Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Mercy Side: Attitude Adjustment

Here's my first wrestling article in nearly eight months. Enjoy.

I've been thinking of writing this article for over a week. And with an epic 1000th episode of Monday Night Raw occurring yesterday, I thought that I'd forget writing this article due to the state of wrestling changing so quickly on a weekly basis, it may not have been relevant. But after the events of the milestone episode, it's actually done the opposite. It's made this article even more relevant.

What I want to talk to you about today is this chap you might know if you watch wrestling called John Cena. What a career he has had. 35 years old, he's already a 12 time world champion and he doesn't look like he's losing steam any time soon. He's sold more merchandise in the 2000s than any wrestler, he's attracted more fans to the product more than any other wrestler. Since the days of Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock, no one has come really close to the value of John Cena.

People are divided in opinion on John Cena. He's stale, he doesn't sell moves very well, or for very long, his moveset is repetitive and overdone. He's superman, never letting people get over. But he still works his absolute ass off to give as entertaining a product he can possibly give. He cares about wrestling, he cares about the WWE and the fans. There's no denying that. I have a huge amount of respect for the man, despite how certain smarter fans feel about him.

Despite all that John Cena has accomplished, there's just one thing that the man has lacked in his career, in my eyes anyway. And that's a true rivalry. Now before you drop your cereal out of your mouth (or doughnut, hamburger, or any other food you're obviously eating right now, don't deny it), there's someone you might have thought about already - Edge. There's no denying that if there's one man that John Cena can call a rival throughout his career, it's that man.

John Cena and Edge had a long term rivalry from around 2005 to 2010.
They did have some good matches, that's true. The best probably being the TLC Match at Unforgiven 2006. They helped each other become as big stars as they are; John Cena as previously mentioned was the star attraction of the naughties and Edge was one of the finer wrestlers of that decade. They both put each other over many times and had some great segments. Both Edge and John Cena have said in interviews that the other person is their greatest rival in their careers.

So why am I saying Edge isn't the true rival of John Cena? It's hard to explain in some ways. Some key points for me are, for the most part, I don't feel Edge has ever been John Cena's equal. While they did have some very good matches, they had some duds as well. And not only that, but they wrestled each other so often it, similar to Cena's career in some ways, became stale. To have a great rivalry both wrestlers need to be on equal footing in most ways, and I never felt that Edge and Cena really were. Edge was always a step below Cena for most of his career.

What is a true rivalry then? Well the most obvious one to me is Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock. While it's well documented that the top star of the Attitude Era was Stone Cold, The Rock was right up there with him. Did The Rock sell as much merchandise or PPVs as Stone Cold? No, I suppose not, although his star power for last year's Wrestlemania was a true shot in that direction. But there is no denying that there were two men that were on top of the Attitude Era and that was those two guys. And they always had amazing matches. Always. Their matches are legendary in the WWE. There's no denying that.

Arguably the greatest wrestling feud in WWE history.
And one thing there is no denying is they were booked quite equally. Sure, Stone Cold didn't put The Rock over until their last match, but the feud, the promos, and the actual wrestling in itself, was equal. The line was drawn very finely; it felt that the only reason why The Rock could not beat Stone Cold was through bad luck, rather than being the inferior wrestler. And the fact that they didn't wrestle against each other very often is another reason why I think it works. John Cena and Edge had countless matches it was boring. I can only think of three or four matches of the top of my head that The Rock and Stone Cold had. I'm sure they may have had more, but it definitely wasn't as many as Edge/Cena.

Which brings me to answer your question of who I think, long term, could be John Cena's truest rival. My answer is simply CM Punk.

There are so many similarities between John Cena and CM Punk and The Rock and Stone Cold. Neither sets of wrestlers wrestled each other often. Cena and The Rock were brought into the WWE by failing at something else first, Cena with bodybuilding and The Rock with American football. CM Punk and Stone Cold had to claw their way to the top of the wrestling ladder; CM Punk had to go through Ring of Honor and had to wait until last year's Summer of Punk before he was finally given the platform to really show what he can do. Stone Cold had failed at WCW and was only brought to the WWE because he was a good technical wrestler, he was never going to be more than an enhancement talent until the amazing 3:16 promo occurred.

The Rock and Stone Cold had fluid matches; they oozed quality for upto half an hour. John Cena and Edge doesn't compare in quality to the Rock/Stone Cold series, not consistently anyway. The Rock, as good a wrestler as he was has a similar problem that John Cena has, in that he had to have the right opponent to have a true quality match. The Rock is a better wrestler overall, at least in my opinion, but still he had that same problem. Where as Stone Cold and CM Punk can have great matches with a variety of opponents. Most importantly, The Rock drove Stone Cold to having world class matches he drove him further than anyone else did in his entire career. I believe John Cena does that with CM Punk. I don't feel Edge did.

CM Punk could be Cena's true rival.

You know what made me think about this? I was so excited to hear about CM Punk vs John Cena last week. Really excited. I loved their two matches last year, at Money in the Bank and at Summerslam. They were the best matches of the year in my opinion, they were so fluid, so special, and you honestly didn't know who was going to win either match. And in the end, CM Punk won both matches. CM Punk walked away champion yesterday as well. Another thing that Stone Cold and CM Punk have in common with their rivals. You get the feeling CM Punk is the bogey wrestler to John Cena that Stone Cold was to The Rock. The Rock has said it himself many times, he didn't feel like he truly was 'the man' until he finally beat Stone Cold. I think it could make a great story to keep CM Punk as Cena's bogey wrestler.

Last night CM Punk turned heel again. At first I was thinking this was a bad move. Why? Because CM Punk is so hot right now in the WWE. He's the first wrestler to finally knock John Cena off merchandise. Sure John Cena is still king of selling the product, but CM Punk is catching up. And shirt sales going in CM Punk's favour is a sign of that. CM Punk, unlike John Cena, is cool with all ages and genders of viewership. It feels inevitable long term that CM Punk might finally be the true top guy in the WWE. The WWE definitely have him as their #2 guy now, finally knocking Randy Orton out of that position. I still feel it may be a bad move, in the respect that CM Punk might be too over to be truly booed. The smarter fans will definitely cheer for him, especially if he does go for this rematch against Cena at Summerslam, which feels inevitable.

But the heel turn, despite of my mixed feelings, means one thing. We should get another, great CM Punk and John Cena match. I don't want Cena/Punk shoved down my throat over the course of the autumn though. One match at Summerslam, and then separate them again. I want John Cena and CM Punk to be the new Rock/Stone Cold. It has truly can be. CM Punk's heel turn, the adjustment in his attitude, makes him opposite Cena again. And of course, it makes him opposite The Rock again, which is another match I desperately want to see at the Royal Rumble. CM Punk/Rock could be great as well.

I'm really looking forward to wrestling again now. John Cena vs CM Punk, Brock Lesnar vs Triple H and Chris Jericho vs Dolph Ziggler seem set for Summerslam. That's an awesome trilogy of matches. I just hope the WWE don't make Cena/Punk stale long term, it has all the ingredients for greatness.

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