June 10, 2011
Guest column: Why Cena gets booed
By MATTHEW BYER - For SLAM! Wrestling

John Cena on top of the world after Survivor Series 2008. Photo by Bruno Silveira, www.topropephotography.net

For the longest time, World Wrestling Entertainment has been trying to do everything in their power to get the majority of fans to cheer John Cena. They've tried giving tweaks to his on-screen persona, they've tried pointing out he's active in charitable campaigns (such as the Make A Wish foundation), they've had him routinely expressing support for the U.S. armed forces, and Cena has made an effort to improve his wrestling repertoire.

Yet, all of these efforts have ended in failure and I believe the reason is because WWE has failed to examine the basic reason that he's getting booed.

To understand the reason for the booing can really be traced back to who the WWE has modeled John Cena's onscreen persona after.

For the last couple years there have been allusions made to Cena's character following a similar path to The Rock, but I believe this is a faulty comparison. Really it seems to me that Cena's character has been modeled after Hulk Hogan of the 1980s and early 1990s and that is where the problem lies.

Hulk Hogan, during the 1980s was the invincible hero, who almost never lost a one-on-one match cleanly (with the one notable exception being the loss to the Ultimate Warrior at Wrestlemania 6). The only time he lost one-one matches is if there was interference in the match. Starting to sound familiar?

Now as far as the WWE are concerned, it doesn't see anything wrong with using Hulk Hogan as a model for John Cena to follow, but there are some fundamental problems with it. First, Hulk Hogan's matches and storylines were very predictable. He typically won in familiar fashion, and even when he lost due to some shenanigans, he would later avenge that loss in a subsequent match. Fans eventually tired of this predictability in the mid-1990s, and it's a large reason why Hogan stopped getting the amount of fans cheering him like he used to.


Smartly, World Championship Wrestling, turned Hogan into a villain and this breathed new life into his character because it made him unpredictable. It meant it was no longer certain that Hogan would automatically win his matches. It also meant that Hogan put over other wrestlers cleanly in one-one matches, and ever better in some cases for the title (Lex Luger, Roddy Piper, and Goldberg are a few that come to mind).

Connected to using Hogan as a model for Cena, is the fact that the WWE had a long period of unpredictably when it came to the outcomes of their matches and their story lines. I am of course referring to the Attitude Era. Fans of the WWE from this period became used to unpredictable outcomes, and today, even though they still follow the WWE, they don't enjoy how predictable the main event picture has become, and in particular John Cena. Why? Predictability is boring.

John Cena in one-on-one matches for the WWE title or the World Heavyweight title, to my knowledge, has never put over an opponent cleanly. In fact, the only cases where for the title, other wrestlers have clean wins over Cena are triple threat matches (the most notable that comes to mind is the triple threat match that Randy Orton won over Cena and Triple H at Wrestlemania 24). The result is that it feels for fans much like it did during the days of Hulk Hogan, that Cena will eventually win out in the end. While for children following the WWE, this predictability might be entertaining, for older fans it's boring; and they will continue to boo Cena until something is done.

So how do you fix this problem?

Many have suggested turning Cena's character into a villain, but this seems a bit of an extreme solution, and wholly unnecessary at this time. What the WWE needs to do is to have Cena put over cleanly some of the other wrestlers on the roster for the title. This would instantly add a degree of unpredictability back into tue story lines and help to humanize Cena's character. For older fans to emphasize with Cena's character they need to believe he's vulnerable. They need to believe that sometimes he can be beaten by someone simply being better on a given night. By putting over other wrestlers cleanly for the title in one-on-one matches they would achieve this, and I suspect you would start to see the majority of fans cheering John Cena instead of booing him.

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    Matthew Byer is a former Government of Canada employee where he worked for almost 12 years as an advisor and project manager. He is also a published poet and artist who now resides in Vancouver, BC where he works as a consultant. He became a fan of wrestling during the 1980s growing up in Ottawa, ON and fondly remembers attending his first wrestling event at the Ottawa Civic Centre where Hulk Hogan defeated the Big Boss Man.


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