John Cena is WWE’s top draw for a reason right now. He appeals to a broad part of the audience, mostly kids and women (although there are a lot of guys out there who are fans as well), and he’s generally a good worker and character. However, as with anyone or anything that’s popular, he receives his fair amount of backlash. A lot of us on the Internet dislike him for whatever reason.
Some hate his limited moveset, ignoring the fact that nearly everyone in WWE history has had some variation on the Five (or fewer) Moves of Doom, from Bret Hart all the way down to even darlings such as Kurt Angle. Some are annoyed with the way he’s booked. Granted, I am too, but this is hardly his fault as much as it’s the fault of an uncreative booking team.
[adinserter block=”2″]My biggest problem with Cena is the way he promos sometimes. For a guy who has as much passion for the business as he shows, he certainly comes off as glib and insincere whenever he tries to do a ten-cent imitation of The Rock‘s smart-alecky promo style. Whenever he tries to crack wise, it comes off like one of the nerdy kids in school trying too hard to fit in with the cool kids. It ends up being painful to watch, and it makes me want to root for the guys he’s promoing against rather than Cena himself.
However, when he’s channeling that passion, that raw emotion and embodiment of Hustle, Loyalty and Respect, there may not be a better face promo in WWE today than The Champ. The role of a lawful good hero who fights for truth, justice and the American way, redefined, is the one Cena was born to play. That wasn’t any more evident than last night, when he carried maybe the best RAW all year with his performances in the bookend segments of last night’s show.
With each impassioned plea to have his rival, CM Punk, reinstated, he resonated with me, and apparently, with most of the fans in the arena. Usually, when Cena is in front of a hot crowd, there are dueling chants of “Let’s go Cena!” and “Cena sucks!” Not last night. It seemed like Cena had the crowd in the palm of his hand, a hot crowd for that matter. Even though the Las Vegas faithful had already sat through one episode of RAW, they still were pretty receptive to participating in the action. The counterargument to this would be that Cena was defending Punk. He could have been doing interpretive dance and the entire crowd would have cheered him. People who like Cena like him regardless, and those who don’t like him probably like Punk and would mark out for him being pumped up regardless.
That being said, I do believe that his delivery had something to do with the non-fans getting as into the promos as they were. There were audible chants, including some creative ones like “First Amendment!” when Cena referenced that Punk had freedom of speech. Whether they want to admit it or not, those fans may have, to quote R-Truth, gotten got by Cena when that episode was taped.
I can’t be the only one who sees the difference in quality between serious Cena and jokey Cena. It’s night and day, only if the night were dark and stormy and during a power outage and day was bright, sunny and a perfect 70 degrees. Besides, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Why would Cena want to flatter the guy he’s wrestling next year on April 1 at WrestleMania XXVIII? Rocky is Rocky because he’s a unique talent with his own special charisma that translates to the millions… AND MILLIONS of fans he has worldwide. Cena has that gift too, but it’s not presented to the same demographic. He appeals to a different audience that is still sizeable in its own right.
[adinserter block=”1″]So, why should he be the same as Rock? The WWE and Cena have an opportunity to build to a once-in-a-lifetime event in Miami, where one large group of fans will be cheering for one guy and another will be rooting for the other. It’s different than the regular pro wrestling dynamic where the crowd cheers one guy and boos the other, but that’s what will make it special. When there’s a formula that works, something that is outside of the box and still of high quality will stand out even more.
I doubt that the July 4 RAW will be the norm for Cena. He’ll continue to vacillate between glib, insincere and wannabe-class-clown comedian and his far superior Marine persona depending on which mood the writers tell him he should be in (or even worse, what mood he thinks he should be in that night, since I’m pretty sure Cena’s one of the select few guys with that kind of autonomy). But if he harnessed his strengths and played the character he was best at, imagine how much better the RAW telecasts would be week in and week out.
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.
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