It’s been a few years since I’ve really gotten back into wrestling. I mean watching weekly, going to the shows, complaining on the Internet about everything that is wrong with the WWE kind of into wrestling. And since I’ve gotten back there has been one constant for Monday Night Raw. Every week, at some point on Raw, at least once, I would see John Cena. Even when he had broken bones, or torn muscles that wouldn’t let him compete in the ring, he still would appear with a mic, or at the very least, live via satellite, just to let us know that he was still there and that he was still very mad at whoever he was having a feud with at the time. Even when breaks were teased via Internet rumor, or by John himself, (after beating Brock Lesnar) Cena always appears. With this past TLC being the only exception, I can’t think of a single time that Cena missed either a PPV or an episode of Raw; that is until this week.
So what was it like to have WWE’s main star, their number one guy, missing from the show? Well to be fair, Cena wasn’t totally irrelevant when it came to Monday Night Raw this week. At least twice it was brought up that Punk needed to face Cena at Hell in a Cell, even more times if you include the recap video packages. Even without appearing on the show, Cena is still clearly Punk’s main rival, since Punk’s Ryback thing has gone from Ryback staring at Punk backstage, to Ryback staring at Punk in the ring, the smallest of steps that a feud can make.
However, without Cena, a lack of “super good guy” was evident, with nobody on deck to really fill in that hole, at least on the Raw side. Sheamus did a lot this week, to try and stand in for Cena, with having multiple appearances on the show, getting a promo where he got to make silly jokes, and winning his match, even with outside interferences going against him. But Sheamus, being the World Champion, is technically Smackdown. When it came time for Raw’s main event, it was filled with people who are a lot closer to “heels that we cheer for anyway” rather than full blown faces. In the tag team main event Team Friendship (which we all know is their real name) filled in the role of face against the heel team of Punk and Ziggler, but those guys, despite getting many a cheer from the audience aren’t really a standard face team. Not the kind that panders to the audience and throws out town names for the cheap pop. In fact Daniel Bryan still yells at the fans that chant “Yes” while Kane seems to more or less ignore them all.
Rumors via the internet (the type I am to tired to link here, but you can look up with Google should you desire) are saying that with Cena’s injury, Vince and company are on the lookout for the next big, face of the company level, star. And they’re looking for someone young, which means that stars like Sheamus and CM Punk would already be considered to old. It’s talk like this that makes me nervous, and not just because this along with Punk saying in various interviews and Q&As that his retirement is probably on the “sooner” end of the spectrum. The whole idea of another guy being the face that appears every week, and headlines most PPVs for the next five to seven years is in itself problematic.
Take Punk’s current complaint about a lack of respect. Sure it’s coming from a heel standpoint about nobody liking him, but the root of the complaint is very much there. An often-repeated sentiment during last year’s Summer of Punk was that “no one man is above the title.” But every action from the company would suggest that in fact one man is above the title and that guy is Cena. Adding on to the often cited fact that for the first half of 2012 Cena headlined every PPV, while Punk defended the championship somewhere in the middle, you can also point out that Cena is one of only two guys that I can think of, on the current, fulltime roster who has appeared in the main event at WrestleMania (Orton being the other one.) In fact the only time that Cena himself isn’t in the main event scene is when he is busy dealing with something more important such as The Rock bout, or Nexus threatening the WWE. The very idea of a single top guy, that towers, unquestionably above all the others is in and of itself detrimental to the product. I don’t want to see one guy forever overcoming all opponents, weather it’s Cena, or Punk, or this new hypothetical star. I want to see a roster of diverse talent, forever competing for this top prize.
Unrelated Thought: Can I say how much I hate it when WWE pulls out the “debate format” when trying to promote a feud? I have no idea how this is supposed to help us get excited for any sort of match. It’s like one of the talk show segments only without a guy who is competent on the mic always present to help steer the promo. (I should note that if Crazy R-Truth is one of the contestants in a debate and he talks about a box of spiders, then all earlier complaints go out the window.)