Maker of Rain
Sharp Shooting – A Belated Response To THAT PEN15 John Cena Column...
Sharp Shooting – A Belated Response To PEN15’s ‘John Cena Is The Best In-Ring Worker In The [Sic]* WWE’
*I’ve inserted [Sic] into the title because, to me, ‘the WWE’ makes no sense. ‘The World Wrestling Entertainment’ just sounds daft. ‘The WWF’ used to work. ‘The WWE’ doesn’t. It’s not just PEN who refers to the company in this incongruous way, so I’m not trying to single the man out – just getting a pet peeve off my chest.
This reply is belated because I’ve spent the last month carrying out last minute wedding preparation, getting married, and going on my honeymoon. I’m writing from a very contented place, depressed though I am from coming back to the north of England from San Francisco. It’s such a beautiful and interesting city. If you ever go, be sure to visit the Beat Poet Museum (you can see Allen Ginsberg’s typewriter!), Alcatraz, and make the long trip to Yosemite National Park.
It's also belated and even more woefully out of date because of the board reset...but I've written it now, so you're reading it.
I’ve written this column because PEN made reference to me in his, and I wanted to pay the man respect and enter into a proper debate. Also, I’ve wanted to write an argument against John Cena and specifically the inexplicably-popular-amongst-LoP notion that he’s an excellent in-ring worker since I arrived in the CF. This gives me a justifiable outlet in which to do so. In the interest of fairness, outside of the respective introductions, both PEN’s column and mine total 1796 words.
Lastly, before I begin, I need to point out that, though I disagreed with the wider argument, I thought PEN’s column was a good one. It wasn’t antagonistic or patronising, criticisms I’ve levied against the man in the past. It was considered, well thought out, and, I must say, rather brave…
“On with the show…”
I found the central argument of PEN’s column, the list of “solid-to-awesome” Cena matches, to be reductive. It can be used to evidence the fact that Cena has taken part in several above-average contests; it is not evidence that Cena is the best in-ring WWE talent, something PEN himself acknowledged. John Cena likes to refer to himself as “The Champ”. In the latest issue of ‘Power Slam’ magazine, the venerable Fin Martin defines a champion as “someone who hoists his weaker opponent to his level”. That is the John Cena Problem: John Cena is incapable of making an inferior opponent look good in defeat, a skill Daniel Bryan has shown most recently working with the limited Roman Reigns. It’s all well and good to say that John Cena is a great worker because he has amassed a collection of stirring contests against a collection of good opponents. One should positively expect that as the least Cena should have done, given that he’s had a near-decade of 20-minute-plus main event matches to do so. A certain Chris Rock punchline springs to mind here. No, Cena should be judged on his self-professed ability to “make average look awesome”…
Try and think of a wrestler other than Umaga, who opposed Cena as a star on the rise, who was just getting over to the main event level, and ended up in a better position afterwards. It’s difficult, isn’t it? Punk and Bryan can be taken out of the equation here; the former had already been a solidified, although demoted, main event player before his first program with Cena, and Bryan was more over than Cena before he faced him and didn’t need the “rub” like so many other wrestlers WWE has tried and failed to hoist to Cena’s level. At this point, I shall create my own list, which will focus on recent history given Cena had mostly worked with and been led/carried by several established main eventers from 2005-2009, when WWE still had a wealth of them at their disposal.
- Wade Barrett / The Nexus – After a promising start, Cena derailed the momentum of the invading Nexus faction by frequently turning up unscathed on the next RAW after a seven-on-one beatdown the previous week. They were declared dead following SummerSlam 2010 after Cena defeated two members of the group single-handedly within a minute and a half of being DDT’d on exposed concrete.
- The Miz – After attracting mega heel heat in 2011, The Miz was rendered utterly irrelevant following his dire program with Cena, at the climax of which he no-sold Miz and Alex Riley’s twenty-minute lead pipe attack.
- R-Truth – Cena relies on the close near-fall to create drama in his matches to such an extent that he’s buried his own Attitude Adjustment finisher. R-Truth wasn’t permitted to kick out at the first attempt, like so many others, reducing him to the status of a schmuck forevermore.
- Awesome Truth – The tandem of The Miz and R-Truth had potential, following their victory over Triple H and CM Punk, but they were easily beaten down at the same time by Cena even before their Survivor Series match with Cena and The Rock. Cena’s in-ring shortcomings and lack of nous in this instance hurt the buy rate of a Pay Per View featuring the return of The Goddamn Rock, which is nothing short of a disgrace.
- Dolph Ziggler – their matches in December 2012 and January 2013 left precisely one impression: none of Dolph Ziggler’s moves must hurt very much. Cena climbed a ladder whilst in Dolph’s sleeper hold, and kicked out of everything else ad nauseum in what can accurately be described as psychology-free near-fall porn.
- Ryback – we’ll get to him shortly…
I am aware that the outcome of Cena’s matches is at Vince McMahon’s discretion, but there is an art to the elevating one’s opponent in defeat that is crucial to the progress of the business that Cena hasn’t and will never grasp. An excellent practitioner of this art is NJPW’s Hiroshi Tanahashi, who has in the past three years made the likes of Minoru Suzuki look like monsters while at the same time defeating them and making himself look good. When these feuds are reheated a year or so after the first go-round, they do big business. In contrast, John Cena vs. Wade Barrett in late 2011 would have bombed, because Cena’s victory in their 2010 series was so utterly decisive. This is a big reason why WWE’s numbers have diminished in recent years.
PEN also makes an argument that Cena shouldn’t be judged on his limited repertoire of offensive moves, a sound one, but I think it misses the point. I and many others don’t judge Cena because he purportedly has just “five” moves, which is a falsehood in itself. Any long-serving fan should know that there isn’t a relationship between the ability of a wrestler and the volume of moves they perform. To suggest that all Cena cynics think otherwise is insulting. It’s what Cena doesn’t do in between these moves and how he reacts, or rather doesn’t, to the offense of his opponents which boils the collective piss of his detractors.
Take his Last Man Standing bout with Ryback at Extreme Rules 2013, which he would have called and helped to structure, as an example. Part of the build-up focussed on Cena’s injured ankle and Ryback’s relentless targeting of it. Did this come into the story of the match? No, it did not. There are two possible reasons for this. Either Cena doesn’t have the nous to effectively use even the most basic mode of psychology to story-board his matches, or he doesn’t wish to appear too vulnerable. It is immaterial whether his poor selling can be attributed to inability or inadequacy; the end result, stagnant numbers and a dearth of credible opponents, remains the same. When Cena routinely fails to sell the offense of his opponents, fans don’t really buy it in the opponent’s next feud.
This mostly happens with opponents who aren’t on Cena’s level, suggesting a Hogan-like selfishness, but not always; after a great, dramatic and logical match with Brock Lesnar at Extreme Rules ’12, Cena undermined it all by cutting a completely unnecessary promo afterwards, without even having the courtesy to feign being out of breath... I’m wary that this might be beginning to read like a character assassination, but the art of selling is so important to the fabric and success of professional wrestling that Cena’s failure to grasp it cannot be overstated. Wrestling is meant to look real. Damaging. When a man in a position of massive influence has systematically damaged the very notion on which his industry is built for as many years as Cena has, he absolutely cannot be considered even close to the best. It’s an insult to those who came before him and a mountain to climb for those who will follow.
Elsewhere in PEN’s column, he believes that Cena can be considered the best because of his ability to work a good match against a variety of opponents. This is a subjective opinion, of course, but I’ve seen no evidence of it. Whenever I recall a John Cena vs. Big Hoss match, I think of Money In The Bank ’13 vs. Mark Henry, which was a typical, illogical Cena bout. He totally oversold in the first half, despite not receiving much in the way of punishment, and looked daisy-fresh during the finish and after his win. Cena can sell; just not in the right order…I also think of his match with Big Show at No Way Out ’12, which, to put it bluntly, was boring as shit. Contrast those matches with Daniel Bryan’s credible and exciting work against both men in their 2011/12 three-way feud, a greater challenge given the bigger size difference, and there isn’t a contest. Bryan made it easier to suspend one’s disbelief than Cena did.
I also have to disagree that the likes of Batista and The Big Show had their best matches with Cena, but I won’t spend too long debating this opinion because it’s just that. I preferred Batista’s matches with Triple H, The Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, and Edge over the 2010 Cena series, and I prefer Bradshaw and Trish Stratus vs. Chris Nowinski and Jackie Gayda above any Cena vs. Big Show match, but that’s just me.
A seemingly objective query threatens to dent my argument: if Cena is so incompetent, how can I account for the considerable amount of entertaining matches he’s had? I won’t suggest that Cena hasn’t had several good-to-excellent matches in his career. Even the average ones have a certain entertainment factor, especially when watched live, thanks to the high level of heat, even though often it appears fans do duelling chants to amuse themselves. The very best Cena matches, in my subjective opinion, have been contested against superlative technicians or sellers – the Daniel Bryans and Shawn Michaels’ of the game. I can’t name one four-star-plus match with a merely above average opponent, and I think anyone would be stretching to disagree. Even the very best Cena matches, most of which are gimmicked and easier to pull off, have elements of sloppiness you simply don’t see in the very best, say, Randy Orton matches. Consider Cena’s last match - one I’d easily place in the top 5 John Cena matches - against Daniel Bryan at SummerSlam. Despite telling an intriguing, action-packed story of Bryan’s equality to Cena - demonstrated best by the simple sequence which saw each man pushing themselves up against one another’s puffed out torso - it was still damn sloppy. Cena nearly dropped Bryan on his head, on top of his regular crimes like loud spot-calling and poor positioning. Even the vaunted Money In The Bank ’11 match with CM Punk, widely considered Cena’s very best match, had about five “you fucked up” moments. I’m nit-picking, but if there was ever a time to nit-pick, it’s during a debate about whether or not a guy is the best a company has to offer…
I wouldn’t describe Cena as the best in-ring worker in WWE. I’d describe him as a man more than capable, especially against a certain opponent, of assembling a dramatic and exciting, if not particularly intelligent nor fluid main event level match, but one who through either folly or ego doesn’t do so often enough.
Agree with an awful lot of this. Not all of it, but a lot of it.
I always thought of myself as being one of the milder critics of Cena, but as you say, he's picked up an awful lot of defenders who cite a list of matches which were mostly against very good hands indeed, which kind of makes me feel less warm and fuzzy towards the man.
The one point I disagree on is the promo after the Extreme Rules match with Lesnar; I loved that. The problem was, WWE did not have the cojones to take him off TV and sell the effects of the match with Lesnar. The thinking behind the promo, after Big Johnny had hired a mercenary to see him off, was sound. That aberration was truly not Cena's fault.
I totally agree on the selling though, as well as his inability to put people over verbally much of the time. In fact he downright buries people on the mic far too often. Still, he gets that right from time to time, Bryan and Punk both getting respect in Cena promos of late. But then, it shouldn't be exceptional that the top guy makes his opponents sound worthy!
Anyway Sidg, I enjoyed this a lot; felt like the right balance in your tone of voice was there, and those are the best Sidg columns.
Hello Mr Sidgwick.
I read both of the columns in question and both made great points, but you provided a great rebuttal.
I like the idea that Cena's lack of putting people over cannot be levied completely against the creative writing team but partially on himself as well with his actions within the ropes. I think the overriding feeling I have is that McMahon wanted to build another superstar on the level of Hogan ever since post-Hogan. He tried with Hart, HBK, Stone Cold, Rock, Lesnar and now Cena, some succeeded, some didn't. Perhaps Cena has been so used to and ingrained into the philosophy to show no weakness, no quit, that he knows no other way to put people over other than the 'respect' speech he usually uses after every pay per view or title defense.
Look forward to reading more from you.
Fuck Forest Green
I'll keep this as simple as possible. You're allowed your opinion. The problem is that you went into this whole debate with an obvious distaste for Cena and anything he does. You proved your point with your own opinions.
I proved a point I didn't want to admit to. I again prefer CM Punk and Daniel Bryan matches over Cena ones, and believe they can be better wrestlers than Cena. I agree that they have not been given the opportunities he's been offered. But be that as it may, I can't agree that they are better than him until they perform better than him on the same level.
In your PM to me, you referenced my issues with the CF. One of the many that I had was that when I had only written a dozen or so pieces, many believed I had shown a talent that many columnists with 40+ columns have not shown. It came down to the wire for LOPNXT1 to determine Stinger as #1, and PEN as #2, and Dr Chad CMV1 as #3 in the competition. Stinger earned his main page spot almost immediately, once a spot was open. I continued to work in the CF, despite my issues over the years, because I felt that I had finally proven myself. Even though I hadn't been there for as long as others, I was preferred over a majority because I had an ability that I developed as a writer outside of LOP in a variety of outlets (movie reviews for .com websites, school projects, journalism, radio writing...etc.) And the CF head in charge at the time told me I earned the next available spot once it opened up. Within a month, a MPer stepped down, so I prepped my first MP piece. I was then informed I would not be getting that spot, but Dr Chad CMV1 would. Why? Because he had written more CF columns than I had for longer.
I feel I was in the position you are describing Punk and Bryan to be in - not as many matches as Cena (TheDoc) but better (in the eyes of many but not all).
Now, before I call myself the best in the world like those 2 former indy stars have done over time, I need to say that there is a major difference in this analogy. Cena has had those matches and opportunities for longer, but they've also been on another level. Punk and Bryan have not had the opportunities to draw and main event in top quality matches. Cena has. Those 2 delivered amazing matches, no doubt, and many of them better than Cena's output. But they have still yet to do it on the main stage. Stealing the show v Dolph Ziggler at Bragging Rights 2010, while amazing, it not as impressive as doing it in the main event of Wrestlemania like Cena has against HHH, HBK and The Rock.
(in relation to the CF stuff, Chad and I were delivering great work on the same level here in the CF, but he was given the opportunity because he had been there the longest. Agree with that decision or not - and he's obviously talented enough to deserve the MP spot and I never disagreed with him getting it, just how it was done - we were on the same playing field, yet I finished higher in the only competition at the time that could in any way rank the talents of the writers.)
Cena isn't perfect, and I do admit his selling is not being top notch. But I can't in anyway blame him for his opponents not looking great after their feuds with him. Just like Hogan in his era, who was not as strong a worker as I believe Cena to be, the booking is what makes him strong. We know Cena can sell to the standard you expect, because it has been done. He can make his opponents look like beasts, because it has been done. So why doesn't he more often? Call me delusional if you wish (and I'll admit that I consider you delusional if you believe Cena decides this) but I am 100% confident that he's instructed to wrestle matches in this manner. When it's convenient for WWE to make Brock look like a monster despite a loss, Cena gives them that on some level. When WWE has no plans for Dolph after his angle with Cena, then Cena's told to give the standard 'lose for 95% of the match, and then Hulk-up' contest. You should blame booking for his character flaws in his wrestling. He's meant to be the massive underdog more often than is logical, so he wrestles in that manner. I don't love it, but I don't understand why you'd blame him for it. You've seen he can do what you define as championship quality.
And a big fault in your argument is time. Cena in 2005-2007 was able to make his opponents threatening and credible much more often because he hadn't overcome the odds for 8 years straight yet. It was as fresh back then against Umaga for Cena to come out victorious while making his opponent look mega impressive as it is for Bryan to do that today with Reigns. Push Daniel for another 5 years as he is now, and we'll see how dominant his opponents come out looking. It will grow old. Bret Hart, who I am not that huge a fan of, looked on the same level as Undertaker in 1997 because the Hitman had been defying the odds in the main event for 5 years. Had they ever faced off in 1992, do you honestly think it would have gone the same way? I am sort of off the point of the opponents looking big, but it relates to that because time on top of the card adds to someone's credibility. Cena has been on top for almost a decade, so someone like Dolph Ziggler the midcarder on the rise is not the same challenge in 2012 as Cena had in Johnny Nitro (w/ K-Fed) the midcarder on the rise in 2006 (or was it 2007?).
Anyways, my point is that you're blaming Cena's booking as a fault in his in-ring skills, I just cannot see the relation you do, nor think it's fair due to the amount of time. You can't hold his tenure on top against him if you can't give him credit for lasting as long as he has and having solid matches all the way through.
I liked your piece, but it's insanely inaccurate and flawed due to bias. Besides, we're talking about opinion here. I don't agree with every Best Picture Oscar given out (Shawshank was robbed in 1994!). It doesn't stop me from watching and preferring the ones I do enjoy more.
I think Cena's alright. That's it though - he's alright. He can wrestle a good match, but look at his career highlights in terms of matches and a lot of them were, as you rightly point out, against a good opponent or reliant on a crowd to carry them - I'm thinking MitB 2011 and One Night Stand for the latter, two of the matches that often get pulled out as Cena's better ones. The reaction of the crowd, unsurprisingly, lifts the match. I think the most damning thing in Cena's entire output is that, when you look at it, he needs an opponent who isn't a version of him to put on his best stuff. He can't put on a quality match against someone like R-Truth, The Miz, Ryback, Wade Barrett etc because they, like him, have a limited moveset and are unwilling to deviate from it for the sake of a match. As a result, these matches end up like me playing one of the WWE video games - punch, punch, punch, punch, punch, throw in a suplex, oh now I've got full momentum, signature, finisher done. That's perhaps simplifying it, but is the essential problem - a lack of diversity for people to go to. When you watch Cena against somebody who has more outside of their signatures to keep a match going, they can put something good together because his opponent is able to do something different. It's why his best matches are with '06 Edge, Punk, Bryan and wrestlers of that type. Umaga is an aberration, sure, but generally that's the way I find it. Maybe the best example of it all was his Mania main event with The Rock this year - various signatures and finishers and reversals of them, very little else. And if ever somebody was a version of John Cena, it was The Rock. Or maybe John Cena is a version of The Rock. Either way, you get my point.
Enjoyed this Sidg - it lacked a little balance, but I guess that was the point given that Pen had already given the flipside of the argument. Strong writing as ever, my man.
The Underage Pessimist
Cena is not a great wrestler. He's a good wrestler, but he's a great ENTERTAINER. And I see him as that. Even the bad matches that you pointed out like the ones with R Truth and Wade Barrett had some entertaining moments, which would have been enjoyed by the fans that he caters to. Even his matches with Batista tried a little something out of the norm to provide some entertainment value to a rather boring and drawn out feud. The fact is that you cannot enjoy Cena if you don't enjoy any superhero movies. Cena is the epitome of a superhero and almost all of his matches, except against the more able wrestlers are shaped that way. Perhaps its all a result of him being portrayed as a 'do-gooder' with all the charity work and stuff and how WWE would like him to be presented, but it doesn't make him invincible to criticism. The argument of him succeeding only against more capable wrestlers is a valid one, and I totally support it. Even after being a fan, I wouldn't go on to call him the best wrestler in WWE, but as is the case with being an entertainer and his longevity, he's great. There is no arguing his success and as long as he continues being the righteous role model to his fans and keeps doing things in his matches that seem superhuman and entertaining to the general public, he'll stay on top.
I too felt that there was some bias in the column but it was okay because your arguments were well thought out and valid. I enjoyed this one a lot, Sidg!
Superb column Sidgwick.
Interesting comments by Oliver too mentioning Cena's similarity to The Rock (in terms of movesets), which can be used to counter the argument that it is solely the booking that is responsible for Cena's inability to make opponents look strong. The Rock was booked as lead babyface in the company after Steve Austin was injured in late 99 and booked in a similar way to Cena yet regardless of winning or losing, Rock was able to elevate the careers of the likes of Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle, Brock Lesnar on PPV. Even TV matches with the likes of The Dudleys Boyz and Test looked strong in bouts with 'The Great One'.
In fact the feuds with The Rock, was the main reason, in my opinion for the Benoit's crossface and Angle's ankle lock becoming two of the most over submission moves in WWE history, although The Rock never lost by submission to them in the feuds, you knew, they hurt like hell. Can you say Cena has done that for ADR's Cross Armbreaker, or CM Punk's Anaconda Vice, or Daniel Bryan's Yes Lock? Suspension of believe you say? The Undertaker has a supernatural gimmick, and when he sits up like a zombie- his comebacks are often more believable than Cena's.
Plus I agree 100% that Cena is incapable of the 4 star plus classics unless he is working with one of the top 5 or so workers in the company. The Rock had a classic with Hulk Hogan for christ sake, and his matches with a Big Show (who was a much lesser worker in 2001 than now) shat all over anything Cena has ever done with him. I'm with you in this one- Cena is not the best in ring worker the WWE today, in fact, he's far from it.
Haha, you'll never be lacking for feedback when you tackle something Cena related!
Like some others here have stated, I greatly appreciated both this column and the original Pen column that is came from. In the end I find myself somewhere in between. I didn't fully agree with Pen's conclusion but based on the criteria he was using it made a lot of sense. You came at it from a different angle and reached a conclusion that also made sense. I honestly think it may come down to taste, you find certain Cena matches awful (or at least unsatisfying) and Pen finds them compelling (or at least solid). We can objectively say Cena has been given a lot of opportunities and accomplished a lot, and at some point it comes down to a question of whether he has lived up to those opportunities and if his accomplishments have been worthwhile.
I was a virulent Cena hater from 2003 all the way through 2010, but I've somewhat cooled off on the man since. He does bring a lot to the table I think, and while he'll never rank very highly on my favorite wrestler list I just can't bring myself to hate the man as I once did. I hate that virtually none of his feuds serve to elevate other talent, but I think Pen has a point that the majority of that has to do with WWE's booking philosophy. Could he do more to prevent it? Yes, I think so. Hard for me to forgive the man for the bullshit events of Over the Limit '11, believe me! But generally I think he does step up to the plate and delivers a strong contest even with a limited opponent (Big Show notwithstanding... has there ever been so little chemistry between such a common pair??). The man carried Khali to easily the match of his career, if nothing else, so he's got that going for him.
Awesome to see you back man, and I didn't find this to be out of date at all.
One thing I will say though, in agreement with maverick, is that I thought his post match promo at Extreme Rules last year was done very well. Cena looked beat half to hell, and if WWE had actually gone through with taking him out even briefly it could have accomplished a lot more.
Almost wonder if there's not a hint of the law of averages at play when it comes to guys seeming to fall after facing Cena? I mean, the guy's almost inarguably the top of the WWE. After a feud with Cena finishes, almost any other feud would seem like a slight step downward, wouldn't it? Sure, there are exceptions - Cena's currently injured for the Bryan example, and Punk/HHH headlined over a Cena championship match following Punk and Cena's first real program. But I see an element - it's not the only factor at play, I admit - of the law of averages being felt. When a team goes to the Stanley Cup final one year and loses, and then the following year loses in the round before the Stanley Cup final, that's a step down. But they still did better than 26 of the other 29 teams. Oh, and R-Truth was a schmuck before, during, and after his program with Cena. Urgh. I can't blame Cena for that.
I'm not saying that Cena is great at making opponents look strong in defeat, in fact I can list probably a dozen that are better at it than him. However, I think saying that he's incapable of it is a tad extreme, and I unfortunately can't get on board with that. He's made guys look strong in defeat. As many as he should have? No, I don't think so.
Cena is up there in my top 5 of all time area but I will never say he is the best in-ring worker, hell most of the roster are better then him. It is however his entertainment value which puts him up in that top lot for me.
While you made some great points here which I had to agree with full heartedly despite my fandom I have to agree with Pen and say this piece was flawed by your dislike of Cena. I think what would have been better here was instead of attacking Cena you should have used Pens criteria to explain why a different wrestler was in fact the best worker in the WWE (sorry I know you don't like 'the WWE" that but I am one of those people who do it). You still could have said something about Cena but proved him wrong by chucking a different name into the mix.
Ah, John Cena. The great debate of our time no less. I'm unfamiliar with Pen's half of this argument, and so it would be remiss of me to say if you adequately countered it or not. Certainly, what you did do was put together a very reasonable and level-headed argument I thought. Was it lopsided and a rather biased? Yes, but bias is just a euphemism for opinion anyway and that's exactly what all this column writing shtick is about after all. Because of all this, I'll simply state my own stance on Cena, but will do so only briefly for fear of writing my own column in the form of feedback to yours!
John Cena is a flawed professional wrestler. Anyone who states otherwise, quite simply, is wrong. I get we like to humour the whole rhetoric of everyone being entitled to their own opinion, and of course they are, but there's a line to be drawn. The execution of a lot of what Cena does is flawed. That's not me stating my opinion, that's a very visual fact from watching him on television. A very clear visual fact. My opinion as to what "flawed execution" is can certainly be called into question, but obviously I can only go on my own definitions as to what I define as a truth lest I be lost for any kind of an opinion in a perennial spiral of increasingly pedantic micro-criticisms that derail a debate and bring an intelligent and informed discussion to a grinding halt.
When I say this, I don't mean solely in the ring. Many of the more vocal critics of Cena will often throw out the same old clichés that get them labelled as a "Hater", a concept in itself I find to be entirely inert. The idea he only executes, or knows how to execute, five particular moves has been disproved for quite some time, often by Cena himself, for example. However, his overall game lacks cohesion and, to my mind, evidences on a frequent basis either a total misunderstanding of psychology or an apathy towards creating the best possible product for the fans. Neither of those is in any way excusable. Whether it's him reacting in a manner as he enters the arena for a big ppv match being entirely at odds with the storyline said match is culminating, often resulting in a total no-sell of the stipulations Cena seems reliant on for his better matches at the same time, whether it's his inconsistent selling that has been a clear fact on numerous occasions in numerous matches (with his forgetting about his leg in his Wrestlemania 23 match with Michaels and his total no-sell of Orton's punt kick after their Hell in a Cell match in 2009 being examples that spring immediately to mind) or whether it's his sheer unwillingness to elevate others in a promo, Cena is a worker who, it seems to me, feels that what he does between the tolls of a bell signifying a match is entirely unrelated to what he does otherwise. His promo after the Lesnar match you raise yourself, his miraculous recovery from Orton's punt to the head (a move built up for over two years as being one that can end careers) after the Cell match I raised and his decision to basically sit there looking disappointed but not exhausted or beaten after his loss to The Rock at Wrestlemania 28 are all examples, to my mind, of how he seems to think that, once the match is over, it doesn't matter what he does. That's a flaw.
There is a belief that an individual like John Cena can not be as poor a wrestler as many believe if he has had as many great matches as he had. There is a clear truth to the statement that John Cena has had a huge swathe of amazing bouts. Many of his best, however, will either have a stipulation to help mask his failings, be against a far more talented or experienced opponent or be largely reliant on a hot crowd. It's ironic that the distaste many have for Cena is probably exactly what's helped him cement a myth as being one of the greatest of all time. He's the only wrestler in history to have been made a legendary babyface because people hate him. Take away the hot crowd reaction and even his better straight-up wrestling matches would probably lose at least one star. There are, however, exceptions to the rule. Two being Punk/Cena from 2011 and Bryan/Cena from Summerslam this year. But rather than being put forth as positives, I'd say those bouts do nothing but substantiate the argument Cena is NOT the best in-ring worker in the company. If he was, why would he not be putting in that amount of variety in all of his big main events on pay-per-view? How can Cena have a match like the one against Henry from Money in the Bank this year, coming off one of the most admired segments in WWE history and with the heel putting out the best work of his very long career, one that is fundamentally flawed in its execution and far more sub-standard than it ever had any right to be, but then go on to wrestle the way he wrestled against Bryan at Summerslam 2013? It boils down to one's criteria for best in-ring worker, but for me consistency would be a big part of it. Cena is far from consistent, coasting for most of his career and only really putting forward a better than usual effort - evidencing a desire to improve himself and his product - when he has no other choice. You can place the blame for that at his door, at the door of Creative, at the door of WWE's fear for his position, but ultimately coasting is coasting and has no right even being considered as a flaw for a man we choose to label as the "best in-ring worker" in WWE.
I'm going on a bit here. There's plenty of things for me to bring forward to help support my own argument, but the final one I'll touch on here is this idea that he deserves props for how hard he works. Yes, Cena rarely has time off. Yes, you can even call him consistent if for no other reason than the fact he works an insane number of days each and every year he's employed by the company (though I'd argue that's irrelevant if he's coasting for most of them). But if you want to show me a single wrestler employed in the WWE who does NOT work an insane number of days, who does NOT show that much dedication to the industry and who does NOT work in terms of what we'd define as "hard", then be my guest. The difference is, they don't get anywhere near as much praise for it. Does Tyson Kidd ever coast? Do you ever feel that Daniel Bryan or CM Punk don't put forward their best possible effort each and every time they have a match on ppv, and in doing so evidence a great deal more energy, creative output and variety than John Cena does? Do you ever feel that AJ Lee doesn't have the same fire for wrestling than a man who's a double-digit WWE Champion does? Point being, when you start using "hard work" as one of the major positive crutches for a defence against any wrestler, you've got a problem. Hard work should be a given, not anything special, and I will never accept it as a viable argument for Cena's defence.
As I said, I haven't read Pen's version of this column and, truth be told, I read your own piece here more out of being a fan of yours than interested in the argument. No one will ever agree on it and I'm as tired as the debate as I am of John Cena himself. I have my own opinion and it won't ever be swayed. I think to consider him the best "in-ring worker" in the company is, frankly, ludicrous. I find many of the arguments posited for his defence as flawed as his in-ring work and, finally, I loathe the idea that he's "not a wrestler, he's a great entertainer." How can anyone be considered a "great entertainer" when there are THAT many people who don't find them entertaining? I have no idea. And even if I did, I still wouldn't accept him. I watch wrestling for wrestling. If you aren't a great wrestler, or if you can't be bothered to be a great wrestler, I'm never going to like you.
Sorry for hijacking your own piece to write what turned out to be a mini-column anyway! I've no idea whether you put forward a strong rebuff of Pen's arguments, but it was certainly an interesting read nonetheless. I've only tried to posit my own position here, and in contrast to the more common positively-routed arguments I see levied about Cena. Fans like ourselves are never likely to enjoy Cena's work I don't think. I'm at a point where I just content myself with the knowledge of how most of his matches will be told before he tells them. A sort of business-as-usual approach. Seems to be his! Now get back to writing something positive! You're too good to be wasting words on John Cena!
Last edited by 'Plan; 09-28-2013 at 09:37 AM.
This is why I am proud to be 'Plan's audio partner!
What a column! And in a feedback thread!
Awesome column from 'Plan too.
Fuck Forest Green
Just decided to share this reply to the John Cena thread I made towards Blunt Force Balls, who quoted both the main column and Plan's reply, while posting a link to my column (on the MP). I am sure the reaction this causes will get you more hits, Sidg, which is what I'm sure you were looking for when you replied to a column I wrote nearly a month ago.
Originally Posted by PEN15
I think he mentioned it was only delayed due to his wedding, in all fairness. It's not like talking about John Cena goes out of style exactly, not in the past decade at least.
My own post wasn't meant to combat or disprove your own opinion Pen, it was never designed to. I was just stating my own, away from anyone else's. I'm sorry if you felt it was in anyway disrespectful; that's never my intent around here, and never has been since I joined. Just wanted to put that disclaimer out there.
Maker of Rain
Proper feedback will have to wait but I'd just like to quickly state that you can find my reasoning for the lateness of the response just at the thirty word mark. I hope you weren't skimming...
"Hilariously pathetic" If that's your idea of hilarious, your stand up act must be a riot...mate, try getting married sometime. You'll see how much time you have to dedicate towards writing amateur wrestling columns. I didn't write anything during that time period other than my wedding speech. I didn't have time to.
"See, the problem with you, Plan, and Sidgwick is that you're taking my words as the basis for your existence on LOP." You're almost psychotically arrogant. You're aware of this, right?
"Share your different opinions all you wish, but you've yet to show that any of the wrestlers you can name deliver as many strong matches with the variety of opponents over the course of time that he has." Cena is the longest-serving full time wrestler on the roster. You win the duration argument by default. Hardly difficult. I'd like you to defend a John Cena match versus a big man not named Umaga as not being, at best, totally basic.
I'll leave it there and come back early next week to address your first post and the feedback of others. I'm a busy man, after all.
Fuck Forest Green
I didn't skim - as I stated, it's peculiar that you didn't find something more interesting to write about than to ride my coattails a month later. I understand life gets in the way, but I would thought you'd have moved onto to something more relevant.
Brock vs Cena, best match of 2012. Let me guess, you need more than that now? Changing your own rules to this debate?
I wanted to apologize to Plan and Sidg. I think my anger towards BFB has caused me to go back to my old ways of coming off too strongly. I still disagree, but neither of you deserved any vitriol. Here is a post I made in the John Cena forum that might clarify a couple of things:
Originally Posted by Blunt Force Balls
We know he can do this, and has. Many of his matches over the years have placed him in a heel role while the contest was booked as face vs face. Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, Shawn Michaels. All 3 stellar contests where he played the role of feeding the opponent their moments.
Originally Posted by Blunt Force Balls
When you've yet to make a coherent argument for yourself, quote others for you, yet you continue to chase me around in every venue possible to keep a discussion you're incapable of having yourself... I don't waste my time trying to be civil or diplomatic. Honestly, my response to Sidgwick and 'Plan was honestly harsher than intended, because they are carrying you around as luggage. Had you not piled in as always and made this a much larger issue than it ever needed to be (take my first response to Sidg which was civil and diplomatic as an example) this wouldn't have escalated. I was open to Sidg opposing opinion, until you chimed in with your BS. I will copy this post into his column and apologize.
Originally Posted by Blunt Force Balls
No offense? Cute. Of course you meant to be offensive, don't offend me even more by lying about it.
Originally Posted by Blunt Force Balls
So, are judging we can't wrestle chants as the be-all-end-all? Gee, I seem to remember we here in Canada chanting You Screwed Bret at a face Shawn Michaels during his feud with a heel Jericho, but by the end of the segment we were firmly behind HBK. My point is that fans chant for the sake of it sometimes. The content is rarely meaningful, nor should it be taken seriously. Do you, BFB, decide when the crowd chants are worth taking note of, and when it's just silly fun on their part? People boo Vickie Guerrero louder than anyone else, but is she really the top or best heel? No, it's just been part of the routine to boo her until she does her excuse me schtick. If you take the "You Can't Wrestle" chants to Cena that seriously, you need a doctor. They chant this at him, while you and I could most likely agree that he's a better worker than guys who don't get this chant, such as R-Truth, Fandango, Big Show, David Otunga, Jinder Mahal, Ryback...etc. It's more than a bit harsh and an exaggeration.
Originally Posted by Blunt Force Balls
From the column replies:
This doesn't counter my argument at all. Rock was not booked like Cena is at all. Sure, they have similar movesets, but that doesn't have any bearing on how Vince and the agents shape the Cena matches for John to have a much more Hulk Hogan style of match than Rock. Also, Rock lost to Brock, Jericho, Angle, and to Benoit on a couple of occasions (only to have had the verdict reversed). Similar movesets =/= same booking.
Originally Posted by Blunt Force Balls
OK, name 4 star plus classic matches that Punk and Daniel Bryan have had with someone not in the top 5 workers in the company? You can't make an argument to say Cena is not good as these other guys you prefer if you can't back it up with your own facts. Punk and Bryan have not been able to get classics out of Big Show, Kane or Mark Henry either. And again, you can call the matches Cena has had with these guys as "standard" but that standard is still widely regarded as stronger than what Bryan/Punk/Ziggler has accomplished with the same talents.
Originally Posted by Blunt Force Balls
See, BFB, I brought forth the facts of solid (I never said best or classic, but solid) matches with opponents generally hard to get much out of in a main event level. I based my opinion on these facts. I brought plenty of facts, but I know there's only a couple that stuck in your craw. You cannot say I'm wrong about the matches Cena has had with lesser talent if you can't name matches the guys you think are better than Cena that you believe are better than my examples.
I never said Daniel Bryan doesn't have the skills or potential to be better than Cena. I merely said he hasn't had the same opportunities to showcase it. But in the overall spectrum, once again using my definition of best in-ring wrestler as someone who has been able to entertain me to the highest level possible with a variety of opponents, Cena is better than my personal favorites CM Punk and Daniel Bryan. Based off the facts I've brought forth. Until you do the same, your opinion is also wrong.
Pen, I have a question.
Would you agree that John Cena is an inconsistent seller? If you do, and you agree that selling is a critical part of a wrestler's repertoire, (even more than the move set, in my personal opinion), then you have to agree John Cena as a wrestler is flawed.
I, for one find it tough to believe the E forces him to sell inconsistently, at least in between the ropes. Why would they say, "sell the injury from previous week really hard for the first 10 minutes, and then forget about it for the rest of the match"?
Skul has put up an awesome MP article on selling promos; when Cena is really intense and he makes the effort, he sells his opponents words like it hurts, like it matters, and on most other days when he coasts, he smirks around, goofs around and behaves like nothing can get to him and this no-selling brings down the interest level in his matches and hence the dollars that they can draw. Case in point, the Mark Henry feud recently. While I will concede this could be more of E's dictation than the selling between the ropes, it is far fetched to think the Corporation would ask him to do this almost every single time, he did it to The Rock a couple of times, dammit!
Cena is surely an above average wrestler and he is certainly a clutch performer. Over his lengthy career at the top, he has had a lot of memorable matches, the same amount, say, Stone Cold Steve Austin has had with a much shorter tenure, but a larger one than what Hulk Hogan had in a similar run. He has also a lot of duds, where he has been unable to make his opponents look good in defeat. Some of this, like him kicking out of a gazillion finishers, would be booking. Some of this, like him no-selling his opponents promos or ringside +1s, could be booking. But general antipathy towards story telling inside the ring, particularly the selling narrative, would be largely his doing. And hence, he can not be the best wrestler in the ring in the business. If larger opportunities elevate his record, larger number of "meh" matches should condemn it as well.
Last edited by Thunderbastard; 09-30-2013 at 03:50 PM.
I'm not sure Pen's inference has ever been that Cena isn't flawed, but from my understanding that he is their best worker in the ring, and while I entirely disagree with the opinion it's foolish to think there's not a wealth of evidence that can be offered up to put a strong case for that forward. Sorry to speak as if you're not in the "room" as it were there Pen.
The thing with John Cena is that he is a wrestler whose legacy is a divisive one - that is to say, he will have, in years to come, a legacy of having greatly divided opinion. Perhaps more so than any wrestler in WWE history. That alone is worth lending him legendary status, which I will happily do. But I think it speaks volumes to "The John Cena Question," if you will, that Sidg's strong work here, and the responses to it, has sparked such a heated debated. I always love a heated debate (and know I'm unlikely to take things personally in one Pen, though I hugely respect and appreciate the gesture in the edit to your post) but the John Cena one has become a very worn one. So worn in fact that I am convinced that neither side of the argument will ever win a pervasive majority until a good ten to twenty years after the fact of Cena's career. At such a point, when enough time has passed and we're as historically distant from it as is safe to start analysing his work less emotively, one theory may begin to gain predominance over others. Until then, both sides will remain adamant, both sides will have a huge amount of evidence to support their theory - and to disprove its opposing train of thought too - and neither side will ever be swayed.
Hence why I claimed in my first response that I'm rather weary of the entire thing. No-one is ever going to be convinced to adopt the opinion of John Cena conflicting with their currently held one. We can try to view it objectively, but real objectivity, in my own mind, only comes from the passage of time. It'll be interesting to see how John Cena's work is remembered in years to come; for my money, a damn sight more interesting than the work itself. That's the part of him that intrigues me the most.
John Cena is definetely a better athlete that Hulk Hogan was. I am just a rookie in understanding the ring psychology, so I won't go in too much detail about that. For example, I can't tell the spot calling. I never notice them. Cena's gimmick matches are definetely better than non-gimmick ones. I believe he is the guy who just goes out there and does what is asked of him. May be the reason why some of his matches are better than others is that he contributes very little in setting up the match? I remember watching an interview where he basically said that his TLC match with Edge and all the spots in it were basically designed by the Rated R Superstar.
He has been great for what he has been and what his role was in the company. It could definetely have been better based on the points you mentioned in this very column. What seems most interesting to me is the fact that there is a possibility of huge change in coming years...may be from the time he returns next itself...that he may become a different wrestler than what he has been so far. It's about time he starts getting used in the HBK '02-'10 manner. He has been an unbeatable force for so many years that ultimately may contribute in elevating the talents who beat him now.
Great column Sidg, definetely agree with many of the points you raised.
Newt, if you want an example of loud spot calling, watch the 'Mania 29 match with The Rock (they're both guilty of it throughout).
Maker of Rain
I just want to thank sincerely everybody for contributing to this monster…this is going to take me a while!
PEN, as the reason behind the column, I shall leave you ‘til last…
Maverick/Mizfan – I get where you guys are coming from, but the problem is that WWE didn’t and had no intention of taking Cena off TV. It would have been effective, but it didn’t happen, so it wasn’t…by all accounts the promo was totally unscripted, which I perceived to be Cena being a mark for himself. It reminded me a lot of Hogan’s selfishness at WM 6. That match was meant to be about Warrior, like Lesnar/Cena was meant to be about Lesnar, but the lasting impression was that Cena bravely got back up after a mauling and not the mauling itself. I’m still waiting for your first straight post-reset columns…
Millenium – What a formal greeting! Cena’s a great character for the kids, which is why he’s booked in the way he is. His merchandise sales are through the roof. The problem is that there is a more mature and considered audience who can actually “see” him, and his cartoony style insults their intelligence. But I’ll get to that…
Oli – I’m gonna play devil’s advocate here, in the interests of impartiality, and lay some of the blame on what you’re getting at on the rigid WWE style. WWE won’t let guys on TV until they adhere to it. Having said that, though, someone like CM Punk is smart enough to incorporate puro elements within that style. D-Bry can get around the homogenisation by incorporating a European submission influence. Cena is incapable of deviating from the norm unless he’s dancing on his opponent’s feet, which is when his best matches occur, which is why he can’t really be given the credit he gets by PEN for their acclaim.
Your Annie edition of The NXT Review was great, by the way, and not just because she’s my future mistress!
Sub – Thanks for the kind words, but I must respectfully disagree with your feedback. The cartoony arc of Cena “rising above” in superhero-like fashion, in itself a very basic mode of storytelling, ceased to be credible when he became the top dog without any equal “supervillains” to oppose him. When I see him getting beaten down for the first half of a match, I just don’t buy it. He’s won so many damn matches so convincingly. It doesn’t ring true to see him get his ass kicked so thoroughly after the opening flurry…I’ll get to that in more depth later…
BFB – “The Undertaker has a supernatural gimmick, and when he sits up like a zombie- his comebacks are often more believable than Cena's.” Loved that line. Such a great, tragicomic insight. The Rock’s selling is The Godfather to Cena’s The Room, which is why he was a great practitioner of the art of elevation. You’d never see Rock power out of ADR’s armbar. That’s like kicking out of an impact finisher on one, which isn’t allowed anywhere except Japan. I’d actually love to see that fighting spirit spot replicated on an appropriate stage in WWE. The pop would be huge. I’m rambling now and I don’t have time!
Mizfan – I kinda cover your first few points in my F2F to Pen if you wanna stick around…
Skul – I get your logic. There’s only one place after a program with Cena, and that’s down, but my retort is sort of contained within my response. How many of Cena’s recent feuds would yield good return business? I’m not even positive that the Stanley Cup is ice hockey, so you’ve lost me a bit, but let’s take a look at Wade Barrett, who was once such a promising talent. He’s nowhere near another semi-final these days, let alone a final, and that’s a problem for both his career and logic in wrestling as a whole. A lot of that is start/stop booking, but the wholly decisive nature of Cena’s wins, something he can control, means that when a guy is done with Cena, the interest in him grinds to a halt. An up and comer should still have a buzz when they get defeated by a champion. It never used to be the way it is now and it doesn’t have to be.
I’ll concede your point about R-Truth, though. Damn schmuck.
Zzzorf – Good point very well made…I will say though that I went the route I did because PEN’s column, in title at least, was (well) designed to provoke the response it elicited from myself and in the comments section of his own piece. He was quite savvy too in that his criteria was hard to argue against purely because Cena’s been there so damn long. He’s not daft.
Plan – Wonderful column, there. If I was in your position I’d have cynically posted it in a new thread under the banner “Just Business: In Reponse To Sidgwick’s Reponse to THAT PEN15 Column”. It would have helped your quantity tally in Mizfan’s State of the CF for September!
I agreed with ostensibly every word you said but I particularly nodded with your argument that Cena can’t even be considered that good an entertainer. His patter is often puerile, the homophobia we’ve been subjected to over the years utterly rancid, and his overexposure (not really his fault, but still) (hi ‘Plan!) breaks the golden rule: always leave ‘em wanting more. I can’t recall the specific time and date, but I remember he once, apropos of absolute bloody nothing, signed off with the Wayne’s World line “And the worst part is, I never learned to read!” The man can’t even plagiarise properly. Maybe I wasn’t the best candidate to counter PEN’s column. I just loathe the guy. One of the reasons why, which I’m going to explain imminently, I’m sure you can get on board with…
Thunderbastard - “If larger opportunities elevate his record, larger number of "meh" matches should condemn it as well”. Preach it! You untied PEN’s reductive approach better than I did. Kudos for that.
Newt – “It's about time he starts getting used in the HBK '02-'10 manner.” NEVER gonna happen. HBK is probably the best seller of all time. Cena would have to change his entire game to just approach how well Shawn puts over an opponent in-ring. NEVER going to happen I’m afraid. Sorry for the Tito-esque Caps, this is long enough without having to go on full HTML mode.
First of all, I graciously accept your apology. I was quite miffed with the “riding coattails” remark in particular, especially since, as you once had a “Debate With PEN15” thread, I thought you’d get a kick out of my piece at the very least. Now I know your reasoning, I can half-sympathise. I have a tendency to get riled up too.
Onto your first post…
I think “insanely inaccurate” is insanely hyperbolic. It was biased, sure, but not inaccurate. I think we were both guilty of proving our points with our opinions. For example, you simply told us that Cena has had better matches with a variety of opponents than anybody else on the roster, and we were presumably meant to take that as gospel. His record in this regard does not speak for itself and I think you should have spoken for it. His Big Show matches are widely regarded as bores, as is his 2012 series with Kane, and his match with Henry at MITB this year was as routine as it gets. I’d be amazed if, in a couple of years’ time, anybody could remember more than two spots from it.
I did concentrate on Cena’s recent past, but with good reason. If he was as good as you believe he is, he should have learned how to elevate others like his opponents in 05 and 06 elevated him. I’m think specifically of Edge and Shawn Michaels here. Cena deserves credit for stepping up – it’s not as if he’s as bad mechanically as Warrior was – but he did not lead those matches. They weren’t really John Cena matches, like the ones we see him leading today. They were Edge matches.
I do loathe Cena as a performer, more so than most, so this probably did damage the credibility of my column, but I think I used an objective argument to explain why Cena can’t be considered the best. I didn’t drone on about his lack of submissions or ability to fly, things associated with the super worker, because a good brawler is as entertainaining as a modern day Bryan or a mid-noughties Mysterio. I used the fact that he’s a God-awful seller because it’s been the one thread connecting all of the greats throughout history. Effective selling, and I’m convinced of this, is how wrestling maintained and outlived the kayfabe era.
I think with Cena it all comes down to what we want from wrestling. I watch wrestling in order to suspend my disbelief and engage matches as legitimate contests, and value those performers who are able to do that in the most exciting and logical way possible. It’s why I watch NJPW as often as I do WWE. It is treated and received as sport over there. Cena doesn’t take it as seriously as he should, in my opinion. He’s clumsy too. The best wrestling is balletic. Smooth. Realistic. Cena’s feet are often positioned at the awkward ten-to-two angle, he often takes bumps on his hip, of all places, and the application of his STF…nobody can defend that. Nobody.
I think that Bryan is the best in-ring worker in WWE, even without taking his independent record out of the reckoning, which I don’t, because those matches are still accomplishments even with relatively smaller audiences. I don’t subscribe much to the bigger stage, bigger deal theory. That would for example imply that Green Day are a better band than Fugazi. Bryan honed his game across four continents, absorbing a variety of styles along the way, turning his precious talent into something damn well magical. His match with The Miz at Night of Champions 2011 was in my opinion much better than Cena’s attempts earlier in the year. Same with Ziggler at Bragging Rights. And, of course, he’s only gone from strength to strength from there.
Let’s just agree to disagree, Cena at the very least deserves kudos for being magnetic enough to inspire this kind of debate. Even I must admit that he can’t suck as much as I think if he can. If he was Eric Escobar-level bad, he wouldn’t have had the chance for me to hate him.
Originally Posted by PEN15
I said point out the facts I got wrong. You quoted my opinions and countered it with your own opinions. I shall be ignoring you from now on because you are by a distance the most arrogant person on this forum.
Last edited by Blunt Force Balls; 10-03-2013 at 10:37 PM.
Fuck Forest Green
I'm glad you're ignoring me by replying to a comment I didn't even give to you (I replied to you in the thread you were debating me in, yet to reply here!?). But ignoring me is fine, as well as you showcasing your absolute ignorance to the difference between fact and opinion. I'll be much happier with you going away. Shoo.
Originally Posted by PEN15