Pruett's Pause: WWE Raw - The in-person perspective of John Cena being perfectly fine, doubted by legends, and vicious, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns beginning a feud, Brie Bella vs. Nikki Bella, and more!
By Will Pruett
John Cena is a weird wrestler. In general, looking at the career of John Cena is a little bit inspiring, a little bit infuriating, and very confusing. Sometimes he seems to get stuck in the same chapter of the same story for years at a time (rivalries with Big Show and Randy Orton come to mind). Sometimes he quickly moves from one chapter to the next with the efficiency of a high school student quickly trying to finish the book before a quiz. On Raw, I felt like I was watching the Spark Notes version of the story written for John Cena.
It opened with a panel of legends doubting Cena. Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, and Shawn Michaels all recited their lines about their respective confidence and doubt admirably. It didn't feel like an organic segment, but how can a segment feel organic with a random announce table placed in the ring? Michaels expressed the strongest doubts about Cena. Hogan had a little faith. Flair had middling doubts, but respected Cena's drinking ability. This segment would have been a fine way to build up the Night of Champions Lesnar vs. Cena rematch if it would have only been the legends. Nothing else was needed. The crowd saw a few stars and Night of Champions was sold.
However, because WWE cannot help themselves, John Cena interrupted the legends, made his normal entrance, made jokes about drinking with Flair, and swore to beat Brock Lesnar's ass. This, once again, was alright. It wasn't amazing. After SummerSlam, I would not have had John Cena walking unassisted for a couple weeks. He walked to the ring just fine and seemed to suffer no ill effects from his brutal match eight days before. Cena, instead of taking us on the journey to recovery, just recovered. With Cena, it seems to be about the major story points, not the story itself.
Later in the show, a new more aggressive version of John Cena made John Cena's entrance and dominated a match with Bray Wyatt. Cena did his best impression of Brock Lesnar, emphasizing his new motto "Hustle Loyalty Suplex Repeat." Wyatt was able to land very little offense as Cena repeatedly took him down. Cena moved unencumbered. He was a changed wrestler with a more aggressive streak.
This is exactly where John Cena should eventually be. The issue is how quickly he got here. Just like a student clicking to the next page frantically trying to absorb the plot points of Macbeth, Cena skipped acts two and three entirely and journeyed straight to act four. John Cena should eventually be stronger, but not now. This is not the right time. He's telling an abbreviated version of a much better story, but without the full journey, he's missing the point.
Perhaps this is just how WWE feels they need to tell stories. Maybe they believe their audience cannot fathom a month or two of Cena showing weakness, but working to get stronger. Maybe vulnerability isn't a quality they believe a lead babyface should show. WWE is wrong. If you want fans to rally behind a hero, let them get to know their hero. Superhero movies never only contain a hero winning and winning again. Rocky had to lose a couple fights. People still believe in these heroes.
John Cena, for his entire career, has seemed to be skipping from point to point without a journey. I want to go on the journey. I want to live the story. Stop giving me the Spark Notes adventures of John Cena and give me the real thing.
And now for some random thoughts:
- The Honda Center in Anaheim was fuller than I have seen it for a Raw taping in a long time. I didn't see a single section tarped off and every section was pretty full. The crowd was lively and fun. This was a good crowd for the Honda Center.
- Kudos, by the way, to Honda Center for stocking local craft beer at various places in the arena. I love being able to drink local in my local arena.
- People are very concerned about the burial of Bray Wyatt in his Raw match with Cena. While the burial didn't make me happy or make any sense, I wasn't too upset. Wyatt will be able to recover. He should definitely be treated better than this, but he will recover. I don't believe Wyatt needed to be the sacrificial lamb here, but WWE seems to have wanted it.
- Once again, I enjoyed the Brie Bella and Nikki Bella segment more than most people. I do wonder why they haven't done anything to make people like Brie since she hurled profanity at Stephanie McMahon. Brie comes off as very like able on Total Divas, so why not try to translate this somehow on Raw.
- Nikki, on the other hand, was easy to dislike.
- Rusev crush patriotism.
- Cesaro vs. Rob Van Dam was back to being an awkward matchup with an awkward ending. I guess SummerSlam's good match from these two was a "one night only" kind of thing.
- The Paige vs. A.J. Lee feud continues to confound me. I'm glad Paige is firmly entrenched as the heel, but having A.J. return to her "crazy" roots isn't compelling. This isn't clicking and, while the in-ring action might be good, the storytelling isn't.
- Natalya is one heck of a babyface, except for the whole being a bad loser thing. Good people do good things.
- Seth Rollins isn't the greatest promo guy and he was probably asked to talk for too long during the funeral for Dean Ambrose. It didn't bother me, but it didn't compel me either. Rollins can keep it a little shorter and come off much better.
- I'm confused as to why WWE would being a Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins feud now. I like both acts, but it's clear Rollins, who WWE is grooming as a top heel, will have to lose. Why allow this feud to happen before April, when Rollins could presumably cash in his Money in the Bank on Reigns?
- I went from liking the Stardust character to being a little unsure about it. Now, seeing him do the full act in an arena full of people, I'm into it again. Add to the interest built in the act by it turning heel and Stardust could be a very good, and very frightening, villain. Stardust and Goldust as a villainous team will help the tag division quite a bit.
- I laughed at the idea of Damien Sandow as Miz's stunt double.
- Can both Bella Twins give up the music?
- I will never understand why anyone cheers for Big Show.
John Cena's lack of a true journey to redemption hurt this episode of Raw. Instead of telling a real story, we were given bullet points in a larger story and it wasn't as good. The hero's journey isn't about just recovering and being fine. It's hard to fathom why WWE refuses to tell better stories surrounding Cena. It's even harder to fathom how they don't realize this is one of the reasons crowds rebel against him.
So, what did you think of the show? Agree? Disagree? Either way, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or to follow me and interact on twitter @itswilltime.
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