John Cena debuted in the WWE on June 27, 2002, on Smackdown, taking Kurt Angle's open challenge. Cena didn't defeat Angle, but came closer than most had to that point ended up getting huge props by major Superstars backstage and sold it well, right down to shaking hands with Taker, then looking at his own hand in awe. That was the start of something auspicious and so long lived that none of us could have predicted it. We all know that Taker has worked twenty-two WrestleManias over his storied career, but for much of that time he's not been the top guy. His early WrestleMania matches were not main events, and his recent matches have been the only match he's had each year. Of the biggest names in the industry, few can say they've been on top as long as Cena has. I will admit that guys like Flair, Hogan, and Sting were at the top equally as long, but in an industry that was much different than this PG Era that Cena has been the face of.
The WWE is starting to try to portray Cena as an aging wrestler as a way to protect themselves moving forward, but in many ways, Cena is an aging wrestler. He's not as young as he used to be, and looking at his first WrestleMania match showed me just how much he's slowed down. Honestly, it wasn't until I sat down to watch my favorite WrestleMania (article about it to come) that I remembered that Cena's first WrestleMania match was for the US Championship against Big Show.
WrestleMania XX started with Boy's Choir of Harlem, but the first match pitted John Cena against US Champion Big Show. Those were the days that the fans all were really behind Cena and all he said and did. It was before he became repetitive and boring in word and character. His rapping was of the time, and he did quite a solid job of it. I cannot look at Big Show to this day without thinking of him 'smuggling plumbs" in his singlet, because Cena was that solid on mic, and charismatic enough for it to stick with me for this long.
Naw, naw, naw, naw, naw,
We gonna kick this off right tonight.
Now is WrestleMania here to represent?
Then let me head everybody make some noise!
"Cheers" then "Cena!" chants.
You've got the franchise player on the Superbowl stage,
So get that gorilla Big Show out of his cage.
Ain't no way I'm going to lose to the King Kong ripoff,
That's like Gary Coleman beating Patrick Ewing in a tip-off!
Big Show's really an ape with opposable thumbs,
And he stuffs his singlet, looks like he smugglin' plums.
Yo, everybody knows that he can't see me,
I'm itchin' to beat him, like a penis with an STD.
I'm not even wrestling the Big Show, this whole thing's a charade,
My match is with the hippo float from the Macy's Parade.
So it's time to get a Championship to match these custom knux,
Madison Square, chant it loud, Big Show sucks!
Big Show was quite heavy at that point, and had hair, both on his head, and on his face, and was quite the pissy heel. This had to be before he left for a bit during 2004 and returned as a face, or I missed another turn of Big Show's somehow. But whichever incarnation of Big Show as a heel this was, he was big, pissed, and planning on destroying this young buck who was going after his US Championship at this kid's very first WrestleMania. Cena worked hard through this match, taking a lot of big bumps from Big Show, and looking quite small in comparison. He did Super Cena a couple of times, being taken down quite quickly each time in this 9:13 match. Back and forth, really setting Cena up for what's to come in his career, and the path many of his matches in the future would take. Cena beaten down, then coming back against all odds against this huge man, somehow lifting Big Show for an FU. Cena sold his absolute shock over Big Show kicking out of his big finisher, so what's he to do? Cheat! Yes, even as a face, Cena used to cheat, and was almost as good at it as Eddie was. Distracting the ref with his knux, Cena used his chain to wrap around his hand and hit Big Show with. Another big FU and Cena won his first Championship at his first WrestleMania!
It really feels as though the WWE has come full circle with Cena. His first WrestleMania was against an unstoppable force for the US Title. If they are trying to very slowly phase Cena out as the top guy in the WWE, the way it's appearing right now and something they need to look at. Cena won't be able to be that top guy forever, I think this is a step that makes a lot of sense. Yes, Cena is facing Rusev because no one else can stop Rusev, no one can defeat him. It's a Russian/American feud, and Cena, on top of being the top face in the company, is extremely patriotic and all about our United States Military, so he's the perfect man to take Rusev out. While there's been some issues in the build to this feud, I'm quite enjoying how Cena has stepped back to the role he was playing going into his first WrestleMania, going after a Championship that isn't thought of as highly as the WWE WHC. I think Cena fighting for the US Championship gives it more value than it's had for quite a while, something the US and IC Championships really need at this point. These Championships have been little more than jokes, even though the one and only top Championship has barely been seen on TV for much of the past year. I think it's more than time that the standards for these Championships be raised to the glory they once commanded. Cena is absolutely a man to do that, especially after being WWE Champion 15 times.
There's no way that Cena, the face of the WWE, should walk out of WrestleMania without the US Championship belt in hand. He did it once, and there's no reason he shouldn't do it again. At WrestleMania XX Big Show was a much bigger foe – physically and metaphorically – than Rusev is, or has been since starting with the WWE. Rusev has had a great run as an unstoppable Russian, but it's time for him and Lana to move on to the next stage of his career. Hopefully the big loss won't kill his career like it has so many others, but I see him persevering, because he's built a character through his run, something few others in his spot did before their big loss.
Queen of WNW