John Cena. The most divisive WWE superstar of the last decade, possibly even longer than that, but undoubtedly the top guy in the company over that time. This article won’t be looking at whether he’s good or bad or anything like that. No, this article is about how John Cena is used in relation to others.
I’m not gonna lie, this was inspired by his match with Cesaro last night on Raw. I’ve only actually seen the last 5 minutes of it (video below), but if it really was as good as everything I’m reading says it was, and if the rest of it lived up to those last 5 minutes, then it was one hell of a match. I saw things from both guys that I’ve never seen them do before, which is always a sign that the wrestlers are pulling out all the stops to make it as good as possible.
It possibly helped that these two as far as I can tell get on quite well behind the scenes, and I think Cena has been championing Cesaro to Vince in the past, though I can’t find an article to back that up. That possibly meant that Cena was willing to let Cesaro shine here. And by all means it looks like it was a breakthrough performance from Cesaro – he reportedly got a standing ovation backstage after the match, and more importantly won Vince’s approval. The thing is though; this isn’t the first time Cena has been used in this sort of way.
Remember back to the summer of 2011? It is affectionately known as the Summer of Punk. It was of course then that CM Punk dropped his pipebomb, and properly broke through to the main event scene. Now there’s no doubt that Punk had the talent to get there, but he had been stagnating in the upper mid-card scene, and to be honest really needed a special moment like this. Now, I would argue that having John Cena in the ring made it all the more impactful. Cena epitomised everything that Punk and the fans were frustrated about. Having Cena present while Punk talked just made it all the more sweet, since that was everything we wanted to say about Cena, to Cena. And I think it made the moment Punk won the belt at Money In The Bank all the greater, because he finally showed the world he was better than Cena. If anybody else had been WWE Champion, Punk would still have had to beat Cena to really cement himself as the best. That he did it all in one month was because it was Cena he was up against.
Now for Damien Sandow. He cashed in the Money In The Bank briefcase against Cena, and put in an excellent showing. Notice how he got consistent TV time in the period after that? He impressed Cena and officials enough that they had faith in him. He got an Intercontinental Championship match out of it, and he’s always there for Vince to come back round to when the time is right.
Ok, maybe that wasn’t the best example, since Sandow’s impressive showing against Cena hasn’t resulted in anything sustained. I have another possibly questionable example that I’ll just get out of the way here. Ryback. Remember when people thought he would beat CM Punk for the WWE Championship? Yeah, fun times. Ryback was undefeated, having beaten jobbers for a couple of months, and was starting to get the crowd behind him in a big way. I think Ryback had just started a program with The Miz, when Cena got hurt. That meant Ryback was promoted to the title picture, much sooner than he really should have been (I would love to know what the original plan was for him, because what they were doing was working). So how did they try to make people forget he had only been around for a couple of months, and put him over as a viable contender? Cena. Cena put him over as the best man to face Punk, and was chanting “Feed Me More” along with the crowd. If your favourite wrestler says you should root for superstar x, chances are you’re gonna do it. And it worked. The crowd were massively behind Ryback in that match. What really screwed up Ryback’s momentum was not winning on PPV for about another year. Cena helped get him over.
We saw something similar to that this past summer, when Cena really put over Daniel Bryan in more ways than one. He put him over on the mic, giving him a title shot because he deserved it. He put him over in the ring, albeit maybe only because he was injured, at Summerslam, and he has put him over time and time again since. The night after the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships were unified, did Cena talk about his rematch? No, he talked about Bryan deserving a shot. Bryan was building up a head of steam on his own, but Cena helped him along the way by helping him get over with the kids. Again, it had nothing to do with Cena that Bryan has been booked poorly, but it was Cena that helped get him over in the first place.
Even in more “shocking” moments. Heel turns (I’m thinking of Ryback again, and Mark Henry’s infamous retirement angle), returns (The Rock, Brock Lesnar), the subject was John Cena. There’s a reason he is the one who for 10 years has been sent out to sell a PPV on the go-home Raw. My point for this article is that if the WWE wants to make a big impact, or get someone, or something, over; they use John Cena. They’ve used him to get everybody I’ve mentioned above over, they sort of used him to put the Shield over (it was a 6-man-tag, I’m not sure how much of that you can attribute to Cena personally), and it looks like they’re going to use him to put over Bray Wyatt. Think about that next time you see Cena in a throwaway match against a mid-carder on Raw – maybe they’re giving someone an opportunity to show the can handle it at the top.
Something I didn’t even mention during this article was that his matches against all of the above (apart from the post-heel turn Ryback) were good to great. Now I said at the top of the article that this wasn’t going to be about whether Cena is good or not, but I think we can all agree he has had some great matches in his career – and recently more often than not his great matches have put somebody over huge; in reputation if nothing else.
But as always, I want to hear what you think. Am I imagining a trend that’s not really there? Is Cena actually an underrated wrestler? How important do you think Cena was in getting other people over? Let us know by emailing the usual address or commenting below. And now you can like us on Facebook at the page below too! It will allow for a more immediate discussion of what I’m posting and all things wrestling, so get involved!