Monday, June 16, 2014

Instant Feedback: Everything's The Same

If everyone on that stage attacked Cena, he'd still get the better of them
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Technically, any time that a wrestler wins a match, he or she is overcoming the odds. Sure, the victory doesn't come in the dramatic fashion as one might expect when that verbiage is introduced into the fray. Even if a wrestler is a 1/100 favorite to win a match, that competitor has to overcome those odds, as minuscule as they might seem. So in a way, John Cena overcoming the odds is something he's done, something he's fairly good at doing.

But the narrative has a certain connotation that rings hollow. If John Cena easily overcomes what is placed in front of him, then why should THE ODDS pose any kind of existential dread in the hearts of his fans? Unless WWE is to assume that the people who chant "LET'S GO CENA" every week have memories as long-lasting as Dory at the beginning of Finding Nemo, then the Monster of the Week shtick should have gotten old sometime around 2007. If anything, Cena is at a great disadvantage in one-on-one matches against people he treats as his equal. The Rock and Daniel Bryan are the only ones to have victories of any permanence over Cena in the last few years, and in both cases, the effect was dulled either by a rematch where Cena got his win back or a post-match Money in the Bank cash-in that began the accidental long road to WrestleMania that wasn't supposed to belong to Bryan anyway.

If en masse interference is supposed to signify a stacked deck, however, then WWE has done a poor job in letting actions speak. I wish I could say that Seth Rollins' and Randy Orton's interference being rendered ineffectual against Cena and irrelevant to the finish of the stretcher match vs. Kane was the first instance of the CENA WINZ narrative overcoming even the waves of built-in excuses for him to lose matches, but he's been making multi-man matches look easy for years now.

Therein lies the problem with WWE's machine at its worst. When the celestial bodies in the Solar System line up in harmonic convergence and the writers and Vince McMahon create a story that is sublime, then nothing in the wrestling world is better. But more often than not, a slight kink exists in the machine, and everything goes haywire. Then, the gears move in erratic patterns, and garbled transmissions get repeated. The audience is forced to believe that a guy Cena dominated not two-and-a-half years ago could be The Authority's trump card against him, or that anyone short of Stannis Baratheon's army running a surprise pincer formation on him would be able to stop the man.

Of course, the repetitive nature does not apply only to The Champ. Vickie Guerrero is still the butt of the most one-sided, latently misogynist joke in WWE history. McMahon and Kevin Dunn still find projectile vomit funny (well, to be fair, so do I, just not in this setting). Women still be fightin' over hogs that they wanna funnel. Even on a show that had a fresh showdown to finish a battle royale and the "debut" of Stardust, the greatest pro wrestling character in history, the generally crushing feeling of recursive, regressive repetition ruled the night.

But when the script with the top wrestler in the company has remained unchanged for years without end, then malaise trickles down the card, whether deserved or not. Can WWE at least pretend to gamble on something that makes Cena seem somewhat vulnerable? Or will it continue to rely on wellsprings in other areas of the card, ones that may or may not have the providence needed to sustain a three hour show? Either way, I'm getting exhausted seeing Cena so easily dispatch his conflicts every week. The next person to dare erase the whiteboard will be the one to inject some life into a John Cena that hasn't felt vibrant in ages.