Photo via WWE.com.
It's one of those strange things about adulthood when you first come to terms with the fact one of your childhood idols is a complete toolbag.
When I was seven-years-old, Hulk Hogan was the biggest thing in the world. He was perfectly in tune with the culture that surrounded him and like Arnold Schwarzenegger, he was a real life cartoon character, the embodiment of the philosophy that bigger is better. He was one of the icons of a decade when capitalism was morphing into its ugly step-sister, corporatism.
The character of Hulk Hogan reflected the best values of his era, old fashioned American values brought to the masses with savvy new marketing. The real life Hulk Hogan embodies the worst of his era, selfishness and ego driving an irrational need of attention and personal gain, even if it meant destroying everything around him.
But the point has to be made, back in 1988, with the preaching of prayers, vitamins and exercise, plus always fighting for the American philosophy, it would have been hard to not consider the character of Hulk Hogan a role model.
Sure, the real life Hulk Hogan can be considered a deplorable human being and is very much not a role model, but the character portrayed on television was consistent with what he preached. For those who watched Raw last night and its sad main event, you probably already see where this is going.
The humiliation of Micheal Cole last night was just yet another in a long list of examples for the argument that the character of John Cena is a terrible role model.
John Cena's character reflects the very worst of our current culture.
I don't like Micheal Cole.
Never did. Even before all of his heel announcer crap, I never liked listening to him going back all the way to 1999 when he first took over Raw for Jim Ross. I really can't stand him now. He deserved comeuppance but last night took it too far.
What made his humiliation at the hands of John Cena so shocking to me last night, was the fact I didn't think it would ever go that far. As a matter of fact, at first everything was going was exactly as I thought it would. Cena beats Tensai, Cole tries running away, Cena grabs him and then drags him back to the ring.
At this time I was thinking, okay Cena is going to give everyone a big smile, give the Attitude Adjustment to Cole, pin him, crowd pops and everyone goes home happy.
But things took a sharp turn when Cena began stripping Cole down to his underwear. The first thing Cena does with Cole in the ring was rip open the commentator's shirt and rip off his pants. Evidently, the powers to be decided that wrestling fans would rather watch Oz than wrestling.
Things went from predictable to disturbing as Cena proceeded to brutalize, terrorize and utterly humiliate Micheal Cole on national television. This is not wrestling. Wrestling is two forces clashing against each other. This was sadomasochism heavily sugarcoated for PG consumption, fed to Cena's fan who are predominantly children and adolescents.
There are examples of more overt sadomasochism in wrestling with Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW) but that promotion is not marketing or selling their product to children. I can't stand CZW, but the WWE's and in particular, Cena's brand of sadomasochism is much more insidious. Cena represents the strong, the handsome and the successful, Michael Cole represents the sad, the weak and the pathetic.
Micheal Cole is the kid in high school who is weak, who is pushed around by those stronger than him. That kid lashes out with the only weapon he has, his mouth. A great number of stand up comics have been produced by such means. John Cena is the star quarterback, with the hot cheerleader girlfriend and the big circle of bros that clog the hallways.
When Micheal Cole verbally challenges John Cena, Cena doesn't respond like an adult but like a middle school bully, he resorts to physical abuse, intimidation and ultimately humiliation. Dissent will not be tolerated by Cena. Cole has to be put in his proper place by the physically stronger Cena, namely under Cena's bootheel.
When we were toddlers, our mothers instructed us to "use our words." It was a simple lesson. You can't always get what you want through tantrums and hitting alone. Now in professional wrestling where disputes are usually resolved in the ring, this may seem like a counter-intuitive message.
However, wrestling is about two forces clashing. It works best when the two forces are equal, or if the negative force appears to be stronger than the positive force. That's why heels have to be booked to look strong. It makes the babyface look better in the long run. It doesn't really have to be physical either.
Let's look at a relevant example in Vince McMahon and Steve Austin.
Austin humiliated McMahon on almost weekly basis throughout the Attitude Era. While Austin could dominate McMahon physically, McMahon had recourse. The WWEF was McMahon's empire, he was the boss. He could and did bring the full force of his corporate and social power down upon Austin. McMahon represented the greedy CEO's, the bosses that cut wages of their workers while giving themselves million dollar bonuses. Austin represented the everyman trying to make his way in a world made insane by people like McMahon.
It was revenge fantasy played in an operatic spectacle. McMahon had the power to crush and destroy Austin. "Stone Cold" had to survive under McMahon's tyranny by his wit and determination. McMahon was the embodiment of that unbeatable corporate greed and evil. Austin was the one man with drive and nerve to bring the tyrant crashing down.
Now compare that with Cena and Cole last night. Cole has no recourse against Cena, no power to hurt Cena whatsoever. Other than talking a little trash, there is nothing that Cole can do to harm Mr. Loyalty, Hustle and Respect. But Cole mouthed off to Cena, speaking an uncomfortable truth about Cena's character which upon examination reveals much.
Loyalty. Who exactly is Cena loyal to? Certainly not his friends. When Big Show was fired, Cena made no mention of it in his segment with John Laurinaitis. Instead, he spent the entire segment stealing an old Jim Carrey routine. He never stated that he was going to fight for Big Show, to get him his job back after defeating Big Johnny.
Storyline-wise, what exactly is Big Show supposed to do or think? The man has a family and bills to pay, there are a lot of people in America who work in a job they hate, or do things that don't want to in order to make a living. Cole brought this up and Cena immediately waved it off. Cena whining about Show's turn made him come off more as a sociopathic frat boy than a children's hero. So Cena expects Show to have his back while not bothering to have Show's? What an asshole.
Hustle. Last night Cena talked about how Big Show took the easy way out which is complete bullshit made even worse by the fact that Cena chose Cole as his opponent. I'm sure it takes a lot of hustle to beat the crap out of a 40-something announcer. Cena could have picked David Otunga, an actual wrestler who happens to be Laurinaitis' right hand man. But Cena chose the easy way out himself by deciding to drag Micheal Cole into a ring to humiliate him.
Respect. Cena respects one thing, his own strength. Cena doesn't respect comedy. Cena doesn't respect decency and good taste. Cena doesn't respect his friends. Cena doesn't respect responsibility. Cena doesn't respect wrestling or wrestling fans.
The character of John Cena as portrayed on WWE television is a terrible human being and worse role model. While WWE constantly shoves Be A Star down our throats, Cena shows a sadistic glee in destroying those that are weaker than him. It's obvious that Be A Star is just a way for WWE to rack up some kharma points.
In a way, John Cena represents the entire anti-bullying movement of today. It's not about solving the problem, its about celebrities and out-of-touch rich people passing a few inane laws and patting themselves on the back. It's about making themselves feel good and massaging their fragile egos regardless of whether they are hindrance or help to the progress of their "cause."
John Cena fits in perfectly with those people. After all, its all about them. As long as they felt like they "did something." Who cares if kids are still being bullied in 20 years? The point is that we did something. They're the good guys after all, because they smile and look pretty for the cameras. Just like John Cena.
Well, Cena, you're a lousy wrestler and a terrible role model.
Give it up John, go home and be a family man.