A Modest Response: Cena Analysis & Undertaker/Edge

I’ve tackled the subject of Cena previously (http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2008/02/03/73382/) and came to the conclusion that he’s a very good worker for the style he wrestles. What I failed to address is the reason people dislike him so much. This logic causing the hatred is exactly what the naysayers claim, but without fully understanding the reasoning behind their venom: John Cena is for kids.

With the passing of the Attitude era, WWE’s fans have mostly grown up and gone on to other pastimes. With the loss of these fans, the WWE’s demographic has changed from teens to children. Children love John Cena. The reason for this is that he’s like a starter pack for wrestling.

Personality wise he mixes elements of Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart and Steve Austin. He has Hogan’s superhero persona down pat, but he also adds elements of Bret’s underdog, fighting champion, and Austin’s “don’t take anything from anyone” attitude. All of these traits make him a cipher to more sophisticated, older audiences and take away from his being strong in any one area. This lack of standing for anything, however, means that he’s an all-purpose hero to the kids in the audience. That’s the cause of his popularity. While that’s reasonably obvious, here’s what’s been missed.

The WWE has recognized that Cena is popular mostly with children, whether they know the cause or not (I tend to think they do, but it’s irrelevant). John Cena’s matches are kept ridiculously simple so that children can be trained about what to look for in a wrestling match. We know Cena can do longer and more complex matches, but most of his in-match storytelling efforts are the simple bases upon which all matches are built. Cena will tell a very simple underdog storyline, or use quick leg psychology in his matches and instead of building from there, that will usually be the entirety of the storyline. For a long time fan, this can be unsatisfying and make it seem like Cena doesn’t get the nuances of being a great wrestler. His occasional glimpses of more complex work then become frustration for the portion of the fanbase that already understands the simple wrestling through years of conditioning. In the end, however, conditioning the next generation of fans with a wrestler they can get behind is a necessary step in the continued survival of WWE.

Cena is for children. His popularity with them is derived from his everyman status, as he takes traits from many of wrestling history’s biggest names. This credibility to children allows the WWE to use Cena as a training mechanism in young wrestling fans, allowing them to learn what to expect from wrestling, how to recognize storytelling, and react appropriately to the action in the ring. Cena occasionally shows glimpses of more, which allows younger fans to build upon what they have already seen, while giving the older fans tantalizing glimpses of what’s to come when the next generation of fan matures.

And now, something totally different: an examination of Undertaker vs. Edge, Hell in a Cell. This match quite simply warrants a full breakdown.

Upon Further Review:
Summerslam on August 17, 2008
Hell in a Cell: The Undertaker vs. Edge

Edge, a cowardly heel, has been wrestling and tormenting the Undertaker for ages now, costing the Deadman the title and even forcing him into a temporary retirement. The feud began with Edge costing Taker the title in his Hell in a Cell with Batista, by blasting Taker with a video camera. Since, they faced off in numerous gimmick matches, most notably the Tables, Ladders and Chairs match that Edge won to retire the Undertaker, featuring a ton of interference.

Edge is now on his own and thanks to Mick Foley, who Undertaker nearly killed in a Hell in a Cell 10 years ago, has gone from a cowardly opportunist to a wild brawler. This transformation was handled perfectly as Edge destroyed his former allies and took a new attitude into his match with the Undertaker. Background settled, let’s get to the match.

The Undertaker immediately showed his usual level of brutality, but the surprise is Edge. He’s still using opportunism to gain offense, but instead of his usual immediate attempts to win, while using cheap tricks, he’s using clever brawling to set up sequences of weapons attacks. This worked out brilliantly, leading to several great spots, notably an attack from a ladder, with a chair, through a table. In beautiful continuity, Edge even says “I Understand” as he did before putting Foley through a table in the exact same manner. Taker’s back was beat to hell, but naturally, as years of conditioning have taught us, never count out the Deadman.

Undertaker does the situp into a comeback and beats Edge about, but intelligently, Edge is even ready for this and manages to spear Undertaker through the cage. This is followed by a monitor shot and another spear on top of the announce tables. We’ve been conditioned that it’s really next to impossible to beat the Undertaker, but Edge is laying in the type of beating it would take.

Back in the ring, Edge, like the strike that started the feud, hits The Undertaker with a video camera. That gets two, but is a bad decision as it causes Taker to focus and clear out the cobwebs. Edge goes for a spear and Taker catches him with a chokeslam. Edge, desperate, suddenly reverts to his opportunistic heel persona. He abandons his plan of wearing down the Undertaker with a series of big moves and looks for the knockout blow, cheaply and quickly. A low blow, leads to the impaler for a near fall.

Taker keeps coming and attempting big moves, while Edge stays the opportunist and is a step ahead. Taker tries killing blows, but Edge even kicks out of the Last Ride, before avoiding a Tombstone off the steps onto a chair. Edge gets away and gains control, but his old arrogance is back and he tries for the Old School. Taker will have none of that and chokeslams Edge from the top through two tables. He puts Edge in and claims brutal, sweet revenge. The Undertaker hits Edge with a video camera, gives him a conchairto, and finally a Tombstone for the pin.

The Undertaker defeats Edge (Pin, Tombstone, **** ¾)
Upon rewatch I’ll decide if this is ***** or not. It’s certainly damn close and the best Hell in the Cell since Michaels vs. Undertaker. Edge had an evil plan to take apart the Undertaker’s back and win, using combinations of attacks that were previously successful in his wars against Undertaker. When that assault didn’t work in the fashion Edge wished, as quickly as he wished, Edge reverted to his opportunism to try and grab the victory and get out of the match. Without the constant interference, that didn’t get the victory, but it did lend to Edge some of his old cockiness. That was finally what came back to bite him as the Undertaker took revenge for all the assaults before finally pinning and laying end to this feud in perfect fashion.

Unless something astounding occurs, this is the Match of the Year.

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