It was the go-home edition of Monday Night RAW before the New Year’s Revolution PPV in January of 2006. This now defunct PPV was the home to the Elimination Chamber before No Way Out/Elimination Chamber hosted the structure. John Cena was getting set to defend his WWE Championship in the structure against Shawn Michaels, Kurt Angle, Carlito, Chris Masters and Kane. In preparation for that match Cena faced Angle in a First Blood Match on RAW. WWE’s flagship emanated from The Meadowlands in New Jersey that night and I was in the audience of that night.
What is the point of my long winded, probably nonsensical introduction? Well, that night you could barely hear yourself think. The crowd was rabid and raucous and their venom was directed at one man: John Cena. Cena hadn’t even been at the top of WWE’s mountain for a whole year and the crowd had already grown tired of him. The famous rumor was that Vince McMahon pulled the trigger on Edge cashing in his Money in the Bank at the PPV because of how bad Cena was getting booed. Cena was getting booed that badly that night. I can believe that rumor to be true because I was one of the many booing my lungs out at the WWE Champion of the time.
Fast forward to 2013 and WrestleMania XXIX will be across the parking lot from where RAW took place that night and as I finalize plans to attend WrestleMania I sit back and think that I may find myself cheering for John Cena. What could have possibly changed in the last seven years? Well, for me it is this past Monday’s RAW.
Two days ago John Cena and CM Punk battled for the right to face The Rock for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania. What resulted was an absolute classic. The best match in the twenty year history of RAW and one of the best matches in WWE’s history. It was a legit five-star classic and it was given to us on free TV.
People like to say that John Cena can’t wrestle but the man has a number of classic matches under his belt. Granted, Cena can’t carry Mark Henry to a good match like CM Punk can but when he is in there with the right guy you can have magic on your hands like we saw on RAW. Cena has four, four star plus matches with Punk. He had a classic with Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XXIII. I think about his Last Man Standing Match with Umaga and the I Quit Match with JBL. The SummerSlam match with Batista. The hour long, match of the year in 2007 with Shawn Michaels. All classic bouts and they all have one thing in common: John Cena. The men in the matches with him didn’t do it alone. It takes two to tango in this business and John Cena was more than an able dance partner on those nights.
The problem with John Cena is that for the last eight years his character hasn’t changed. He hustled with loyalty and respect all the way to 12 WWE World Titles and people grew tired of the same old tired act. It happened to Hulk Hogan and in the accelerated age of the internet, it happened to Cena too. Every major superstar in WWE has switched sides at least once in that time frame. Cena has stayed the course.
I’ve reached a level of indifference toward Cena. I realize that it’ll be a cold day in Hell before he becomes a heel and for that reason I’ve come to appreciate John Cena for what he is: one of the best superstars in company history.
I grew up a Hulkamaniac but how many four star matches did Hogan have? I can’t think of any. Cena can go in that ring and instead of relying on the “same old shit” as people like to chant at him he’s added new moves in his arsenal. We saw him bust out that hurricanrana on RAW. It wasn’t a thing of beauty but he is trying to throw a wrinkle into his game plan. He’s added powerbombs and gutwrench suplexes to his game also. It might not sound like a lot but he doesn’t have to do that. He can coast on the five moves of doom and be just fine. The fact is he’s not because he strives to be better than that. WWE is what John Cena does and he wants to be the best he can be.
People like to boo Cena for what I like to call his “poop” jokes. I can’t blame them. They’re horrendous and it’s not his fault to a degree. He works with what he is given. When Cena is given good material and gets to be serious like he was with Punk the last two weeks, he’s as good as anybody.
What this Monday did more than anything was make me appreciate the special talent that John Cena is. He deserves to be the face of WWE. He not only grants so many wishes through the Make-a-Wish Foundation which is great PR for the company but you can tell he loves doing it and why not? It’s always great to see such a star give back. The man is an insanely hard worker and no one can ever take that away from him. Vince McMahon knows what this all means to him: $$$$ and lots of them. Whether you buy a ticket to boo or cheer Cena you are still paying your money to see that man in the ring and do what he does best.
It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve written 1,000 words defending John Cena but he deserves my respect and he deserves yours also. John Cena has been a main eventer for eight years because people want to see him perform. Some want to see him win and others to see him lose. That’s all fine as long as you realize that you’re looking at a once in a lifetime talent when you’re watching that man in jean shorts do his thing in the ring.
John Cena: you can see him and what you're seeing is greatness.