Greetings, you special headcases, and welcome to another edition of The Stomping Ground. Based on all the hullaballoo on Daniel Bryan we’ve been getting this week, I figured it would be in my best interest to stray from that particular subject (as I often do) and talk about something that hasn’t necessarily been covered yet here at the Pulse. As a teacher with a Master’s in English Literature, who better to expound upon the inner workings of a good wrestling storyline than yours truly?
Last week I discussed what the alleged pros and cons of Brock Lesnar’s return might have on the wrestling business, but I didn’t really think about the implications said return would have on the career of one John Cena. While I searched the dark recesses of my imagination for an interesting article this week, I instantly thought back to what’s been going on with John Cena for the last couple of years and knew I’d struck gold. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m about to compare John Cena to literature’s greatest heroes.
You’ve been warned.
Ruthless Aggression and Finding an Identity
At the very beginning of John Cena’s WWE career, he was thrust into the spotlight as a young guy trying to make a name for himself. His first target was an in-his-prime Kurt Angle and, despite losing the match, he showed a spark of passion and drive that would ultimately come to symbolize Cena in later years. Like all great heroes early on in their stories, Cena scrounged his way up from the bottom and received a golden opportunity to shine. He lost, but he managed to stand out (which in the end was his true goal all along). After all, humility is a quality that many classic protagonists naturally possess; it is this very value that separates the hero from the villain in many cases. Spider-Man is perhaps a great example of a humble hero. After Cena’s brief flirtatious meeting with fame, he realized he had to create an identity for himself that would make him stand out amongst his peers, who were just as eager to step into the spotlight as he was. Cena knew that he had to play to his strengths, and his intensity as a rapping thug earned him a dash of notoriety. He was a heel, true; but his focus at the time was on becoming a name in a sea of faces and not on pandering to the masses. Establishing himself among his peers was the first step to immortality.
After facing the giant known as the Big Show at Wrestlemania XX he was treated as a savior and hero who could perform impossible feats of strength, much like Beowulf or Hercules. Ending the title reign of JBL, delivering the F-U to behemoths like Mark Henry, and surviving grueling battles with monsters such as the Great Khali and Umaga were among Cena’s many “labors” (if you will). In that time, many opportunistic foes used cunning over brawn to defeat Cena, but he would always triumph in the end and send his foes running. Soon, past and present heroes would try their hand at Cena, either to reclaim former glory (HBK and Triple H come to mind) or to prove their superiority (RVD, Bobby Lashley, Batista). In the end, none of that mattered, for John Cena’s career had come full circle. He was now the measuring stick who had made a name for himself.
The Winds of Change
Eventually, something happened as Cena continued his reign as the top dog in the WWE. Due to his consistent victories despite overwhelming odds, Cena became so confident in his abilities that he unintentionally alienated many whom he would once consider to be fans. His seeming invincibility made others feel as though he was above them all and that there would be no respite from his presence. While not an outright part of his behavior, Cena began to show signs of the sin of pride. The more people booed him, the more he would chalk it up to “freedom of speech.” He refused to let their words and feelings affect him, and while this might make him seem admirable for “rising above the hate,” he was blind to just how much of an effect he was beginning to have on the WWE Universe as a whole.
The Returning Hero and A Fall From Grace
In the midst of Cena’s apparent fall from grace, a legend was returning to reclaim his place as the man of the people. The Rock and John Cena were parallels of one another in their respective careers, but the one thing that set both men apart was the fact that The Rock came from royalty whereas Cena was simply the common man. The Prince had returned to dethrone the Pauper, and the people loved him for it. Cena, however (and understandably), refused to step aside. His pride would not let him and after Rock embarrassed Cena at Wrestlemania XXVII, John had made up his mind. He would overcome The Rock and prove that he was the better man. According to Cena, he needed to win not for the people but for himself, echoing the early portion of his career. The “People’s Champ” for the better part of the last decade would ironically forsake the people in order to cement his legacy. Alas, it was not to be as Cena’s overconfidence was his undoing and he lost while parodying his opponent’s signature move.
John Cena, in what should have been his crowning achievement, was humbled by the better man.
Climbing Back to the Top
We’ve come to the climax of John Cena’s story in the here-and-now; that is, the point in this tale where Cena must either overcome his weaknesses or risk losing everything and wind up a tragic hero. The final obstacle? Why, that would be Brock Lesnar. The people cheer for him no matter what he says and does; they cry for blood whereas Cena would provide compassion. Lesnar doesn’t follow any rules but his own. He has no moral compass. He is a fearless, emotionless machine bred to dominate. We are in the third act of John Cena’s career. This is the time for him to either step up and prove himself to the people, or silently pass the torch to one who will give no quarter. Cena sees in Lesnar an impostor: someone who will dupe the people out of their money and emotional investments. It will be interesting to see where the career of John Cena goes from here.
Or this could all have just been one big waste of time on my part and the WWE doesn’t really invest itself in brilliant storytelling.
So long, and thanks for all the fish.
P.S. Shout out to Ryan Alarie for always finding something to say in the comments section!