Let me tell ya, fellow wrestling fans. Ten or so years ago, your boy was among the many in our fellowship who hated John Cena.
He was overpushed, and at the expense of performers I thought were more deserving. His character didn’t make sense if you thought about if for more than 10 seconds. He was presented as the ultimate good guy, then most of his storylines cast him an 80s teen comedy villain. His matches could be formulaic, and — combined with those other things — allowed us to convince ourselves he couldn’t wrestle.
We were right about some of those things, but we were wrong about Cena. He can come across as a bit hokey, or even fake (something the programs he starred in over the final third of his career as a full-time member of the roster often focused on). But even if the sayings on his multi-colored merchandise were cheesy, he lived them.
As he tweeted Kevin Owens in the days leading up to their match on SmackDown last night (Dec. 29), his first in almost a year-and-a-half, Cena loves wrestling. He also loves being a WWE Superstar, mostly because he believes their “putting smiles on people’s faces” motto.
It’s why, as he squeezed last night’s match into his increasingly busy Hollywood schedule to keep his streak of having one per year over his 20 year (and counting) WWE career, Cena showed up early to do Make-A-Wish work.
And stuck around after the main event to have some house show-esque fun and close out the night on the microphone, praising everyone else more than he did himself.
“I want to thank everybody that I shared the ring with tonight. I want to thank you, for spending your holidays with us. It is the season of giving... I just want to say thank you so much for giving me the greatest gift you ever could. That is allowing me to step into this ring for 20 straight years.
“I’ve had one match, at least, every single year since I started in 2002. This year was the first year that that wasn’t gonna happen. Until I found out that the last event of the year was right in my backyard here in Tampa Bay. I want to thank you as a community for welcoming me with open arms. I want to thank those I share the ring with for helping me make magic every night. But most importantly, I want to thank all of you that do all the hard work and sacrifice to come and see us week in and week out. Because none of this exists with you!
“Thank you for a wonderful 20 year run, thank you for a wonderful 2022. Everybody be safe tomorrow night, and let’s have one hell of a 2023! Thank you, Tampa Bay.”
That’s why when his music hit, the proverbial roof blew off Amalie Arena.
I’m sure I wasn’t the only jaded old “smark” watching at home whose face he put a smile on when he got his shit in, either.
I don’t regret the past. As I said, many of the criticisms of the “LOLCENAWINS” era are valid. But I’m more grateful than ever for the United States Open Challenge run that convinced a lot of us that John Cena did not, in fact, suck. It’s fitting that our latest reminder of that came when he was working alongside Kevin Owens, since Cena putting KO over at Elimination Chamber 2015 was a big factor in changing our opinions of him.
Roman Reigns is amazing. Becky Lynch is a star. Seth Rollins and Bianca Belair are doing amazing work right now, and folks like Bron Breakker and Roxanne Perez will carry WWE into the future.
But there will never be another John Cena. So I’m gonna use the few appearances we get from him each year to appreciate that, and him.
I won’t even comment on his hair*.
* Yes, I commented without commenting. Unlike Cena, I’m incapable of not putting myself over.