For about seven years, John Cena has inarguably been the top guy in the WWE. He’s there go-to guy for media appearances, PR campaigns, and anything along those lines. And, like anyone of his popularity should, he has those who support him and those who can’t stand him. Most of his opposition is hungry for change; it’s been so long since we’ve seen a fresh face on top of the mountain, when will it be someone else’s turn?
The answer to that question is the day John Cena permanently retires from professional wrestling.
Considering his age, he’s got some good years left before he goes on the downslope towards that point. But until then, his stock in the company will not fall. Whether he is headlining or not, he is an entity bigger than WWE. Cena is clean-cut, has a good public image, good merchandise sales, pulls in good ratings, and is an excellent ambassador for the company. Whether people like to admit or not, he can also tell an excellent story in the ring and on the mic. It is for these reasons that John Cena is in the position he currently is, and why he should stay there until he simply can’t go any longer.
While this is true, it is also true that so much time passing with no semblance of character change can be exhausting, to such viewers as ourselves, who yearn to see somebody else take his place on top of the food chain. But the fact is, anyone who goes as long as Cena has as the same character is going to get the same reception. Hypothetically speaking, if John Cena retires tomorrow and Daniel Bryan is placed in his position, and proceeds to go on for ten years as his current character, we’ll be tired of him. The fact that Cena’s character is so stale doesn’t equate to him being a bad performer, it equates to lack of anything new. That’s why it was so refreshing to see him bitch out to Mark Henry, be unsure of his values when he joined Nexus, and question his ability to prevent CM Punk from walking out with the WWE Championship. It was something that was different from his usual overcome-the-odds-good-guy-superhero shtick.
However, this doesn’t do justice to the fact that stale is stale at the end of the day and it’s boring after so much. WWE understands this; they’re smarter than most people give them credit for. They’re well aware of their fanbase and the different kinds of people it’s composed of. They know that John Cena is never going to appeal to the internet/hardcore fans so long as he is the character he currently is, which is why the boos don’t phase him or the WWE. So long as his TARGET AUDIENCE is positive towards him, nothing will change.
As opposed to drastically altering his character to appeal to us, WWE provides us with alternatives that ARE designed to appeal to us. But every time they do that, we let something else overshadow it. For every time we’ve hung our heads down in shame as John Cena closed out a pay-per-view with the WWE Championship held high and all the kids going home happy, there’s been a time when something happened, like an internet favorite winning, that the messageboards went crazy with excitement over. When Cena had a much-longer-than-need-be match with John Laurinaitis, CM Punk and Daniel Bryan put on a clinic right before. The night Cena won the Money In The Bank contract, so did Dolph Ziggler (AND Punk and Bryan put on another excellent match). WWE knew we would be upset that Cena won and happy Ziggler did. They also knew it would be the opposite for the kids. So why don’t all the fans get a part of the show where their favorite wins? What makes what we like to see more important than what other sects of the audience do?
The answer to that question is the fact that, whenever WWE does give us something they know we’ll enjoy, we let something we DON’T like take precedence over it. For example: his feud with CM Punk in the summer of 2011. Sure, CM Punk got huge pops and was over with almost every crowd he appeared in front of, but when push came to shove, the “CENA SUCKS!” chants overpowered the “CM PUNK!” chants. That same can be said with his feuds with Dolph Ziggler, Ryback, Mark Henry, Kane, etc. We wanted someone new? They gave us someone new, but we let our hatred for Cena overshadow our appreciation for that someone.
Daniel Bryan is a rare exception, and it is for that reason that there’s so much substance behind his push. I’ve yet to hear a “CENA SUCKS” chant as opposed to the deafening roar of “YES! YES! YES!” The fans like Bryan more than they hate Cena, and that’s why he’s being pushed as hard as he is. WWE threw us a bone and, instead of spitting it out and complaining, we’re bringing it back to them to play fetch with.