If you put a frog in boiling water, it’ll register the heat and jump out immediately. But if you put a frog in cold water and gradually turn up the heat, it will perish before it even realizes what is happening to it. That may seem irrelevant, but it is a perfectly apt metaphor to describe the attitude of WWE fans towards the true “Face that Runs the Place” John Cena.
Only a few years ago, when Cena was at the top of every bill and opening every single show, it was commonplace to hear Cena booed out of the building, much like we’ve been experiencing with Roman Reigns for way too long. Cut to Cena’s retirement from the top of the card, making way for newer talents and letting someone else amass some top tier championships, as well as the reduction of his in ring schedule, and all of a sudden it was cool to maybe show some appreciation for Cena and the 5-star matches that he is always capable of putting on.
He currently brings out the best in people and isn’t detracting from the entire program, making it more acceptable to appreciate his skill and work rate.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder. That doesn’t ring more true for anybody than John Cena, who this week on SmackDown returned to a mighty pop from the Philadelphia crowd. And if that wasn’t enough, these days the veteran Cena is capable of generating heel heat for another guy, as evidenced by the cacophony of boos when he was on the receiving end of Dean Ambrose’s Dirty Deeds. And no, this can’t be put down to a high number of women and children in the audience — this was a rabid Philly crowd, the home of ECW.
When a bunch of fans — who 10 years prior were throwing your shirts back at you when you were still quite popular — are now cheering for you over one of the WWE’s most over new talents, you know that the iron is hot. The WWE has gradually turned up the Cena heat on fans, who without realizing it, have now warmed to him immensely.
There’s a triple threat match for the WWE World Championship in a few weeks at No Mercy, and John Cena is now the perfect choice to win that match.
Had it been even two years ago, that would have been a laughable suggestion. WWE was wise to keep him from tying Ric Flair’s championship record last year at SummerSlam. But the Cenation leader has now firmly established himself as a dream match part-timer. No longer running over mid-carders and quashing the creation of younger stars, he is deployed solely to work dream matches with veterans who don’t need the rub — and the fans love him all the more for it.
A Cena victory at No Mercy no longer portends the tedious “Super Cena” style run that turned so many fans off, because in recent years the company has gradually introduced some long overdue and much needed vulnerability to John Cena’s performances. All of a sudden, every single guy who faces John Cena has a chance of winning, and the fans no longer feel like they’re knowingly throwing their money down the toilet in praying for their guy to beat him.
Cena is no longer the guy to carry the brand, and WWE knows it. He’s still a guy who needs to eventually face the Undertaker at WrestleMania, but until then, there’s no reason why he can’t turn the WWE World Championship into a torch, hand it over to someone else, and finish the glory years of his career with all the loose ends tied up.
Having taken a step back from active competition, the fans have had a chance to appreciate John Cena and regard him as a future Hall of Famer and a bona fide WWE legend. The time is right to tie him with Ric Flair, and give him that final dose of gravitas to make his eventual loss worth something to whoever beats him.