John Cena tortured Rusev on Raw this week.
At first it was a fair fight. Cena ran down to attack Rusev and Rusev fought back. Cena took control and locked the STF. It wasn’t a match. Cena kept the hold on until Rusev rolled and passed out. This wasn’t enough for John Cena. He got the upper hand on Rusev unlike at WWE Fastlane but he didn’t get his rematch. So John Cena grabbed a bottle of water, woke up Rusev and then applied the STF again. Rusev softly tapped the mat until Lana pleaded with tears in her eyes and her voice cracking for Cena to let go. He can have what he wants. He gets his match at WrestleMania 31.
It’s after that paragraph I should remind everyone that yes, John Cena is the babyface while Rusev and Lana are the heels.
In one context, John Cena just mercilessly choked Rusev out twice until Lana agreed to his demands of another match. But in another context, likely the proper context, Rusev and Lana were refusing to do the right thing and John Cena just made sure they did it.
The reason this is the proper context, not the ethical context, is because John Cena represents America.
John Cena represents America and his actions fit it. To some, he’s a giant toddler who throws fits and makes jokes. To the WWE, he’s the hero who makes wishes, symbolizes American military power and represents Truth, Justice and the American way but trademarks it instead as Hustle, Loyalty and Respect. Because of this, John Cena has a tendency to be a hypocrite, to change his emotions on a dime, to fight dirty and to do things that are hard to respect.
Because John Cena isn’t just a good guy. He’s America. And America, to the rest of the world, is not a good guy.
Has America done good for this world? Of course it has. Don’t be ridiculous. That’s not the argument being made. But America (like any country at any point of any government tenure) isn’t perfect and America certainly has ruined lives at home and abroa. America has tortured, America has ignored its own people, America has invaded and America has put weapons in the hands of eventual enemies. There is no black or white to America’s position as a superpower in the world. And that’s exactly true with John Cena as well. He’s cheered and booed in every match but is still a superpower in the WWE. He can re-instate the evil of the WWE Authority while still allegedly fighting for good. He doesn’t take no for an answer. His interests above the interests of all.
But John isn’t the first to do this either. This was Hulk Hogan in the 80s and 90s as well until he finally turned to the New World Order (which is just a natural progression if you ask a conspiracy theorist). Hogan turned his back on friends all of the time (Savage as a prime example, he also turned his back on his “best friend” Sting in WCW). Hogan used excessive force (steel chairs) while it wasn’t okay for others to do it (Whenever Jesse Ventura pointed it out to Gorilla Monsoon, who spoke to the fans as their babyface representative, Monsoon would always say turnabout was fair play), Hogan would work with the bad guys if it benefitted him (original team up of Savage and Hogan was when Savage was a heel), Hogan through all of it was still the face of the WWF. Most importantly, the ends always justified the means for Hulk Hogan. It’s the same for John Cena.
Maybe this is confusing to you, especially if you’re American. Why would Vince McMahon (and at times Eric Bischoff in WCW) push a man to be the face of their company and be some weird, metaphorical symbol of the United States of America’s position as a flawed, hypocritical superpower/police force of the world? Why wouldn’t they let them just be good people with good messages instead of these shades of grey, wildly inconsistent bullies with platitudes? I wish I had an answer. I don’t think Vince McMahon has anywhere written how America presents itself and how America is perceived and says, “YES! America is number one so this is how my babyface will be number one!” but it’s odd how similar two of his biggest superstars of all time were presented, and how the fans eventually started turning on those images. There have only been one time Vince McMahon ever turned Hulk Hogan, and that was making him a good guy again after WrestleMania X-8. That was almost 20 years since Hogan’s babyface re-debut in the WWF to beat Iron Shiek for the title. And people wonder why Cena hasn’t had his heel turn?
The most frustrating part is how this image causes fans to eventually break their support away. Hogan’s support waned in the 90s as the Cold War ended and Hogan couldn’t pack the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to fight a former American hero turned Iraqi sympathizer. Cena for years now has been unable to sway the crowd back to his full support while watching the Daniel Bryan’s of the world do more with less and keep the fans loyal. But much like how America doesn’t need to the love of the world to do what they want, John Cena doesn’t need to be cheered by everyone. He just needs to represent his ideals.
I understand the frustration adults have watching John Cena do very bad things for his own selfish means to what is supposed to be the hypocritical bad guy and be expected to cheer him. Watching Cena wake up Rusev with water (I mean, I guess we should be glad he didn’t waterboard him?) only to lock the STF back on and hear Lana wail in sympathy for her beloved Rusev didn’t look like a good guy against a bad guy. It looked like a bully getting what he wanted. But freedom isn’t free and the ends justify the means. America can’t be the “good guy” because the good guy sometimes has to do bad things to do what they feel is right. John’s goal isn’t to win a wrestling match. John’s goal is to protect everything he built. Everything he fought for. Everything he’s made.
You’re either with him or against him, and it has been that way since he first won the United States championship back in 2004. He’s going back for that title and he’s going to stop Rusev. Any means necessary, because the STF justifies the means.