So much more goes into being the face of WWE than a move set. It’s more than a t-shirt or a catchphrase, or match quality or media skills. Sometimes being on top of the tree means that you have to step up when things get strange and unusual. It’s when everyone’s efforts don’t work and silently look to you.
Being the top guy means knowing what to do when no-one else does.
John Cena proved on Monday night why the WWE puts so much stock in his abilities. Sometimes we get a little peek into why it’s better to have a steady hand on top like Cena. It’s his drive, his will to keep going no matter how busted up or tired he is. It’s the charity work and the clean face on the posters. It’s the routinely good to great PPV matches and his ability to sell merchandise. It’s the political savvy, and the ability to stick to the message. It’s all those things.
But the last segment on Monday showed me in total why Cena is really number one.
And it was fascinating to watch.
In just a few minutes, he managed to do what Stephanie couldn’t do, what HHH couldn’t do, nor Randy Orton. He turned a crowd that was booing him and rejecting the course of the next PPV and made them come alongside him and made them listen to his pitch.
Instead of trying to shout the audience down or brush them off with a snide comment, he listened to them and what they wanted. He remembered ‘Wrestling Psychology 101’ and what it really means. That it’s not all about taking a stagnant crowd, mobilising them and bringing them with you. Sometimes it’s about grabbing the crowd, as they’re hurtling at a hundred miles an hour the opposite way from where you want them.
With the locker room present and past staring on, Cena took the mic, changed up his delivery and brought the object of everyone’s collective voice front and centre.
He addressed the issue.
John Cena didn’t see Daniel Bryan’s popularity as a threat. He underscored it and told Bryan’s fans that he would give their hero another re-match. A fair shake.
Before that, Mark Henry tried to suck the air out of the ‘pop’ by raising Bryan’s hand. He was hoping for one big roar to clear the collective Washington lungs. Didn’t work. Orton tried some intensity and anger. A little fire from the Viper did nothing either though. The real-life shot caller, HHH, tried to be flippant, no doubt in his role, and dismissive but even he couldn’t steer this crowd.
All of those approaches failed; some to the delight of the wrestlers in the huddle.
But it was the number one guy, Cena, who got Bret Hart nodding with him. He was the guy who called out Ziggler’s lack of push and Bryan’s lack of clean chances. He did it with one leg in the story and the other backstage. He did it with skill and passion. He did with fire and conviction. He did it like the top guy should have done it.
And he did it whilst pulling the ship around and pointing it back towards the upcoming PPV.
If you ever want to measure the distance between Cena and his next in line - sometimes it would do well not to check the numbers at the merch stand or the PPV returns. Just look at RAW 12/9 and you’ll see all you need to see.
Paul O'Brien is the author of the Blood Red Turns Dollar Green series. They're crime novels set in the 70's pro-wrestling territory days which are officially endorsed by Mick Foley, William Regal and Prince Fergal Devitt.
"Enthralling. I am in awe. I loved the books." - William Regal
"There's only two great wrestling novels out there and Paul O'Brien has written them both" - Mick Foley
“The research and inside knowledge is amazing. Loved Blood Red.” - Prince Fergal Devitt