I absolutely hated John Cena for nearly 10 years of my life from 2005-2015. I blamed him for the introduction of the PG Era, with the thought that the WWE modeled their business after his squeaky clean image. I blamed him for WWE not building and creating enough new superstars to carry the torch. I even blamed him for driving away fans and credibility from the industry of professional wrestling. In truth I started this article as a joke, just to stir the pot of the IWC. As I researched more and more, I started to become shocked with what I had found.
That is why I am here today to tell you that I am a changed man, and with that change I have a bold statement; John Cena is the greatest of all time.
Before you absolutely destroy me and rip me apart please do two things for me. First, actually read this article. Too many times we make up our mind before hearing the facts, which leads me to my second request. Please remain objective while reading this article. Take yourself out of your normal “Cena Sucks” mentality, and be open to viewing the facts that will be presented.
Cena is pushing 15 years of being on the WWE main roster (he is over that if you count his OVW days), and has shown no signs of slowing down. In an ironic set of circumstances, the current United States Champion has actually gotten better every year. In fact, Cena is arguably having the best year of his career so far, and 2015 still has over five months left.
So how are we defining the greatest of all time? Well that’s a bit tricky to put into one tiny paragraph, but let’s just say that I will not be trying to use cheap material like bringing up good things or charity that Cena does in his personal life. I am speaking directly about the business of professional wrestling, and remember that this list is comparing Cena to the all time greats.
So before you even ask, yes that does mean that I am arguing that John Cena is better than Shawn Michaels, The Rock, Macho Man, Bret Hart, The Undertaker, Bruno Sammartino, Hulk Hogan, Chris Jericho, Stone Cold Steve Austin, CM Punk, Kurt Angle, and Ric Flair. Keep in mind that some of these wrestlers may have him beat in terms of one category, but being great in one thing doesn’t make you the G.O.A.T.
11 Honorable Mention: His Look
10 He Has Great matches (Really)
Let's start with the entry that will get me the most heat. While Cena is not the most gifted technical wrestler, the man has steadily improved his game. While he still uses his “five moves of doom”, Cena has integrated new powerbomb variations, half nelson variations, springboard stunners, hurricanranas, sunset flips, and other moves into his arsenal. Cena has also tightened up his ring psychology, telling better stories in matches with his body language, and holding his STF tighter than before.
If that isn’t enough rationale for you, allow me to defeat your hate with math. Dave Meltzer's Wrestling Observer Newsletter rates every single televised match; matches can score as low as “negative five stars” and up to “five stars”. Anything over a “four star” score is basically the equivalent to at least a 90% match rating.
If you look at the five year period since Cena earned his first “five star” match at 2011’s Money in the Bank pay per view, he has earned 16 ratings of at least over four stars. In that time he has had 52 televised matches, which means that in the past five years, 30.7% of Cena’s matches have actually been above average/nearly perfect/perfect.
9 Historic Title Reigns
Cena is dangerously close to passing Ric Flair’s record of being a 16 time Heavyweight Champion. Cena, who has 15 title reigns, has also held the Championship for over 1,200 days, the fourth most in WWE history.
8 Eventual Heel Run
Given the fact that Cena is in great shape, and only 38 years old, it’s safe to assume that he has a lot left in the tank; with that being said, eventually he has a heel turn coming. I know some people have abandoned the hope of ever seeing a return of a heel Cena, but they shouldn’t give up yet.
Hulk Hogan had some of his best promo work as the villainous leader of the nWo in 1996, which formed right before his 43rd birthday. At the time of his ascension into top heel status, nothing else worked for his stale character, which often resulted in him getting booed while being babyface; sound familiar? Though he has remained relevant, the day is coming when Cena needs a character change.
7 Promo Ability
Cena is a beast on the microphone, albeit most of his stuff is tired and stale, but he is a beast nonetheless. His repetitive promos are not his own fault, but rather the fault of the WWE PG movement itself. The Rock and Austin could say anything they wanted, to the point of literally dropping “F” bombs on live television. Cena is working with a different set of rules, which limits his subject matter.
6 Carried/Carries the Company
Okay, so this part is indisputable, and there is no way to refute this argument. John Cena has spent the past 15 years as a WWE mainstay, and of that time he has carried the company for 10. No other wrestler in the history of the modern era has carried a single promotion on his back as the main attraction as long as Cena.
The only person close is Hulk Hogan, who did about 10 years in the WWE spanning 1982-1992, with a brief comeback soon after. At this point in time, Cena would have to retire by the end of the year to not break Hogan’s run as “the guy”. Other older stars like Ric Flair are in the same boat as Hogan, having done 10 years in a single organization before moving on to another.
5 Always Elicits Reaction
Not to sound like Michael Cole here, but John Cena is the most polarizing figure in WWE history. If you replay the audio from every show since he became a top guy, you will hear cheering, booing, and most of the time both; but you know what you won’t hear...silence. In professional wrestling silence is death, and Cena has never died in that sense of the word.
4 He is Respected by Your Favorite Wrestler
There is plenty of bad blood in the wrestling industry, and even a fair share of guys who hate John Cena. But the major players in wrestling have all commented on Cena’s status as one of the best of all times.
3 Work rate
John Cena has remained relatively healthy throughout most of his career, and when he does get injured, he returns in record time. Wrestlers already have a grueling schedule, usually working five or six nights a week, but add in being the top guy and now you have an accomplishment. Cena makes every show, often working the dark match after Raw, effectively doubling his work load.
2 He Puts Over Talent (More Than You Think)
Cena may be Superman, but even Superman loses sometimes. During the past few years, Cena has put talent over such as Rusev, Rollins, Wyatt, Lesnar, Sheamus, Del Rio, R-Truth, Curtis Axel, Tensai (Matt Bloom), The Miz, and most recently Kevin Owens.
In many cases wrestlers are elevated in status just from working with Cena, let alone actually beating him. And before you start complaining, no not every victory was clean, but you don’t need a clean victory to get over with fans. Cena is an ultra babyface; if he loses too many matches, his character becomes compromised, conversely if he is defeated illegally the heel should gain more heat- a win-win situation.
1 He is the Benchmark
When wrestlers come into the WWE, they aren’t going for the top spot, they are shooting for Cena’s spot. He is, and has been the benchmark for what a Superstar should be, and embodies the spirit of professional wrestling. WWE is always searching for their next Cena, or someone who has the “it” factor that Cena does. The future Hall of Famer always makes the towns, satisfies the crowds, and always gives 100% in the ring. If your opinion is different I challenge you to show me one match where he only gives half of his effort.
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