As we stand on 25th August 2020, John Cena has only competed in three matches in the previous 2 years. For a man who was previously on top of the company, it’s clear that he is no longer untouchable. WWE will move on without John Cena, that’s just how the company works. However, who would you say on the current roster has filled the void that John Cena has left?
WWE fans loudly rejected Roman Reigns for years, and even after overcoming Leukemia he still has his detractors. And besides, Roman is nowhere near as charismatic and energetic as Cena.
Drew McIntyre is unfortunate to not be WWE Champion in front of a crowd, but would he seriously be as popular and loveable as the 16-time World Champion?
Seth Rollins was hated so much that WWE was forced to turn the Monday Night Messiah heel, and his eye-gouging shenanigans have ensured he will stay heel for the foreseeable future.
Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe have both been relegated to broadcasting roles, whilst the likes of AJ Styles, Big E, Kofi Kingston, Daniel Bryan and Ricochet have been limited to midcard roles.
The closest WWE have come to the next John Cena, is Becky Lynch. However, with Becky being inactive due to her pregnancy, there’s been no one to fill the void, leaving WWE feeling even blander than usual.
And whilst I could talk about the ailments of main roster WWE for ages, that’s not what I want to focus this essay on. All this experience made me appreciate the drive of John Cena, and like most people, I miss the leader of the Cenation.
The Hot Open
Think back to 2011. Monday Night Raw has just began and, same as every week, the show opens with a John Cena promo. Whilst at the time, fans would bemoan this, crying that it was the same segment week after week, it provided something that is sorely lacking from modern WWE, energy.
John Cena’s mere presence was enough to flip a crowd’s mood and get them to react. Whether it was with cheers of approval, or thunderous boos, John Cena always injected a dose of excitement into a crowd, allowing them to be energetic for the rest of the show. John Cena had character, he had charisma, and most importantly, he had stage presence. No matter how good of a wrestler you are, a lack of stage presence can only get you so far.
Take, for example, Apollo Crews. Whilst technically Apollo is a great wrestler, and he can do things others simply can’t, he’ll likely never be WWE Champion. Unless he gained a mouthpiece, his lack of natural charisma would always hold him back from becoming a true great. Being a top champion in FIP takes different skills than being a top champion in WWE. Cena, had he been in any other promotion, wouldn’t have been as successful as he has been in WWE.
Putting the ‘Wrestling’ in Pro Wrestling
That being said, we cannot disregard Cena’s ability in-ring. Many people pigeonhole Cena with the likes of Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior as an entertainer, but not a technically solid wrestler. However, I feel this is unfair on The Prototype. Whilst you wouldn’t find John Cena main eventing a Ring of Honor show in 2009, he is a far better wrestler than people give him credit for. Cena has plenty of classics to his name.
As well as Wrestlemania classics against Triple H, Shawn Michaels and The Rock, Cena was one-half of one of the greatest WWE Matches of all time, vs CM Punk at Money In The Bank 2011 (read more about my thoughts on this match here). However, if we want to point to examples of great Cena matches, we needn’t look any further than 2015 and the John Cena US Open Challenge.
The John Cena Open Challenge
When John Cena defeated Rusev at Wrestlemania 31 following one of the greatest entrances of all time, many assumed the worse. Here was John Cena, famous for his ‘Golden Shovel’, burying another hot prospect. However, this would prove to be a masterstroke, as Cena went on the best run of his career. As the man himself put it on RAW:
I was honored and privileged to earn the United States Title at this stage in my career and use it as a beacon of opportunity to introduce new superstars to the WWE.John Cena – 28th August 2017
Matches against the likes of: Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Cesaro, Stardust, Neville, Xavier Woods and Big E would not only elevate the new talent, but it would also elevate Cena’s standing in the company. Now, Cena was no longer the underdog, fighting from below against all odds. Cena stood firmly at the top of the mountain, daring anyone to join him at the summit. And I believe this role suits Cena far more.
Evidently, most people would agree with me. Ever since 2015, Cena has gradually managed to convert his detractors to fans. Matches against the likes of AJ Styles and Roman Reigns have also done wonders for Cena’s reputation. Cena is now in a position that few wrestlers experience, he is bigger than WWE. Cena doesn’t need to return to WWE anytime soon. But when he does, many people, including myself, will welcome him back with open arms.