John Cena wasn't supposed to be getting jeers at the Heart O' Texas Coliseum on September 26, 2005, but then again, Cena wasn't even supposed to be here.
Raw wasn't supposed to be here. The Titantron, the cameras, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler, none of them were supposed to make a trip to Waco, Texas. The facility is typically used for rodeo and other equestrian events, but on a Saturday in September, a few WWE Superstars were indeed supposed to be here for a Smackdown-branded house show. I skipped a college French class to be at the box office when seats went on sale.
But sometimes plans change. Sometimes natural disasters happen.
WWE broadcasts in this part of the country typically happen in Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, New Orleans, and the Ragin' Cajundome in Lafayette. This past week, some of the bigger Texas cities got NXT, while Waco hosted its nearly-annual B-team house show the night before Night of Champions. But when Hurricane Katrina hit the coast of Louisiana on August 29, 2005, WWE adjusted its schedule. The Saturday live event got moved to a Monday night, changing the cast of characters and bringing announcer Jim Ross to Waco to say "The world is watching."
It meant WWE Champion John Cena and his spinner belt were coming to town.
September 26, 2005 is the last episode of Raw broadcast on Spike TV. WWE is set to return to USA Network the following Monday, its home from 1993 to 2000 and again from Fall 2005 on. Vince McMahon wants to make sure everyone knows to change channels October 3—so much so that the broadcast from Waco begins with "No Chance in Hell" blaring through the speakers as a billionaire power struts to the ring.
In addition to Mr. McMahon's appearance, I remember a handful of other things:
Matt Hardy and Edge promote their upcoming "Loser Leaves Raw" ladder match with one cutting a promo on a ladder until the other runs in and shoves it over. Big Show pulls an actual kitchen sink out from under the ring to hit his opponent during a hardcore match, and in place of a dark match, he choke-slams Chris Masters through a table. Chavo Guerrero and Dolph Ziggler are also here, as Kerwin White and his caddie.
The other thing I remember is a lot of guys booing John Cena.
I missed much of Cena's first era as United States Champion, but to me he seems like a great All-American babyface. I am excited to see him at Raw, and cheer when "Sexy Boy" ends and "Appledough" begins. But as the world champion stomps down the ramp to join Shawn Michaels in a tag match against Chris Masters and Carlito, much of the crowd boos the man in a camouflage cap and army green shirt. These are pre-Fruity Pebbles days, with a logo that says Chain Gang Soldier on top with the phrase Kick Ass, Take Names on either side of a skull.
I turn to a friend to ask "Why are they booing?" It makes no sense. It's not as if he's facing smark favorites like Daniel Bryan, Rusev, or Kevin Owens. It's 2005 and he's up against Chris Masters. But plenty of people tell the rest of us, including Cena, that he sucks.
I just checked the WWE Championship history to see how many times The Face That Runs The Place had held a top title by September 2005. He's at 15 now, and it would be 16 if it weren't for Jon Stewart and a chair. Surely all of the Waco people who are hating on hustle loyalty respect are simply tired of seeing the same person in the title picture. It turns out this is Cena's very first reign, following his WrestleMania 21 victory over JBL 176 days earlier.
That didn't take long.
Fast forward several years to WrestleMania 27, and I'm at the Georgia Dome wearing a Bryan Danielson t-shirt, sitting next to a little kid in a John Cena t-shirt. I boo as "Appledough" begins while this kid claps. I cheer "Awesome" during Miz's gospel choir entrance as my seat neighbor boos. When Cena gets pinned, my buddy in an nWo shirt jumps out of his seat to high-five me. The kid is crying. Part of me wants to laugh, and to tell him his hero sucks. But part of me sincerely feels sympathy for this child. He—and millions like him—needs John Cena to be a hero and to win.
John Cena is stale. There's no doubt about it. There's also no questioning the fact that John Cena is a good professional wrestler. Just look at matches from the Open Challenge. His time as The Prototype in Ohio Valley Wrestling showed potential for a more technical move set—although he used the Third Move of Doom as a finishing move.
It seemed a lot of the boos initially came because John Cena is a good looking dude and many ladies loved him. I'm not saying fans were haters who hated their lives, but I am sure there's some animosity because of his appearance. It's part of the reason why Vince McMahon made John Cena a poster boy.
But even outside of his looks, I completely understand why the McMahons keep Cena where he is. He seems like a genuinely good guy. I confess I would love it if a kid's "Make a Wish" was to hang out with me. I've had a few kids ask for my autograph, which I think is ridiculous, but can you imagine if a sick kid just wanted to spend some time with you? How cool. Cena doesn't need that ego boost to improve his self-worth. He's giving hope and happiness to children who may not have much of either. Those youngsters must be so confused and, like the child next to me at WrestleMania 27, understandably upset to hear negativity shouted at their hero.
(A brief aside, I would much rather sit next to that kid again than the guy who sat next to my group at WrestleMania 30. He pooped his pants during either Cena-Wyatt or Lesnar-Undertaker. We noticed the smell during the latter match, and the gentleman remained seated until the confetti started falling at the end.)
I used to laugh to myself about the dueling crowd chants in Cena's matches against CM Punk. After the "Let's go Cena", both "C-M Punk" and "Ce-na sucks" have phonetic similarities, but the crowd tended to go with the insult rather than rooting on their straight-edge savior. Spite superseded support.
Personally, the word "boo" is a lot more fun to say than "yay."
You know that photoshopped image of Cena holding up the I WIN LOL towel? I made that about a year ago with MS Paint. With the significant exception of not losing the title to Kevin Owens, it seems much of the Cena Sucks crowd is pleased with the open challenge for the US Title, which is a result of Cena continuing to win. Recently people were mad about Seth Rollins taking the open challenge away, and hoping Cena could get it back—without getting the WWE World Heavyweight Championship as well.
John Cena got jeers ten years ago during his first world title reign, but I have a feeling the same boo birds will be cheering him ten years from now as the 48-year-old heads toward the Hall of Fame. I can even envision him inviting a short "Cena sucks" chant from a smiling crowd during his induction speech, for old times' sake.
As far as my personal stance on or participation in chanting "Cena sucks" goes, all I can say is I can't believe it took ten years to add his first name to it for singing along with his theme song, because man, that's a lot of fun.