It's Still Real To Me: John Cena's Greatest Rivalries

It’s Still Real To Me: John Cena’s Greatest Rivalries

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To write a defence of John Cena on the internet is a difficult thing. He’s a very easy figure to dislike.

I am reminded of this a few minutes into this mixed bag of a box set as he does one of his daft little rap promos that he used to do and uses it to throw a large number of homophobic remarks in the direction of Eddie Guerrero before their car park brawl match. But making a whole bunch of tasteless comments whilst being dressed like a Vanilla Ice build-a-bear isn’t why people dislike him.

No, apparently Cena “can’t wrestle’. He only has “five moves”. He ‘buries’ new talent. “CENA WINS LOL” etc etc.

All those things I mentioned there – yeah, they’re bullshit. Not one of those things is true. They get repeated ad nauseum by smarky internet fans and weirdly aggressive men in their late 30’s. It’s incredibly tiresome. They berate a 250lb man for not having the move-set of a 190lb high-flyer like Daniel Bryan. Which is a bit like watching Friends and calling Ross a twat for not being Rachel.

Cena is by no means a favourite of mine, let’s get that straight. I find a lot of his promos dull and yeah, his five knuckle shuffle routine is old as fuck now. But he’s been the face of the WWE for over a decade and has been involved in a lot of great matches over the years.

This box set, sadly, doesn’t always back the latter up – the matches with JBL are excruciating and even the aforementioned Guerrero matches were surprisingly sloppy – but what it does do is remind you that, like many wrestlers, if you pair him with the right guy he can deliver gold.

This is no more evident than in his matches with Edge. The chemistry those guys had was incredible and both matches here are a joy to watch. The bumps both guys take in the steel cage match are the kind of bumps you only take when working with someone you trust deeply and they even manage to make a last man standing match compelling which is some feat given how slow and laborious those matches can be. We are also reminded that, before their feud was done to death, Cena and Randy Orton put on borderline masterclasses in near-fall back and forth storytelling. Both feuds are really well represented here, as is Cena’s run with Chris Jericho.

Unfortunately, this set also falls flat on it’s face a few times. In typical WWE fashion, you don’t necessarily get the ‘classic’ matches but a mixture of classics and ‘matches that happened on Raw that time’. Which is fine when the feud has history and a huge archive to pick from as you can’t really go too far wrong (again, see Cena/Edge). But at other times its beyond infuriating. The set closes with Cena’s feud with The Rock. The one that WWE was hell bent on letting us know was a ‘once in a lifetime’ occurrence (until they did the exact same thing the next year). So yeah, two matches there. Seeing as the other feuds in this set are each represented by two matches, you’d think this one would be too, right?

Wrong. Instead we are ‘treated’ to a legends panel segment in which Mick Foley, Bret Hart, Dusty Rhodes and Booker T sit at a table looking like the leftovers at the saddest speed-dating marathon ever and ask Cena and Rock a series of inane questions that The Rock does his best to turn into, frankly, anything at all but that Cena seems to really struggle with. Now, obviously, The Rock is one of the greatest talkers in the history of the business but to see Cena struggle like that in the lead up to their second match is pretty inexcusable. The fact that this segment made it onto the box set at all is even worse.

And to top things off, one feud listed doesn’t even have any matches on this set. That feud being the one with CM Punk.

Maybe the original intention was to put his matches on there but the recent falling out and settlement between Punk and WWE led them to remove him from the set. It wouldn’t be surprising but even if that’s true surely remove Punk from the DVD menu as well? It’s a real shame though as I’d put Cena’s matches with Punk up there with the best of his career. Their match from the 2011 Money In The Bank event in Chicago is one of my all-time favourites and two years and many matches later, their feud ended with an absolute epic back and forth match on Raw in Spring 2013.

For the box set to end on these sour notes is a huge shame because there really are some high points worth seeing across the 3 discs. The presentation is great as well – everything is laid out against the backdrop of a Streetfighter style old school video game. But once you strip all that away, there are some pretty big flaws that keep this set pretty limited.

The smarks might say that’s pretty fitting for a John Cena collection.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.