by Kevin D’Hooge
Brett Favre had Aaron Rodgers. Jay Leno had Jimmy Fallon. Charlie Sheen had Ashton Kutcher. You always need to have a backup plan.
Unless you’re WWE.
Dave Meltzer, of F4WOnline, reported that after Hell in a Cell John Cena will take extended time off. He is expected to be out until late December.
While I have been a staunch supporter of John Cena and have already written an article commending him for all the work he’s done this year, WWE does not have anybody waiting in the wing.
Even in year 14 of his career, we’re seeing Cena triumph over the odds every Monday night. He fights adversity and overcomes it time and time again. He’s not an underdog anymore. He beats every opponent he is given. In fact, a true triumph of adversity would be seeing someone dethrone Cena and beat him clean in a feud for once.
With HIAC quickly approaching, WWE management finds themselves in full crisis mode to fill his void.
WWE has no one to blame for their lack of bankable stars other than themselves. John Cena, alone, wins feud after feud and only loses a handful of times a year. No other full-time superstar on the roster has his type of winning percentage. Stars are often built up to be serious competitors, but then they meet John Cena…Shout out to Kevin Owens, Cesaro, Rusev, Bray Wyatt, and Seth Rollins.
To play devil’s advocate, professional wrestling has always prided itself on having an individual superstar rule distinct time periods.
The 1980’s are synonymous with
Hulk Hogan [name redacted]. The 1990’s with Stone Cold Steve Austin. The 2000’s-2010’s with John Cena. It goes without saying that each of these decades had secondary players that dominated the spotlight briefly, but these 3 men owned their respective eras overall.
A closer look reveals that the last time there was no “undisputed man of the WWE” was 2002-2005. This was the beginning of the Ruthless Aggression era. Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock were transitioning out of wrestling. While this might have looked like a red flag on paper, the truth was that WWE was overflowing with talent. Multiple superstars were able to step up without completely stealing the focus.
At any given moment during the Ruthless Aggression era, Kurt Angle, Shawn Michaels, Eddie Guerrero, JBL, Brock Lesnar, The Undertaker, or Triple H could have been viewed as the face of the franchise.
The talent pool looks to be precisely as deep today. The same opportunities just aren’t there.
As much as Vince McMahon likes to say this generation of wrestlers does not want to take risks by climbing the ladder, I think that’s a cop out. The truth is Vince doesn’t have faith in his new crop of talent. He believes seasoned and tired household names like Kane, Big Show, Undertaker, Brock Lesnar, etc. hold the stock of WWE in their hands. He feels that proven names bring in revenue.
Even so, WWE is still in a television rating nightmare and the future has to start somewhere.
You can’t tell me guys like Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins are not go-getters. They would not have gotten this far if it weren’t for their ambition. Timidity has never been their forte. They have always had reputations for pushing the boundaries in their independent wrestling careers. Are we expected to believe that their drive disappeared once they signed with WWE?
There are 2 possible outcomes from John Cena’s extended absence.
Behind Door A is a collection of superstars being used as “game managers” to keep the seat warm for Cena while he is away. A focus would be placed on big name part-timers.
Behind Door B is the chance to discover the next big thing. WWE can use this time to properly develop and showcase the next face(s) of their company; the superstar(s) that will lead them into the next decade.
The ball isn’t in the hands of the talent. It’s in Vince’s. In this dire hour I hope he goes with Door B.