You’re not going to see some anti-John Cena rant here, wishing him nothing but the longest recovery possible for his torn triceps, as it’ll keep him out of the ring that much longer. I’m not one to wish injury upon someone, and I certainly don’t want to see bad things happen to the former 11-time WWE Champion. I get that there’s a large chunk of the WWE Universe that loathes John Cena and his stale racket, as evidenced by the very boisterous “Cena sucks!” chants that one can find at any live WWE event, but this isn’t some sort of piece saying good riddance to him. After all, he’ll be back soon enough, and what won’t change upon his return is that he’ll still be a main event player for the company – he’s been so for a long time and that’s not about to change any time soon. He still makes the WWE a great deal of money on his name, his likeness, his mottos and creeds, and that is what will always keep him atop the business for as long as he so desires. However, I think there is some silver lining to the dark cloud of John Cena’s unfortunate injury that will help benefit the WWE not just in the time that Cena is on the mend, but for the long-term future of the company. John Cena’s injury might just be a blessing in disguise for the WWE.
Let’s face it… the Cena show has gotten a bit tired and repetitive over time. Every Monday night, Cena takes to opening RAW, welcoming the WWE Universe to the show, talking about how awesome and amazing they are, and then, after cracking some incredibly corny jokes that only he seems to entertained by, finds himself facing a new challenger who thinks they’re deserving on wearing the WWE Championship around their waist. Cena, never one to back down from a fight, accepts, and we’re off and running with another Cena-centric show that will build towards a pay-per-view match where yet another opponent is vanquished. Cena may get attacked some time along the way, in order to build some sort of tension, but it’s never all that compelling. Nothing or no one ever seems to hurt Cena for too long, as he’s right back at it the next week – this is hardly Hulk Hogan at least showing some vulnerability at the hands of King Kong Bundy or Andre the Giant or Kamala, for that matter – and it just becomes a vicious cycle of having everything built on the backs of Cena. And that’s a recipe for boredom, as, for a few months, I checked out of watching WWE programming regularly, because it all felt the same after awhile. I think hearing all those crickets during Cena’s story arc with Ryback was the last straw for me, as it showed that even his most die-hard supporters were plagued by feelings of “Been there, done that.”
But with John Cena on the shelf for the next few months, it’s forced those in creative at the WWE to do something they haven’t been forced to do since the last time Cena was recovering from an injury – utilizing other talent and building main event programs around them. I know… What a crazy idea. But since SummerSlam, you’ve seen a shift in story sans Cena that has made for some of the most compelling shows the WWE has put forth in some time. We’ve seen the rise of the new McMahon-Helmsley regime in power. We’ve seen the push of Daniel Bryan into top level performer continue with tremendous support from the fan base. We’ve seen Randy Orton re-emerge as a WWE titleholder to be reckoned with, but, more importantly, we’ve seen three talents that had seemingly been forgotten be given the opportunity to be front and center once again: The Big Show, The Miz and Dolph Ziggler, all former champions who for some reason haven’t remained fixtures in the championship picture.
Granted, Dolph Ziggler had a taste of the main event fairly recently, having cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase following this year’s WrestleMania to snag the World Heavyweight Championship for a second title reign (people forget that there was even a first, because it only lasted about 10 minutes). However, after dropping the strap only a couple months later following a concussion, Ziggler has faded from the title picture, stuck in some mixed tag program that has mid-card written all over it. And, even prior to that, Ziggler’s status as a rising heel in the WWE took a lot of damage along the way with countless losses to lesser talent that did him no favors as establishing him as a credible contender for any of the comnpany’s top prizes. It was only the staunch support of the fans that ultimately propelled Ziggler to the title, because creative didn’t seem to know how to build the guy. He had the in-ring talent, the charisma, the moxie… and yet he seemed to be stuck in Frustrationville with no apparent way out. But with Cena out of the picture, the WWE has been forced to give some guys new life and ziggler is the beneficial recipient of this opportunity for love. Set up as an outspoken opponent of Triple H and the McMahon family, Ziggler is being built up the right way for once. As someone brash whose mouth will continue to get him in trouble with the power-abusing corporate structure calling the shots, Ziggler is being slotted to rage against the machine, a rebel the fans can rally behind.
The same can be said for The Miz, the former WWE Champion who you’d think time forgot. I mean, seriously… There are plenty of WWE fans who may find it easy to forget that The Miz actually carried the WWE title. In fact, he wore the strap for six months… but take a look at him since he dropped it to Cena of all people. It’s as if he wasn’t the top guy in the WWE for half a year. Since then, it’s been tag teams and Intercontinental Championships (which doesn’t mean nearly as much as it once did), hardly the stuff a recently former WWE Champion should find himself in the middle of… but then again, that’s what happens when it’s all Cena, all the time. There’s no room for anyone else at the top of the mountain… until now, when there finally seems to be some space, some room for these guys to breathe.
The Big Show is in a similar predicament. A former champion, Show seems to only get the call when they really need someone, and having been a main eventer at various points in his career, he’s easy to rely on. He’s always been a versatile performer, capable of a match with anyone on the card, but it’s always befuddled me to see someone of his size downgraded on the roster when he’s so obviously a championship contender all the time. I realize he’s been away for a bit, tending to his own wounds, but before he was on the sidelines for a bit, Show had been in neutral. He steps into the ring with whoever they put in front of him, but more often than not, it’s in a program of no significant consequence that no one really seems to take much notice of. The Big Show has been taken for granted, because he’s been put in a position for such to occur. However, right now, he’s been given the ball to run with, carrying the emotional meat of this storyline between those willing to speak against the travesties of the CEO and those in positions of power to make their lives miserable for doing so. What Show is doing now as the conflicted employee acting in the best interests of his family, which goes against what he believes as a friend and a man is fascinating to watch, setting the stage for the moment when Show does what he believes is morally right under the circumstances… and when it happens, it’s going to bring the house down… and once again, put him in the upper echelon of the company where he should always be.
Even this week on RAW, Cody Rhodes got a much needed boost into the relevant spotlight. That’s not to say he wasn’t doing excellent work as one-half of the entertaining Team Rhodes Scholars duo… but this is proof positive that the WWE is willing to offer up the chance for mobility on the card and in the eyes of the fans in Cena’s absence. For once, it feels as if the WWE’s hours of TV shows has more to offer than whatever John Cena is engaged in. Previously everything else felt secondary, and now we’re back to a place where we’re seeing some nuance in the story lines where different talents’ predicaments are intersecting, making for a much bigger and interesting web of mystery moving ahead as to how this is all going to play out. Talent who hadn’t been given their due in the past are getting it, and this can only serve the WWE and its fans well by offering up something to once again get excited about. Granted, some of this feels borrowed from the Attitude Era and the wrath of Mr. McMahon many felt during the days of the Corporation… but, in light of what has been a rinse-repeat cycle with John Cena, things feel awfully fresh these days, and isn’t that what things should be regularly?
There’s no telling what’ll happen when John Cena is ready to return to action, but my optimistic hope is that those calling the shots backstage realize there is more to the WWE than one guy. When you can create something strong from top to bottom on a weekly basis, that’s what keeps fans not only consuming your product but wanting to consume more and more of it. That’s where the addiction comes from where you habitually tune in every week, because you need to see what happens next. Sure, there will always be a place for the familiarity of John Cena, as I’m not sure they’ll switch up his act anytime soon, but this is the opening the WWE may have needed to get back to making a lot of stars, not just one.