Former WWE Champion John Cena was the most annoying guy on the roster. Booked as a mega-babyface, he was always STANDING TALL in the face of adversity and cut promos like the entire WWE "Universe" was showering him with adulation.
Except it wasn't.
Often times, chants of "CENA SUCKS" would be stronger than "LET'S GO CENA" and any smark worth his considerable weight in keystrokes wouldn't be caught dead saying anything positive about Mr. Make-A-Wish. He refused to turn heel and hogged the WWE title for the past umpteen years, which is why most of us booed him mercilessly.
Well, now he's gone (because of this) ... and I feel a sense of loss.
I think the realization has set in that Cena was responsible for a majority of our talking points before, during and after every major pay-per-view (PPV). That's important to note, because most episodes of Monday Night RAW and Friday Night Smackdown! serve as a conduit for the company's monthly offerings.
And you can't talk WWE without talking Cena:
Royal Rumble: Cena eliminated Ryback to earn a WrestleMania title shot
Elimination Chamber: Cena tags with Ryback and Sheamus to battle The Shield
WrestleMania 29: John Cena defeats The Rock to become WWE champion
Extreme Rules: John Cena fights Ryback to a draw
Payback: John Cena defeats Ryback to retain his WWE title
Money in the Bank: John Cena defeats Mark Henry to retain his WWE title
SummerSlam: John Cena pinned by Daniel Bryan and loses his WWE title
That's seven major PPV events with John Cena in or around the main event for 2013 alone. We still have five more shows to go before the year is out and your top heels are only as good as your top faces, and vice versa. It doesn't matter if you were booing Cena or cheering him, the point is that most fans had a strong reaction.
Those are big shoes to fill.
So big, in fact, that WWE had to fill them with an entire stable. While Daniel Bryan takes over the role of top babyface, Triple H and the McMahon family have written themselves into the storylines to keep the ship afloat. Expect to see a lot of them on television these next few months.
Not just because they want to be there, but because they have to be there.
On the surface, it looks like Bryan has simply replaced Cena, but that's not the case, because Cena wasn't lighting the arena up with cheers every time he hit the ring. Also keep in mind that while Bryan is "due" and extremely "over," it wasn't that long ago (just over two months) when he was still a tag team member of Team Hell No.
The dynamic is completely different.
Cena is a great performer. Remember that match against CM Punk and the infamous piledriver? His greatest strength is his ability to maintain a revolving door of feuds and have them all seem like a big deal. He went from The Rock (ruined life), to Ryback (annoying ambulance), to Mark Henry (phony retirement) to Daniel Bryan (size matters).
Speaking of which...
Until it has been proven that he has legs as the organization's top guy, Bryan must adhere to a very specific narrative, one that has been expertly crafted (and executed) by the gang behind the scenes. Hats off to them, as that's not something we say very often.
The beard shows up, we scream "YES!"
But when you log on to the boards every Tuesday morning, there isn't any debate about what Bryan should or should not be doing, largely because he's already doing all the right things and capitalizing on his meteoric rise. The future is writing itself, in sync with the ebb and flow of the "Universe."
With Cena, it was much more complicated.
Can WWE survive without him? Or course. No wrestler is irreplaceable. The doors didn't close when Hulk Hogan was put out to pasture, nor did the sky fall when "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and The Rock called it quits. THIS BUSINESS is bigger than any one man.
Which not without irony, was the key takeaway from the closing angle of Monday Night Raw.
Calling Cena a guy you "love to hate" almost feels like taking the easy way out. There was something inside him as a performer that we recognized as special, something we would often see glimpses of in promos like this or matches like these.
He's not an 11-time WWE champion by accident.
Perhaps it was the inconsistency that turned some of us, or maybe we just can't stomach anything too vanilla for extended periods of time. We didn't loathe him in the way we sometimes loathe The Miz, but it sure was fun shitting on him from week to week.
I miss it already.