As the WWE is always quick to point out, nobody emits a reaction from the WWE fans quite like John Cena. Cena is the most polarizing figure to ever step foot in the WWE outside of Vince McMahon himself. Fans who are more naïve to the product such as children and very casual fans tend to be big proponents of John Cena, while hardcore fans tend to root against Cena. All of this is well documented, but I'd like to focus solely on one thing: John Cena's ability to speak on the microphone.
A lot of people do not like John Cena because they claim he "can't wrestle" and is a terrible in-ring performer. While Cena is never going to be called the second coming of Karl Gotch, his wrestling ability or lack thereof has been exaggerated. Contrary to popular opinion, John Cena actually has a lengthy list of quality matches on his resume. He has had top-notch matches with guys like Chris Jericho, CM Punk, Triple H, Kurt Angle, Undertaker amongst others. I'm not claiming that John Cena is a master technician, but I do think that sometimes all the flack he gets for being a sub-par wrestler is unjust. His in-ring ability is better than a fair amount of other main-event wrestlers from the past, including Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash and Psycho Sid.
No, it's not wrestling that gets me riled up when it comes to John Cena. It's actually his promo skills that really drive me crazy. Every single one seems to go down the same way, where he says the same thing and delivers it with the same exact tone. Couple this with the fact that almost no edition of Raw is complete until Cena has some microphone time and you can see how this irks me.
Issue No. 1 I have with Cena's promos are that they are always about the same exact subjects. He is either talking about how he is going to deal with somebody, or how important his fans are or about how serious he is about whatever happens to be going on with him. Granted, Cena is far from the only one to be guilty of this practice. Steve Austin basically talked about the same thing every single time he was on the mic ( how much hell he was going to raise) as did the Undertaker (rest in peace). The problem is that Cena does not have the character development or depth of Stone Cold, nor does he have the mystique of the Undertaker.
Ah, Cena's character. A huge hindrance to Cena's popularity over the past few years has been his character. Currently speaking, John Cena's character is in sort of a gray zone. When he first burst onto the scene in the WWE, Cena was equipped with a hefty hip-hop gimmick that actually connected him with a majority of fans. His promos were funny and his antics were if not anything else, noteworthy. By 2007, Cena had reverted to a pseudo-military gimmick complete with camouflage shorts. By 2009 however, Cena was so established as the #1 good guy in the WWE, that he basically did not have a character. Similar to Hulk Hogan, Cena just represented someone who always fought the good fight and never said die. A huge problem is that in today's WWE, that sort of gimmick does not fly with everybody like Hogan's did. Wrestling has evolved into so much storytelling that there really isn't space for a character as limited as Cena's is.
A wrestler's character has everything to do with the way he presents himself on the microphone. The Rock is a cocky egomaniac, and that attitude always surfaces itself in his promos. CM Punk is an anti-authority rebel who hates the corporate atmosphere of the WWE, and that is always evident whenever he is talking. John Cena has such a bland character that nothing in his promos indicates who he is or what his opinions are. In the literary world, there are two types of characters: flat characters and round characters. A flat character is someone who is one-dimensional that tends to live up to stereotypes that the reader perceives. A round character is the opposite, someone that has many levels and their actions are less predictable. CM Punk, the Rock, Chris Jericho and even someone with less exposure such as Ryback are all round characters. John Cena, right now, is a flat one.
It is well known how a typical Cena promo goes. We hear about 15 times beforehand that John Cena is going to appear on Raw to talk about something. When he comes out, he gets his typical reaction and talks about the seriousness of whatever he is talking about. Sprinkled in are some crowd pandering, usually a shot at himself and an obscure 1980's reference that only a Brooklyn hipster could enjoy. It's all topped off with a fiery finish of him basically repeating what he had previously said; only this time he is YELLING!
Unfortunately, this kind of promo has manifested itself a lot lately on Raw. With Cena entangled in a feud with the extremely busy Rock, this is basically all the WWE has for Cena at the moment.
Unlike other generic characters, Cena has incredible staying power. Although there have been plenty of repetitive guys in the past, none have stayed in the main event picture for close to a decade like Cena has. One of the main reasons Cena's promos all sound the same is that we have been witnesses to about 10,000 of them in the past 8-10 years. One can only take so much of this before they begin to speak out against what they are seeing, and that is where all the heat for John Cena comes from.
After being pounded with this kind of behavior from Cena for so long, we all began to speculate on how it could possibly end. A John Cena heel turn has been something that fans have wanted to see for a very long time, but every time there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel, the WWE thwarts our hopes and dreams by thrusting Cena back into his position as company hero. Maybe the only thing interesting about Cena vs Rock II is that at the conclusion of the match, the potential for a change in character for John Cena lurks. A new Cena would mean new promos and a break in what has been a crippling era of predictability when it comes to John Cena and his promos.