John Cena: Caught between The Rock and a hard place

In late February of this year, John Cena gave a now infamous interview to the British tabloid newspaper, The Sun. In it, he talks about his time in OVW and how he loves the business. He tow’s the company line on all the usual issues that he has too and says that, sometimes, wrestling fans are too critical. All the normal stuff. It isn’t exactly earth shattering, and if you’re having trouble getting to sleep one night, you my wish to read the full 6,000 word transcript on the newspaper’s website.

But then he gets onto the topic of the former WWE star The Rock (Dwayne Johnson), and from this point it gets interesting. He starts off by saying what a fantastic human being The Rock is and how he is doing so well as an actor. Quickly, however, the tone begins to turn. Cena starts to question how much The Rock actually cares for the business of Pro Wrestling. Whether he used the exposure that he got as a stepping stone to bigger and better things. Does The Rock love performing on the silver screen more than performing in the squared circle?

And then, I read the following statement and it was this sentence that annoyed me, and still annoys me today. And so, this being my first shot at an editorial, I thought that I’d share my thoughts with you all. I know that this story could be construed as ‘old news’, but I think that it’s worth discussing. This is a direct quote, taken from the John Cena interview, when he is talking about The Rock’s attitude towards the wrestling fans that’d admired and supported him during his tenure with the WWE:

“…he just doesn’t give anything back, man.”

Excuse me? He doesn’t what? Let’s read that again:

“…he just doesn’t give anything back, man.”

Now, my opinions are strictly my own. But believe me when I tell you, and I hope a few of you out there will agree with me, when I say that Dwayne Johnson owes the WWE fans absolutely nothing.

You want to talk about giving something back? Johnson gave us everything when he was knocking up 5-star matches with the likes of Kurt Angle, Triple H, The Undertaker, Mick Foley and Steve Austin. He gave us everything when was cutting some of the greatest promos ever heard on a wrestling show. He gave us everything in the late 90’s when, alongside some of the names listed above, he helped to drag the WWE out of the hole it had been in for some time. So if Dwayne Johnson wants to retire from the organisation that he helped re-build and try his hand at acting, if he wants to challenge himself creatively and artistically, then that’s fine by me. And I wish him nothing but the best.

Cena is currently riding on the crest of a wave set in motion by the better wrestlers, better performers and better entertainers who came before him. So perhaps, and I’m just spit balling here, John Cena should worry about his own standing in the wrestling world and how he is going to improve his performances and match quality before verbally thrashing a WWE legend for his apparent lack of commitment to the fans.

But maybe John Cena is a little confused, so I’ll repeat a previous point. On March 14th 2004, Dwayne Johnson retired from the wrestling industry. His last match was at WrestleMania 20 in Madison Square Garden, New York City. When you retire from something, it means that you no longer participate in that venture. That’s it, he’s gone, done with, it’s over, finished. Dwayne Johnson has retired from wrestling. That chapter in his life is over with. He went out on top, as one of the greatest of all time, and is looking for a new direction. He has stated on a number of occasions, and has reiterated it again this week, that he has no desire to return to the wrestling ring. And yet Cena has taken great offence at Johnson’s unwillingness to hang around the WWE for the sake of the fans and be wheeled out at the latest RAW taping for a quick ratings fix.

Michael Jordan retired in 2003, but should he make regular playing appearances for the Bull’s or the Wizard’s for the sake of the fans? Pele retired in 1977 and he doesn’t run on for Brazil during a World Cup soccer match to take a penalty kick. Both of these guys, and many, many more, have left the profession that made them famous and now have different careers, objectives and projects.

But let’s stick to wrestling, and I wonder who else is on Cena’s radar? How about Trish Stratus? One of the greatest and most popular female wrestlers of recent times retired from the business in 2006 to pursue other media endeavours. She’s already hosted a number of shows on Canadian TV and her own travel programme will debut soon. Trish was very well liked by wrestling fans, who appreciated her hard work and desire to entertain and she got a great send off for it. What about her, John? Are you expecting Trish to give something back soon? It’s been nearly two years now. Does Trish owe us anything?

Of course she doesn’t. She decided to retire from wrestling, move into TV work, get married (damn) and open a yoga studio in Toronto. The only thing that’s owed is another big ‘thank you and good luck’ from all of us. He’ll be having a pop at Andre The Giant next for not appearing at any WWE autograph signings recently.

But I’ve got to give him a little credit. Cena has certainly got some front for questioning a talent like The Rock. I just find it a little galling that a guy so resolutely disliked by most wrestling fans, who is over pushed and over exposed, who’s gimmick is so lame that he looks like the third member of Too Cool, would so arrogantly lambaste ‘the most electrifying man in sports entertainment’. Cena informs all of us later in the interview:

“Just don’t f*** me around and tell me that you love this when you are just doing this to do something else. That’s the only thing that gets me really p****d off”

I get really p****d off to, sometimes. Like when I’m watching John Cena, WWE Superstar and eight year veteran, in the main event of RAW and he hasn’t even learned how to throw a realistic looking punch yet. Maybe Vince should spend the $1 million he’s got to spare on wrestling lessons that the ex-champ needs to bring him up to true main event level because I’m not convinced that Cena recognises what wrestling fans really want too see. When asked by the The Sun for his thoughts on The Great Khali, Cena responded:

“I think Khali is a hell of a talent”

God help us…

2008 has delivered a few great memories so far. Ric Flair’s emotional retirement, the Kurt Angle/Samoa Joe match at Lockdown, Lilian Garcia in that dress at WrestleMania 24. But my favourite, by a long shot, was at the Hall Of Fame ceremony. There to induct both his father and grandfather, Dwayne Johnson delivered a brilliant retort to John Cena, claiming that the US were in deep trouble for subjecting Iraqi insurgents to unbearable torture; they forced them to watch copies of Cena’s straight-to-DVD classic, The Marine.

Cena’s ridiculous reaction, straight to camera, in which he looked like a man suffering a stroke and severe constipation at the same time, is my favourite moment that wrestling has given us so far this year. I’m not sure if Cena was trying to cover up his obvious embarrassment, just didn’t know where to look or had launched into his world famous ‘Startled Moose’ impersonation, but talk about breaking character. I always thought that wrestlers were supposed to preserve a mystique about their in-ring persona. If so, his is well and truly out the window now:

John Cena (Pre- Hall Of Fame event)Hard-hitting, no-nonsense fighter from the streets

John Cena (Post-Hall Of Fame event)Rubber-faced moron

I wonder what will happen in 10, 15 or 20 years time, when Cena’s time in the ring is over. Will he stay at home, making wooden birdhouses and occasionally giving the ‘Five Knuckle Shuffle’ to the cat (yes, you read it correctly)? Or will he feel that he owes us? Maybe he’ll show up on SmackDown and at the occasional SummerSlam to wave and smile and deliver the FU one more time. You know, for our entertainment. I sure hope he doesn’t.

So here’s my last few words on the matter; when you retire Cena, just like Dwayne Johnson, you are free to do whatever you please away from wrestling. You’re welcome to just walk off into the sunset and spend the millions of dollars that you’ve made from the business. Become an actor, a real estate broker or an otolaryngologist. I don’t want, or need, to see you on RAW or at WrestleMania once you’ve decided to call it quits. You have retired, and that’s that. I don’t expect anything back off you.

But, unlike Dwayne Johnson, it’s for entirely different reasons…man.