WWE | Pro Wrestling

John Cena, Bray Wyatt and the Dilemma of Reality vs. Fantasy in WWE

People hate John Cena. I think we can all agree on that. It doesn’t make his fans happy and chances are they’re already forming an angry mob in response to the way I opened this column. Then again, I’ve written about Vince McMahon’s number one guy many times before so if they’ve not gotten me by now maybe I’m in the clear.

But facts are facts; John Cena is WWE’s top protagonist and a great number of fans want to pitch him off a roof. There’s no question about it. But what is in question is just what exactly do fans want? Do they want reality or do they want larger than life?

The reason for this query has everything to do with Cena and it starts with his gimmick.

John is presented as just your normal, everyday kind of guy. He’s clean cut, has a great smile and is a good person to his core. There’s nothing wrong with that. Who wouldn’t want to hang out with a guy like that? Perhaps that’s the reason John looks the way he does and maintains the image he does. It’s done by design.

After all, you’re supposed to like him. Right?

But you don’t. And if you do, then you know someone who doesn’t. So what gives? The answer is that John is no longer that normal guy. He was in the beginning. In the beginning he was just an average wrestler with an average look. Fans didn’t gravitate to him because he started dressing like a wannabe rap star, they liked him because he was a fan himself and it showed.

John was the new guy that loved the business but couldn’t get a foothold. So he picked up a mic and started talking. He did what so many fans sitting at home want to do; he spoke his mind and said whatever he wanted. He loved being that controversial Superstar and he loved surprising people with every promo. Cena made it look easy; so easy that fans believed he did it for them.

He was just that regular guy, he was one of them.

But not anymore. John is Superman now. And you don’t want to hang out with him because you’re sick of him being Superman all the time. It’s annoying.

Therein lays the primary reason why the WWE faithful have turned on John Cena. He’s not real anymore. He’s not one of them. He’s a superhuman who feels no pain in a match and despite how many times he’s beaten down, he just gets back up as if he’s never felt a thing.

He became a hero for them and the fact is they never asked for it. Fans don’t want Superman; at this point they would rather have Krypto.

Where my comic book fanboys at?

But here’s the funny part. While fans have turned on the heroic babyface, they have flocked to the evil heel. And that guy is not just larger than life, he’s practically unbelievable from top to bottom.

Bray Wyatt is the new darling of WWE’s social media. From the dirt sheets to Twitter to analysis from guys like yours truly, everyone is jumping on the Bray Wyatt bandwagon. You might say we’re all drinking the Kool-Aid.

As pro wrestling fans, it seems our hypocrisy knows no bounds.

We cheer a guy like Bray who we’re supposed to hate. His character has no redeeming qualities and the fact is he’s done everything in his power to make us despise him. But we don’t. In fact we can’t get enough of him.

So what’s the difference? If fans want reality from their modern WWE Superstar, then why are they so accepting of Bray Wyatt who could not exist except for a Hollywood production and if he did, he would likely be in jail by now?

Or maybe even prison. When’s the last time WWE sent a camera crew to his house, anyway?

Here’s the answer and it’s one that is not easy for anyone to hear. The truth is that John is playing the role of reality but is doing a miserable job of it. Some of the blame falls on him, due the miraculous comebacks he has during his matches.

But some of the blame lies in the fact that he’s been on top for so long that it’s become nearly impossible for anyone to believe he’s just a normal guy anymore. The old gimmick no longer works. It’s just that simple.

Bray Wyatt is playing the role of larger than life and he’s absolutely killing it. Part of that is thanks to him because he’s just so good at what he does. When you look at Bray, you no longer see Husky Harris. That’s a testament to how hard he’s worked to get over.

The other part of his success comes from the fact that he’s not overexposed. He’s not been on top for 10 years and WWE does not insist on presenting him in a certain way despite the fact that it’s nor working. Bray makes it look easy because it is easy for him.

It’s working on every level. And that’s the main difference between Bray and John.

So what do fans really want, reality or larger than life? I think it’s perhaps a little of both. Fans want to believe in Superman but they know he doesn’t really exist. It’s easier to believe in the monster hiding in the shadows and they don’t even care that he’s wearing a flowered shirt.

For fans, it beats a red cape any day of the week.

Tom Clark is a WWE Featured Columnist & Consultant for Bleacher Report, a Contributor for JBL’s Layfield Report and a Contributor for Whatculture.com

Follow Tom on Twitter @tomclarkbr

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Tom Clark

Tom Clark can regularly be found on Camel Clutch Blog. His podcast, Tom Clark’s Main Event, is available on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Android, Windows Phone and online at https://tomclarksmainevent.libsyn.com/

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