Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Is John Cena the Greatest of All-Time?

Your immediate reaction is most likely an emphatic "NO!" But I ask you why not? Because you don't like his cookie cutter image? Because you're sick of him being at the top? Because you're sick of watching excellent matches from a guy you despise for no reason other than the fact that he's this era's Hulk Hogan?

Those are poor arguments, however, if I hadn't spent ten years in the wrestling business, I would be inclined to agree that he doesn't deserve that title. But when you spend that much time doing this thing, your perspective changes.

If you hate him because he "doesn't have ring gear," which is a legitimate argument I've heard several times throughout the years, then you also must denounce Kevin Owens and Dean Ambrose for the same reason. Also, let us not forget that CM Punk wore basketball shorts for in ring gear for the majority of his career. So the ring gear argument is invalid.

If you hate him because "so-and-so could work circles around him," then tell me the last time John Cena had the worst match on the card. Cena routinely puts on matches that are rated 4 stars or higher by the Pro Wrestling Observer. Since Summerslam of 2012, Cena has had 21 matches--not counting his amazing match with A.J. Styles at the most recent Royal Rumble which will most certainly get at least a 4 star rating--that have been rated 4.0 or higher, and his opponents are always different. That list includes matches with CM Punk, Bray Wyatt, Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler, Cesaro, and many more. You know what this tells me? It tells me that John Cena can have a good match with anyone, and keep in mind that these are only pay-per-view matches and don't count any match he's had on Raw or Smackdown.

Also take into consideration that he's doing this on the biggest stages. I'm sure that the "5-star match" you had at the armory in front of 17 people was right up there with what John Cena and A.J. Styles did at the 2017 Royal Rumble in front of 50,000+, but until you're able to do what he does on that kind of stage, you have no place criticizing the man for his in-ring work.

He's now won the WWE Heavyweight Championship (or equivalent titles) 16 times, tying the immortal Ric Flair. If your argument here is "that just means he's lost it 15 times," then let me tell you how hard it is to regain the title. At one point in my career, I won the Northern Wrestling Federation title. I won it after a very well done build-up--easily the most well built story I was ever a part of--and it culminated with me winning the title. I held it for 8 months, dropped it back to the man I beat for it, and never won it again. Sure, I wrestled for it on several more occasions because I'm such a big guy that I was usually brought in to give the babyface champion a legitimate heel threat, but I never got it back. I didn't have it in me. If a wrestling company is run properly, then they don't just put a title on someone for no reason.

John Cena has earned every title he's ever won, and to be on top for as long as he has is nothing short of incredible. He won his first WWE Title in 2005, and has been on or near the top ever since. That's almost 12 years. No other wrestler than can be argued for the greatest of all-time had that kind of longevity. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's run--which was definitely the hottest run any wrestler has ever seen--only last about 5-6 years. It may have lasted longer had it not been for injuries forcing "The Rattlesnake" out of competition, but I'm not here to argue "what if." The Rock's run was about the same as Austin's. Hulk Hogan's run was a bit longer, but between his constant retirements and drama surrounding his run in WCW, it doesn't compare to Cena. Lastly, let's compare him to the man he just tied in title wins: Ric Flair.

Ric Flair is a legend, no doubt about that one. But if you try to tell me that all of those title reigns were legitimate, I will laugh at you. The final years of World Championship Wrestling saw the company playing hot potato with their title. Flair's final three runs with the belt were less than one month long, and his final two were only a week or less.

John Cena has been a workhorse and a class act for the WWE for 15 years. He's never been charged with domestic abuse (Steve Austin), he's never exposed himself to a flight attendant (Ric Flair), he's never had a racist tirade turn into a million dollar lawsuit (Hulk Hogan), and he's never bashed his employer for pushing part-time wrestlers and then go to UFC and become the thing he denounced.

Just in case you don't know who I'm referring to here.

So I must ask, why does the Internet Wrestling Community still hate John Cena so much? We hate him for regularly putting on great and entertaining matches, never getting in trouble, doing more Make-A-Wish events than anyone else in history, being a positive role model, and spreading a positive message. So we hate him for doing everything right?

"Okada/Omega > Styles/Cena" I hear you shouting at your computer screen like a crazy person. Look, I didn't watch Okada vs Omega, and I likely never will. I'm sure it was a great match, and I'm sure if I ever do watch it, I'll be entertained, but New Japan is a different style than the WWE. Places like Ring of Honor and Dragon Gate are different styles than the WWE. Even NXT is a different style than the WWE, that's why so many NXT guys come up to the main roster and flounder.

I don't say this to bash anyone, because every wrestler at every one of those companies accomplished way more than I ever did in my career, but who's to say that indy darlings like Kenny Omega won't one day get signed by the WWE and fail? I hope that doesn't happen, but that's a real possibility, because we've all seen it happen before. A lot of wrestlers make it to the main roster, get their fifteen minutes of fame, and either get released or repackaged into something different because their star burned out so quickly. Remember how hot Fandango was? His theme song was the hottest song on iTunes for a brief time, and now he's a bit player.

Being a WWE superstar is hard, and it's about more than just in-ring work. No one here is arguing that John Cena is the best in-ring performer ever. But when you take his consistently great in-ring performance, add his longevity, his merchandise sales, his connection to the fans, and the scrutiny he's been under for the majority of his career without a single blemish on his record, how could John Cena not be in consideration for the great of all-time?

Thanks for reading, and check out all the other things I do at the links below.

Error Machine Podcast
Error Machine YouTube page
@TheDustinThomas on Twitter

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