Recently I rewatched an old old match from smack down, where some kid called John Cena took on Kurt Angle’s open challenge. The match itself was amazing, and it really got me thinking about things.
Cena was, is, a talented wrestler. There was a rather long period in the middle of his career where he perhaps became over reliant in a small subset of his moves, but all throughout he gave us amazing matches. Vs RVD at One Night Stand, Vs CM Punk at Sumerslam, tons of others. He’s consistently produced great matches, and the last 2 years have seen him at his best in the ring, in my opinion – his Sumerslam match with AJ perhaps being his best ever.
He was loved. I was lucky enough to attend Wrestlemania XX and he opened the show challenging Big Show for the US Title and the crowd went wild. Cena, cena, cena was chanted on mass for the whole match. He must still be well loved in some circles, as he is still the top merch seller, but he now receives boos and John Cena Sucks chants at most live shows.
His mix skills are superb, they always has been. He knows how to play a crowd. Even know he does it, he can wind them up to Cena Sucks or let’s go Cena chants, or both simultaneously, at the drop of a hat.
So what went wrong?
I’m inclined to think he may have got a little stale. When he burst on the scene he was a little edgy and pushed the limits at times. But as his popularity grew he became more clean cut, and was held up as a hero more, and started to “pander” more. I think it was this, coupled with said over reliance on a reduced move set, that may have done it. Coupled with some bad booking – for which I don’t think he can be blamed.
Is there a way back?
Last tuesday he came out at the beginning of smack down to a heavy, heavy chorus of boos and John Cena Sucks chants. But he cut his promo a little differently. He had a bit of that old edge going and he really ripped Ambrose. The crowd changed. By the end of the segment he was getting all the chants and the laughs. At the end of the night he was getting the cheers and Ambrose got a ton of heat for hitting him with dirty deeds.
Cena has been around a while, and is one of the most successful ever. He clearly works hard and is still improving even know. I think he’s certainly done enough to be talked about as a future hall of famer. On top of that, he seems like a genuinely great guy. He has no qualms about putting guys over (Kevin Owens beat him on his first night, he gave Enzo and Cass a leg up on NxT, using his open challenge to give guys a shot – similar to the shot he got from Kurt Angle in his open challlenge etc) and he has made more wishes with the make a wish foundation that anyone, ever.
I hope to see him stick around for a while, to see him win back the crowd permanently he did on Tuesday, to have some amazing matches with the superstars of the new era and pass on some of that knowledge.