John Cena: 'Cenation' or Cena nuff? The baffling case of WWE’s Top Star

Exploring the Universe's reaction to the face of the WWE

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The Independent Online

There has never been a more polarising star in the history of wrestling - let alone WWE - than John Cena. From raucous cheers to signs claiming ‘if Cena wins we riot’, the fourteen time World Champion elicits a thunderous reaction wherever he appears, positively or negatively. But what is it about him that causes this mix of adoration and hatred?


The Case Against:

His jokey personality: Possibly the most aggravating aspect of John Cena’s character is his inability to take anything seriously. Humour is all well and good, and stars such as Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mick Foley and The Rock have proved that with the right blend it can lead to mainstream success, but the fact is John Cena’s humour is neither sharp nor cutting edge – it’s playground stuff at best. What makes it all the more frustrating is that when he has the chance to cut a serious interview, he is phenomenal, but when his jokey ‘let’s not take anything seriously’ side is allowed to play, it weakens both himself and his opponent.

Clunky ring work: Cena has never claimed to be Ric Flair, but my word does some of his stuff look bad. Part of the reason people watch wrestling is to suspend their disbelief and watch two wrestlers go to war, and it is hard to do that when you see Cena’s punches miss by miles. There's also his dreaded STF submission - basically a giant hug, which led to 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin chastising Cena on his podcast, asking him to "cinch it in" to make it look more realistic. Then there are the ‘five moves of doom’...

‘Super’ Cena: This could have gone under the previous section but it has taken on such a life of its own that it needs to be addressed separately. Pick a random John Cena match and it usually goes as follows: he gets beaten down for a long period of time, makes a brief comeback, gets beaten down again to the point where he looks like he is all but done and then all of a sudden, he pops up as fresh as if he had just got out of bed, runs through his finishing sequence and wins, not showing any ill effect from the beating he had just taken. It is....frustrating, to say the least.

Front and centre: Cena is the true ‘Face of WWE’ and as such he features predominantly on ever single show. While the main event storyline at the moment may be Daniel Bryan and The Shield vs The Authority/Evolution, expect Cena to be back in the most high profile storyline soon enough. He’s the man who sells the most merchandise and tickets, and as such he’ll remain the star attraction for a while yet. Add to that his marketability to small children, and you’ve got some pretty bitter adult wrestling fans.


The Case For:

He's actually underrated: For all of the criticism of Cena’s in ring work, have you noticed that he has appeared in a lot of great matches? While there will always be the argument of him being ‘carried’, he has a role to play in the ring and by and large he does it very well, particularly on the big stage. This is a man who got an exciting match out of The Great Khali, for the love of God. Anyone who can do that must be doing something right.

Great ambassador: Cena is a corporate dream – he is the face of a company and as such travels the world making appearances most days, promoting the brand and generally saying all the right things, and that’s even before he has wrestled. There is never anything that is too much for the guy, and there have been no reports of him doing anything untoward outside of the ring (although his divorce was quickly and quietly dealt with). Above all, there is his largely played down charity work, which has seen him become the leading granter of wishes to the Make a Wish foundation; he's taken part in 400 wishes. You’d want him working for you, and you’d certainly want your younger brother or sister to look up to him.

He does the right thing for new stars: CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler – these are but three Superstars who hold victories over Cena in big PPV main events, with Punk’s win over Cena at Money In The Bank 2011 being one of the most notable matches of the last 10 years. Bryan’s win at last year’s Summerslam was clean as a whistle and in the middle of the ring. Cena is a huge star who does business the right way. There have been times when he should not have won (and WrestleMania 30 against Bray Wyatt is a recent example), but when it comes to the crunch, Cena has no problem putting people over, unlike other top stars we could

His music: Despite having to hear his entrance theme once a week for the last eight or so years, it still hasn’t got old.