John Cena will probably be one of those WWE Champions whose legacy will be tarnished a bit. He’s champion at a time when the entire climate of our country tends toward the cynic. And while he’s not the greatest talent that I’ve ever seen, the belt has been put on wrestlers that are far worse than Cena. But more than his talent and the cynicism that has made it’s way into wrestling fan’s minds, I think it’s the lack of a great rival that will either make or break Cena’s legacy. Ali had his Frazier. Hogan had his Andre the Giant. Shawn Michaels had Bret Hart. HHH, Rock, Austin and Foley all had each other to feud against. But it seems like right now the best feud that we’re seeing out of Cena is Edge. The book isn’t closed on Cena, but his legacy is certainly in question.
I’ve never been a ‘John Cena’ fan. He started on Smackdown when I had stopped watching. I had heard about his “white rapper” gimmick and I thought it was all kinda silly. When he made his debut on Raw, I was kinda excited to see what he was made of. And he was o.k. A solid talent. Good mic skills. But to me he lacked that extra something special. I didn’t hate him — but I wasn’t about to run out and buy a ‘Thuganomics’ t-shirt either.
I guess I wasn’t alone. At some point early this year, fans started to punk Cena out. Much like the Rock years before, Cena became the target of merciless boos. It wasn’t quite as bad as what the Rock got, but it’s getting there. I’ve never been in the squared circle, but I’d have to say that one of the most difficult things for a wrestler is to be labeled a babyface or fan favorite when the fans are adamantly opposed to you. The entire flow of the match becomes weird. And clearly you can see that it affects the way that guys are able to concentrate. But amidst “Cena Sucks” chants, I’ve been impressed with the way that Cena has handled this difficult situation.
I queue’d up a few old episodes of Raw and decided to watch them the other night. One match in particular insured that Cena would have my respect, champion or not. Cena’s finisher is the “F-U”, which is basically a standing fireman’s carry takeover, requiring Cena to hoist an opponent across his shoulders and then slam them sideways (tucking their neck to avoid injury). Pretty simple finisher, but he had a bit of a challenge a few Mondays ago. Viscera is a 500 pound wrestler who is known for wrestling “stiff” — meaning that his shots are a bit harder than they should be. Also, Viscera is known for wrestling….well….. sloppy. He’s injured guys before. Not only is he big, but he doesn’t seem to be able to control the impact of his body — something that’s very important in wrestling. Wrestling Viscera would be no small order for Cena, but to get him in the F-U might prove to be a recipe for getting on the disabled list.
At the close of the match, Cena did some of his signature moves leading up to the F-U. As Viscera approached Cena to be hoisted up in the F-U, I could see determination in Cena’s eyes. And with a bit of strain in his eyes, Cena hoisted Viscera up…held him there for a few seconds and then dumped him to finish the move. When Cena came up after pinning Viscera, he literally had tears in his eyes. Sure the fans booed him throughout the match, but to see the emotion in his eyes after successfully hitting the finisher was something special. He quickly regained his composure and by the time the cameras showed him at the top of the entrance to the ring, he had his “ring face” on again. But knowing all that must be going on in his head — having the championship and still being booed — I have to say he showed a tremendous amount of heart.
In his next match against Edge, the stipulations of the match are that if Cena wins, he becomes champion (of course.) However, if he loses, the stakes are rather high. He will be forced to leave Raw and re-join Smackdown. Strange stipulations to me. Seems as if the writers already have Cena going to Smackdown to perhaps try and recoup whatever cheers he had prior to leaving Smackdown. Whether he loses the match or regains the WWE championship (which is what I expect), watching Cena hoist the awkward Viscera, give him the F-U and then express his emotion in the ring, he proved his worth to me. Here’s hoping that in future feuds the WWE is willing to pull out all of the stops and give Cena challenges that might help define his career.
If Cena makes it to Smackdown and receives the same amount of boos that he did while on Raw (and that’s very likely — Raw fans and Smackdown fans are basically the same folks) the next stop for Cena is to turn him heel (bad guy). It might be interesting to see Cena as a heel the way that he was when he was originally on Smackdown. Stay tuned to Raw/Smackdown to see how this thing turns out.