It took less than 24 hours after John Cena's return at Hell in a Cell for internet fans to get pissed off. I'm pretty proud, I thought it'd take at least a week. But no, Cena returned between two and four months early from a surgery, that some even have the gall to question the legitimacy of, beat Alberto Del Rio and became the World Heavyweight Champion. The problem, oddly enough, wasn't that, it was Damien Sandow. Who after administering a post-promo beat down on the champ rendering his surgically repaired arm useless for the match that would follow. Sandow would fight in a match, his best and most important to date in his WWE main roster career, and would lose. That's right, the complaint is that Damien Sandow lost to John Cena.
Let's clear a few things up, firstly. One – I am a John Cena fan. To say so would commit blasphemy in the eyes of many. To qualify – I own no John Cena merchandise, I simply admire the talents of one of the most hard working and underrated wrestlers of his generation, who has been involved in most of the best matches I have had the pleasure to witness (Lesnar, Rock, Punk, Bryan, JBL, Edge – I could go on). The island of internet-savvy John Cena fans is fairly small, so for many this makes me a super-fan. I am also a fan of Damien Sandow, his talents on the microphone are terrific and I enjoy Sandow generally every time I see him. But, last night was not Damien Sandow's night, nor should it have been.
John Cena is the franchise of the WWE. The full time, face of the company, bar none. Damien Sandow is a highly entertaining mid card act. Cena's history as the superhero of the company is well documented, psychotically so by some. He is the Hulk Hogan of this generation, the man who held the company on his shoulders right through the death of Chris Benoit, right through the company's transition into a PG company. In terms of length, his time a top the WWE long ago eclipsed Steve Austin's, and he's closing in on Hulk Hogan too. Hogan's time on top of the WWE (measured from his first night as WWE Champion to his last night of his original run in 1993) is just short of a decade. Cena first won the WWE Championship in April of 2005. If he is still the face of the company this time next year – he'll be as good as level with Hogan. After that, Bruno, who (on the basic of that metric alone) Cena is about five years shy of. For a guy of his age, that's still possible.
Sandow in many ways was a victim of bad luck. The landscape that he won the Money in the Bank briefcase in, in July, was very different to that of now. The same John Cena was the WWE Champion, his collision course with the World Heavyweight Title less than six months later would be near impossible to predict. Sandow, like many, would be assigned the contract without a major plan of where he would end up, the hope either that Sandow would turn face and cash in on Alberto Del Rio or just get lucky with circumstances. Once Cena returned and was put in the flight path of Alberto Del Rio, the game was up for the unwashed saviour of the masses.
It's hard to work out where Cena is headed in the next six months. Is Cena the World Champion to rebuild it's credibility? Is Cena World Champion to lead to a unification match at Wrestlemania? Is Cena the World Champion so he can face Undertaker at Wrestlemania and Taker can retire with a title that a brand-split-less WWE no longer needs? Only time will tell, but John Cena is the WWE Champion for a reason, and none of those plans involve losing it to Damien Sandow in an unannounced opener on Raw.
Yep. Exactly that. Cena is the superhero of the WWE. The guy thousands, nee, millions of fans across the world look up to and rally behind in times of need. Cena isn't unbeatable, his match with Daniel Bryan at Summerslam proves that. But superhero's don't lose often, and they sure as hell don't lose to Damien Sandow, two arms or one. The story was a timely reminder, to those who forgot it, that John Cena never gives up. Job done.
No, he couldn't. There's a misconception that Damien Sandow, and any Money in the Bank winner for that matter, is “made” when they cash in and win the big one. In fact, as history shows, that's not often the case. The Miz, Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger are three great examples in point. Again, it's not to say that John Cena never loses (he does, more than many top stars) but a feud with John Cena would not end well for Damien Sandow, title reign or not. They are not in a position where Cena can be spending time on a guy like Sandow, the World title and the company need him.
He's been on WWE TV (in this guise) for less than two years. The general opinion seems to be that Sandow, in not beating Cena, is lost. He isn't. For one, that was EASILY Damien Sandow's brightest moment in the WWE, it showed a lot of people backstage that he can hang with the best of them. Some people moaned after the opening segment of Raw 1000 that Sandow was used as the punching bag for the reunited DX. Are you kidding me? Damien Sandow got promo time before getting beaten down by one of the most significant stables in wrestling history. Remind me how that is a bad thing?
The thing is, if WWE wanted to, they could actually use this as a catalyst for Sandow in a way that a two month no-win World Title program with John Cena could never do. Sandow could develop a more ruthless side, dropping much of the mid-card comedy that, while it makes him so entertaining, could be seen as a factor that held him back from being the kind of guy that could compete for the World Heavyweight Title in the first place, money in the bank contract or not.
They won't. But hey? What can you do?
Last night wasn't about Damien Sandow. It was about reminding viewers about everything that makes John Cena so great. His never say die attitude, his will to win at all costs and come what may. While it might piss people off, it's those kind of characteristics that one day soon will be starring across the ring from The Undertaker at Wrestlemania. It might take until then for many of John Cena's haters to realise the bigger picture, but when it clicks, it will all make sense.
This will cause reaction one way or another. I'm the Wrestlezone social media guy, so I'll see any feedback via Facebook or Twitter. You can tweet me personally (hint, you're more likely to get a response) – @BobbyBamber. And if you prefer good old fashioned snail mail, then email me firstname.lastname@example.org.Also, while I'm here, I'd like to plug my Wrestling 20 Years Ago history project.