'Cuz Stone Cold Said So: Realizing our Circumstances
by, 09-06-2011 at 04:18 PM (2998 Views)
May 22, 2011, Over the Limit PPV, “I Quit Match” for the WWE Championship. It is the former champ the Miz vs. current titleholder John Cena, and what could have been a good match for the (formerly) prestigious belt becomes a farce unlike anything I have ever seen. For almost 20 minutes, The Miz and his employee Alex “Takin’ Finishers” Riley use every weapon known to man in a glorified squash match. I’ll save you the excruciatingly annoying details but Cena mounts a ridiculous 2 minute comeback and makes the Miz tap to retain his belt.
Here’s the tricky thing though, as far as I know it wasn’t Cena’s decision on how that match was booked or the stupid circumstances that ended it. Nor was it mostly his choice how his character has been written, managed, and backed into a corner over the past 7 years. I’d argue that Cena is more a product of the company, the society and the pro wrestling business than vice versa, and that is what is making the negative opinion we in the Internet Wrestling Community (IWC, as I’m sure most fans know it) feel for Mr. Fruity Pebbles . Now I know many articles online have been written about this subject and I’m hardly breaking new ground by comparing the Attitude era with the P.G. era or Austin against Cena, but I need to funnel my anger for the Cena character and look at it with a fair mind. Before I continue I must clarify something: Stone Cold Steve Austin is my favorite wrestler of all time, he’s the reason I started watching and the reason I love pro wrestling to this day. He, by mine and many other opinions was better than Cena in almost every category as a wrestler and performer.
With that said however, he benefitted from outside factors just as much as Cena has, but in a positive way. The year when Austin truly broke out into the main event scene (1997-1998), was a different time in many ways both wrestling and non-wrestling related. From a pure wrestling business standpoint WWF was losing in the ratings to WCW, and war over talent and ratings fueled both promotions to be better, appeal to adults (who drive TV ratings), and in a lot of cases be edgier and more crass to gain viewership. Unlike the bygone 1985-1993 era of wrestling they couldn’t afford to accept the business model that once their fans got to be 13 years old you accepted the loss in fan base and hoped that Hulk Hogan would swoop in deliver another family audience and save the day. By ’96 the wrestling business was hurting, WCW hadn’t taken off yet and the WWF was near bankruptcy and in the latter’s case they began taking a more earnest look into their audience and what they wanted. That process was propelled by the society around them, which in the case of the late 90’s was a more cynical, angry and disenchanted time than others. Try and remember that time, Jerry Springer was just coming on the air, and we were still in that post -grunge anger phase. Heavy metal and hardcore rap-rock hit the mainstream, and millions of teens who had grown up in a time of almost no war and a prospering economy had nothing to complain about other than to rail against their parents and authority in general. So here comes along a pissed off redneck who hates authority (personified by the best non-wrestling heel ever, Mr. McMahon)and just doesn’t give a flying fuck, which was not completely unlike a good majority of wrestling fans at the time and even society for that matter. This was where Austin 3:16 began and thrived and who’s to say if it came around even a few years later it would have reached the same heights.
Flash-forward a decade and we now live a more PC society, more tame and satiated. Our attention spans have never been shorter due to the ever growing presence of on-demand TV, music, movie and stimuli of almost every kind. Information goes in, is instantly disseminated, and tossed aside for the next thing to watch. WWF…E (don’t get me started on those litigious panda fuckers) has fallen off in popularity. It’s still amongst the top 15 things on cable every week but the era of 9 million people watching it a week are long gone. A lot of older fans have left in droves, and most that remain would clap and cheer for a camel shitting in the ring. They have gained young fans with their more family friendly P.G. Initiative, but not a substantial amount more than 1997-2001. All those factors make up the prism in which we watch Cena’s career unfold. By his luck and talent (say what you want but he is a good worker and talker, not superb though) Cena has remained as the top babyface in the company for longer than Austin and the Rock combined. It has grown stale, we know it, he knows it and WWE has to know it. The always present Cena heel turn rumor has never come to fruition because he is the one cash cow the WWE has and they would rather wallow in blandness than take a risky jump into the deep end. It’s a fascinating paradox that Cena brings in kids, and kids are the one demographic who thinks it’s all real and thus can’t grasp their Hustling, Loyalty-having, Respect-giving champ would be a big meanie. I’m not saying a Cena heel-turn would solve all the WWE’s problems but for Christ’s sake I’ll take anything different in the main event scene that in any way makes sense.
I’ll always love wrestling; I’ll always watch to see the awesome moments, which still do happen time to time. I’ll always care about the up and comers and the veterans who can still go, but the one thing that I have had to come to grips with is Cena and his place amongst the Hogan-Hart-HBK-Austin-Rock lineage. I’ll never root for him most likely (until he hits that post age 38 era where every wrestler mysteriously gets way more over with the crowd), and he doesn’t compare with my all-time favorites, but hopefully with a little freshening of his character and with an ever changing audience and demands he can at least be tolerable.