John Cena is the most controversial wrestler in the WWE, according to Michael Cole. And hey, if you were new to WWE, you’d probably agree. The guy gets equal boos to cheers, and for every fan holding a 'Never Give Up' sign there’s a person holding a 'Cena Sucks' sign. But to call him controversial doesn’t paint the whole picture. Everyone loved Cena at one point or another. When he was the Doctor of Thuganomics I was a huge Cena mark. I loved him and the gimmick. But he’s diluted since those days into something safer, and decided losing a match was too much for him, and he got boring. That’s the real tragedy of John Cena – he’s not controversial, he’s boring to the point of resentment.
But there is something undeniable about Cena – he has a place in the holy pantheon of wrestlers. When people talk about the greatest ever in the squared circle, his name is going to be put right alongside Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold and The Rock. Whether you like the guy or not, everyone knows that he is going to be remembered in that vein, just like Hogan is now despite him getting similar reactions as his popularity started to decline.
But does he really deserve to be there? The problem with over exposure is that you begin to see the weaknesses more and more in wrestlers, and John Cena is far from perfect. But he’s constantly pushed as the best in the business, and the greatest of all time. Which is completely ludicrous. Here are the ten reasons why John Cena isn’t the greatest of all time.
12 Too much no-selling
While Cena has had plenty of great moments in a wrestling ring, he still has some bad habits that only rookies should have. He tends to call out his spots so loud that nearby microphones are able to pick it up and he tends to no-sell or under-sell which takes away from the storytelling in a match.
A good example of Cena under-selling is at Extreme Rules 2012, when after getting a fluke win over Lesnar, Cena completely forgot/ignored that he was supposed to sell the beating Lesnar had given him. Cena getting the win over Lesnar in his WWE return was already a mistake, but Cena took so much steam out of Lesnar's return match by underselling The Beast.
11 He Needs a Great Opponent
The true greats in the business became so great because it didn't matter who they worked with, they'd just tear the house down. Shawn Michaels could have a great match against a broom stick. While Cena is perfectly capable of stealing a show, he needs a great opponent to do it. He can't carry a match like Flair or HBK. Cena had some of the best matches of his career in 2015 and that's because he was paired with amazing workers like Cesaro, Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins.
Cena deserves full credit for his great matches, but he has too many stinkers for him to be considered the best ever.
10 He Stopped The Thuganomics Gimmick
Okay, I know people need to grow and their characters need to develop. If I looked back on those days rationally, I might even be able to admit that Doctor of Thuganomics was beginning to get stale. But it was what got Cena over in the first place. Do you remember when he was a bit smaller, a bit lankier, facing off against the Big Show for the U.S. Title at WrestleMania XX? He had to cheat to win, and we loved the lil’ scamp all the more for it. As strange as it to say now knowing what he became, John Cena is responsible for one of my favorite WrestleMania moments with that match.
Usually when someone changes gimmick for their main event push, it’s to something arguably better. Hunter Hurst Helmsley became Triple H as he entered the upper echelons, then The Game when he reached the top. Rocky Maivia became The Rock. The Ringmaster morphed into Stone Cold Steve Austin. Cena, I felt, just became bland when he reached the top. Scrappy, unafraid of going heel and cut great promos, Thuganomics Cena was amazing and I will fight anyone who disagrees.
9 His Fan-Base Ruins House Shows
The big shows like Raw, Smackdown and the Pay-Per-Views tend to attract a smarkier crowd, even in typically casual fan cities. But House Shows are cheaper, and parents are more willing to take their kids. And kids love John Cena.
Now, I’m not saying this doesn’t happen at the big shows, but it’s definitely more of an issue at house shows. It’s almost guaranteed you’ll be seated near several children dressed head to toe in Cena merchandise, chanting his name even if he’s been out of action for a while, complaining when the main event happens and Cena hasn’t appeared, calling for Paige to do the “five knuckle shuffle” and singing his theme tune between matches. I know this is the equivalent of me complaining about a children’s TV show, but damn, nothing brings you out of the majesty of a live WWE event than Cena kids talking non-stop about their colorful, merchandise dripped hero.
8 There Are Rarely Stakes In His Matches
I remember when news broke that he was taking a break after the 2015 Hell in a Cell match. It was exciting because he was US Champion, and it was guaranteed that he would have to drop the title. On the Raw before the PPV, he faced Dolph Ziggler, and the match was incredibly exciting as there was a real chance Cena would lose. But likewise, with the HIAC PVV still to come, Cena could easily win as well. When Cena did win, it was obvious he was dropping the title to whoever showed up at Hell in a Cell (which ended up being Alberto Del Rio).
While it was obvious he had to lose to Del Rio, that Ziggler match was fascinating. Every near-fall felt like it could have hit the three count, and that Ziggler would come out on top. Other than that, there were…at most two matches in 2015 that felt like could go either way. His SummerSlam match against Rollins and the third match against Owens (Cena did lose their first one, but that was a shock, everyone expected Cena to come out on top).
Do you know how many matches during 2015 I couldn’t call for Dean Ambrose? Me neither, because nearly all of his matches feel like they could go either way. It does so much for a competitor when you don’t know if they can come out on top. It’s exciting and adds a real tension – but with Cena? You know he’s going to win. He’s John Cena. It makes him even duller than he already is when you feel like there’s no stakes in his matches.
7 The Five Moves Of Doom
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A wrestler is beating John Cena, and looks like they might win, but suddenly Cena gets a burst of momentum. He runs off the ropes and hits them with a flying shoulderblock, immediately going to the ropes and hitting them with another one. The opponent gets up, goes to hit Cena who ducks into a side-release spinout powerbomb. With the opponent on the floor in the middle of the ring, he hits a five-knuckle shuffle. He taunts, before lining them up for the Attitude Adjustment and getting the win.
If you didn’t stop me, you haven’t been watching wrestling, because otherwise you’d have heard that story a thousand times already.
John Cena and The Five Moves of Doom sounds like a Harry Potter book, but unfortunately it’s a summation of several years of watching Cena win matches. Sometimes he adds a leg drop, and sometimes he ends with the STF, but the general feeling is the same. While he has referenced it in his promos, it doesn’t stop the fact that a lot of Cena matches have ended almost as predictable as…well, Hulk Hogan matches. And he ain’t the greatest of all time either.
6 He’s Become An Internet Meme
I don’t really understand internet memes that much. I mean, the most effective way of ruining a joke is to endlessly repeat it, and the whole point of memes is to repeat jokes ad nauseum. Nothing is more infuriating than seeing a meme posted for the five-hundredth time that day, and John Cena’s name has literally made it into the list of things I find disgust in.
I mean, I was bored of Cena before the meme ever came about. But now when I’m browsing on the internet, usually somewhere not even wrestling related, the words “and his name is John Cena” come up I immediately feel ill. Because of that, when I see his face on my screen, when I hear his name said, when his music hits, I frown and look away.
Back in the day, the Pastamania image of Hulk Hogan was posted around a lot, but it’s easy to disassociate that from the man himself (even though Hulk wasn’t the greatest of all time anyway), but this is the guy’s name. It’s hard to forget that every time I go on Facebook or Twitter someone is dredging up an old, repetitive and boring joke.
5 He Won’t Turn Heel
You could argue that you don’t need to turn heel to be the greatest. It’s perfectly acceptable to remain a face while being the top guy in the industry, and some could argue that when Stone Cold turned heel it hurt his momentum rather than prolong it.
But let’s look at two similar situations. People are bored of Cena, and are booing him because of it. The same thing happened to Hulk Hogan in the 90s, with people growing tired of the racist old man leg dropping people into obscurity. But then something amazing happened. He joined the NWO.
Suddenly, Hogan was exciting again. He was fresh. He was mean and vindictive, and fit in alongside Kevin Nash and Scott Hall as one of the most infamous stables in history. It gave his career a much needed injection of energy, and prolonged it way longer than anyone would have predicted months before his turn.
4 He Cheated On His Wife
Cheating on someone is never right. But at least when it’s someone like Ric Flair it doesn’t feel that much of a betrayal of his ethics. I’m blurring the lines between reality and kayfabe here, but Flair is the dirtiest player in the game, and often portrays a heel. If a news story of infidelity breaks about him, in a weird way it builds heel heat for him.
But with Cena? Mr Hustle, Loyalty, Respect? I’m assuming he hustled out of that ring-rats hotel room quick enough but he didn’t show loyalty or respect to his wife, and suddenly you begin to see how fake the gimmick is. Like I said, it’s always bad, and I’m not forgiving wrestlers like Ric Flair for it, but Cena is held up to such a high standard of excellence in how to be a human being that it feels just a bit more wrong when he’s committing adultery.
I guess what I’m saying is John is that I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.
3 He’s An Awful Face
Okay, so he’s not going to turn heel. He’s the hero to millions of children worldwide, and should be seen as the champion of good on WWE television. Okay, fine. You know what WWE? I accept that. You need that demographic. He’s your key player in it. Sure.
So why’d he AA Seth Rollins on concrete AFTER he’d already won the match last year at Night of Champions? Why did he kiss Zack Ryder’s girlfriend while the Long Island Iced Z watched crippled from a wheelchair? Why did he fight a weak Rey Mysterio, fresh off of a grueling tournament, and take away the fan-favorite's first WWE Championship mere moments after he won it?
If this is the guy you want to push to little kids to be like, fine. But stop making him such an asshole.
2 He’s More Brand Than Man Now
Stone Cold Steve Austin came out to the ring in a 3:16 t-shirt. Sometimes, if he wasn’t wrestling, he would have a Rattlesnake hat on as well. The Rock has a nice vest that says “Just Bring It” that he tends to wear while giving promos in the ring. John Cena has a Never Give Up t-shirt, two sets of U Cant C Me wristbands, a Cenation armband, a U Cant C Me hat, and a little towel that says “Never Give Up” on that he brandishes to the camera every time he comes out. How can you expect me to take this guy seriously when he is literally a walking mannequin of new merchandise on the WWE store?
Before he went back to the black trunks, Ryback seemed to be coming out with more and more gear on each week, with little Feed Me More pendants and hats. People made fun of it at the time, but for all the ridiculous gear The Big Guy was burdened with it’s nothing compared to the piles of overpriced t-shirts and hats Cena loads himself with every night. He looks stupid, and it’s so hard to take his anti-authority schtick seriously when he’s a walking advert for their merchandise stand.
1 He's Not Ric Flair
It’s hard to imagine a time when wrestling wasn’t a massively televised sport. But there was a time when wrestling was rarely on TV, and House Shows were the main way to watch it. Imagine a time when the stars weren’t on your screens every week, and there was no internet to discuss what was happening. Would it even be possible to become a huge draw in that era? How can anyone become a global star when it’s so hard to see you?
Ask Ric Flair. Ric Flair was the headline of every town he walked into, and was the face of wrestling before the cameras ever started seriously pointing at the ring. He had a career that lasted a hair under 40 years, winning championships throughout the North American territories and around the world. John Cena calls himself the franchise, which is cute, but Ric Flair was wrestling. It’s hard to imagine it now, seeing him slowly become more…unhinged on TV while managing his daughter Charlotte, but Flair is the greatest of all time. That’s something no-one will take away from him. Even if Cena surpasses him in Heavyweight championship reigns, which is looking likely, he will never be the powerhouse draw that Ric Flair was.
Wrestling Observer gave him nine Wrestler of the Year awards throughout his career, and has given Cena two. John Cena will undoubtedly enter the Hall of Fame, but Flair is in it twice. In the National Museum of American History, Ric Flair’s robe hangs up as a monument to wrestling, and I highly doubt it will be replaced by John Cena’s jorts.
The main reason John Cena isn’t the greatest of all time is simply because Ric Flair is, and that’s a reason I think even Big Match John can accept.