Sunday 24 July 2011

Battle of the Merch Kings

I find it peculiar that WWE has never seriously promoted a Rey Mysterio v John Cena match. Those two men have only ever faced each other once that I can remember (and online searches back my memory up) and that was on a 2003 episode of SmackDown. Considering the status of these two men as WWE’s most well established babyfaces I find that surprising.

Mysterio has been on WWE television since his debut on July 25th 2002, and has only ever been one of the good guys. Cena first appeared almost exactly one month earlier on the June 27th SmackDown. That two men who debuted within weeks of each other and were on the same show for three years afterwards have never seriously worked together makes you wonder why. Was the match deliberately held off until both men were considered bigger names? Was WWE reluctant to put one man over the other for fear of hurting the loser’s momentum? Was a clash in styles believed likely? Was it simply that they didn’t think there was any money in a Cena v Mysterio match?

Whatever the case, the match has never happened seriously. Even when Cena was enjoying his celebrated run as a rapping heel with a penchant for baseball shirts (ironically he was more popular with the majority of fans then than he is now) and Rey was being touted as the most exciting star on SmackDown they only crossed paths that one time.

In recent years the reason for WWE being reluctant to promote this match has become more understandable. The problems Cena has with crowd acceptance are well documented. What people often overlook is that Mysterio has been known to experience similar problems. The most recent example came at Money in the Bank: as he ascended the ladder and got his hands on the briefcase Mysterio was showered with vicious boos that made it abundantly clear that fans in Chicago did not want to see the masked man win.

The trouble WWE has is that fans are beginning to view Mysterio as they do Cena: someone who uses the same handful of moves in every match and is marketed primarily at children. Before he started to accumulate injuries the way he was marketed was overlooked, it didn’t make a difference whom WWE was aiming him at when his performances were so enjoyable. But with the injuries piling up Mysterio has begun to use the same moves all the time and it has caused his popularity with the adult portion of crowds to decline. His whiney promo style and Cena-esque comebacks haven’t helped matters either.

That, in a nutshell, is why the match has never been presented in pay-per-view environment. It cannot risk putting its two most popular acts (at least merchandise-wise) in a situation that could damage one or both of them. It’s not a question of match quality and never has been. Firstly, WWE is more concerned with making money than presenting the best matches possible. Secondly, Mysterio is still a good enough worker to be able to get a good match from Cena. No, it’s all to do with protecting both men.

That said Mysterio wrestling for the vacant WWE championship on Monday does increase the chance of a Cena v Mysterio pay-per-view match. Should Mysterio win he could be booked to face Cena at SummerSlam, with Alberto Del Rio cashing in after the match to become the new champion and setting up a feud with one or both men. Another possibility is Mysterio successfully defending against Del Rio at the summer supershow and going on to work a pay-per-view main event with Cena in September or October. Either option is possible, but not particularly likely. The current plan seems to be a Cena v ADR feud with no Mysterio involvement.

It’s a shame, because I think a Cena v Mysterio bout in 2011 could be a fairly enjoyable affair. It wouldn’t be match of the year, but it would be one of the few fresh matches WWE has left featuring two genuine drawing cards. If it were promoted right it could probably deliver the promotion some much needed box office success. With a new man in charge and business still sluggish it wouldn’t be right to rule this match out completely. Not yet.

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