WWE | Pro Wrestling

WWE Experimenting With Listening To The People

You’d think Sheamus losing two straight matches cleanly would be a resounding enough alarm, without the John Cena situation that played out in the main event.

On an otherwise non-descript episode of Monday Night Raw, with the death of Daniel Bryan’s father casting a pall on the early proceedings, Sheamus went down in defeat to Bad News Barrett, largely a non-physical player over the previous six months. Once Barrett’s overly-delighted mal-harbinger act struck a chord with fans, it was to the rocket push he went.

That he went over Sheamus is surprising, given how bulletproof the big Irishman was throughout 2012 and 2013, before his shoulder injury. The 2012 push remains a sore point for many fans, since the abbreviated flaying of Daniel Bryan was designed to be its true launching point. Since then, apathy and annoyed murmurs accompany every Sheamus entrance. It just so happens that WWE seems to have finally noticed them, foregoing their own stubbornness in favor of putting him down cleanly to the Bullhammer.

There’s nothing wrong with Sheamus as a performer, but his character has needed a refresher for a long time, preferably the moment his current incarnation bombed out. As some alternate representation of John Cena’s grinning douchebag identity, Sheamus brings none of raw-edged verbal timing of Cena, and instead just functions like a dope reading corny lines to the amusement of some eight-year-olds, and they even know that Cena does the act better.

The shame of it is that Sheamus can be a killer in the ring, but WWE’s creative ‘help’ undoes his good qualities. That ‘help’ basically amounts to a paramedic slamming an anvil onto your throat in lieu of CPR, and then being unable to figure out why you just flatlined.

Perhaps it’s just appropriate timing that Sheamus bites the dust without needing an out; Bryan, The Shield, The Usos, Cesaro, and The Wyatts are carrying the ball of post-WrestleMania momentum, because of hot crowd reaction, and the company’s putting faith in these acts. Someone like Barrett, who went over on withering ex-hero Rey Mysterio before the rowdy April 7 crowd, is being heaped into that posse, an emphasis on the working fresh.

Sheamus joins Mysterio in this tier of deterioration (de-tier-ioration?), while former pushes-without-a-cause like Jack Swagger and Alberto Del Rio play silent pawns for King Hunter. The quickness with which Randy Orton and Batista became occasionally-talking bishops is actually bewildering. Big E Langston, the Intercontinental Champion of five months, has spent two weeks staring at a television airing live action in lieu of performing. Essentially, he’s a sitting duck for the tournament winner (presumably Barrett) to bludgeon at Extreme Rules. Name one memorable moment Langston’s had during his reign. Exactly.

Coincidence? Is it merely some sort of sports entertainment planetary alignment that casts all of these also-rans in secondary roles while much (though not all) of Raw emphasizes the plight of the interesting and the beloved?

If you think that’s the case, you’re not factoring in what’s going on with John Cena right now.

Yeah, Cena’s arc with the Wyatts seems to be mostly spinning its wheels, reciting the same once-intriguing rhetoric every week (“You’re a false hero!” “You look like a homeless drunk!” “Kids love a false hero!” “Here’s the sheep guy’s head on a woman’s body!”). That’s what’s presented on the surface, but the underscore of Monday’s furthering of the angle is much, much more fascinating.

You may have noticed WWE’s lame-handed spin-doctoring of Cena’s crowd reactions over the years, ever since the consensus began getting mixed in 2005. At times, Jim Ross would note that the crowd was a ‘traditional crowd’, more apt to cheer Cena’s opponent over him. Sometimes they would just explain away the tidal booing by claiming that Cena’s ‘controversial’, which means nothing. The ‘controversy’ is that he’s a babyface who about 60% of the crowd boos lustily; it’s not as though he released a mix-tape dissing some ethnic group or anything.

For years, people wondered aloud, ‘Why doesn’t Cena just turn heel?’, sparked by memories of Hulk Hogan doing the same in 1996 with dynamite results. Then those pipe dreams were nullified by the reminder that Cena’s an altruistic figure whom kids love, even if adults don’t, and a heel turn wouldn’t be too feasible, given his crystalized superhero image. The Make-a-Wish Foundation may be more shaken by a heel turn than healthy children would.

If a heel turn wasn’t in the cards, JBL’s subtle commentary during Raw’s main event seems to hint otherwise.

Thanks to a now-common “App Vote”, WWE fans chose to stick Cena in a three-on-one handicap match against the entire Wyatt Family (53%), instead of just Harper and Rowan (9%), or solo against Harper (38%). The results are clear: 62% of the voters wanted Cena to face long odds, with over 80% of that group going the full monty.

With Cena selling every emotion except the exaggerated ‘gulp’ of fear, JBL murmured openly about a lost sense of faith in Cena by the fans, as though this was a revelation. This wasn’t dancing around the fire by spinning a bizarro crowd; this was a primary announcer flat-out using poll results to point out the hero’s lack of support.

That was about as explicit as WWE’s ever been in saying, “a lot of the audience flat out doesn’t like John Cena.”

Granted, it ties in nicely with Bray Wyatt’s claims that Cena’s merely a false prophet, an ill-choice of a guiding light for kids, so this could merely be WWE’s way of giving Cena new odds (millions of fans, instead of dozens of heel opponents, at once), but the only feasible payoff would have to involve forcing the crowd to cheer Cena in the end. That won’t happen.

Everything stale at the moment is being shepherded under a dimmer light, or it’s being put in a position to maximize the onlooker’s contempt (Evolution, Kane). That WWE is going through a paradigm shift of any metric,in an era where international rights fees could probably buffer them toward profit alone, is something to keep an eye on.

Keep those voices up; sounds like somebody’s listening.

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

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