Why do we hate John Cena?
Why is it that the majority of adults who watch professional wrestling groan every time they hear his music? Why do we despise the jean shorts (Austin wore them), the multi-colored t-shirts with bumper sticker phrasing (The Rock was a slogan machine) and his incessant way of reminding us all exactly where he is? (In case you had forgotten, the champ is here.)
Do we detest the man himself? Hardly. We admire his tenacity to accomplish what he has done in the world of wrestling and we applaud his dedication to charitable work. Yet why are the WWE fans that frequent social media so rabidly against him?
There is another wrestler who shared a similar fate as John Cena; idol of children, irritant to everyone else. Like it or not, John Cena is this century’s Hulk Hogan, and by identifying the two biggest similarities between the two, we can discover why Cena finds himself in his current predicament.
1. John Cena and Hulk Hogan have / had stale characters.
Hulkamania was born on January 23, 1984, and for the next 150 months, there was no noticeable difference in the Hulk Hogan persona. Same red and yellow outfit. Same saying of prayers and eating of vitamins. Same “Hulk”ing up, same atomic drop, same big boot, same running legdrop. Same. . . Same. . . Same. . .
Sound like anyone you know? Cena is also guilty of Staleness Syndrome. I don’t care how many different colored shirts he wears, he’s still the same character he was back in 2005. Sure, he may throw a top-rope legdrop out there from time to time or change up his slogan a bit, but it’s still John Cena. There are few, if any, noticeable differences between the Cena of today and the Cena of 5 years ago. That’s not a good thing.
2. John Cena and Hulk Hogan are heroes, and heroes are boring.
Think of the biggest and ‘coolest’ stars of the last 20 years. ‘Crow’ Sting. Stone Cold Steve Austin. The Rock. The Undertaker. DX. CM Punk. Each one of them, in their own way, is an anti-hero. John Cena is a throwback; he is the living embodiment of the stereotypical 80’s babyface.
The generation of fans who grew up as Hulkamaniacs no longer want somebody to ride in on their trusty steed, ready to fight the good fight and through a combination of prayers, milk and vitamins (or in Cena’s case, hustle, loyalty and respect), overcome the odds and rule victoriously. (Well, we can be OK with that, just as long as you have the size and indie cred of Daniel Bryan).
The “modern” wrestling fan wants somebody who doesn’t mind fighting dirty; in fact, the desire to fight dirty is encouraged. They want somebody who’s going to pick up the microphone and verbally tear their opponent to shreds, occasionally mocking dear family members in the process. They want somebody who is willing to push the envelope and make us sit up and take notice.
When was the last time Cena made us notice him? It wasn’t at Money In the Bank; then, he was shoved down our throats. I’d argue that he came close during his feud with Bray Wyatt, when he was both more frightened and then more aggressive than we’ve seen him before. There was potential there for John Cena to travel down a new path, but instead, he went right back to the High Road, the road that sells a lot of youth t-shirts and makes the grown-up fan want to vomit.
So, how does it end?
Just about everybody who pays attention is sure that at some point, John Cena will eventually turn heel, which oddly enough will make him more popular in the process. Same thing happened with Hogan. When he turned on the fans and formed the NWO in 1996, sure, the crowd threw trash in the ring. But it didn’t take long before the NWO and Hogan started being popular, because it was a NEW World Order. For the first time in a long time, Hogan was different. He mattered.
As for when it will happen for Cena, it will inevitably be when the merchandise rates slow down. When this generation, the “Ce-Nation”, matures and starts hating the things it loved as a kid, that’s when we’ll see Cena turn. That’s when he’ll stop focusing on being a hero and start bending the rules. That’s when, in our minds, he’ll matter.
Our patience, one can hope, will be rewarded.
(However, if you can’t wait, be sure to check out tomorrow's bit of fantasy booking, where Summer Slam’s Plan C winds up not being what any of us think.)