When Brock Lesnar emphatically squashed Vince McMahon’s golden boy and 15-time world champion John Cena at Summerslam in August, those wrestling fans who had been forced to endure the latter in WWE main events for the past 10 years felt a great surge of joy and, more importantly, hope for the future.
Here we saw a man who we were supposed to believe worthy of all the success that’s been handed to him, finally feeling the force of any self-respecting wrestling fan over the age of 10, with Lesnar as their chosen advocate. Oh how appropriate an advocate the former UFC fighter was.
I can’t truly count myself in that category, having not watched WWE properly since 2004, only then tuning in for the occasional pay-per-view and, of course, WrestleMania. Though I have noticed one common theme linking each of those WrestleMania’s and most of the pay-per-views in between: a certain John Cena in a world title match or main event. This year’s WrestleMania 30 marked the first in the past ten years in which this wasn’t the case. And is it any coincidence that it was also (arguably) the best of the past decade?
I’m making it sound like there’s a big BUT coming somewhere, aren’t I? Yes, there is, because while Summerslam 2014’s main title match was a refreshing slice of realism for a self-proclaimed ‘sports entertainment’ (note: not ‘wrestling’) company that usually lacks this quality, most people were smart enough to realise that its aftermath would be the true litmus test of WWE’s intentions for the near future.
What that aftermath has shown over the past month, culminating in last Sunday’s Night of Champions pay-per-view, is that Summerslam was nothing more than an emphatic one-off, while the immediate aftermath was an emphatic piss off to those who had been holding out for, finally, something different.
Knowing there was a strong chance heading into this pay-per-view that Cena was going to win the match and walk out with the title once again, I had decided I would only go back and watch it with the benefit of hindsight, IF this course of events didn’t happen. I no longer want to support WWE if they are to continue pushing Cena to the chagrin of their protesting fans.
Needless to say, I have not gone back to watch it at all. This is because, while Lesnar remains champion, Cena did everything except leave with the title, including picking up a win by disqualification that goes down on the record books. Another win for this kayfabe superhero whom the kids still seem to love after ten years of the same thing. That’s all the information I need to make the assessment that this show was ultimately not worth watching, regardless of what else may have happened on the undercard.
That undercard is, unfortunately, endlessly subject to the whims of this man at the top, and therefore overshadowed by him. It would not be so bad if most of the fans actually liked him; yet those that do appear to be in the minority, with Cena continually booed at each city that Raw is aired from each week. But of course, then you must consider the kids, who help pump up merchandise sales by asking their parents for Cena’s newest shirts (which seem to appear almost weekly as WWE’s financial situation continues to decline due to short-sightedness).
Those fans out there who are serious about the sport of wrestling and respect its humble roots, I want you to consider what this means. Continue to nonchalantly pay money for WWE events if you want to keep reassuring them that they can do what they want without listening to their more vocal audience. Be aware though, that your favourite performer, whether be it Lesnar, Bray Wyatt or Daniel Bryan, will ultimately end up bowing to the whims of another rather than handed the chance to be a truly top guy themselves.
For now Cena will continue on as WWE’s main man, regularly appearing in main events even when he’s not in the title picture. For as long as those of us who care enough to want permanent change choose to stay silent and go with the flow over acting out with our voice or our feet, that’s the way it’s going to stay.
*There are little things you can do to support the cause. Check out Bruce Blitz, who watches WWE so that you don’t have to, and posts his weekly Raw reviews on YouTube.