After years of being the most polarizing individual in the WWE, it seems many fans are coming around on John Cena. While his character remains basically the same it has been for a decade, he's put on some of his greatest performances as he soon turns 40. His work the past few years has been exceptional and he's proven that he's willing to put new stars over.
He's tied Ric Flair's 16 championship reigns (at least the reigns WWE recognizes) and he'll likely surpass that mark at some point. He continues to be the face of the company. Generally when you work directly with the face of the company, i.e a main event match, or a prolonged feud, you'll like the experience because it means you're getting a bigger paycheck and you have top billing.
After 15 years in the WWE, Cena's worked with plenty of people and a strong majority of them have a lot of positive things to say about him. There are some though that have spoken out against him and felt working a program with Cena hurt their careers. Either they had to take a key loss at a bad time, or Cena wasn't a fan of theirs and so, their career suffered.
Here are eight people that have expressed gratitude in working with Cena and seven who have spoken out against him.
15 Loved: Chris Jericho
Chris Jericho has always been a John Cena fan and has constantly defended The Champ over the course of his career. Jericho got to see first hand how crowds began turning on Cena in 2005, as he worked a major SummerSlam program with him. Jericho has always said that while Cena is unorthadox, so were many top stars of the past. Jericho has since worked with Cena countless times and he's always been willing to put Cena over and continues to express how much he enjoys Cena's work.
In fact, Jericho likes him so much that back in 2007 when Jericho returned following a two year break from wrestling, it was due to Cena's marathon match with Shawn Michaels in London that re-ignited his passion for the business.
14 Hated: Alex Riley
Alex Riley didn't wrestle John Cena one-on-one in a high profile match, but back in 2011 when The Miz was reigning as WWE Champion, Riley got plenty of screen time with Cena, as he and The Miz worked an extended program. Riley seemed like he was going to eventually be pushed as a top face following his split from The Miz, but an incident with John Cena, as he claims, changed the path of his career. In a podcast interview with Jim Ross, Riley promised that he would one day reveal all that went wrong with Cena.
"I will put it this way; there was an incident, and it definitely changed the path in my career. I don’t want to discuss it right now, but I will one day for sure. It was a tough situation at times, we can leave it at that."
13 Loved: Shawn Michaels
Shawn Michaels wasn't originally pegged to wrestle John Cena at WrestleMania 23. The initial plan was to have Cena face Triple H in a rematch of WrestleMania 22, but a torn quad altered plans, and Cena was booked to face HBK. Things couldn't have turned out better, as HBK put Cena over clean at WrestleMania, then faced him in a 60-minute match at a RAW in London, establishing Cena as a great worker.
Here's what Michaels had to say about working with Cena:
"I've always not had a problem giving John a ton of credit. He's a smart kid, he's a hard worker. That's always going to be his greatest quality to me, is that he's an incredibly hard worker."
To be fair, Michaels could put on a great match with just about anybody, but that's some serious praise from one of the greatest performers ever.
12 Hated: Chavo Guerrero
Chavo Guerrero has been one of the most outspoken John Cena critics among wrestlers. He's essentially burned bridges with WWE by being so outspoken, but Chavo's opinion is what it is. Chavo has alluded to the fact that he and his uncle Eddie took Cena aside in his younger days and taught him a few things about working the crowd. Chavo's since ripped Cena, calling him lazy in the ring in various interviews and on his Twitter account. One powerful quote that stands out is:
"Eddie & I taught u different..We never said "get lazy" & do the same thing every night. We always said" think out of the box" & give the fans what they deserve & not rely On the "machine" to "get u over."
Chavo also expressed frustration over an incident where he and Rey Mysterio were bumped out of the main event spot at an event in Mexico in favor of Cena. Needless to say, Chavo wasn't too pleased about that either.
11 Loved: Kurt Angle
Kurt Angle was the first guy to work with John Cena on the main roster, so it makes sense that he's on this list in some capacity. In a 2008 interview, Angle explained what it was like the first night he was working with Cena. While he was still green, Angle saw potential in Cena and while planning the match, he made sure Cena looked good, including letting him kick out of the Angle Slam.
Aside from their 2002 match, Angle also worked with Cena at No Mercy 2003 and a prolonged 2005 feud. Their chemistry was always there and it's clear Angle played a big part in Cena growing as a performer.
"I knew John would be special. I give him a lot of credit; he works so hard at it. He's a great kid, and when I worked him, we were on TV every week, but my job was to teach him, and he was a great learner. He's one of the guys in the WWE I still really respect. I'm proud of him, and I'm proud to say I helped him a little bit."
10 Hated: Chris Masters
Unlike some other people on the 'hated' side on this list, Chris Masters hasn't attacked Cena on a personal level, nor has he said that the experience of planning out matches with Cena was unpleasant. Masters has simply called Cena out for being a stiff worker and even joked that he and Carlito would try to avoid him in multi-man matches. In an interview with Inside The Ropes, Masters revealed that sometimes Cena didn't pull his punches enough.
"I remember at the Elimination Chamber I felt like I was in a real shoot fight. It's not that he's bad, he just gets really fired up and he's got big hands, he doesn't realize his own strength."
To be fair, Masters was calling Cena out on his work in the mid 2000s and Cena's obviously improved a lot since then.
9 Loved: The Rock
Despite the professional rivalry that existed between The Rock and John Cena, The Rock has had nothing but positive things to say about working with John Cena. The Rock worked in a time where wrestlers were very competitive with each other, and he didn't mind there being some animosity between the two.
In an interview with ESPN last year before WrestleMania 32, The Rock reflected on his two matches and extended program with Cena.
“(Wrestling John Cena) was amazing. I was able to come back after some time, and coming back to wrestle John, we had a great match – I loved it… It was very, very special."
The professional animosity turned out to be good for both parties and nowadays, The Rock and Cena sound like the best of friends whenever speaking about each other.
8 Hated: Wade Barrett
On the other hand, Wade Barrett never has and likely never will sing John Cena's praises. Barrett has some legitimacy to his beef with Cena. Back in 2010, Barrett was leading The Nexus and it seemed the group would be the next big thing in WWE. Unfortunately, Cena overruled veterans Edge and Chris Jericho and decided he would go over The Nexus in the major SummerSlam 2010 elimination tag match. Cena admitted to both guys after the match that he had made the wrong decision, but that didn't do much to appease Barrett.
Barrett has spoken candidly about Cena since leaving WWE last year and he made it clear that the two were never close. "Everyone knows that I don't like John Cena, and he doesnt like me either.... We are not friends."
7 Loved: Cesaro
When John Cena really wants to, he can tear the house down and one of the opponents that has always brought out the best in him is Cesaro. Their chemistry really stood out when Cena began taking open challenges to his United States Championship back in 2015. Not only did Cena gladly take Cesaro as an opponent, he's gone out of his way to sing his praises to WWE officials, and once even hyped Cesaro up for the live crowd after RAW went off the air.
Cena's words were quite powerful, saying: “What you can do in this ring is simply amazing. And for years, you have been fighting but you just haven’t received the right opportunity. That is why so very badly I hold this with so much passion because for two weeks straight, even with The Beast destroying the Cadillac, the word on everyone’s lips is Cesaro,”
Now how can Cesaro not want to work with Cena after hearing that?
6 Hated: Ryback
Ryback has been another outspoken individual since leaving the WWE last year following a pay dispute. Ryback has not minced words when discussing Cena, calling him a "poison" to the wrestling business. He also blamed Cena for killing the whole Nexus angle. Ryabck has also backed up Alex Riley, saying Cena would talk down to Riley on several occasions. Ryback even recalls working with Cena and said Cena would badmouth him when they were working together.
Ryback went on to say that he never liked John Cena and Cena never liked him.
"John's blocked on my Twitter. I blocked him, he's legit [blocked], I blocked him a long time [ago]. He [has] been a piece of s--t to me since Day One."
Ryback went on to say that people will flip out when they hear the full story of how Cena treated Alex Riley.
5 Loved: CM Punk
John Cena and CM Punk would never be mistaken for being close friends, but the two clearly had a lot of professional chemistry and they made for perfect rivals in the ring. Despite all his anti-WWE messages since leaving the company in 2014, Punk hasn't said anything negative about Cena, other than the fact that he can kiss Vince McMahon's behind better than he can. Still, Punk's acknowledged that working with Cena was great for his career and the two always brought out the best in each other.
A lot of what Punk said in his 2011 shoot promo was coming from the heart and he made it clear he had no problem with John Cena the individual or working with him. The only thing he resented about Cena was him getting the top spot at all times. One thing's for sure; the two have always shown a mutual respect.
4 Hated: Mr. Kennedy
Mr. Kennedy always seemed to get into hot water whenever he had to face John Cena, so why wouldn't he hate working with him? Cena suffered a torn pectoral muscle in a match with Mr. Kennedy. In a tag match several years later, after a botched suplex on Randy Orton, Kennedy again found himself in trouble. Word was, after Orton complained to company officials that Kennedy was an unsafe worker, Cena backed up those claims, resulting in Kennedy being released.
In an interview with The Void back in 2012, Kennedy was asked for his thoughts on Cena. "Besides some personal burials that have taken place… I'm just not a huge fan."
It's unlikely that Mr. Kennedy (now Mr. Anderson) would ever return to WWE, given his past issues with several top stars in the company.
3 Loved: Kevin Owens
Kevin Owens' first feud in WWE was crucial. After a dominant run on NXT, it was important for Owens to have a great initial feud and to look strong. Owens went on to have three amazing PPV matches with John Cena, even going over in their initial encounter at Elimination Chamber 2015. Owens has since praised Cena in several interviews, both as a worker and as a fan. While Owens lost two of his three matches with Cena, he shows no animosity in doing the job.
In an interview with Slam Wrestling, Owens says working with Cena helped his career tremendously.
“It definitely helped me working with Cena and anybody who thinks the opposite is delusional. When you worked with him on Raw and on PPV, how this can be bad? Whatever people said about me losing two matches out of three, at the end of the year, fans will remember the quality of the matches and how great these matches were way more than who won and who lost.”
2 Hated: Batista
Batista, for all his faults, has always been honest with his feelings. There's a reason Batista is no longer in the wrestling business, despite the WWE clearly having interest in having him around. When Batista initially quit in 2010, he made it clear a big reason was he felt the business had lost its edge. Batista went on to blame Cena for a lot of that happening.
“I think, you know, they did the whole PG direction thing, I think that works for Cena; the little kids love him, cause he’s a great character, he’s someone they can look up to. The girls love him, good looking guy, says all the right things, does all the right things, but the hardcore fans can’t stand him. He is Mr. Hokey, Mr. PG… to me; he killed hardcore, edgy wrestling.”
While there seems to be some form of professional respect between the two, Batista has never exactly echoed praise toward his former rival.
1 Loved: Randy Orton
Cena and Orton's relationship goes back to their days in OVW and it's pretty clear that the two maintain a close friendship. They've also wrestled each other an insane amount of times. For two guys with the amount of backstage pull they have, there's no way they'd be working together that much if they didn't enjoy working together. Their matches are often hit and miss, but the two clearly enjoy working together due to their similar backgrounds and their longevity in the WWE.
Even in Orton's younger days when he was difficult to work with, it seemed he and Cena were always cool with each other. There's definitely a strong bond there and it hasn't seemed to soften over the years.
No matter how much they enjoy working together though, I think I speak for everyone when I say, please no more PPV matches betweeen them.
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