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
I didn’t want to include Cena’s look on the main list, because that can be a very subjective category. Some fans prefer their wrestlers in the ROH style, which is a completely different type of wrestler found in the WWE style. But with Cena at well over six feet, and 250 pounds of jacked muscle is like the prototype (no pun intended) of what a pro wrestler should look like. He is small enough that he can dominated by giants and monsters, but has enough size to decimate opponents if necessary.
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.
In contrast I found both Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels first “five star” scores and then compared their 52 matches that followed to Cena's; Michaels is sitting at a 23%, and Hart has a 26.9%. Actually the only wrestler who has a better percentage during their peak is Ric Flair, who is at 38% (however it should be noted that his work rate is sporadic during this period of his career). Cena also has four (likely five after this year) “Match of the Year” Awards from Pro Wrestling Illustrated.
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.
Even if you think that some of those title reigns weren’t warranted (for the sake of argument, let's say two-thirds) Cena would still be a five time World Champion. With his recent run going so strong, and his excellent health, who knows how many more title runs Cena may accumulate before he hangs up his boots...er I mean sneakers.
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.
When creative has absolutely nothing left for the merch selling machine Cena, we will finally see a heel run like no other in history. Cena can hang with nearly anyone in the ring, and surpases most on the mic which lends itself to a massive heel run. Speaking of mic work...
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.
Even despite his limitations, Cena still kills his promos and forces fans to hear what he is saying. When he is thrown a new situation he always hits it out of the park, often gaining support of ALL of the audience and not just half. Look at his promos against The Rock, who is about as over as you can get, where Cena not only held his own, but actually got the better of the Hollywood star on many occasions. Some other highlights are his promos retorting against Brock Lesnar, CM Punk, and of course his early 2000’s heel run.
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.
It is also important to note that until about 1986, the territory system was still in effect, which meant limited distribution of content. None of the legends in wrestling had to worry about appealing to such a broad fanbase as wrestlers did post mainstream distribution. It is hard to remain relevant in professional wrestling for such a long period of time, and Cena continues to connect with fans every week.
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.
In recent years the “Cena sucks” chants have become like the “you suck” chants that were screamed during Kurt Angle’s entrance. Nobody actually believed that he sucked, but it was fun fan interaction that fit his character. Also like Angle, Cena doesn’t care about the chants, he only cares that he is getting a reaction.
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.
Steve Austin in particular has praised Cena for having an amazing run, saying “I respect John Cena as much as I respect anyone in the business of pro wrestling”. Other names of guys who have gushed over Cena’s legacy are Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels, The Rock, and Bret Hart, who stated that Cena was one of the hardest working wrestlers he’s ever seen.
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.
Cena has never burned out, even while carrying the heavy load of the company on his back. CM Punk walked away from that responsibility, as did Steve Austin (for a while), and even The Rock left for Hollywood during his short WWE career. No one has run as hard and long as Cena and maintained the quality matches that he has.
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.
Just facing Cena in his U.S. Open Challenge puts guys over who reside in the midcard, who otherwise would have never faced Cena. WWE has finally figured out that if they don’t feel comfortable putting midcarders in the main event, that they can put Cena in the mid-card. The move has led to great things for the title, the midcard, and the fans.
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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