Squared-Circle Science: John Cena’s Greatest Rivalries

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Believe it or not, it has been close to four years since the last major John Cena compilation/retrospective set from WWE Home Video. Of course, I’m purposely overlooking the single disc Superstar Collection – John Cena budget title from 2012. For someone who is the reigning ambassador of World Wrestling Entertainment, having been in the main event picture for nearly a decade – beginning with a co-main event at WrestleMania 21 and then being drafted to Monday Night Raw as part of the annual draft lottery – this gap of time between compilations seems enormous. Since joining the main event scene and winning 15 world championships, WWE has become a “Cenation” as the once Doctor of Thuganomics has been a near-permanent fixture on weekly wrestling programs and pay-per-view telecasts, minus the occasional injury or movie (The Marine, 12 Rounds).

A superstar that moves merchandise by the truckloads, is the cover model for the latest WWE videogame from 2K Sports, and has granted over 400 wishes for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, John Cena is at a level of stardom where his oversaturation has him viewed as a pariah to many fans of the WWE Universe.

Personally, I don’t find Cena that offensive. Yes, I’ll admit his shtick has grown stale. It’s to the point now that a new color pattern in his latest T-shirt dictates a subtle character change. His move set is limited and repetitive. (I don’t know what’s more offensive, his “Five Knuckle Shuffle” or poor man’s Death Valley Driver called an “Attitude Adjustment,” only because “F-U” isn’t TV-PG friendly.) Still, most superstars work through a similarly designed move set to emphasize certain attributes – seriously how many wrestlers in WWE either dive to the outside or over the top rope?

Rock and Cena

Notwithstanding Cena as a wrestler, you have to admit that his arrival to WWE in 2002 was blessed with an incredible array of talent. While he may not be able to carry everyone – or anyone – to classic matches, Cena has had the great fortune of working with superstars that have masked his weaknesses to make for some stellar encounters.

The latest John Cena compilation, titled John Cena’s Greatest Rivalries, is a tour of some of his biggest feuds. With seventeen matches on the three-disc DVD and two more as Blu-ray exclusives, you get the distinction of just how valuable a contributor Cena has been in his stint with the company. This non-chronological compilation zigzags its way from his early days in Ohio Valley Wrestling as “Prototype” to most recently facing Randy Orton on a February 2014 edition of Monday Night Raw.

A total of ten adversaries are covered on the Blu-rays (nine on the DVD set) but the short packages in between the action do little to provide context of the feud or rivalry. More to the point, it is Cena offering brief remarks about his in-ring experiences with the likes of Hall of Famers Eddie Guerrero and Edge, plus Triple H, Batista and others, and how each one affected his career.

With the forthcoming multi-platform videogame release of WWE 2K15, the producers of the set did a nifty homage to the Street Fighter video game series. Each transition shows a pixilated opponent selection screen (sadly you can’t scroll through as if you were making a character selection). A 16-bit version of Cena stands to the left on the screen and his opponent pops up on the right.

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Moving past this screen image are the interview sections with Cena sitting alone, cameras capturing his comments from multiple angles as he opens up about his career. The comments are short – approximately a minute in length for each sound bite – but they come off as candid and genuine. But the best comments are exclusive to the Blu-ray when Cena speaks about CM Punk. When he talks about their personalities and how one is more about the “company” and the other is more about “wrestling” you can understand why WWE wouldn’t trust Punk as its figurehead.

Rather than break down each individual match in this package, here is a quick rundown. Again, the lack of context to these matches (unlike what we got on Shawn Michaels’ Mr. WrestleMania retrospective) will have many in the WWE Universe scratching their heads wondering why certain matches were included while others were excluded.

Number One Contender’s Tournament Match for WWE Championship
John Cena vs. Eddie Guerrero – SmackDown • April 3, 2003

Parking Lot Brawl
John Cena vs. Eddie Guerrero – SmackDown • September 11, 2003

OVW Championship Match
Prototype vs. Leviathan – Ohio Valley Wrestling • February 23, 2002

WWE Championship Last Man Standing Match
John Cena vs. Batista – Extreme Rules • April 25, 2010

John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels – RAW • April 23, 2007

John Cena vs. Shawn Michaels – RAW • March 10, 2008

WWE Championship Match

John Cena vs. Randy Orton – SummerSlam • August 26, 2007

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John Cena vs. Randy Orton – RAW • February 10, 2014

WWE Championship Match
John Cena vs. JBL – WrestleMania 21 • April 3, 2005

John Cena vs. JBL – RAW • June 9, 2008

“You’re Fired! Match” for the WWE Championship
John Cena vs. Chris Jericho – RAW • August 22, 2005

World Heavyweight Championship Match
John Cena vs. Chris Jericho – Survivor Series • November 23, 2008

WWE Championship Match
John Cena vs. Edge RAW • October 2, 2006

World Heavyweight Championship (Last Man Standing)
John Cena vs. Edge – Backlash • April 26, 2009

WWE Championship Match
John Cena vs. Triple H – WrestleMania 22 • April 2, 2006

John Cena vs. Triple H – RAW • October 19, 2009

John Cena & The Rock Q&A – RAW • March 25, 2013

WWE Championship Match

John Cena vs. The Rock – WrestleMania XXIX • April 7, 2013

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BLU-RAY EXCLUSIVES

John Cena vs. CM Punk – RAW • November 23, 2009

Number One Contender’s Match (WWE Championship)
John Cena vs. CM Punk – RAW • February 25, 2013

Looking at the number of matches included John Cena fans will be pleased. Of the nineteen matches above only seven are from WWE PPVs. The best of the bunch, arguably, is Cena vs. Michaels from April 2007 when WWE was doing a UK tour. (The match was also included on the 2007 DVD release of The Shawn Michaels Story – Heartbreak & Triumph.) Unfortunately, WWE’s home video department failed in delivering an uncut presentation, which is what should be the standard after presenting Kurt Angle’s and Brock Lesnar’s televised Ironman match from SmackDown 2003 in its uncut form on the 2011 release Greatest Superstars of the 21st Century.

A nice addition is WWE utilizing the Ohio Wrestling Valley tape library in showcasing some of the talents that would become major superstars. Prototype vs. Leviathan is nothing special, but at least someone in production is doing his due diligence when it comes to making the most of the thousands of hours of footage WWE has at its disposal.

My personal favorite is the Parking Lot Brawl between Cena and Guerrero. It’s a fun garbage match that includes everything from backdrops on cars, crashing through windows and the use of a lawnmower. Viva La Raza!

As for the two CM Punk matches, I like how they avoided going with the obvious Money in the Bank match with the pro-Punk Chicago crowd. Actually, it looks like the two matches selected may have been the first and last televised one-on-one ring encounters Cena and Punk had with one another.

The only bonus feature per se is a quick WWE 2K15 feature that has Cesaro and Adrian Neville doing some motion-capture work for the game as Cena narrates. It runs approximately two minutes.

John Cena’s Greatest Rivalries
lacks the scope and presentation like we got with the Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels set. Instead, it plays more like an overview of some of Cena’s best rivals – most of whom were the best part of the rivalry in the first place. The match list may be impressive for most, but outside of those who would rather chant “Let’s go Cena!” than “Cena sucks!” the collection’s only benefit is serving as an introduction to the history of the man who claims that you can’t see him.

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