With all the stuff going on in the main event, including the latest rise of Daniel Bryan to fight overwhelming odds, Stephanie being her usual smarmy self and Big Show and Kane’s latest resurrection because they’re big and therefore we’re supposed to care about them, a very interesting story hasn’t been getting the attention it deserves. It actually started over a year ago and has been flying under the radar. You might not have noticed it, but John Cena has been transforming into a 500lb French zombie since about this time last year.
Flash back with me to March 30, 1987. That would be the day after “Wrestlemania III” and Andre the Giant has been defeated for the first time in fifteen years (allegedly). While he would go on to continue his feud with Hogan and pin him (with some help from an evil twin referee in a stroke of genius) at the first Main Event, it’s fairly safe to say that his career never reached the heights of “Wrestlemania III.” It’s kind of hard to top the biggest match of all time you know?
So instead, Andre dropped down to the midcard. He feuded with Jake Roberts, the Ultimate Warrior over the Intercontinental Title, and then won the Tag Team Titles as a guy who came in for about two minutes in every match while Haku wrestled the majority of the time. However, a feud with Andre was still a big deal because those guys were facing Andre the Giant.
Now jump forward to Andre’s replacement: the Undertaker (think about it: a guy larger than life who is an attraction more for his presence and stature than in ring abilities. When Vince created the Undertaker, it was to replace Andre, not Hogan) hit a similar peak, though the time for him is a bit harder to pin down. You could say it’s the Shawn Michaels match at “Wrestlemania XXV”, but really he hit a legendary status that could not be removed years before that.
Either way, there came a point where he didn’t have anything more to do than extend the Streak and maybe wrestle one other time a year. Look at the losses for some of those guys though. How many of them are some of the biggest and best matches in those wrestlers’ careers? Facing the Undertaker at Wrestlemania was a status symbol and would give a lot of guys a run for the next several months. Look at CM Punk. After “Wrestlemania XXIX”, he had two talking points: longest WWE Champion of the modern era and the guy that came the closest to beating the Streak. Well at least one of those is true.
Cena has long since hit the same point as those two giants. After facing The Rock at “Wrestlemania XXVIII”, another feud with Big Show, Punk, or anyone else just doesn’t feel like such a big deal. It’s a case of “what now?” More World Titles? Yeah he’s likely going to break Ric Flair’s record for the most titles in history, but other than that, what else is there left for Cena to do (and no, this isn’t turning into a TURN CENA HEEL column)? Steve Austin or Hulk Hogan aren’t coming in to fight Cena, so what else is he supposed to do?
Well, the solution can be found in Andre the Giant followed by Undertaker. Look at Cena for the last year or so. After losing the title unification match to Randy Orton, Cena clearly dropped down the card. He was in an upper midcard feud with Bray Wyatt and is now in another one with Rusev over the US Title.
Cena did jump back to the title scene last year, but that was almost entirely due to Daniel Bryan’s neck injury. Had it not been for that, I don’t think Cena would have gotten back to the main event scene all year. You could even hear it in Cena’s promos during that reign and the one from the year before, as he said someone was going to beat him for the belt at some point. That’s not something you hear in wrestling 99% of the time, but Cena was basically saying he was just a short term champion.
This is a very interesting idea and a very interesting time for WWE. Cena has been the top star for the better part of ten years now, which is longer than anyone not named Hogan or Sammartino. This past week on “Monday Night Raw”, Rusev treated Cena like an old veteran who was about to ride off into the sunset. While that’s a BIG stretch for someone in Cena’s position (still in great shape and looks to be about 5 years younger than he is), it could be the start of a very interesting story if done right.
WWE started touching on this last year heading into “Wrestlemania XXX”: what is Cena’s legacy? A big part of his character is that his life revolves around WWE. What happens to him when that is on the verge of going away? How does Cena’s mind handle the idea that his time is up and their time is now? There are several ways to go with that idea and all of them could make for some interesting stories for Cena.
As for now though, Cena is in a place that not a lot of wrestlers have been allowed to be in. Back in the two examples from earlier, both Andre and Undertaker were so banged up that they couldn’t appear as often as they needed to in order to play out a story like this one. On the other hand, Cena is still in good health and able to be on TV enough to see where these stories go. It’s not unrealistic to say Cena has 5 or more good years in him, assuming his body doesn’t give out on him after years of damage.
Back to modern times, the idea of Cena going down into the midcard is something that could be very beneficial. If there’s one major criticism of Cena, it’s that he’s around on top too much. I don’t exactly agree with that statement, but it’s certainly not without merit. Having Cena drop down the card for a good while, like he seems to be doing now, will make his return to the main event feel a lot easier to sit through. Of course Cena is going to be back to the title scene eventually, but the question is what does he do in the mean time?
Having Cena fight people like Rusev or whomever else is thrown against him is a good idea. One thing Cena is great at is getting a good match out of almost anyone. Outside of Kane and occasionally Big Show, it’s very rare to see Cena have a bad match with anyone (note that there’s a huge difference between bad and boring. I’ve been bored by Cena’s work before but that doesn’t mean it’s of a low quality).
If you want proof of this, look back to the match where Damien Sandow cashed in his Money in the Bank contract. It’s Sandow’s best match ever and had more drama than the rest of his career combined. No it wasn’t a masterpiece or even a very good match, but working with Cena automatically makes a match and a wrestler feel that much more important. Rusev’s biggest singles match prior to this feud was the match with Sheamus where he won the US Title. That looks like nothing compared to the upcoming defense against Cena at “Fast Lane.”
Now should Cena win the title? Maybe but it’s not necessary. Should Cena lose every match in the feud? No he shouldn’t. Should Cena put over every single person he’s out there against? Again, no. However, just having them out there is going to be one of the biggest feuds to date for everyone he works with and gives Cena something fresh to do after fighting the same main event guys over the years. At the end of the day, you can only win the World Title so many times before it stops meaning anything. Granted that was about five years ago for Cena, but we’re entering a new phase of his career, and perhaps of wrestling in general.
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