Pruett's Blog: Ten Years of John Cena Part 3 - Cena becomes the third wheel for a couple feuds and stagnates as a character as he rolls into WrestleMania's XXIV and XXV
By Will Pruett
This is part three of a five part series looking at John Cena's ten WrestleMania matches that will air Monday's on Prowrestling.net.
Click here to read Part One.
Click here to read Part Two.
We've all been the third wheel. We've all been with two friends and seen sparks flying between them. We've all known what it is like to get in the way of another story being told. It's not fun. No one really enjoys it. Your friends resent you getting in the way. It's not a good situation.
At WrestleMania XXIV and WrestleMania XXV (which was not the 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania), John Cena was the third wheel. He was in the middle of two other people's stories. John Cena was kind of tacked onto these WrestleMania cards in a manner semi-unbecoming to the top star in the company. While other feuds happened to occupy Cena's time outside of WrestleMania, he was stuck in the middle at these shows.
WrestleMania XXIV - John Cena vs. Triple H vs. Randy Orton for the WWE Championship
John Cena had a natural program with Randy Orton all set up and ready to go. In October of 2007, Cena suffered a major injury. It should have sidelined him for around six or seven months. While the actual injury was a freak accident occurring in a match between Cena and Mr. Kennedy, the injury was attributed to a post-match assault from Randy Orton.
When John Cena came back to win the Royal Rumble (as a surprise #30 entrant), the story seemed clear: Orton retains the title heading into WrestleMania and Cena gets his vengeance. This did not happen.
Instead, Cena requested his match against Orton to occur at No Way Out and wrestled to a non-finish. Orton had another natural story to tell. Randy Orton, on the night he was awarded the WWE Championship (No Mercy 2007), he lost it to Triple H, who defended it against Umaga, then lost it to Orton in a Last Man Standing match. Triple H had a natural gripe with Orton and won an Elimination Chamber match at No Way Out for a title shot. With the picture clouded, Orton and Triple H had John Cena tacked onto their match.
This was built as a clash of giant superstars, but there was a lack of true animosity. Somehow, adding a man to any of the possible rivalries caused them to mean much less. Conflict was not the story here, personalities were. John Cena's personality was on display with his third odd WrestleMania entrance in a row. A college marching band played Cena's theme music as he ran to the ring. It was a cool visual, but not as impressive as it sounds.
Cena received his usual mix of cheers and boos as the in-ring introductions for the match took place, but the crowd didn't play a huge role in this match. Perhaps the adult male fans, while filled with dislike for Cena, were not sure who to like in this match. Orton had a bit of a following because of the good heel work he had been doing leading into this and Triple H was getting the mix of a standard legend pop and the common conspiracy theory disdain. The hardcore fans in the building likely chose apathy instead of picking a man in the match (they also may have been exhausted due to a brilliant effort from Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair before this match as well).
While it is not remembered as anything special, this was a very good Triple Threat match with a nice mix of three-way spots and one-on-one action. The match included some great callbacks to Cena's prior WrestleMania confrontation with Triple H.
As the match drew to a close, the inevitable happened. Going into this show, Cena was 4-0 at WrestleMania and unless the idea was to quietly make him into the next Undertaker, he was bound to lose. Cena did lose this match. He lost after being Pedigreed by Triple H, then pinned by Randy Orton. The "Age of Orton" continued.
This is an often forgotten match in the middle of a WrestleMania card with at least three better matches. Cena would go on to feud with JBL for a few months, further demonstrating his stagnation. He was done being anything new. John Cena was determined to be the same guy night after night. It wasn't compelling and it wasn't fun, but it was John Cena.
WrestleMania XXV - John Cena vs. Edge vs. Big Show for the World Heavyweight Championship
Once again, John Cena found himself in the seat of the third wheel. This was not because of a surprise return from injury. John Cena was around from November 2008 through WrestleMania. It was not because he couldn't possibly have a legitimate feud with a singles star. A great revival of his classic feud with Edge followed this show. John Cena was the third wheel because there didn't seem to be enough singles main event slots to go around and all three of these men needed one.
Big Show and Edge were engaged in an unfortunate feud based on earning the love and affection of Edge's on-screen wife, Vickie Guerrero. It was awkward and uncomfortable. I'm not a fan of main event romantic angles usually, but this one was especially bad. When WrestleMania season rolls around, WWE usually finds a way to function without these stories, but they did not here. Edge, during this time, was World Heavyweight Champion. Because of this, Cena found a way into their feud and made it a Triple Threat.
If you expected Cena to take the high road in the build up and talk about competition and wanting to win, you obviously have not watched many John Cena feuds. He joined in with the silliness and played videos of Vickie and Big Show acting like they were about to get intimate. WrestleMania season is usually the time for good John Cena to show up, but he missed this landmark show.
Perhaps this is what bothers longtime fans about Cena; he will rarely (if ever) be the one to bring gravitas to a situation. Cena will not be the one wrestler getting serious. He will always opt to joke around, given the option. It doesn't help his feuds. Big Show and Edge needed some sort of focal point to bring this feud together and Cena, the top wrestler in WWE, couldn't be the focal point. It's one of the great deficiencies in Cena's game.
This match was nothing special and it wasn't anywhere near as good as the prior year's three way. John Cena couldn't overcome the slow pace required by Big Show and Cena and Edge seemed to have an off night as far as chemistry went. The match's one notable moment occurred as John Cena picked up both Big Show and Edge at once for the (newly rechristened) Attitude Adjustment. Big Show took the brunt of the move, then had Edge dropped on him. Cena pinned Show and won his second World Heavyweight Championship.
Cena would go on to lose the title a month later at Backlash in a moment infinitely more memorable than this match.
Three-fifths of the way through the decade
It's exceptionally hard to be the third wheel, as John Cena learned here. It's also hard to be the top star in the company, but not quite fit into the plans for WrestleMania. What was WWE supposed to do? These years, which included Cena's first loss at WrestleMania, didn't really help Cena with the fans who hate him. It also did nothing for the fans who loved him.
This was a long period of stagnation for John Cena, who was not forced to adapt or change. He was who he would become, but he wouldn't always be. Next week, we see the arrival of "The Great One" to force Cena to evolve.
This blog has been edited by Ryan "Main Event" Kester.
Want to chat with me about John Cena and this blog/series? Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or to interact with me on the Twitter at twitter.com/itswilltime. All interaction is welcome, as long as you're not pitching your idea for a John Cena heel turn.
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