In the summer of 2002, John Cena made his debut on Smackdown. He came out to challenge Kurt Angle in a thrilling match and while he was on the losing end, he looked like a star (except the shorts, man they were bad and came in many different colours apparently). From there, he played a rather bland character until late 2002, when he debuted a Vanilla Ice style heel rap character. Within a couple of months John Cena was getting over big time, by April 2003 he was in was facing Brock Lesnar for the WWE title. Fast forward to 2004 and John Cena was the US champion and so over with the crowd the next step had to be the WWE title. 2005 arrives and while we crowned both John Cena and Batista champion, it was Cena who would be the chosen one, with a move to Raw just in time for the summer.
Unfortunately, once Cena moved to Raw, the holes in his arsenal began to show and he started to get booed, that booing never stopped. However, this year there has been a marked change, suddenly Mr Cena is getting cheered. How did it all come about?
Looking back over Cena’s career, he had a strong feud with Edge in 2006 but, it was his match with Umaga at the Royal Rumble 2007 where John Cena showed his true potential. It took a few more years for his match quality to become consistently good but there was no doubt he was a major star, matches with CM Punk and The Rock prove that (also clever marketing helped a wee bit). It took Cena and WWE a few years to get used to Cena getting booed, no matter how hard they tried to change our minds. Nowadays, I think he would be upset if half of us didn’t boo him , he seems to love it. His feud with the Rock allowed Cena to truly accept being booed.
For John Cena, to win me over took him almost 13 years, it was one episode of Total Divas where Cena admits to buying over 50 suits while Nikki shows a vague amount of interest. Who buys over 50 suits? Exactly, ah the gloriousness of it all (sorry Bobby for borrowing your catchphrase)! For the fans, it was around the same time, 2015, the US Open Challenge, what a “Raw” treat, every week was an opportunity for a star to be born. John brought more prestige to that title than anyone (although I liked Ru Ru as champ too).
Come 2016, Cena is moved to Smackdown, has an amazing match with AJ Styles, where he leaves his arm band behind in defeat and is later moved into a triple threat feud with Styles and Dean Ambrose. As the feud starts, what do we all notice? Cena is getting cheered and he deserves to be. Cena carried the company on his back for years, came back from injuries early and was a company man. Admittedly he was given the ball, but he ran with it.
Now, Cena is no longer full time, has outside interests and it is clear that on Smackdown, the show will not be built around just him. Throw in a bit of Roman Reigns being shoved down our throats until they’re “Raw”, Dean Ambrose getting in the way of the feud we really want between Styles and Cena and suddenly Mr Cena finds himself popular again.
We have finally allowed ourselves to enjoy Cena for what he is, a hard working guy that loves wrestling; when everyone else left, he stayed the course. Yes, he wants to make it outside wrestling but let’s face it, he is in the tail end of his wrestling career and if Hollywood comes calling it will bring more eyes to WWE, look at The Rock. With rumours of him possibly being the lead in an upcoming Marvel superhero movie, the only way is up, if ya smell what I’m cooking.
So sing John Cena sucks, boo him as much as you can and at the end of every night cheer him as he leaves the arena. While we may not always have been fans of John Cena, you have to admire; his Hustle to get to where he is, his Loyalty to WWE over the years and Respect him for all he has done.