The following was sent to me by Andrew Goldstein, former WWE creative member, for exclusive release on WrestleZone.com:
I CAN FINALLY SEE JOHN CENA
By Andrew Goldstein
Last Sunday night, Austin Aries won the TNA World Heavyweight title from Bobby Roode at the Destination X pay-per-view. In black and white that’s an indy wrestling lifer beating a homegrown TNA original – who had recently set the record as the longest reigning TNA world champion in the company’s history. On the other side of the wrestling ledger, CM Punk – whose brazen, non-conformist style was born and bread on the indys, has held the WWE championship for close to 300 days. (No small feat considering the intense game of hot-potato the WWE has played with all of their championships since Vince Russo wore a Titan Tower I.D. badge) Moreover, the man that’s been chasing Punk for his long-held crown all summer is non other than Daniel Bryan, who in a past wrestling life established himself as the Lou Gehrig of the independent wrestling scene. Wait, there’s more. The current holder of the OTHER most coveted prize in all of professional wrestling, the World Heavyweight Championship sits snug around the great white waist of Sheamus, a soup to nuts, WWE creation, born from their developmental farm system. And chasing him is Alberto Del Rio, a converted Mexican Luchador, molded into the image of a WWE Superstar.
To recap, that’s three indy darlings, two homegrown company creations, and a Luchador working on top of the two major wrestling companies in the world. Not one Attitude Era retread in the whole lot. It’s a monumental shift. But a shift from what, exactly?
That’s where the question of John Cena comes in to play. He’s the poster child of the Post-Attitude Era, era - and just celebrated a decade of dominance in the WWE. Title or no title, he is and has been the sole top guy in professional wrestling for however much time it takes to define an era. There is no arguing that fact. Problem is, his era has barely been an era at all. In fact, the more I think about it, Cena’s era is actually starting to look like more of a transitional era from the Attitude Era to what’s beginning to resemble an Alternative Era. Era, era, era!
Feels like I’m discounting all of John Cena’s vast, unprecedented accomplishments. That’s not my intention. I saw first hand how hard the guy works and how much he truly, deeply loves what he does. All I’m saying is that maybe… possibly… there’s a slight, miniscule chance that John Cena is… well, Bob Backlund.
Not in wrestling style, popularity, accolades, or persona… and certainly not in charisma, merchandising, and crossover appeal… just in timing. Bob Backlund held the WWF Title for half a decade before losing it to the Iron Sheik in 1983, paving the way for Hulkamania to steamroll over Sheiky-baby’s hooked boots and curly cue moustache on his way to kicking off the Rock n’ Wrestling era with his big yellow boot.
Backlund bridged the gap from the Sammartino/Graham golden age of professional wrestling… to Hulkamania ruling the world. Backlund was a safe pick. Popular with fans. Reliable to the office. Worked his ass off in the ring. And shook hands and kissed babies outside of it. He did all of this with passion and grace and class… until the tectonic plates of professional wrestling settled in a new direction, establishing a new foundation (apologies to Anvil and Owen) on which the future of the business could grow and evolve and prosper for a new generation of fans. Sound familiar?
That’s John Cena right down to his jorts and sneakers.
From Punk’s pipe-bomb assailing Vince McMahon and the WWE last summer to he and Bryan walking into Wrestlemania 28 both carrying world championship gold in April, to Austin Aries defeating Bobby Roode for the TNA World Title last Sudnay…a seismic shift is taking place once again in the wrestling business. There’s a new definition of what’s cool inside and outside the ring. Punk, Bryan, and Aries have tapped into that. They’ve forced their way to the top and forced their bosses to take notice. Just like Austin did. And the Rock. And DX. And Hall & Nash. And later Edge, Jeff Hardy, Jericho etc…
What Bob Backlund did in the late 70’s/early 80’s and what John Cena has accomplished over the last ten years is astonishing. But it wasn’t industry changing. That’s what Hulk Hogan did, that’s what Austin did and that’s what Punk and Bryan and Aries are doing right now.
Follow Andrew Goldstein on Twitter