By Jason Moltov
In the history of World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, there have been many stars, some legitimate industry icons, and the few that can really, truly, call themselves ‘Top Guys’. Every Wrestling Promotion has their top shelf performers, and of course if you offer a Championship someone is always ‘on top’. But let’s look at the difference between say, Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan. Both undeniably 2 of the biggest stars of their time, top tier talent, WWF World Champions. Some feel Randy was more talented than Hulk at the time, even preferred his A+ matches to Hulk’s pageantry. However you’d be hard pressed to find someone that would tell you the Macho Man was ever the World Wrestling Federation’s top star, regardless of where Hulk Hogan may have fallen on a particular card.
Bruno Sammartino, Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and John Cena. Maybe one day we’ll look at Roman Reigns that way. Only time will tell, and this is not that article. Those are the undeniable ‘Top Guys’ in this company’s history. Others could be Champions, focused on, main eventing. But it was Vince McMahon’s Titans’ show, and deep down everyone has always known it. CM Punk and Daniel Bryan no doubt had their moments in the sun. But they were allowed to do it on the John Cena show. Which brings me to my actual point in all of this, John Cena. For 15 years John Cena has been a freestyle rapper, the leader of the Chain Gang, embraced the virtues of Hustle, Loyalty, & Respect, and most certainly has never given up. And for the last 10 years (minimum) he has been the Top Guy. A real Top Guy. An All-Time Top Guy. What will separate Cena from Sammartino, Hogan, and Austin, will be the first ever WWF/E decent from the mountaintop. Sammartino broke his neck, and wasn’t long for the business after. Hulk Hogan won the WWF Title in the Spring of 1993, and was in a rival company by 1994. Steve Austin’s health and personal issues caught up to him, and his 6 year run at the top ended with his career in a single pinfall.
But what about Cena?
John Cena is, so far, the exception to all of these rules. John Cena hasn’t suffered a career ending injury that closes the door for him. It’s extremely doubtful he’ll ever wrestle for another company. If he suffers from nagging ailments and personal demons, he hides them well. So what do we do with our Top Guy, when we don’t want him to be that anymore? When he’s been replaced? When the company is ready to move on before he is? Love it, hate it, indifferent to it, Roman Reigns is the new top star in the WWE. He’s even had his hand raised in triumph by the man he’s replacing. Never has there been this level of crossover. Sammartino never ‘passed the torch’ to Hulk Hogan, who in turn did not put over Steve Austin, who did not put over John Cena. But now, we have ceremonially and quite literally shown the audience things have changed.
Out with the old, in with the new. John Cena, on television anyway, has no WrestleMania match. His storyline this Mania season has been a desperate search just to sneak on the card. Is this the future for a man we once thought may win 20 World Championships? At this point, is it even a guarantee he captures 17? The Undertaker is your emergency button, and while that match will polarize there’s fun to be had. But what’s next? What do we do when the WrestleMania dust settles?
In my opinion, it’s ‘checklist time’. Find out the things John Cena would like to accomplish, see if they’re doable, and make them happen. The Undertaker most certainly is the first ‘checklist’ item for the icon. Maybe Cena wants to win the Intercontinental Title, we did just see Randy Orton capture his first US Championship. Can he be the one to bring Punk out of hibernation? Thrice in a lifetime? For my money, if Cena wants it, give it to him. He’s earned it, in every sense of the word. We have never leaned harder on a Top Guy. WWE has never received such longevity, consistency, and good behavior from their top slot. Even if you were jaded by the John Cena experience, and I do understand, he deserves to wrap up his legendary career the right way, and on his terms. If it’s time to race the younger horse, that’s understandable.
Time is undefeated in the Pro Wrestling business. But don’t put your stud out to pasture just yet, and when you do, give him the victory lap of a lifetime. John Cena spent more time at on the mountaintop than any has or likely ever will, and we should all wish him the best journey possible now that’s time to head back down.
I’m Jason Moltov