John Cena has been in the WWE for fourteen years now. Before that, he wrestled for Ultimate Pro Wrestling and Ohio Valley Wrestling. When he was starting out, he created a robot wrestler character called The Prototype. While I never saw this side of Cena, it makes sense. The man is a machine and has been since he debuted over a decade ago. He works harder than just about anybody in the company and it shows in his success.
When I first saw Cena, it was when he debuted against the now legendary Kurt Angle. Kurt was always an impressive physical specimen but suddenly this young punk came out of nowhere and challenged him. His battle cry was “Ruthless Aggression” and he certainly showed he had it. He was far from the wordsmith he would turn out to be but physically he was fast and everything he did looked good. It really was like the second coming of The Rock as he was pushed toward greatness from the moment he first appeared. Not only did he beat up Kurt, he was given kudos by a lot of veterans on camera and was even congratulated by The Undertaker. He had the charisma and he had the moves and he had the respect, he just needed a little more to truly get over.
Later that year he found that special something that would help boost him a little more into the spotlight. Taking a cue from his real life rapping skills and the popularity of hip-hop and white performers in the genre, he adopted the persona of John Cena, Doctor of Thuganomics. He leaned in hard to the gimmick and turned heel in the process. All of the kayfabe respect he had before, he threw back in the faces of those backstage as he feuded with the Undertaker, Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit. He had rap battles with other superstars and proved that his gimmick was no lie. He was very good at getting people to boo him but I always loved to watch him. It was during this time that he developed the finisher that he uses today. It was called the FU to mock Brock Lesnar since it started like his F5.
In 2005, Cena won hist first heavyweight championship against John Bradshaw Layfield. It was a good choice because Cena was still technically a heel heading into the feud. Having him take down a heel faction that was a symbol of authority and politics was a good way to show that he was a good guy. I felt he also stepped up his game, broadening his character and showing that he could definitely play with the big boys. Not long after this, though, fans started to boo Cena probably because they felt he was being pushed too hard and too fast. It did not help that he was feuding with Chris Jericho who is so good that fans cheer him whether he is a babyface or a heel. The booing gained momentum and fans pretty much turned on him. I have to admit that I loved seeing Cena throw his shirt out into the audience and seeing the audience throw it back at him. I bought into the hate and booed right along with everybody else.
Cena won my respect, though. He did not let the booing faze him and instead worked harder. In one of the great modern storylines, he feuded with the Nexus. Cena often fought by himself against ten men and never gave up. Finally, this led into one of my favorite Cena feuds. He faced off against CM Punk. Cena was practically manufactured by the WWE as he never really wrestled anywhere else. Punk was an indy darling. Cena had a small move set while Punk had a huge arsenal to draw from. Cena and Punk burned the house down and had some of the most memorable matches of both Punk and Cena’s WWE careers. During this time he also feuded with the Miz in a feud that, over time, helped pull Miz into a whole new stratosphere. The two seemed to almost be made for each other at times.
Probably the biggest feud of his career was a two-year feud with The Rock. As I alluded to before, the two were very similar. Both were charismatic youngsters who joined the WWE with huge momentum already on their side. Both were immediately crowned as legends and given kudos by their colleagues just after their first match. Both were pushed too hard and too fast, forcing the crowd to hate them. However, The Rock turned heel in response and eventually got the crowd to love him while Cena just persevered and stayed the honest yet aggressive character he had always been. It was around this time that the company started to have Cena win no matter what. It led to the meme of LOL Cena Wins because his victory was almost always a forgone conclusion. It was similar to Hulk Hogan’s career in that respect.
Cena has now won 16 heavyweight belts throughout his career, tying his record with that of “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair. He continues to work hard, still performing despite multiple injuries and setbacks. Along the way, he won back my respect but I still resented that he always won. Last year he won the US Championship and he started to turn his image around. He issued open challenges and he barely won them. He got injured again. He came back and he actually started losing for once in his career and I was overjoyed. Not because I still hated him but because LOL Cena Wins was actually being used for a great new purpose. All these new stars were beating the unstoppable Cena and it did not make him look weaker but it made a lot of them look stronger. He went toe to toe with indy darling AJ Styles and Styles won and has continued to win. They will go at it again next year and I will be glued to the screen when they do. In the meantime, he is making new forays into Hollywood and crushing it as one of the most charitable celebrities. Period. I still expect good things from Cena. In my opinion, he just gets better and better.
(HAPPY NEW YEAR = LAST POST OF 2016)