Hustle, Loyalty, Neglect: WWE machine still running smoothly in the absence of John Cena

Michael N. Todaro

You can't see him. Literally. Turns out it's not such a bad thing after all.

To give you an idea of what has been happening in the world of professional wrestling (No, TNA doesn't count), I'll offer up a look at the month of September. Specifically, how Cageside Seats General Geno Mrosko -- charged with results and reactions -- has been grading each episode of Monday Night RAW.

Sept. 2: Broke, Big and Nearly Dead (C)
Sept. 9: Yes! No! Yes! (B-)
Sept. 16: Dusty Finished (A+)
Sept. 23: That Was Awesome! (A+)

Comments from last night in his falIout post:

That's just outstanding ... I loved this ... That's just delicious ... I love pro wrestling right now ... Pro wrestling is legitimately fun again.

If there were two RAWs that earned back-to-back A+ ratings on this site, I haven't been able to find them.

So, what to make of all this? On the surface, it looks like WWE has been on an upswing, constantly improving as minor players become major, and major players become headliners. The product isn't perfect, but it never will be, as success is defined by majority rules.

As long as most fans like it, then it's good, as you can't please everybody.

Earlier this year, I was laughed out of the building for suggesting that WWE staple John Cena was "rattled," as I argued that fans lost interest in him as a performer -- thanks to the rise of CM Punk and Team Hell No -- and simply spent the majority of his screen time going back-and-forth on "CENA SUCKS" chants.

We didn't need him then and we probably don't need him now.

That's not a knock on his abilities, or a crusade to keep him off television. Let's face it, there is a reason he's at the top. When Cena is on, he's as good as anyone on the roster. At the same time, there are limitations as to what you can and can't do, as well as who you can and can't elevate, when your biggest star is monopolizing a significant portion of the airtime.

As well as the storylines.

What we've learned in Cena's absence as the former WWE champion recovers from triceps surgery, is that WWE can be great with him and it can be great without him, too. The powers-that-be should be encouraged by this development, as it proves you can take a few chances and get some fresh faces into the upper tier of programming without creating a massive black hole in your viewership.

And the landscape would look very different if he was still in town.

Cena is so ingrained in the happy-go-lucky side of pro wrestling, with his Make-A-Wish records and Fruity Pebble cereal box covers, that it's unrealistic to call for his heel turn. He's going to stay a babyface forever, which translates into limited opportunities for other top faces.

Like Daniel Bryan.

The best thing that ever happened to him was Cena's absence. I do believe he would have still been crowned champion at SummerSlam, but that wouldn't have kept him out of Cena's shadow, because as long as he's on the active roster, you know it's only a matter of time before he reclaims the belt.

That's just the way it works.

It would also be very difficult to have The Corporate Shield storyline be successful, just because of the insane skulduggery from Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. It would hurt the integrity of the program if the evil overlords were firing some talent and humiliating others, without Cena interfering.

And if he did interfere, then it becomes about him, and this isn't about him.

This is about what's "best for business." From the outside looking in, having Cena on the sidelines for a little while accomplishes that goal. Heck, another few weeks and we may even miss him, or at least bear witness to a bona fide pop when he inevitably returns to help fight the good fight.

Then, with any luck, he can provide a supporting role.

CM Punk is a great example. He's not a part of the WWE title picture, nor does he have his hand in the battle for the Big Gold Belt. That's eventually going to change because he's a big draw, but for right now, he's embroiled in a personal feud with Paul Heyman and his stable of goons.

I don't know what's next for John Cena when he gets back fom the injured reserves, but I do know I'm enjoying the fact that I don't have to worry about it for awhile.

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