WWE | Pro Wrestling

Is John Cena Holding The WWE Back?

John CenaThe WWE WrestleMania 28 buyrate is lower than expected and even the return of the biggest drawing card in UFC history hasn’t spiked RAW ratings. Business has been on a slow decline for awhile and a closer look reveals one common denominator…John Cena.

It is easy to hate on John Cena and I’d like to think that I am not one of those haters. I can appreciate the hard work he has put into his character and his job as the WWE’s top star. I can appreciate the young fans he brings to the table as well as the millions of dollars in merchandise he sells every year. Yet an objective look at Cena as a drawing card shows me a guy that is not delivering the goods.

Cena has been the top WWE star now for eight years. Believe it or not that is a longer consecutive run on top than top draws of previous eras; Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, The Rock, and even Bruno Sammartino. Yet the difference that those four WWE legends have as opposed to Cena is that they all drew big money and grew the business. John Cena may have drawn money early on but those days are gone and he has never grown the business like someone of his push should.

Cena had three huge opportunities to draw big money and grow the business over the last year. First was Cena’s feud last summer with CM Punk. Punk’s promos and his angle was the buzz of the industry yet ratings never saw a dramatic increase and the buyrate for his Money in the Bank match was up, yet disappointing. Next were Cena’s two matches with The Rock at Survivor Series (in a tag) and WrestleMania 28. Again, ratings never peaked and it appears that the buyrates on both shows only saw modest increases. Now Cena has another shot with Brock Lesnar and while the jury is still out on their pay per view buyrate, the RAW ratings for the feud have been a huge letdown. It can’t all be Punk, Rock, and Brock’s faults can it?

John Cena is probably a big reason fans have tuned out the last several years. Sorry, but you have to put the blame on the top guy. So the idea that you will get these fans back by promoting Cena vs. their favorite stars is not going to cut it. These fans don’t like Cena or want to see him wrestle. It is much different with other top stars from the past who fans wanted to see wrestle legends or fresh opponents. Cena is keeping these fans away.

Most of these fans resented the way Cena was shoved down their throats. They may be excited to hear that Brock or Rock are back but once someone says they are wrestling Cena, all interest is gone. It would be an interesting experiment to see how some of these guys would draw with someone else besides Cena. I’d bet not good since the message has been clear to WWE fans that Cena is at an elite level whereas everyone else is equal. That needs to change if they want business to turn around.

John Cena’s character hasn’t evolved in eight years. It evolved early on but tell me how Cena the WWE character has changed in eight years? Is it coincidence that the most uncool WWE superstar right now is a 34-year old man portrayed as some edgy hip hop warrior running around with a goofy smile and telling corny jokes? It may have worked when he took off in 2003-4, but he was also in his 20s during a time where that kind of character was still relevant to society. John Cena is the annoying guy someone invited to a party out of pity. It is hard to imagine any adult male giving this kind of character any babyface sympathy in 2012.

Another huge reason for the lack of interest is Cena in the ring. Remember how exciting it was to watch The Rock, Austin, Hogan, and Bruno (for those of you old enough) in their eras? Everything was exciting, the matches were electric, and those guys all told great stories. You don’t get that with a John Cena match. Most are all the same long match with Cena hitting his handful of big moves at the most obvious point of the bout. Why would a fan who never liked watching Cena wrestle in the first place care about watching Cena wrestle The Rock, Brock Lesnar, Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan, or anyone else?

The numbers don’t lie and any other successful pro wrestling promoter would see them and react. Instead, Vince McMahon appears to blame everyone else but Cena. “Punk can’t draw, The Rock is past his prime, Brock Lesnar is overrated, etc, etc.” It is never “John isn’t getting the job done, time to market someone else.” Vince had no problem moving on from his biggest draws in the past but for some reason he is keeping his least successful top draw in the #1 spot longer than anyone else.

The WWE can turn business around but it is time to move on and start working on creating new stars and marketing some new elite superstars. John Cena seems like a nice guy and a great employee, but until the company moves past him, business will remain stagnant or slowly decline. The proof is in the numbers.

Update: The WWE released preliminary estimates on the WrestleMania 28 buyrate. Their preliminary estimates indicate 1.3 million. Keep in mind that these are preliminary and not final numbers. The buyrate could still come in at 1.1 or 1.3. It is estimated that 750,000 of those buys are domestic.

I wrote this blog before the numbers were released, however I still stand by my opinion. The WWE estimated 1.5 before the event so anything below failed to meet the goal. The show still did under one million buys domestically. 1.3 is great and would be a record, but that doesn’t change the low RAW ratings, previous disappointing buyrates, lower house show numbers, and once again, the 1.3 is only a preliminary number rounded up.

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Eric G.

Eric is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Camel Clutch Blog. Eric has worked in the pro wrestling industry since 1995 as a ring announcer in ECW and a commentator/host on television, PPV, and home video. Eric also hosted Pro Wrestling Radio on terrestrial radio from 1998-2009. Check out some of Eric's work on his IMDB bio and Wikipedia. Eric has an MBA from Temple University's Fox School of Business.

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