Lutz's Blog: John Cena's presence is doing more harm than good to WWE
By Jeff Lutz
Watching Raw last week, I made a discovery: John Cena is perfect.
Perfect for the role he was playing at the time, anyway, which was touting WWE's partnership with the Susan G. Komen Foundation and recognizing those in the audience who were affected by breast cancer.
Cena, aside from the odd "I believe in the cause of life" thing, was flawless in his delivery. He came across as sincere, professional and articulate. I tried to imagine anyone on WWE's roster possessing the capability of representing the company, and I couldn't do it. And that's the problem.
Cancer awareness and the attempts to find a cure is a universal cause, but somehow I couldn't picture C.M. Punk or Daniel Bryan or Randy Orton getting in front of a crowd, something those three men and many others in WWE do every week, to be the company's representative in its contribution to that cause. It should be the easiest job there is, but since Cena is the face of the company (copyright Triple H) and hasn't had his spot threatened in the better part of a decade, I couldn't conceive the idea of anyone else pulling it off.
I've long been conflicted about Cena. If I ran into him in the mall or the grocery store or at a bar, I'm sure he'd be overwhelmingly friendly and engaging. I watch Total Divas for basically the sole purpose of seeing him on screen, because he's funny and down to earth and relatively understated. His WWE character is basically an extension of himself, but when his personality becomes magnified he loses almost all of his charm. His humor goes way over the top -- there's a time for it, and I certainly don't mind some light-hearted moments on television, but Cena goes for jokes way too often when he should be selling fights.
I used to feel similarly on the fence about Triple H. He was my favorite wrestler at one time, but I began to lose my appreciation for him when it became apparent that he was playing the political game far too heavily. I'm sure Cena plays the same game, but somehow it's not as distasteful. He's the top guy in WWE and he wants to hang onto that spot as long as he can, so he does promotional appearances and rushes back from injuries because he knows he can't be on top forever. I don't blame him for those things. My beef isn't with Cena.
It's with WWE. Although it's almost as difficult to harbor any ill will toward the company because it essentially has no choice but to keep Cena on top. He is the perfect (there's that word again) employee for the corporate environment WWE has created, and his Make-a-Wish appearances and radio spots and business partnerships wouldn't carry the same weight if Cena was wrestling for the Intercontinental championship or participating in meaningless mid-card feuds.
WWE, though, too often uses Cena as a crutch. Instead of using the two recent months in which Cena was out with an injury to elevate someone else, WWE tread water with Daniel Bryan and Orton until Cena returned to save the day and Raw's dwindling ratings. WWE refuses to make anyone Cena's equal, and for a company that verbally prides itself on giving fans what they want, WWE is ignoring their pleas to do so.
If last week's poll results were accurate, Big E Langston earned 75 percent of the vote to earn a shot at Orton. If that's not fans begging for a new top star, I don't know what is. They've seen Dolph Ziggler devalued to the point of irrelevance, they can tell after two weeks that Damien Sandow won't be allowed to turn his standout match with Cena into anything important, so they're latching onto someone else. They may not even believe in Langston, but he's a new face and he represents hope for a change.
Cena's return has damaged several potential breakthrough -- or already developed -- stars, either directly or indirectly. He's carrying the World Heavyweight Championship and stating that he'd like to return it to the prestige it once knew, but the effect that's having is to devalue the WWE Championship -- with the help of inane storytelling, of course.
While Cena was injured, we got constant updates on his progress. Sheamus, who was allegedly WWE's No. 2 babyface, has also been out injured, but unless I'm mistaken we haven't seen or heard from him on WWE television since he's been away. It sends the message that even the person directly beneath Cena within WWE's pecking order owns just a fraction of his importance. To WWE, everyone other than Cena is replaceable.
It insults the intelligence of the fans to point out their expressed gratitude to Cena for his charitable contributions on the same night they boo his wrestling promo or match intensely. Even the most passionate Cena haters -- most of them, at least -- are able to separate the person from the character. It's much more difficult to accept WWE's separation of Cena from everyone else on the roster.
Cena earns and deserves praise for his unbelievable dedication to WWE and all of its causes, but when no one else can even approach his level, it's tough for Cena to maintain his own value. There's another perfect superstar somewhere in WWE, but we'll never know until WWE becomes committed to finding him.
Jeff Lutz has written for the Wichita Eagle newspaper in Kansas for over a decade and debuted with Prowrestling.net on November 4, 2012. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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