There are a lot of things I don’t understand, care about, or try to think about: the origin of the phrase “proof in the pudding,” Polka outside of the Czech Republic, and just how long until Rihanna publicly loses her damn mind.
However, one thing I’ve always sought to comprehend, care about excessively, and think about often is the mentality of men and women who go from challenger to champion and maintain that title.
I often jump to the blockbuster movie Rocky. Often I get mad at people who call it inspirational because at the end of the first film he does what no one expected: he loses.
Sure, he wins in the sequels (and as you can tell the quality of the movies declines dramatically) but perhaps the inspiration they speak of comes from the fact that he went from a total nobody to headlining the big fight.
Tying this back to wrestling, I compare it to the “Jeff Hardy Effect” or the “Zack Ryder Effect” since I want to be a little more recent. It’s fun to watch them claw their way up the ladder, but when they finally grab the prize that they’ve had their eye on for the longest, it becomes a very “blah” title run.
But we all like Rocky. We all like Jeff Hardy (before and after and during the drugs) and Zack Ryder (before and after and during his naive pre-pussy whipped character) but when they’re sitting on the throne they’ve spent years trying to get to, can we really say we care? Maybe you can, but me personally, I can’t.
I’m a fan of Jay-Z and Kanye West, but I was pissed when their album Watch the Throne was announced and even more pissed when it was released. I was at the highest echelon of being pissed (affectionately known as the Dave Willis Mega-Fury in some circles) when they had the nerve to call their new super group status “The Throne. “
Why? Because I didn’t know that they had that audacity in them until after I heard the album. The album was not bad but it was hardly enough to warrant a title such as Watch the Throne.
I compare this to most of the active Superstars and Divas in the WWE right now because the common link between “watching the throne” and “occupying the throne” is a level of complacency; hunger, in other words.
It’s the underdog effect: you claw and struggle for something and thus everyone has your back. When you have that something, you don’t struggle unless someone provides a struggle for you because they are on the come up that they were once on. God forbid they were beside you during that rise; they wouldn’t be able to provide as good a challenge more than likely.
This could easily just be another article where I seem to bash John Cena, but this is a lot deeper than Cena. The comparisons to him going from underdog to constant contender are many, on and off the programs, in and out of the realms of wrestling even. If anything this piece is more so a reflection on everything that makes up the characters that we watch so intently on any given Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
The throne is meant to symbolize the greatest authority: the king or queen, the head of the everything, the one out of those who came many tine tenny. B default they are usually a complacent bunch.
These characters – speaking from a literary perspective – command respect and henchmen, indulge in various tales of ribaldry, and get fat…kind of like D’Angelo after Untitled (How Does It Feel?). Doing anything otherwise becomes a breach in character.
So why do our champions not get fat and happy? It can be attributed to a lot of things. Love for the game, desires to be more than just an average champion, an abundance of eggnog in the stocking, sugar in the boots, a meager paycheck, a box set of Yu Yu Hakusho where the creators aren’t stifled by the standards of political correctness, etc.
There are some tales where the kings and champions maintain their underdog hunger, but there is always the question: why? What do you have to accomplish at that point? And more importantly, what are you proving outside of embarrassing your lowly opponents in a systematic fashion?
You can tell that this piece is a teaser to a longer piece that I haven’t even conceptualized yet. I’m not sure entirely where I’m going with this, and I’m hoping I don’t end up questioning whether or not I like fighting champions, but I am questioning the actual role of the throne, as it were.
Do we really show our champions any sort of defining reverence outside of Daniel Bryan and CM Punk? Hell, just Daniel Bryan. And if he wasn’t screaming the most non-sexual and yet horrifyingly orgasmic chant of “Yes! Yes! Yes! World Heavyweight Champion!” would we show him the same love?
I don’t know. I will by the time I write the entire piece. Until then (probably Friday or Saturday, depending on the status of me and the Mass Effect trilogy), peace.
Now believe me, I’m gonna be very disappointed if I don’t get attacked by closet Cena supporters for this.
Trust me when I say that this piece isn’t about hating Cena or his character. It is merely an observation that I noticed.
In Mr. Ashley Morris’s opening salvo, which can be found here (“As the Cena Turns” – Why I’m With Team Bring It) (shameless plug), he gave what I believe was the first official L.E.W.D Crew flag in favor of either team in what has become an emotional battle between wrestling eras and supporters.
In the comments section, I viewed an interesting exchange between Mr. Morris and Mr. Shane Howard of Hit The Ropes Radio (http://www.thecolorcommentator.com/hit-the-ropes-radio) (even more of a shameless plug) had a brief but simple little back and forth comparing John Cena to Carlito. For sake of citation, I’ll post the notable bit here for anyone who doesn’t want to take the time to read Mr. Morris’s piece (since most of us have read it several times over anyways.)
“As for the phoning in part. I won’t say he phones in matches. Is his matches the greatest things on Earth? No. But phoning it in? I wouldn’t exactly call it that. Predictable, sure.” – Shane Howard
Here’s the part that really gets me.
Can anyone give me a reasonable difference?
I am now fully under the belief that John Cena phones in his performances.
It’s easy to cite Carlito or Shelton Benjamin. Both men were capable of amazing in-ring performances, while one of them (Carlito) was good on the mic. But both men wallowed in mediocrity before finally being future endeavored several years ago.
The immediate argument is that both of these men phoned in their performances. In other words, they became complacent and did just enough to get by. While both men were capable of much more, they simply floated along in the same place, never aspiring to reach a higher echelon of performance.
And John Cena doesn’t?
Look, I get the enthusiasm. John Cena lives, breathes, sweats, bleeds and probably ejaculates WWE. It’s in his very soul.
But does it show in his matches?
Cite an example of a John Cena match that was memorable for something other than the caliber/name value of his opponent or the title/stipulation that was on the line.
There is a very fine line between predictable and phoning it in. For someone educated enough or a hardcore fan, almost everyone is predictable.
Each person has their sequence of crowd popping moves that they try to get in each match. It’s basic ring psychology.
The Rock had the Samoan drop, the Sharpshooter, the People’s Punches, and the Spinebuster to set up for the People’s Elbow or the Rock Bottom.
Austin had the Thesz Press, the Mudhole Stomps and your basic brawling tactics before a Stunner.
Shawn Michaels had the Inverted Atomic Drop followed by a clothesline which preceded the Elbow Drop and then Sweet Chin Music.
You can cite examples like that all day long. In the end, most of us extraordinary wrestling enthusiasts can argue that almost all wrestlers are a bit predictable.
The thing is, guys like Hart, Michaels, Austin, Rock etc. found ways to make their matches memorable. Shawn Michaels got a decent match out of Kevin Nash, Steve Austin made Spike Dudley look like a million dollars before defeating him in a WWF Championship match during the Alliance era, and The Rock’s last televised non PPV wrestling match was a classic wrestling clinic that he put on with the freakin’ Hurricane.
In short, these men might have been “predictable” but each time they stepped into the ring, regardless of opponent, they found a way to stand out. With all due respect to guys like Spike Dudley and Hurricane Helms, you wouldn’t expect classic four star matches out of either of them when placed into a ring with someone the caliber of Stone Cold Steve Austin or The Rock, but that’s exactly what we were given.
Here’s where I defend my stance that John Cena phones it in.
Cena has had these kinds of classic matches in which he went above and beyond what people expected of him.
I can cite John Cena vs The Undertaker at Vengeance 2003 and John Cena vs Brock Lesnar at Backlash of 2003.
Both matches were during his Doctor of Thuganomics phase and no, I’m not citing them because I desperately want to see that character return. It’d be a step backwards and I can never condone that.
But this was before John was the face of the company. He was a rising star, hungry to get to the top. When John was the guy you didn’t expect a five star match out of when placed against a Taker or a Lesnar, you got one.
When John was placed in the first and only Latino Heat Parking Lot Brawl, which most figured would be a typical car crash match, we got 5-7 minutes of intense fighting. Another memorable match.
For people saying that I’m kind of shunning his current gimmick, I’ll cite something closer to home. John Cena’s first ever WWE Title defense. John Cena vs JBL at Judgment Day 2005.
In this case, the roles were reversed. Bradshaw was a hell of a Champion but not the kind of guy you really expected a classic match out of. John Cena was the newbie Champion. We were treated to a bloody, intense, damn good fight.
So where did all of that go?
Fast forward a few years and the support for Cena wanes as people begin to rebel against his subtle shift from edgy thug to boyscout.
He still hasn’t begun phoning it in.
WrestleMania’s 22 and 23 respectively.
John Cena during these two years main evented both shows against Triple H and Shawn Michaels respectively. Now, sh*t’s on.
Despite the fact that Hunter and Michaels more or less carried Cena through these, it’s understandable. They’re two of the greatest in-ring performers of all time and these were John Cena’s first WrestleMania show closer Main Event title defenses, with opponents significantly more skilled than JBL.
Again, memorable matches.
The one match that stands out in my mind is John Cena vs Edge in a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match for the WWE Title in Toronto, Canada. At this point, the Cena haters are more vocal but are still in the background.
Despite being the polar opposite of a TLC guy, Cena and Edge put on a hell of a good match, with Edge finally losing in the end.
While I’m sure other individual matches can be cited ad-nauseum, you aren’t here for a history lesson.
So let me make my point.
Fast forward to the past two years. What’s memorable? John has become a machine, with each match following almost the exact same pattern. In recent years, he has become more and more grossly protected until now, it’s virtually inconceivable to see him lose a match cleanly.
This is where I call bullsh*t.
John Cena’s WrestleMania Main Event against Miz for the WWE title? Completely forgettable outside of the entrances and Rock’s participation. Also, Cena could apparently only lose to The Miz after The Rock’s Rock Bottom.
Rewind a little bit? Sure. John Cena vs Batista in a Last Man Standing match. It ended with duct tape. Sure, some people found that funny or creative. I found the entire thing painful and stupid. It was different sure but seeing dog turds dropping off the top of a tall building would be different also. Wouldn’t make it enjoyable.
John Cena defeating Edge and Big Show in a triple threat title match at WrestleMania 25? Not only was that a very lackluster match, but it also followed Undertaker vs HBK. Not exactly a good setup there.
John Cena defeating Batista in an I Quit match, that also happened to be Batista’s last WWE match? Mostly forgettable aside from the nice stage slam at the very end. Unfortunately, we’d get much of the same from John in the Ambulance match against Kane at Elimination Chamber.
The reason I call bullsh*t is because I’ve seen John perform at a higher standard.
And for those of you wanting to cite John Cena vs CM Punk at Money In The Bank (a definite match of the year candidate), remember that I asked for examples of matches that were memorable for reasons outside of opponent or circumstance.
CM Punk and the possibility of him leaving with the WWE Title in his hometown are really what made that match so good. This particular match is a good example of Cena’s current position: Very complacent and uninspired unless faced with an opponent that forces him to excel, as Punk did.
According to Urbandictionary.com:
Phoning it in: To perform an act in a perfunctory, uncommitted fashion, as if it didn’t matter. Used to describe a lazy or uninspired attempt or minimal effort.
John Cena doesn’t try anymore. Unless faced with someone like Punk who literally kicked a good match out of him, he just doesn’t try.
But goodness gracious, I haven’t even gotten past his in-ring work yet. (And no, I’m not oblivious to the fact that many WWE Superstars phone it in. The difference is that John is on top and has no excuse.)
The verbal exchanges with The Rock for the past two weeks.
Many moons ago, we witnessed John Cena take his purple-shirt having ass out to the ring and cut a scathing rap promo that funny, entertaining and blistering. Promos like that can rival The Rock’s legendary verbal prowess on the microphone. Creative promos.
The last two weeks, many people have given John Cena the win in terms of the war of words. I call bullsh*t again. He’s phoning it in.
Two weeks ago, he delivered probably his best non-rap promo of his career. Did it seem a bit typical? Yes, but the energy was there. He seemed into it.
Last week Rock came back to RAW and closed out the show with a noticeably shaky and weak promo, punctuated by Cena getting to deliver a rebuttal during the last two minutes of the overrun and hitting Rock with a pre-conceived burn about having promo notes on his arm and leaving Rock with zero time to fire back. This climaxed with a very jumbled and rushed finish to the promo and a quickly delivered tagline and a rebuttal that was conveniently confined to WWE.com as a “bonus feature.”
The reason I call bullsh*t is because of what it is. It’s cheap heat. It’s a free throw contest with Rock playing on NBA regulation hoops and Cena playing on WNBA regulation hoops.
If that analogy goes over your head then try this one: He’s phoning it in. There’s that ugly phrase again.
We’ve seen John Cena keep up with The Rock on the stick. We’ve seen him zing Rock with his own material. But that entire scenario recounted above was cheap heat.
Has anyone ever seen promo notes on Rock’s arm? I have no doubt he may have done it on camera but I never saw them on his arm in the ring before.
If you’ve been reading up on rumors and reports, the current explanation is that WWE wants Cena to get half the cheers at Mania in Miami. Now, as much as that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard (Cena could end world hunger at Mania in Miami and they wouldn’t cheer him over Rock), it’s also resulted in a neutering of The Rock’s promos.
Cena shouldn’t need a bone thrown to him in promo notes on Rock’s arm or a last second rebuttal to get him over.
Fast Forward to last night in Boston. I won’t even go into how telling it is that Cena can’t even get a high degree of cheers in his own hometown. Even most heels get cheered in their hometown.
If you get booed in your own city, you’re either an excellent heel or a lackluster face.
But that’s neither here nor there. What we saw last night was a series of funny Rock History lessons and a good John Cena video package where he highlighted how important WrestleMania is to him.
That was all well and good. Then we get to the show closer segment, advertised as a face to face confrontation between Rock and Cena. What we got instead was John Cena pandering to his city. When that didn’t work, he name dropped some places in Massachusetts for a few cheap pops. Then The Rock came out, got a few minutes to drop burns on Cena and then very abruptly walked out without delivering a catch phrase or anything.
This left Cena in the ring for the last few minutes of the show to drop some unchallenged remarks and suck up to the crowd after his music hit. Anyone who didn’t notice the imbalance there is kidding themselves.
So why am I making such a huge deal out of this? Because it’s lazy, cheap heat. Get over it WWE, he’s not getting cheered in Miami. That doesn’t mean that he can’t get himself over.
Quit pushing him as an underdog because no one buys it, not even the Cena fans. Stop toning down The Rock’s electricity so Cena can keep up. The Boy Wonder can keep up just fine on his own. He’s proven it before.
In my estimation, the entire build-up is being watered down on this final stretch before WrestleMania all because WWE desperately wants John Cena to look like The Rock’s equal. Well, news flash: If that’s what you guys want then just let him go out and be John Cena. Stop neutering The Rock and giving Cena a learning curve.
If John Cena wins the verbal battle next week, it should be because his raps outshined The Rock’s lyrics, not because Rock performed first and got less time than Cena, which is likely what will happen.
Why not just let them go out and be The Rock and John Cena?
Thank you for sitting through this long winded tirade and I challenge you, my L.E.W.D Brothers and Sisters to tear this apart.
Is John Cena phoning it in? Can you cite a difference between Carlito and Cena, both of whom were and are capable of performing at a very high level and both of whom reached a level of performance complacency?
I fully expect to have my literary balls smashed in with a hammer by Asherology by nightfall or tomorrow morning. Until then.
~Mr. Quinn Gammon