, slaps his back, and cheerfully says, “Hot crowd!”

Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at and He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.

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Justin Henry
Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at and He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.


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