Best: John Cena’s Emotional Complexity
I loved this opening segment so much, and I hope you already know why. For months (and arguably years) I’ve been trying to justify John Cena’s crowd reactions and motivations, and for once WWE too a chance at making those justifications a reality. People like to say things like “compare CM Punk or Alberto Del Rio or Ricardo Rodriguez’s facial expressions to John Cena’s, it’s like he’s not even TRYING”, but they’re wrong. CM Punk’s character is simple … he’s an anti-establishment type who is secretly in it for himself. Alberto Del Rio is a rich guy who thinks badly of anyone who isn’t him or employed at Del Rio Estates. Ricardo is a nodding yes man who is emotionally invested in every turn of the conversation. Those things require a specific kind of reaction. Cena’s is different.
John Cena is, and continues to be, the most subversively complex character in WWE. He is neither a “good guy” nor a “bad guy”. He is what others have tried to desperately to be to get over with the fans: himself. He is a man (and a former robot, if you’re going by OVW history … and possibly WWE history, now that I think about it) driven by a moral code, to be loyal to those he feels are loyal to him and do anything to preserve that. It’s why he refuses to change. Why would he? This is what he believes. He knows that guy in the camo in the front row is happy to be appreciated. He knows those kids in Cena gear are gonna get jaded one day and grow up and leave him … but he won’t leave them.
If John Cena “turned heel” like so many of you suggest, he’d be the most false character in WWE history. He’d be faker than Festus. Hell, he’d be faker than Festus Kane. He knows what he’s doing might be not “right” in the eyes of the fans, but they’re right in the eyes he’s developed for himself, and his fans and supporters share those eyes. That’s part of being a Cena fan, you don’t just wear the slogans, you adopt them. He has an entire dresser drawer full of Say Your Prayers, Eat Your Vitamins. That was great advice to kids from Hogan. “Rise above hate” and “never give up” are great advice for kids today. So why should he get pissed? Because you don’t understand that? Cena says he’s in a “good place” and Piper doesn’t believe him, because Piper doesn’t know that the place Cena’s in is the only one that keeps him from robotting the f**k out and laser killing everyone. That’s what he means. That’s why he gives Piper back his Hall of Fame ring, and the first thing he does after is kissing his dog tags. THAt’s the symbolism. That’s the real meaning of this segment.
The dog tags are it. That’s his heart. If we get The Rock pulling an Andre the Giant at any point and ripping those dog tags off — the one prop Cena’s never really lent to story — that’s when the sh*t goes down. Cena can still be himself, never turn heel, and still be the craziest, angriest, most irrational motherf**ker alive… because he’s already that. He’s already the heel. You just aren’t paying close enough attention.
Best: Referencing The Most Bad Ass Ring Entrance Of All Time
I’m a huge sucker for John Cena Wrestlemania entrances, especially the drumline at Wrestlemania 24, but his entrance against Rob Van Dam at One Night Stand remains the most indignant, confident entrance of all time.
He just puts the belt over his head and walks to the ring with his head down. The Cena here is the Cena from Piper’s Pit. He knows how they feel, he just doesn’t care. Because why should he? He’s the f**king champ.
Best: Cena Kids Are Always Awesome
Regardless of your pro wrestling allegiances, you’ve got to love that. One of my favorite things ever is the BELIEVE IN THEM part of the old “don’t try this at home” warning where the kid in the Cena military bulldog shirt pumps his arms and goes RAHHHH. I was this kid. I was just dressed like Robert Gibson. And then Road Warrior Hawk.
Best, Just In General: Piper’s Pit
I don’t talk about it a lot, but Piper has been responsible for two very important moments in my life.
1. The first was when I was five. I spent most of my childhood in the hospital with lung problems. I’ve got a lot of stuff wrong with my lungs. To make me feel better, my Mom brought me those old rubber WWF thumb wrestlers to play with in the bed, mostly because the NWA didn’t make toys. I had Hogan, the Iron Shiek, Big John Studd, Junkyard Dog … and I had Piper. But Piper had Piper’s Pit, and I didn’t. So I took an old wooden… I don’t know what it was, a box? Like something you’d put jewelry in. And from my bed I took off the lid, turned it upright, drew some plaid carpet in the bottom with crayons and wrote PIPERS down one side and PIT down the other. I had my thumbwrestler guys do interviews in Piper’s Pit to set up my thumbwrestling matches for later in the day. I’ve always just kinda been like that.
2. I went to Wrestle Fan Fest in San Francisco a few years ago to meet Kurt Angle and The Great Muta. I didn’t show up on Friday, and because the fest was run by people in the wrestling business it was like 75% scam. I didn’t get to meet Angle or Muta. I’ve still never gotten to meet Muta, but I did get to meet Piper. I used my “meet Kurt Angle” ticket to meet him. I waited in line and watched him take a few moments with each person, not just taking our money, not just rushing us through like everyone else. I watched him kiss a kid in a wheelchair on the forehead. When it was my turn, I shook his hand and asked “What’s the secret?” He told me. I don’t tell anyone else.
Worst: Rowdy Roddy’s Deep V-Neck
and if I can be less serious for a minute, “how to properly wear a dress shirt on television” was not the secret. The hell was he wearing?