Saturday 26 July 2014

The John Cena School of Booking

I think it’s about time John Cena started trying to make some new stars. Considering the length of time he’s been WWE’s leading man (nine years and counting) he has a woeful track record in this department. He helped to establish both Edge and Rob Van Dam as credible main eventers in 2005, losing the WWE championship to each to kick off their respective first reigns. Since then, nothing.

In fairness it should also be pointed out that Cena didn’t exactly “make” either Edge or RVD when he lost to them. Van Dam had been ECW’s hottest act since 1998 until it ceased to exist and Edge had steadily been building up to a main event run since the closing months of 2003. A victory over Cena was, in each case, simply the final act that established that they were to be viewed as top tier names in WWE. In other words they would have made it to the top with or without a victory over Cena.

I miss the days of him wearing his baseball cap backwards.
The problem doesn’t lie with Cena. He has shown willingness to lose to a wide variety of names many times over the years. The problem lies with WWE’s creative department. Too great an emphasis is placed on protecting his image as the company’s leading man. I understand Cena is not a Jericho-like veteran figure who can routinely lose without suffering any ill-effects. He does need to win most of the time to maintain his status. Sadly, it’s part of his act. But when he does lose WWE should be prepared to have him do so cleanly, to ensure the victory means something for the guy getting it.

Take Cena’s Extreme Rules cage match with Bray Wyatt for example. Having defeated ‘The Eater of World’s’ at WrestleMania Cena had to take a loss at the Rules show to keep the rivalry alive for the third and final instalment. The overbooked finish saw Cena plough through Wyatt and his two henchmen with relative ease before getting distracted by a child with a strange voice, which allowed Wyatt to sneak up on Cena and ultimately win the match.

There was no need for Cena to job out Luke Harper and Erick Rowan, or for a child to be introduced to provide further distraction. It’s not that it made Bray look weak or ineffective, it’s that it cheapened the win so much that it was worthless. Wyatt had accomplished nothing by winning a match in such a wacky manner. The main thing that saved him from being harmed by the encounter is the fact that he’s such a charismatic performer that people will support him regardless.

That opens up a potential counter argument that the Extreme Rules kerfuffle was fine if Wyatt ultimately came out of it unscathed. Not so. Just because Wyatt was unharmed doesn’t make it right. He could still have been enhanced by a more convincing victory. And I’m using him merely as an example. Most other wrestlers on the roster would have been damaged by such a roundabout win over Cena.

I think the time’s come for Cena to start losing the occasional feud. I’m not suggesting he should be putting over Corey Graves in his inaugural main roster feud, rather select opponents who have been deemed future headline certainties. Rusev is an obvious example. He’s currently being presented magnificently, presumably in preparation for progressing to the top. He is also exactly the sort of man who would suffer at the hands of the current Super Cena model. Anyone familiar with WWE should find it all too easy to envisage Cena being the first man to power out of Rusev’s Accolade submission hold before hoisting the big Russian up to plant him with a match-winning AA.

Rusev... CRUSH!
Of course, somebody has to be the first to break The Accolade. But it doesn’t need to be Cena. Shouldn’t be, in fact. He’d gain nothing from it and it would prove a setback to Rusev. He’d be just another guy who lost to Cena. Conversely, imagine the reaction if Cena fell victim to the hold (even via referee stoppage). Rusev would be set as an unstoppable machine with an unbreakable hold. A victory over Cena could kick off a period of complete dominance for Rusev, which could in turn be brought to a hault six to twelve months later by a rising babyface who finally manages to snap The Accolade and put Rusev down for a three count.

Cena could not perform tasks like this all the time. As I’ve already said, he does need to win the majority of the time in order to maintain his status with Da Kidz. But he can afford to lose a big match or a feud decisively once every six months or so if it’s going to create a new star.

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