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Revisiting some interesting John Cena comments about WWE Creative

The main topic of discussion lately has been about what ails WWE. Most of that talk is focused on how Vince McMahon, and the creative team over whose work he has final say, chooses to feed the company’s content beast. That made me think back to this April interview Chris Van Vliet did with John Cena.

At the time, most of us fixated on the stuff about his status with the company, and what he’d be doing at WrestleMania 35 in New Jersey. But in retrospect, there are some thoughts that are relevant to the current debate. Much of it is Cena’s usual spiel about the onus being on the talent to stand out, but he opened up a bit more about why he feels that way - mostly because what talent is given by creative isn’t very good.

This quote comes when he’s saying he’s never thought about how the heel turn he’s often said he wanted would/should have happened (emphasis mine):

“No, because then you become obsessed, and this is something that I think takes valuable creative time and energy away from Superstars. So this is more of a tutorial for like my pieces of semi-sage advice bestowed upon you - don’t waste time and energy over the uncontrollable. It would be awesome if I was champion, it would be awesome if I was a bad guy, it would be awesome if it was this, and this, and this. Take what you have and make it something great. I’ve often thought like, ‘oh, this would be cool...’ Those are fleeting thoughts and they’re gone and I go back to what am I doing what’s in front of me right now. And I think that’s the best way to develop a long-term successful career in a business where you are relied on to be creative. People give you raw creative material, and anyone who’s ever had long-term success in this business has had to take that material and massage it and put themselves into it, and their belief into it, and make it their own.

I hate hearing people say, ‘well, creative has nothing for me,’ or ‘they’re not writing good things for me’. You have a small crew of writers who has to write a mass amount of segments and they churn out general story. The best, most brilliant situation in the world is, ‘you two guys are gonna have a match tonight, figure it out’. Or getting something that’s not good, because then you can take it and go with the writer and work and make it your own. I’ve worked with so many of our writing team from the head writer himself on down to the guy on the first day on the job and they all want to create. But we’re also under the constraints of mass amounts of content, short amount of time. You have to write the segments, they have to come out of the machine because we have to have some structure, cause we’re going live.

It’s up to the talent to take something, no offense - that is shitty, and make it good. I have never been handed a written piece of paper that I go, ‘This is great.’ It’s always, ‘how do we turn this shit into something that makes sense.’ And I’ve seen guys like Miz do it, I’ve seen guys like Seth [Rollins] do it, AJ [Styles] when we were able to creatively bond for a while, Bray [Wyatt] - sit there for hours. And the way I started with this was when I was writing my own raps. Nobody can write that stuff, because at the time it was an artform that wasn’t showcased on the program, and the writers weren’t versed in that artform. So it was on my shoulders to sink or swim. And I would spend hours in the bleachers just writing punchlines, and writing punchlines. And I became ostracized and hated by my co-workers because they thought I didn’t care about the business because I wasn’t around the ring with my shoulders on the canvas going ’okay, who’s in the ring? I’m around the product’. Little did they know I was investing everything I had into trying to develop a connection with the audience, which I believe is the most important thing. So on a day for creative expression, like on a Raw or SmackDown or pay-per-view day, you can’t find me around the ring. I am locked in a room with a writer and possibly someone involved in the storyline, and we are just seeing how can we get your interest.”

There’s a lot of the standard Cena “don’t make excuses” mantra, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a top star call out the creative team’s output like this before. Also interesting that while he’s imploring the talent not to make excuses, he makes the usual excuses for creative department, but John is nothing if not a savvy company man.

Just another talking point for our ongoing debate about the quality of Raw and SmackDown...

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