John Cena is back! Having returned at last Sunday’s Money in the Bank PPV, Cena spent this past week appearing on both Raw and SmackDown. Unfortunately for the rest of the WWE roster, his presence and the sheer crowd responses he has received have somewhat exposed them and Cena, in comparison, looks and feels like a mega star operating at a whole other level.
John Cena Has Shown Up the WWE Roster
This is, of course, no fault of the WWE roster; years of fifty-fifty booking, stop-start pushes and more have prevented anyone from ever truly succeeding Cena in his absence and have prevented anyone from matching his level of star power. Roman Reigns, Cena’s likely opponent for SummerSlam, is the notable exception. However, the fact that there is no one quite at Cena’s level is all down to booking.
The case of Drew McIntyre, who you might remember was the “Face of the WWE” for much of last year, is telling. Here is someone who won the Royal Rumble in 2020 to one of the loudest, most overjoyed responses in recent times. He suffered from the lack of crowds which eventually came with the COVID-19 pandemic, but he was still positioned strongly until fairly recently. His constant defeats at the hands of Bobby Lashley; his never-ending run of undeserved title shots and his odd promos have led to small, but noticeable portions of WWE fans beginning to resent him – with boos during his entrances now becoming audible. This is someone who, if booked strongly, could potentially be at Cena’s level; with Drew possessing all of the star-making qualities (with some added bonuses) that Cena possesses. Instead, he is embroiled in an uninteresting feud with Jinder Mahal, who some might remember as being largely responsible for the the change in Shinsuke Nakamura‘s fortunes a few years ago. With fans back, this should have been Drew’s time. Instead, he has lost the buzz with no certain sign of recapture.
The WWE possesses one of its most talented rosters ever – it has all the potential in the world to create not just one, but a whole bunch of mega stars. If it were to commit time to its superstars, as it did with Cena in the mid-to-late 2000s, John Cena would not feel like such an immortal, demigod like figure in comparison to the rest of the roster. A beloved, returning legend boosted by nostalgic memory, sure; but never on such another, otherworldly higher level to anyone else.
An Interesting New Dynamic
A noticeable dynamic shift has been noted. Roman Reigns, in his great promo on SmackDown, declared how “Hollywood fooled me”; saying John Cena, a legendary part-timer, had returned to perform the same, tired act over and over again. This was particularly interesting because it was a throwback to a certain John Cena promo from the early 2010s. If you recall, Cena was similarly frustrated with a returning, legendary part-timer: Roman Reigns’ cousin, The Rock. He would often declare how The Rock had returned to doing the same, repetitive act he had been doing since the 1990s; spitting the same old catchphrases before going away again for weeks on end. John Cena is now in the same position The Rock was in during that time and Rock’s own flesh and blood is in the Cena position.
What makes this scenario better, perhaps, is that there is a certified heel in this feud. Roman Reigns is, unquestionably, one of the top three heels in all of professional wrestling today. John Cena is, of course, the quintessential babyface; more so now that the “Cena Sucks” section of the WWE universe is noticeably quieter. They are a far more perfect match for each other than they were in their awkward, Reigns-destroying 2017 feud. Also, they are a better match for each other than Rock and Cena were in those early 2010s years; both men being babyfaces went against the feud on a number of occasions and perhaps diminished its overall quality. With Roman and Cena, this is going to be the defining feud of the summer and a whole lot of fun. If WWE ever wants Roman to take up the Cena/Rock role in ten years time, it needs to start building stars again. Fast.
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