Just a brief background…
I was only three years old when I got my first taste of professional wrestling as I would sneak under my parent’s noses as they slept just so I could go to the living room and watch some late night television. That is where I found and started tuning in to WCW.
I was too young to understand the storylines back then but what made me glued to the very sport I am writing for today was the action in the ring, which only grew when WWF started airing on in my area as well. I bought into the sport as much as seeing back body drops and powerslams as such fatal blows.
Since I didn’t understand the storylines back then I used to generalize that everytime a person holds a mic would mean more action would ensue. I usually rooted for the guy who resembled what I want to look like.
I traded cartoons for wrestling whenever time slots would conflict for the entirety of my childhood.
A lot has evolved when it came to my fandom come 2002. I got tired of seeing Hulk Hogan on TV all the time, I realized how cool Stone Cold Steve Austin was all these years after he walked out, I always wanted to see Chris Jericho provoke someone on the mic, and most importantly, I finally found someone I wanted to invest a part of my fandom on.
It was on June 27, 2002 that Kurt Angle issued an open challenge which was answered by a perfectly chiseled good looking guy who, though he had ridiculous trunks, still looked like a future superstar from day one. The man introduced himself as John Cena, and Angle asked what is that one quality he possesses. Cena replied “Ruthless Aggression”.
Though a losing effort, the WWE Universe took notice of a 25-year old John Cena who also got the attention of veterans backstage. A moment where he was given props by The Undertaker stood out most. I myself gained notice, but I wasn’t fully buying in yet.
How I became a fan of John Cena
The height of John Cena’s heel run with his rapper gimmick came in 2003, and I was the only fan of the youngster as the rest would side with the babyface veterans he feuded with. I would go as far as putting myself at risk of serious school offenses as I wore to school and in class a steel chain and padlock similar to the pendant Cena was wearing.
I didn’t care if I was a kid who hated heels as I rooted for Cena as the coolness he exhibited as the Doctor of Thuganomics was something I wanted to be as I walked in school. The array of options were surprisingly wider when he turned face in late 2003 as he was able to still be the street thug he was even though he now feuded with the bad guys, which made me happy as fans started to appreciate what I had long appreciated since the night he wore a Vanilla Ice costume to the last year’s Halloween episode.
One of the best years of Cena’s early career came in 2004 as he was a fixture in the United States Title picture, winning the title from Big Show at WrestleMania XX. Fans didn’t realize how “Super” Cena was as he won clean in his feuds with Rene Dupree, Rob Van Dam, Booker T, and Carlito.
Ironically, I am going to fast forward the entire next decade as it had been the same heat since Chicago in 2006.
John Cena had been a fixture in the World Title picture since the moment he won the WWE Championship from John Bradshaw Layfield at WrestleMania 21 in 2005. Fans did not have a problem with that but it all changed in one fateful night in 2006 at WrestleMania 24 when Cena’s Mafia-themed entrance rubbed the Chicago crowd the wrong way as you could distinctly hear the cheers turn into louder boos.
My heart sank as I saw the very people that slowly started to rally with me three years ago suddenly leave my side in an instant due to one tiny mistake in the production of that WrestleMania entrance. That mini documentary on the history of Mafia in Chicago became that sole reason people today remix Cena’s entrance theme to “John Cena Sucks!”
After that terrible night, the boos intensified months later as he faced Rob Van Dam at One Night Stand in front of the hardcore ECW fans in what has been the same old fan reaction 14 years later into the present. No amount of good matches or entertaining rivalries would vindicate Cena as wrestling fans were proud to be stubborn in their judgement.
People blamed John Cena for burying talent when in fact, bigger stars were made out of each of his best rivalries be it Edge, Randy Orton, Batista, The Miz, CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Bray Wyatt, Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens and you can even count Booker T, who has had the better days of his career since his United States Title feud with Cena in 2004. These stars benefited just as much as Cena, if not more, through those rivalries.
Why I never turned on John Cena
Being a lifelong wrestling fan, my understanding was able to evolve from plainly watching action, to buying into kayfabe, before locking in on people I wanted to see succeed. Currently, I have hit 3-for-3 when it comes to picking favorite wrestlers.
During the same time I was watching the WWE and cheering for John Cena every week, I also watched TNA especially back in its early days as well where I watched a tweener fly around and put on entertaining matches every week and knew the moment I saw my first TNA episode that he would be the company’s top star and probably might have been the reason I have been tuning in to the promotion through financial woes and name changes even long after he has gone. That tweener’s name is AJ Styles.
Back in 2008 when the WWE started to expand to a third brand which became the mini revival of the ECW promotion, my fandom for Cena and Styles never faded but I started to go beyond rooting for a “clean cut” guy and idolized someone who reflected my persona a lot despite his long hair and tattoos. That guy’s name is CM Punk.
So why did I never turn on John Cena when basically everyone else did? Simple. If you have a favorite athlete, you would always enjoy seeing him win regardless of what team or what means you see them win on.
Being a die hard John Cena fan made me want to see him win all the time and savored every victory especially when he added another title reign to his resume. A Michael Jordan fan would not resent him winning six rings and a Kobe Bryant fan resents the fact that he won only five while a Lebron James fan would wish he wins more than just three.
The same thing applies for my fandom of John Cena. A real fan would be happy with his 16 world title reigns and would wish he breaks that record before he goes Hollywood for good. Meanwhile an indie mark or a fan who jumps on the bandwagon for the Flavor of the Month would want to see Cena dead (and even go as far as creating and making a John Cena death hoax go viral).
Since I started writing this article on a personal note, I would like to share that I am a person of loyalty may it be in family, relationships and my Alma Mater of Perpetual Help which is maybe why I have the ability to stay firm even when all things crumble. My fandom for John Cena is a product of that firm loyalty that I would bleed maroon to fight for his honor should the need arise.
To those who hate John Cena, I dare you to work beyond eight hours for 360 days a year without a single complaint of stress and fatigue or cheating on your workload then we could talk. Vince McMahon is a man of the few good men who gives credit to obedience.
Brock Lesnar wouldn’t be holding title belts as a rare timer (more seldom than a part timer) if he hadn’t gone with Vince’s plans to put someone else over at occasions. Randy Orton wouldn’t have had a good 2017 if he didn’t agree to have a not so good 2016 and even Steve Austin admits he regrets going against Vince in putting Lesnar over in 2002 and chose to walk out of the company.
Batista still had another glass ceiling to hit and CM Punk could have been WWE’s top star right now had they gone the way Vince saw things. Love it or hate it, John Cena is STILL the moneymaker for the WWE as he manages to sell out arenas and merchandise at the twilight of his WWE career.
John Cena has given a lot to the business without getting anything but minor creative pitches in return while the rest of his laurels were taken care of by Vince McMahon. Imagine if Cena used his top star status and became a promotional cancer like Hulk Hogan, will that make you cheer for him like you do with the Hulkster? You’ll definitely hate him even more.
And my dilemma right now…
Among us writers in the wrestling section of RealSport, I could say I am the one of the resident correspondents when it comes to the WWE’s future as most of my pieces are about NXT and a talent’s potential on top of the weekly previews for NXT and 205 Live. It makes sense given my correct prediction on John Cena and AJ Styles in 2003 as well as CM Punk in 2008.
As I plan to go 4-for-4 when it comes to my favorite wrestlers being big stars, I have been rooting for Baron Corbin since his days in WWE’s developmental territory of NXT. I have seen the guy develop from a two-trick pony who could only work squashes to being able to hang with the company’s best workers in the ring.
Corbin’s current feud with John Cena which culminates in a match this Sunday at SummerSlam can either make or break Corbin depending on the longevity of the feud as this would be the feud that determines if he indeed is talented enough to become an all-time great or just another “buried young talent” as marks would say.
Basically being a John Cena fan for more than half of my life would root for him in this match by default but for this, I am going to make an exception as I would secretly want Baron Corbin to go over but still continue my unparalleled support for Cena.
The future may be a little dim for Corbin right now having lost his Money in the Bank briefcase just this week, but mark my words, once we no longer see John Cena, it will be the End of Days.
Have you stuck by Cena over the years? Let us know why you have or haven’t in the comments below!
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