It’s the most frequent topic of conversation amongst older (i.e. over 18-year-old) wrestling fans. When will John Cena, the “Superman” of WWE for nine years, become vulnerable in matches?
Cena has ridden a wave of wins not seen since the heyday of Hulk Hogan from 1984-1988, where he sometimes loses, but rarely twice in a row, and NEVER cleanly twice in a row. He is the indomitable force, the person who wins even in handicap matches. Honestly, have you ever seen a ref call for a DQ quicker than when John Cena gets jumped in a handicap match? You could’ve blinked this past Monday on RAW when Luke Harper and Erick Rowan jumped in the ring to keep Cena from pinning Bray Wyatt and missed the call for the DQ by referee Mike Chioda.
Early on, when Cena was building his legacy, he would trade wins with people like Edge and Randy Orton, but by 2008, it became clear that John Cena losing was going to be a rare event. Cena is 7-3 at Mania, with only one clean loss amongst the three, to The Rock at Wrestlemania XXVIII. He hasn’t lost at two PPV’s in a row that I can remember. Coming off his loss to the Rock, Cena was confronted by Brock Lesnar, and what better way could Lesnar have cemented his devastating reputation than by beating Cena? Yet, despite mauling Cena physically at Extreme Rules in 2012, Cena still won the match, immediately dampening the Lesnar’s impact in the minds of fans.
It’s been obviously to any older fan that a vulnerable Cena would make for compelling TV. Imagine John Cena struggling to come to grips with aging and not being able to dominate against fresher, stronger competition, such as…Bray Wyatt.
I was concerned when Wyatt was thrown into a feud against Cena that it would hurt Bray more than it helped him, because of the “SuperCena” phenomenon. Sadly, that has been exactly the case. Bray has not dominated any one-on-one encounter with Cena to date, and it’s not helped by the fact that Cena bounces between looking terrified and laughing at the Wyatt Family with dumb Photoshop gags straight out of elementary school. I get that Cena’s fan base is that young child demographic, but kids need to learn to deal with losing. Having their hero always win plays into the entitled attitude that a lot of children have anyways, but that’s another topic for another day.
Back to Bray Wyatt. His character preys on the vulnerability of others. He seeks to cause fear and uncertainty, to sow chaos in their minds and then use that to his advantage. Cena’s inability to go more than halfway in selling that chaos hurts Bray more than it does established wrestlers like Randy Orton, Batista, Lesnar, and even Daniel Bryan. Bray Wyatt is the new Jake Roberts, but he’s been around less than a year, and for him to succeed, he has to be able to get over on top stars. Even winning the cage match at Extreme Rules won’t help him a lot, because there will always be an out for Cena, such as “Bray Wyatt only won because he escaped the cage! He couldn’t pin me like a man!” It would be just like when CM Punk beat Cena twice and was still told that he needed to do it again to be a “real” champion. A clean win for Bray over Cena at Mania would’ve vaulted him instantly to the top tier, someone who needs to be feared and respected.
Instead, we got Bray losing because Cena rose above hate (again!) and just SuperCena’d him to death. The following night, we get silly Photoshopping John Cena, further destroying a character that has yet to fully establish himself amongst the fans. It treats Wyatt as a joke, when we’re supposed to be scared of him. It’s another case of WWE putting Cena’s current invincibility over the need to develop the future, and the shortsighted nature of that is apparent to everyone BUT WWE, it seems.
A few months ago, the day CM Punk walked out of WWE, Cena appeared on Steve Austin’s podcast and said that WWE did a poor job of developing future talent for Cena to feud with, and thereby helped create the “SuperCena” scenario so many of us loathe. That was very much the case in 2007-2011 (Khali? Umaga? R-Truth? Wade Barrett?), but now it’s different. There is legitimate talent that could easily give Cena fits, such as Wyatt, Roman Reigns, Cesaro, and even Alexander Rusev, the legit Bulgarian MMA fighter who is just an absolute beast (If I had a wrestling wish, it’d be a match between Rusev and Lesnar at Extreme Rules. Good God, that would be exciting). No one has beaten Cena in a pure match of strength, which is fair, because Cena is one of the legitimate strongest guys out there. His double Attitude Adjustment on Edge and a 450-pound Big Show blows my mind to this day.
However, John Cena is closing in on 40. He should be showing cracks in the armor. A wrestler like Bray Wyatt should be able to outwit him, or someone like Cesaro should be able to match Cena’s strength but be quicker to the point where he wins. Instead, Cena keeps on winning, and winning, and winning. The Undertaker started losing well before this time in his career, and he was as big a star as anyone during the 1990s. Losing does as much as winning for characters, and Cena is as stale as a year-old loaf of bread because he never loses. Will WWE ever realize that keeping Cena on the pedestal they put him on is coming at the cost of their future stars?
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.