John Cena: Great Worker? (John Cena, The Rock, Hulk Hogan)
by Jack Newbury on May 12, 2012

It’s been a long time since writing on here. ROH recapping is a fuckin’ nightmare. You know what you have to do when recappin’ ROH? Watch the shows! Which is really hard to do given how lousy the shows are. So, what prompted me to dust off the Inside Pulse log in and get to typin’? Something Blair Douglas said.

Steven Gepp: It ran circles around Rock/Hogan at WM18.

Blair: I disagree with this. It had the same kind of vibe, but Rock / Hogan was way more fun to watch, especially with the crowd reactions, nostalgia, and back-and-forth stuff. That’s just me. I get what you’re saying, though.

Steven Gepp, you’ve got a weird last name, but, you’re right. These matches are on two different levels. The vibe was nowhere near the same. And, Rock/Cena runs circles around Rock/Hogan.

There is a huge difference between keeping the crowd into a 30 minute match like Cena/Rock and doing a 15minute match where you soak in the crowd going bananas for the moment and then get the hell out of there on a high note.

Nostalgia, baby! The crowd went wild and then they worked a shit match that the crowd went wild for because the crowd would have gone wild for them doing anything in the ring for those 15 minutes. Rock/Hogan had it. And, it led to a great crowd at the start of the match. Cena/Rock had a good crowd at the start. They didn’t have a great crowd, though. To be fair to the crowd, though, the lead-in to Rock/Cena was an episode of American Idol.

How do we know the crowd would go wild for anything Rock/Hogan gave them? Oh, because the two worked an insulting match. Blair says the match still holds up for him. I call bullshit on that. But, then again, you show me a replay of when the Phillies won the World Series and I’ll likely still at least drop a mean fist pump. When I think of Hogan/Rock I think about the dudes standing outside of the bar looking in to catch a glimpse of the match. I’m not trying to take away that moment. But, let’s respect it for what it was. A moment built off two legacies. And, Rock/Cena, well, it’s less of a moment. It’s built off strong ringwork, though, because Cena is still trying to build that legacy.

Cena/Rock needed to work a good match. And, they did. I could talk longer about the match, and probably will over at Spinebuster, but, for now, I want to get into whether Cena is a great worker. Because leaving this match, that was the question that stuck in my mind.

Cena/Rock was a match that built their crowd reaction to a better reaction through the work in the match. And, when Cena went for the People’s Elbow for the hell of it, it came across that he was at a loss for what to do…because of how they built that match. The vibe is by no means comparable to Hogan/Rock. On a show where Jericho targeted Punk’s back for match psychology, Cena did a match better job targeting The Rock’s midsection. To be fair, The Rock also brought it in this one, compared to the performance against Hogan.

So, where does Cena stack up as a great worker? I don’t know. But…I do know that now, it’s becoming something that I think about. A year ago, I wouldn’t have cared to consider it. In the time since, he’s been great in the Punk match, now this, and going back to take a look at some of his prior performances, well, Cena is growing on me.

And, just as I started to look at Cena in this light, I came across this video about, hey, the topic of Cena’s greatness. The video does a good job of explaining the criteria that he’s analyzing Cena from to determine whether or not he’s great. Spoiler alert, it’s not a simple “CENA IS GREAT,” because one of you jerks will listen to a couple of minutes and say, “fuck this Cena mark” , he doesn’t conclude that Cena is great. The process that he takes to get there is the interesting part. And there’s analysis of criteria he uses to determine whether someone is a great wrestler which is also interesting in terms of discussion points. I highly encourage you to watch the video and leave a comment on it here.

The Davey Richards comparison is fun stuff as well, mainly because Davey’s ring-work is one of the most overrated things on the internet when it comes to wrestling. So, do watch, bitches!

Don’t watch the last 30 seconds of the video, though.

You just watched those last 30 seconds, didn’t you? You sonofabitch! I told you not to. Well, don’t blame me for that weirdness! You can also get more of that kind of analysis at, a messageboard put together by the guy in the video.

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Jack Newbury

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  • Blair A. Douglas

    You put this on Pulse AND on Spinebuster! Awesome. Let’s get this out there. I actually listened to you for once and did NOT watch the last 30 seconds.

    My thoughts on this are in point form. Everyone else should leave their thoughts too. Let’s crank this shit hose.

    – I never said that the matches were identical, I said they had the same kind of vibe (Legend versus legend, legend of the past versus legend from the present, returning star versus present star, etc). That vibe, I FULLY acknowledge helps along both the crowd reactions and my personal enjoyment of it. That’s a variable that goes into enjoyment of matches for me. Cena, Rock, and Hogan, are all good at drawing the crowd into matches.

    – I would rather watch a mediocre 15-minute match than (what I felt was a) dull 30 minute match. Length definitely does play a role in this. Before having seen either of the two matches, if you asked me if I thought a match involving two out of the choice of Hogan, Rock or Cena, I’d definitely say 15 minutes. I just don’t think they’re the type of wrestlers that are very suited to that length of match – and that’s not a shot at them in any way, either. I’d argue that they don’t NEED to do 30 minutes. There are very few exceptions to this rule, but they do exist. I just don’t think Cena and Rock was one of them.

    – Nostalgia also definitely played a big role in Cena / Rock, same as it did for Rock / Hogan. That’s part of the reason, I’d say, as to why they did a great butyrate for the show. It definitely didn’t factor in as much as it did for Rock / Hogan, plus Rock had already been back a year before he fought Cena.

    – Yeah, Hogan / Rock DEFINITELY still holds up for me. It’s 15 minutes of fun. Cena / Rock – not as much. But there’s a lot of variables that go into that – as you say, the crowd response the likes of Hogan / Rock is a lot tougher to do at an outdoor arena with a show that had already been going on for 3 hours. I don’t know about “strong ringwork”, I might not see that so much – but I’d say that Cena / Rock didn’t NEED to work a great match any more than Rock / Hogan did – they’re not the types of guys who need strong ringwork to make a match good. That’s not saying they’re incapable of it, but it is more rare for them. They rely more on the connection with the crowd. And in their defence, it sure as heel beats doing top rope stuff and jumping off ladders, so good for them.

    – Other than that, it has a lot of the same qualities – I just don’t feel like it’s as enjoyable as Hogan / Rock all-around.

    But, the variables on which I enjoy the matches are different than yours, and different than the guy in the video. It’s easy to call a match universally bad because there’s a LOT more bad matches then good – especially in the WWE. But as for really LIKING a match, that’s a lot more subjective because everyone has different things they want to see in a match.

    For example, last year I learned something I didn’t know before, and that’s that there are people who ACTUALLY enjoy watching a fat, blobbish, bearded chinless fuckface trade axe-handles and “clubbing forearms” with a guy like Shaemus, who moves like he has a rod jammed up his ass. That legit caught me off guard, but myself – I can’t watch a match like THAT and enjoy it on whatEVER the levels are they people enjoy that match on. I find it boring as shit.

    That leads me to the video. This is getting kind of long, so I’m just going to address what I feel are the main points.

    – One of the reasons he says Cena ISN’T a bad wrestler is because he’s strong and can do stuff like roll The Rock around and pick him up after catching him and rolling him around on the ground. I don’t think I’ve heard anyone say that type of thing ISN’T impressive, but I also never considered that JUST having that kind of strength makes you any kind of a good wrestler. What Cena did with Rock in that clip, yeah, it’s good… I guess… but I’m fairly certain there are any number of guys on the roster who could have done that one spot, and none of them are great wrestlers. Remember when Cena picked up Big Show and Edge at once? That Skip Sheffield guy that our old friend Pollack used to get all wet over probably could have done that too.

    – One of the things that seems to endlessly impress people on that Puroseau forum (and some on Pulse) is this “selling” thing. People rate it way up there in terms of someone’s skill level. I never really cared to consider that, because I don’t think it’s some great quality. Selling is just part of the game – yes, it’s important, but is it really that impressive to have? It’s like a drivers license – it’s definitely good to have, but are you throwing parties for anyone who gets one? So I have a REALLY hard time being impressed by that. “Remember to limp after your leg gets kicked” isn’t that much of a skill for me. I remember we talked about some Mark Henry match in a cage with Bryan, and you were impressed that Mark Henry remembered to limp around and remembered to have trouble climbing the cage. To me, I’m just like “well… yeah. His leg was hurt. Big deal.”

    (On the flip side, I acknowledge that Cena gets way too much flack from the IWC for “no-selling”. I think they confuse it with his big comebacks that he often mounts at the end of matches, which isn’t the same thing at all. He sells just fine. I just have a really hard time being impressed by that.)

    – The most interesting thing about this video to me was when the guy acknowledges that Cena has a limited move set, and that a lot of the moves he hits, he doesn’t hit well. (I’m paraphrasing.) To me, this is INFINITELY more important than either of the two points about the video above, and kind of says it all about why I find the guy incredibly dull in the ring, with very few exceptions.

    This doesn’t mean Cena is worthless. This just means that I find it difficult to enjoy MOST of his matches. You listed a couple matches on the Spinebuster version of this article, that I agree are quite good. I think the Umaga match (the PPV one) is probably the best match I’ve seen Cena have. You listed the Rob Van Dam one, and I agree that’s quite good as well. I don’t know where you dug up the JBL match, as I found those boring, but ones you didn’t list that I thought were passable-good are the ones against Shawn Michaels and Eddie Guererro.

    And the one that really surprised me how good it was, was the WrestleMania outting against Batista. That match was better than it had any right to be. And that, to me, is something to be impressed with. I would say that you and video-guy are giving more credit than I would to Cena when he wrestles opponents who are quite good in-ring – like Umaga and CM Punk, to use your examples. Do you remember any good matches Cena had with Miz? Or with Barrett? Or Shaemus?

    Again though – and to bring this to a close – we look for different things regarding what makes a match good. There’s no universal formula.

    And I actually think you missed a key point when coming to Cena’s defence – and that’s that some people just hate Cena BECAUSE he’s being John Cena, and that probably has less to do with ringwork, even when they chant “you can’t wrestle”. Cena is just an easy guy to dislike, between his character, his look, his mannerisms, and his speeches that pander to kids. People dislike him a lot more for that, I’d say, than the fact that he “just sucks”. Even if he does.

    Anyway, nice work. This was a fun little piece, and I’m hoping more people chime in on this, as I’d be interested to hear what other people think. It’d be the most interesting debate we have going on at the moment.

    Damn, I should have made this an article or something.

  • Mike Gojira

    As I read your rant, Blair, I was going to suggest you write it up as a column instead.

    Then I read your last line.


  • Blair A. Douglas

    Am I the only one singing “When Two Become One” by Spice Girls right now?

  • Newbury

    I’ll try to respond to each of the bullet points you made, although, you should have numbered them, Blair.

    – I don’t think I said you said they were identical. I just used your original point as a jump-off point.

    – I think length of a match is a much different discussion, so I won’t touch on this much. I don’t think longer always means better. But, I do think longer is more difficult when it’s good. When it’s something like Richards/Edwards and they’re just going long for the sake of going long, it’s a bit silly.

    – We agree!

    – Have you watched Cena/Rock a second time by any chance?

    – Well, of course it’s subjective. At the end of the day, I really just want good discussion, even if it’s disagreement.

    That leads you to the video…

    – Yeah, I’m not really a huge fan of the strength point. Or, his point about how tight Cena’s guard was or whatever. I don’t think the strength spot he shows in the video helps his argument much other than a counter to folks who say Cena isn’t athletic, which I have seen used against him. But, ultimately, it’s what you do with the strength that matters, just like any other athleticism.

    – I’m big on selling because I think what you take for granted, I just don’t see all that often. I think there’s a lot of basic selling. And, for this, the example I’ll use is Punk/Jericho at Mania compared to Punk/Henry the next night. I didn’t think Punk’s selling in the Mania match was all that great. I did think he sold great the next night, though.

    The more the selling matches or affects the match, the more I’m going to like the match as a whole. His example is the Rey Mysterio match with the knee spot. It’s a great fucking spot of selling. It’s easy to dismiss something like “the knee being sold is what prevented him from hitting the AA” as very simple…but, it’s just not done that often.

    – As for move set, I mean, I’d rather have a small move-set used right over a very large move-set just used. I’m not going to try to defend Cena on this point, but, getting into your next part, I think he’s starting to build a body of work that certainly overcomes that point. I liked in The Rock match how he pulled out a belly to belly, which I hadn’t seen, or didn’t think I had seen from the recent better Cena matches that I’ve seen. And, I thought that was a very helpful touch to making the Rock match good, just because while a very simple move, it certainly drove home the point of working over Rock’s midsection.

    “This just means that I find it difficult to enjoy MOST of his matches.”

    I think one of the problems is he’s had so many matches and they’ve been formulaic at times. So, it’s essentially, he has a landscape of these formulaic matches that are designed mainly for children, but, yet he’s now developed a fairly strong body of work when he busts out from that formula. I don’t know, I feel like I’m getting to the point where I can disregard the formulaic stuff to focus on the matches where he really brings it. I don’t think it’s that much of a negative to mail it in on some stuff given how much he’s on TV. And, to that end, when Punk first went face I thought he was terribly formulaic and dull as well. This is the period right around or right after Summerslam last year. I give more benefit of the doubt to Punk, though. But, I think it’s just something that goes with that much television and so little creativity from the company.

    “I would say that you and video-guy are giving more credit than I would to Cena when he wrestles opponents who are quite good in-ring – like Umaga and CM Punk, to use your examples. Do you remember any good matches Cena had with Miz? Or with Barrett? Or Shaemus? ”

    This I think is a really good point against him.

    For myself, I tend to not separate the guys involved in a match when talking about the quality…for the most part. If a match was good I’m going to give credit to both guys involved with the match. An exception might be if one guy had that match and nothing else strong on his body of work. But, if I’ve seen multiple quality matches from a guy, I’m not going to say he keeps getting carried up. I’ve also read in a couple spots about how Cena carried Punk in the MITB match and carried Rock at Mania. I don’t buy into either of those notions.

    I think it hurts Cena that he hasn’t had good matches with the guys you mentioned and that that run 2010-2011 really did a damaging number on my personal opinion of Cena, to where I’m just now getting to the point where I can start to consider him as a quality worker.

  • Steven Gepp

    Yes. Yes you are the only one… Probably the only one at the moment in the entire world singing that particular… *ahem* song.

  • CB40

    Yes, not even the Spice Girls remember that one.

  • CB40

    Blair: Cena’s limited moveset bothers you, but Rock and Hogan’s don’t?

  • Blair A. Douglas

    I wouldn’t say it bothers me, but I just expect a lot less in the ring to counter the fact that the guy is irritating in general. Hogan’s got about as many good matches on him as Cena does. Rock I would say may have a few more, but not by much.

    I’d say all 3 guys are the same kind of wrestler, with probably Rock being the best out of the 3. I would just say that Cena is worse in most other respects than Hogan and Rock are.

  • Blair A. Douglas

    Come a little bit closer baby, get it on, get it on
    ‘Cause tonight is the night when two become one

    I need some love like I never needed love before
    (Wanna make love to ya baby)
    I had a little love, now I’m back for more
    (Wanna make love to ya baby)
    Set your spirit free, it’s the only way to be

  • Steven

    Great… I just threw up in my mouth a little…

  • Newbury

    Cena has already developed a better body of work than Hogan in terms of match quality. I don’t see how they are the same kind of wrestler at all since Cena actually seems to give a shit about match psychology. Is his move set as limited as Hogan’s? I don’t know, but, whatever the case, he certainly uses it a lot better than Hogan ever did.

    Could Hogan have pulled off the MITB match with Punk? Or, some of the other good matches you even mention?

    It seems like a naive point to call them similar. Does Cena work the Hogan formula a lot? Absolutely. But, that is way different than being “the same kind of wrestler.”

  • Newbury

    To be fair, Blair’s enjoyment of Spice Girls is only slightly more vomit-enducing than his wrestling opinions!

  • CB40

    Save the singing for ASGurl!! :)

  • Mike Gojira

    Sorry pal, but I’m immune to your supposedly irresistible charm.

  • Blair A. Douglas

    Yeah, I would say Cena has developed better match quality than Hogan in terms of the moves he DOES hit (but not well.) But I don’t think he’s that much better than Hogan. I don’t know that he gives a shit about psychology as well, and don’t know what that’s based on. There’s WAY more terrible than good Cena matches.

    Hogan in his PRIME? I think he could have probably worked that MITB match, or, maybe not, BUT… in his era, he didn’t need to. Better or worse than Hogan (or Rock), Cena works the Hogan formula to perfection, so while the moves Cena does may be a touch more detailed and intricate (not hard given Hogan’s skill), it’s not that much more impressive.

    My comment about them being similar applied to Cena as a WRESTLER, not JUST an in-RING wrestler. But it applies to his ringwork too, just not as much.

    Cena even called himself a modern-day Hulk Hogan at one point, if memory serves.

  • Blair A. Douglas

    And I don’t know who Batman’s parents are.

  • Newbury

    From what I’ve seen, Cena’s bigger matches do have psychology. I obviously don’t think he’s the best at it AND I don’t think he has it to a degree where he could use it in bulk. But, a lot of guys don’t really have that.

    Of course he’s going to compare himself to Hogan. And, like I think I mentioned, for the most part, his matches are formulaic like Hogan’s would be.

    The point I think is that Cena has a next level that he’s now shown on more than just a couple occasions. Which I think is a big deal that he can show up and make the big matches work. I don’t think Hogan ever really did that.

  • Newbury

    “so while the moves Cena does may be a touch more detailed and intricate”

    Also, you should know by now that this wouldn’t be something that I would care about.

  • Blair A. Douglas

    I would argue that Hogan’s bigger matches have psychology as well.

  • Newbury

    “Have psychology” is such a broad or minimal statement. Cena’s matches that have been good in the ring have been talked about a decent bit so far, which big WWF/WCW matches of Hogan’s would you say reach the level of something like Cena/Punk or Cena/Umaga? Or, the other good Cena matches that you mentioned.

  • Blair A. Douglas

    The Warrior match, the Savage matches, and the Slaughter match, just to name a few.

  • Newbury

    Blair, what did you think of the comparison with Davey Richards?

  • sideshowbob

    Agreeing with Blair on this one.. Cena’s problem is he’s wrestling Hogan’s match, but he’s not in Hogan’s era, so the expectations are completely different.

  • Blair A. Douglas

    Responses up top. I fucking HATE how the columns narrow out.

  • Blair A. Douglas

    Sideshow: That’s only a problem for Cena if you’re NOT looking at kids. The kids don’t care what kind of match he wrestles… not really, anyway. Again, what I’m saying is that I personally find Cena boring. But I also don’t think he necessarily is marketed towards me. I think that’s what guys like Punk are for.

    Drip: In terms of what? In-ring, I’d go with Davey, because while only about 30-40% (generously) of his matches I find good, that’s still way more than Cena. In terms of a total package, I’d definitely say Cena, because love him or hate him, the guy is a dynasty at this point. And he’s worked hard to get there, and has earned that. Davey is also in the early stages of his career per se though, whereas Cena is not. Davey, on the other hand, can still improve in the areas where he’s lacking. Cena… I don’t know how much more he’s capable of. Nobody does really.

    A lot of people say “fuck the near-falls and no selling” stuff when talking about Davey or about ROH or ROH-equivalents. For the most part, I think that’s BS – near-falls are fine, and increase suspense, the way I see it. Can it be overdone? Yes, but I think that’s way more rare than people pretend it is. WIth Davey though… yeah, it’s overdone. Abso-fucking-lutely. Those last two matches against Eddie were… yikes.

    What I would say is that Eddie has the ability, but is missing something. While that is a problem, I would say that Cena has had years to improve and hasn’t much, if at all. He’s just wrestled some matches against people who happen to be really good at helping him along. The thing is, though, I don’t think Cena NEEDS to be able to work the kind of match Davey should be working. And why would he want to? Davey though – the environment he’s in, he should be a lot better than he is. Truthfully though, I don’t even think that Davey is over-rated at this point, not outside of the ROH-hardcore audience anyway (assuming that even exists anymore.) I think the internet has figured out by this point that Davey is not what was sold to them.

    Anyway, I’m rambling. Sorry. We need to paste our faces over the Face/Off DVD cover and do a series.

  • Blair A. Douglas

    God damn it, Blair. You fucked up the comment, you fucking asshole. DAVEY has the ability, but is missing something. Shit.

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