Extreme Rules 2014: The night John Cena turned heel

J. Meric

I was actually very excited for Extreme Rules.

I, unlike a ton of people here (and around the Internet Wrestling Community), actually believed in what WWE was setting up for the upcoming summer season.

Let me rewind a bit: My name is Dan, and I am a proud urban-ite in his mid-twenties. In 2000, I quit watching wrestling. I had been heavy into all three wrestling promotions (WWF, WCW and ECW) then. I had been watching since I stumbled on the 1996 Iron Man match between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart illegally on my parents black box. I watched it possessed. I grew, watching everything, from Tazz/Sabu, to Raven’s crazy promos, to the Attitude era, to "The Whole F'N’ Show" and then to that terrible night when Owen Hart fell from the sky.

My love for sports and disappointment with the product in 2000 (that WrestleMania main event chief among them) led to me leaving the Wrestling Viewership Community.

A little before August of 2013, I came back. And I went all in.

I was able to balance being a devout San Francisco Giants, Penn State, Golden State Warriors and 49ers fan with watching wrestling. I, a college graduate who has been swallowed by the high cost of living in my hometown (San Francisco) and the dearth of full-time jobs in my field (radio-broadcast) sprung to pay for the WWE Network when it was unveiled. I may not post here very much (though I read this along with my copy of the Chronicle, Times and sports sites daily).

My point is getting off track…I am a fan.

Anyway, I came in and read how the fans of wrestling really aren't big fans of John Cena.

I read about his lackadaisical promos, his no-selling, his terrible character, his boring ring work and the like. I decided, as someone who prides himself on making his own decisions, to, well, make my own decision on Cena.

He lost to Daniel Bryan at my first pay-per-view (PPV) since returning, SummerSlam. He looked good doing it too. The PPV (sans CM Punk losing to Brock Lesnar) was a perfect one to come back to. I loved it. And, in a weird way, I actually had some love for Cena. And then, he was gone, not returning until that night he beat Alberto Del Rio for the World Heavyweight Championship in October. He was entered into a unification feud with Randy Orton, and I was alright with it.

Granted, I wanted either Bryan or CM Punk to hold up the unification belt (or belts, as we later found out) rather than Cena or Orton. But Cena winning wasn't the worst thing.

He ended up cutting this ridiculously awesome promo on a pre-TLC episode of Raw, where he talked about how important the belt(s) were and how Orton winning would be a big deal if he had done it in 2005, but now he was just a promise unfulfilled. I loved it. I was even on the verge of paying to watch the goddamn B-PPV, but had to remind myself that buying my parents presents was vastly more important than seeing the TLC match live.

That said, I may not have been a part of Cenation or wearing his highlighter colored shirts, but I was firmly in the "I actually respect John Cena" camp.

I would shrug at the disdain for him on the websites, I’d ignore Chris Jericho (one of my favorites growing up) and Edge telling me about Cena burying Wade Barrett when the Nexus angle happened, I’d even defend him to some stout anti-Cena people.

When I read the rumors of the Cena vs. Bray Wyatt match-up at WrestleMania 30, I got excited.

See, with my favorite, CM Punk, leaving the company, my new favorite became Bray Wyatt. It was ironic, a firm city boy (raised in a semi-ghetto area of San Francisco) with hood-tendencies, had fallen for a country southerner who was more Carcosa than he was Undertaker.

With the aforementioned respect I had given Cena, and the love I had for Bray Wyatt, it melded to get me more excited about that match than the potential coronation of Daniel Bryan. I hooked up my PS3 to my parents big screen television, and ordered special hors d'oeuvres for WrestleMania (and nearly went bankrupt with how much I spent).

I was excited. Ready to mark out like it was 1998 Steve Austin vs. Undertaker.

Then, after a few big spots and the spider counter to the "Five Knuckle Shuffle", I found myself disappointed. I would further find the PPV a little off with the streak being broken (NOTE: I was fine with 'Taker losing, just not to a part-timer. Also, it kind of telegraphed the notion that Bryan was going to win).

I was frustrated with that loss. I mean, this is the same Cena who pleaded with Steve Austin (on his podcast) that he was willing to put young talent over and he was okay with passing the torch. Wyatt seemed like a perfect candidate. He was born into this world, he had monster heel potential (the likes we haven’t seen since possibly Undertaker in ’90) and he was over. Instead, Cena won.

He "Hulked Up" and beat someone who needed the win more than Cena did.

I tried to justify it. "Maybe he’s going to do something at Extreme Rules to really get the Wyatts white-hot heat," I thought.

After weeks of amazing Wyatt promos (and disappointing Cena showings) I idiotically thought that Cena would prove me right and do the job.

I work Sundays, but I snuck my computer in to work. I set it up in the lonely booth I work in and watched as I ran the board at work, excited. I watched a lot of good stuff, but then Wyatt came out and I felt like I would see something great.

Instead, I became a kid again, watching as a hero died in front of my eyes. I don’t speak of Bray Wyatt, whom I still love, but of John Cena.

Cena became everything everyone said he was, and more. He became the egotistical, self-serving, disappointing fraud everyone warned me he was. He decided to rip-off Hulk Hogan (someone he’s been ripping off since he turned "Drink your milk and eat your vitamins" into "Hustle, Loyalty and Respect") and use the magic of being the "top guy" to make himself bulletproof.

When the Raw script leaked, and all the bullshit Cena did during that night’s promo (the fat jokes, the photoshop gimmicks and the terrible lines) wasn’t in the script, I should have known Cena was all about Cena. But I believed like an idiot mark. I believed he was a really cool dude. He isn’t. He decides that his reputation is more important than the betterment of the company.

Some of the fault lies with Vince McMahon and WWE Creative. But most of it lies in those empty promises and neon colored armbands.

He decided that rather than make this something we talk about in 15 years as a crazy feud that we all remember fondly, we’ll remember Cena not wanting to do what’s best for business. He couldn’t do the job? He couldn’t lose clean? He had to make a kid (who actually was kind of cool) do a demonic voice and distract him in order to lose to the second or third hottest act on the roster?

This isn’t some guy dressed in a magneto cape or a jobber. This guy could be the next super-heel in the company. And he does this why?

Cena didn’t lose me as a fan (because I was never that). But he lost more. He lost the respect I had for him. I don’t care how many kids he hugs or how many shirts he sells, he is nothing more than a man who loves only himself and has no real respect for wrestling. If he did, he’d have known that the business is what must be preserved, not his image.

It makes me sick that the first guy we see on the WWE image package at the start of every show is this guy…a man who only goes into business for himself.

Say what you will about CM Punk. Keep on about how he abandoned his fans. But at least we know he loves the business. I’m sure I’ll get shat on for this, but I at least know Punk is willing to job. He’s willing to do things in order to further the business, to make the product better. Cena, the man who stands in the middle of the ring as the gatekeeper to the top only wants to keep it status quo.

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