Is John Cena the Prototype?

25 Apr

In a January 11th piece on Cageside Seats, the writer suggested John Cena is a “prototype” of the American worker who “shows up early” and “leaves late.” Aside from the fact that this sounds a lot like the United States of former president George W. Bush Jr who, when told by one citizen that she worked three jobs, replied, “Uniquely American, isn’t it?” few Americans want to live in a society where they’re run into the ground. This naturally affects quality of the work they do conduct – and this brings us to John Cena.

There’s no doubt he trains hard; his almost inhuman physique is a miraculous testament to that. There’s no doubt he goes without sleep in order to make a plethora of public appearances on behalf of the WWE corporation. And there’s no doubt he cares about charity work for those less privileged than himself, including members of the armed forces that sponsor WWE events. He even makes a soldier’s salute on his way to the ring – despite the fact greater men than he have lost their lives after executing that gesture.

But again, the quality of Cena’s work is questionable. The writer of the piece argued:

“Let’s quit with this idea that he is some kind of horrid worker. He is competent enough in the ring to be the top star in the company and work with the very best in wrestling and has not ever caused, that I can recall, a major injury. Sure his offense looks soft, but it’s wrestling, looking soft or looking like an MMA fight means very little when these guys aren’t hitting their opponents either way. A good worker is based on the personal tastes of the viewer.”

Cena’s “competence” to get by at the top of the roster depends on your perspective and “personal tastes,” that much is true. Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior were both sub-par in terms of in-ring work, and they got by on ability to draw and work a crowd whilst abusing performance-enhancing substances. Yet you look at the crop of talent that followed them – Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, and even today’s stars such as CM Punk and Daniel Bryan – and it’s evident that it’s possible to promote all-rounders who don’t just merely possess the ability to manipulate audiences, but also stand up to scrutiny from viewers both dedicated and casual.

Pro wrestling is about suspension of disbelief. We’re all fully aware that it’s nothing like MMA. It’s a soap opera sporting event that incorporates athletics with theatre, but one where – as with a movie – you can be carried along by the storyline-induced emotions presented to you. When you see bad acting on the big screen, or lousy special effects, why does it bother you? You’re bothered because it breaks your suspension of disbelief. It’s the reason people ridiculed Jenna Morasca’s match with Sharmell Huffman at TNA’s Victory Road in 2009: if it looks terrible; if it isn’t executed properly, then people boo.

People boo John Cena. His inability to sustain an audience’s suspension of disbelief is one of the significant reasons for this. Cena’s offence, as well as his selling and even his habit of irresponsibly calling spots in an audible fashion, are not conducive to suspension of disbelief.

What the writer of said article gets right – and what too many people forget – is that Cena’s acting (perfectly described in the article as either “sombre” or “preachy”) is shaky to say the least, and yet he is at the order of the WWE corporate and creative machine. Why is nobody instructing him differently? If the fans, the smarks, the pundits and his own peers can see Cena’s shortcomings, why can’t they? Why is no one successfully communicating these holes to Cena himself?

The only explanation is that Cena is incapable of grasping these concepts, carries on as ever, and yet still gets pushed because the office have little faith in anyone else as figurehead. The problem here, though, is that the office actually book him to, for example, destroy Nexus upon bouncing back from an arena floor DDT that put Ricky Steamboat on the shelf for months. This may be another sign of the failings of a creative team model geared towards Hollywood television writers rather than savvy veterans who understand pro wrestling and its history.

Of course, what it comes down to is Cena’s inherent lack of ability. The writer may suggest that Cena will do whatever is expected of him, but we’d hope that a prototype of an American worker is not just one who does what’s expected of superiors without considering colleagues or customers.

It’s also the duty of a captain to question the course of his ship, and the facts show WWE is not entering clearer waters just yet, based on stock, ratings, and non-WrestleMania buy-rates. Cena doesn’t seem to question anything, or attempt to put in good words for up-and-coming wrestlers, from all accounts. He’s obviously just a Yes Man for the office. The Miz was, too – determined to show his loyalty to the company as one of its top champions, but soon fell from favour in an era of fickle booking…because Miz can’t rely on merchandise sales to preserve his promortion.

Cena can’t cut it. He does not possess the all-round ability of a Hart, a Michaels, or even a Punk. If WWE refuses to turn their cash-cow heel, then what they must do is learn to utilise him to elevate more stars than just Punk. Their future depends on it.


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