It was only fitting that WWE Superstar John Cena hopped into the crowd and celebrated his historic 16th title victory at Royal Rumble on Sunday with a Make-A-Wish Foundation child. It might even have been the greatest match of the champion’s career, marked by the fact that the entire arena, which had been highly polarised as always, gave him a thumping ovation as he pinned AJ Styles and claimed the record championship belt.
Polarising? Who cares!
John Cena has often attracted the ire of older crowds who are turned off by his corny promos and good-guy persona. Every Cena appearance is engulfed with two contrasting salvos – a ‘Let’s Go Cena’ chant by most of the kids and young women in the crowd and the ‘Cena Sucks’ from the rest.
But for someone as self-aware as Cena, he gets the irony. The only way he will get cheered by haters is by turning into a bad guy (heel). But it would bear little significance as he could not be more hated than he is right now, in his role as the greatest inspiration to sick kids around the globe.
No better ambassador
John has been the record-holder by a landslide for fulfilling the most number of requests at Make-A-Wish, with the number well past the 500-mark. Even detractors can’t deny him his position as the Hulk Hogan-equivalent of his generation, only more tolerant and more honest.
In his interviews, he speaks incessantly about doing the right thing and often ensures to throw out the maximum number of merchandise while competing in the ring. All of this, without a rider about why one should ascribe to this belief system – no religion, no personal agenda.
Doubts no more
Cena’s criticism often revolves around his in-ring abilities that had once been lacking from his performances. But 16 World Heavyweight titles and many epic matches later, very little skepticism remains. His skills with the mic have been as good as any and often bring out the best in his opponents.
Even till today, the up and coming young wrestlers are pitted against Cena to help catapult their careers. The list has included Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Kevin Owens and will continue to serve as a launchpad for more till the time the champion is around.
The ‘Five Moves of Doom’ argument against his supposedly limited set of wrestling moves has also become archaic as he keeps on adding new armor in his arsenal. Many of his recent matches have been contenders for match of the year and his feuds with the likes of CM Punk will go down among the best of the PG era.
Parallels have been drawn with the last hugely-admired WWE superstar Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, with Cena’s film career being a subject of jokes. But the latter has proved himself in this industry too, a role in Amy Schumer’ Trainwreck being the highlight.
Moviegoers and sports fans that lie outside the bounds of wrestling politics form a counterculture bubble against the vociferous opposition of Cena haters. It would be ideal for him if that happens in his preferred medium; but again, does it even matter? Let’s go Cena!