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John Cena cemented his legendary status at WrestleMania 34

The build was pretty ridiculous, and the payoff underwhelming. But we can’t discount what John Cena’s done over the last several months for his WrestleMania 34 story.

Here’s a guy who’s already a pop culture superstar, on the cusp of real success in Hollywood, who just more-or-less ribbed himself to remind the world Undertaker is a bad ass who shouldn’t be messed with at The Showcase of The Immortals. It was like one of Cena’s troll-y Instagram posts, but directed at himself, and to honor one of the most influential performers in the history of the business and artform he loves.

Pretty much any way you look at that, it’s an amazingly gracious act. And this is coming from a guy who disliked the whole angle and was disappointed when Stephanie McMahon and Triple H rode motorcycles to the ring because I figured that meant I wasn’t get my favorite version of Taker.

In between hosting Today and awards shows, filming movies and hitting the talk show circuit to promote them (Blockers came out ‘Mania weekend, and did okay against a buzzed about horror flick and Steven friggin’ Spielberg, and Cena celebrated by getting squashed), The Free Agent embarked on a long tale of being unable to win big matches and how that broke him down and made him desperate. It was goofy and didn’t line up terribly well with the story-thus-far for his character. But he agreed to and committed to it, if he didn’t pitch it himself.

His reputation as a company man was well-established already, but his status as a locker room guy was always debated. While Cena might not find himself atop the SmackDown Top Ten (may that gimmick of the roster voting for their favorite Superstar rest... in... peace) any time soon, what he did for the 53 year old Dead Man, his legacy and his fans was amazingly generous. And I’m fairly certain it won’t go unnoticed when folks inside and outside the business consider John’s place in history.

Here’s hoping this is a Logan-esque “Old Man Cena” program, with or without adding some of that “edge” fantasy booking of a heel turn for The Face That Runs The Place always includes. He does have a 17th WWE World Title to (probably) win at some point, and overcoming an opponent and his own mortality would be a hell of a way to do it.

But if Taker’s return in New Orleans taught us much of anything, it’s to not expect too much complex or layered character work from WWE. It would have made all the sense in the world for The Phenom to come back in a different form to explain his last WrestleMania and honor another aspect of his career, but it didn’t happen because they wanted to deliver the entrance they thought most people expected. Cena’s current storyline might have ended in the Superdome.

And one short match at The Show of Shows won’t erase the LOLCENAWINS era, or silence fans who believe he’s a backstage Machiavelli. But it does ensure our last image of Undertaker at WrestleMania won’t be a loss, or more importantly, that of the middle-aged man with a bad hip we watched struggle through his match with Roman Reigns in Orlando.

By adding last night to Taker’s legacy as one of the biggest stars and most important figures in wrestling history, Cena continued to build his own.

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