John Cena recently spoke out on the state of the WWE, claiming that WWE’s future is “less stable”. For years, Cena has been known as a consummate professional who rarely (if ever) speaks out against the company where he made his name. In a rare break from tradition, Cena did just that in an interview with USA Today, during a media round of promotion for his new DC Comics action movie, The Suicide Squad.
In the interview, Cena spoke out on his concerns regarding the future of the WWE. Perhaps most critically, he pointed out the WWE’s reliance on older, part-time stars in favor of the younger, full-time stars who should be treated as the present and future of the company – and the potential dangers the company faces with this type of booking. He had this to say:
“Man, I wish there was some sort of fountain of youth where I could be a full-time contributor. The longer they continue to bet on an aging prospect, that makes [the WWE’s] future a little bit less stable.”
In speaking so candidly on this growing problem within the WWE, John Cena has doubled down on what most of us know and have been arguing for a while: what Cena is saying is absolutely correct. Let’s delve into why.
The Case of John Cena Feeling Like Such A Massive Star in Comparison
Since returning to the WWE at last month’s Money in the Bank Pay-Per-View, John Cena has felt like a much bigger star than everyone else on the full-time WWE roster – with the exception of future SummerSlam opponent, Roman Reigns. The reasons for this, as we explained last month, are simple: throughout his career, Cena was treated like a true main event attraction. He was not the victim of 50/50 (where one loses the first match, wins the second and there is no defining third) booking like most of today’s active roster; until the tail end of his career, he was rarely defeated definitively. Roman Reigns, too, has been fortunate to be treated this way – as he took the torch from Cena once he made the jump to Hollywood.
The John Cena character was created in an era with more creative freedom. To reference the now infamous Stone Cold Steve Austin Podcast with Vince McMahon from a few years ago, no one was walking on “eggshells” in those days. In today’s WWE, nearly everyone is; the company is publicly traded and, therefore, there is far less freedom in promos, character and creative. Cena was able to maintain the freedom he possesses because, by the time the company became PG and creative freedom was greatly reduced, Cena was already an established main event star and trusted enough by the top brass to never say anything which would get the company into trouble. These days, only the biggest stars are granted the gift of freedom and, therefore, the majority of the roster are made to look vastly inferior to a returning legend who benefited immensely from what that majority does not possess today.
The Release of Young Talent & the Return of the Old
We have reached a point now where the best booked talent in the WWE is 54 year old, Bill Goldberg. Anytime he returns, Goldberg is made to both look and feel like a star. In 2017, Goldberg won the Universal Championship in dominant fashion against full-time, young WWE star, Kevin Owens. In 2020, at WWE Super ShowDown, Golderg again captured the title against “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt; a defeat The Fiend character never recovered from and which, ultimately, played a part in Wyatt’s release from the WWE last week. This is a major problem for the WWE; never before, in any era, have aging, semi-retired stars been booked so prominently dominant over its full-time workers. In the Attitude Era, the likes of Stone Cold and The Rock were never booked to put over the stars of the 1980s. In fact, in 2002 – sandwiched between the Attitude and Ruthless Aggression Eras – The Rock was victorious over a returning “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania X-8. The Golden Era kicked off with Hulk Hogan, young star of the 1980s, slamming renowned wrestling legend of the previous generation, Andre the Giant, to become the mega, pop culture star he is even today. It is ludicrous that WWE would book its young talent this way and that is precisely what John Cena is referring to. Traditionally, older talent have returned to put over the future. In today’s WWE, older talent return to be put over by the young.
The WWE roster is older than ever before, with the likes of Goldberg (54), Edge (47) and John Cena (44) all playing major roles in WWE storylines this Summer. Even some of the full-time talent are in well into their mid-40s, with all of Bobby Lashley (45), Robert Roode (45) and AJ Styles (44) still kicking around. This makes it far more difficult for young and new talent to come through to the main roster. Those who do, like Mustafa Ali, Ricochet, Keith Lee and, most recently, Karrion Kross, are immediately squandered and made to feel like “just another guy on the roster”. It has reached a point where NXT stars prefer to remain in NXT, where they know they will not be victimized and diminished by main roster booking. The women’s divisions have been better at this; with Bianca Belair, Rhea Ripley and Nikki Cross all coming to prominence in 2021 alone. The average age of the roster grows older, too, as the older talents remain and exciting, young talent – like Aleister Black (36), Bray Wyatt (34), Adam Cole (32) Ruby Riott (30) – are let go.
The solution to fixing this is simple: book the younger talent better and stop sacrificing their spots to part-time attractions who do not work the house shows or, indeed, every live show. Allow younger talent to go over some of the returning legends, instead of sacrificing them to these legends. Should they continue down this path, there will come a time in the very near future where the older stars retire for good and there will be no one booked strongly enough to realistically pick up the pieces. John Cena is right that WWE’s future is, currently, less stable.
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