ViRTUE's RAGE: Dissecting Reigns Vs Cena Submitted by Virtue on 09/22/2017 at 01:38 AM
In memory of Bobby “The Brain” Heenan (1944-2017)
September 22, 2017
This Sunday at WWE No Mercy, Roman Reigns will face John Cena in an obvious WrestleMania caliber matchup. Although I actually hate the fact that this match is happening at a B event like No Mercy in September of all months, I guess now is a better time than any to have it because who knows when John Cena will be around again due to his “other” obligations outside of WWE. It’s funny how Cena once held the fact that the Rock left WWE for Hollywood against him several years ago, but now Cena is facing the Rock’s cousin (Roman) and finds himself on the other side of the entertainment fence. It looks like there will be no Mega Powers 2.0 so they can collide at WrestleMania. Now before you all jump me at once about Roman being recently owned on the mic by Cena, simply hold yourselves in check and just sit back and enjoy the ride I am about to take you on…
As I take the scalpel and slowly dissect this feud between Reigns and Cena, I quickly smell the strong odor of formaldehyde like it was biology class from my sophomore year in high school all over again. But that was nearly twenty years ago in 1996-1997, during the beginning of professional wrestling’s Attitude Era. Fast forward to 2017, and there are no frogs soaked in formaldehyde that need dissected. Instead, the face of WWE since the mid-2000s in John Cena is on one specimen plate, and the supposed new face of WWE in Roman Reigns is on another specimen plate. Now it’s time to put on our latex gloves, goggles, and lab coat.
Hypothesis: If we cut open the belly of John Cena’s run as the top guy in WWE since 2005, we will be able to theorize how it has negatively affected Roman Reigns’ main event push. Codename: The Cena Effect
After John Cena’s WWE debut on SmackDown in 2002, he slowly became a formidable mid-card heel with his Dr. of Thuganomics gimmick. He rose to prominence not because of his in-ring wrestling ability, but because of his mic skills. By 2005, Cena would finally gain the WWE Championship as a babyface when he defeated John Bradshaw Layfield at WrestleMania 21. However, later on that year in a feud against a heel Chris Jericho, the idea of the Cena Effect was born. Although Cena did have a slow build to the top from 2002-2005 (initially having a run as 3-time United States Champion), it was clearly evident that when Cena started to move away from his rap gimmick (which was cool), many fans began to feel his character became the force fed corporate face of the company. As you know, Cena began getting mixed reactions and eventually more and more boos during his feud with Chris Jericho later in 2005. Subsequently, Jericho was getting more positive reactions as the heel. Ladies and gentlemen, the full-fledged Cena Effect hypothesis was officially becoming a theory.
Fast forward to Royal Rumble 2014, and John Cena was officially a 14-time WWE/World Champion by then. The previous decade was literally defined by “Let’s go Cena” & “Cena Sucks” chants. Hustle-Loyalty-Respect, You Can’t See Me, the Champ is Here, countless t-shirts, headbands, armbands, and hats oversaturated the WWE market. The CM Punk Era was nearing its end, the brief Daniel Bryan Era was about to begin, and the Roman Empire Era would be botched right out of the gates. Ironically, this all happened in 2014. The WWE Universe was clearly ready for something other than John Cena as the face of the company. Although the Shield was still red hot, WWE did the unthinkable and had Batista return to win the 2014 Royal Rumble Match, to the fans dismay. This was the exact moment that if Roman Reigns won the match instead of Batista, the crowd would have been behind him heading into WrestleMania 30. Again, the Shield was still red hot back then which would have significantly helped Roman’s fan reaction. The fan backlash for Batista getting a WWE Championship match at WM30 obviously backfired, thus forcing WWE to course correct by quickly pushing Daniel Bryan (previously in a Wyatt Family angle) into a feud with Triple H. This ultimately led to Bryan getting himself inserted into the main event of WM30 against Randy Orton and Batista. While WM30 and Daniel Bryan’s triumph is an all-time feel good story in the history of professional wrestling, it also created some MAJOR problems going forward.
Daniel Bryan would unfortunately have a short WWE Championship reign due to a neck injury and had to vacate the title. And guess who won his 15th WWE/World Championship immediately following this? That’s right, John Cena. With CM Punk gone from WWE, Daniel Bryan injured, and Cena back at the top of the mountain, there was absolutely no doubt that the Cena Effect would unleash its ugly head come Royal Rumble 2015. One year after Roman’s lost opportunity that was gifted to a part-time Batista, WWE finally had Roman win the 2015 Royal Rumble match. A returning Daniel Bryan was the sentimental favorite to win the match after making a comeback from his injury; however, instead of being in the end of the match against Roman, Bryan was eliminated much earlier…and the crowd was pissed. At this point, Roman Reigns became the next John Cena in terms of having heat with the crowd as the force-fed front man of WWE. You wouldn’t think that twelve months could really make a difference like this, but there simply was no stopping the heat that Roman was about to get on a nightly basis. Again, WWE course corrected because of the fan backlash and ended up having Seth Rollins cash in the MITB contract against Brock Lesnar and Roman at WM31. Rollins was the one who turned on the Shield, but to many fans, he became a savior in their eyes because they did not want Roman to win the championship. I hope you are all following this because it is a complete and utter booking disaster in regards to the long term effects this scenario has had on the main event scene in WWE.
Roman finally won his first WWE Championship against Dean Ambrose at Survivor Series 2015; however, he immediately lost it to Sheamus who cashed in the MITB contract. Are you kidding me? WWE was clearly hoping that Sheamus would draw heat to offset Roman’s heat, but that clearly did not work because the fans were still not happy with what they were being served. By now, the fans were obviously against Roman because of the lingering effects from Batista winning the 2014 Royal Rumble match, Cena winning his 15th championship, and Daniel Bryan being eliminated from the 2015 Royal Rumble match relatively early. The truth is when Roman snapped on Triple H the following month at TLC, that was a great opportunity to get Roman more over with the fans. However, WWE quickly went away from crazy Roman and right back into being Vince McMahon’s corporate puppet. God forbid that Roman have some Brock Lesnar traits. Roman was clearly the victim of the Cena Effect because company front men are not supposed to come across as crazy and bully-like. Unfortunately, the fans continued to notice what they were being forced to like and were having none of it.
Sure, since the 2014 Royal Rumble, we had the privilege to see Lesnar end the Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak, Daniel Bryan win the WWE Championship after defeating Triple H/Orton/Batista in the same night, Seth Rollins cash in the MITB contract at WM31, and the rise of a new monster known as Braun Strowman; however, the lasting negative effects that WWE creative and booking has had on Roman Reigns has potentially done some long term damage to the company. And guess what folks? It is NOT Roman’s fault. Have his promos been a little weak since life after the Shield? Sure. However, if WWE takes the handcuffs off of him and just allows him to semi-shoot more often like he has in his current feud against Cena, only great things can come from that. As I have stated before, Roman bumps and sells tremendously in all of his matches and major TV spots. I will go on record and say he does those things even better than Cena. I will give Cena the obvious nod on the mic, but if you notice, Cena is always put in a strong position with ample time and freedom in all of his promos. Just once, I would like to hear Roman shoot on how Vince McMahon tells him what to say and how to say it. If Roman will never turn heel in the same fashion Cena has never turned back to heel, I would love to see Roman as a character babyface similar to Stone Cold Steve Austin and CM Punk. If given the freedom to say whatever he wants, to whomever he wants to, Roman’s crowd reaction would get even louder than it already is. When you hear the roar of the crowd as he comes through that curtain, it is not by happenstance. Despite being the biggest victim from the Cena Effect, Roman still shows up and draws major heat. Whether it is the opposite type of heat that is intended or not, the fact remains that as the company’s top babyface and draw, Roman does not make crickets chirp. Let’s not forget that he has catapulted to the top of sales on the WWE Shop and also had the longest line at Fan Axxess at WM33. I would personally like to see a future Roman Reign’s t-shirt that simply states “You’re a Bitch, Sincerely Roman”.
Conclusion (watch video):
I have heard recent rumblings that the Clueless Wrestling Columnist is working on a new episode and plans to return this Fall. I am not sure exactly what the topic is, but I am sure that it will be something worthwhile and potentially controversial. Stay tuned…
INDY WRESTLER OF THE MONTH (SEPTEMBER 2017)
PPV Grades for 2017
NXT TakeOver: San Antonio = B++
WWE Royal Rumble = B
WWE Elimination Chamber = B
WWE FastLane = C++
NXT TakeOver: Orlando = B++
WWE WrestleMania 33 = B+
WWE Payback = B
NXT TakeOver Chicago = A-
WWE Backlash = B-
WWE Extreme Rules = B
WWE Money in the Bank = B-
WWE Great Balls of Fire = A-
WWE Battleground = C
NXT TakeOver Brooklyn III = A-
WWE SummerSlam = C++
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