Thursday, April 9, 2015

My Wishlist for John Cena's United States Championship Reign

Cena can do some nice things with that title
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John Cena won the United States Championship from Rusev at WrestleMania much to the chagrin of fans everywhere who are tired of the LOLCENAWINZ meme that has pervaded WWE for over a decade. The matters were made even worse when his title win, which was rumored to be part and parcel of a successful Brock Lesnar title defense and continuation of his long absentee WWE World Heavyweight Championship reign. But with the Championship on a regularly appearing superstar in Seth Rollins, Cena winning the United States Championship (and to an extent, Daniel Bryan winning the Intercontinental Championship) feel like wasted opportunities to build the midcard.

That is, until one realizes that those titles were were doing jack shit in the midcard because WWE doesn't change its booking patterns for people holding those belts if they're not already big deals. And Cena has already come out the last two weeks on RAW and given that title a purpose I've been begging WWE to give it for the last year. He's made the US Title a de facto Television Championship, defending it in open challenges the last two weeks. This development has theoretically opened up a wealth of opportunities for WWE to book the US Champion interestingly, and hopefully, that booking will help Vince McMahon especially realize that if every titleholder was booked as well as Cena, that the titles might actually mean more than an extra bauble a random wrestler carries around.

Anything in wrestling can be fodder for fantasy booking, but this Cena title reign feels like it is rife for things to happen, even with a longer title reign. He's a good enough wrestler to have showcase matches, being pushed in a way where guys can conceivably beat him right now, but has stature enough that he can not only win convincingly, but can make other guys look strong even in defeat. That all being said, here are my specific wishes for Cena's title reign. They won't include vague things like "make other guy look strong" or whatever. The following are specific things I'd like to see, even if some of them might disagree with each other. You can't always get what you want, so cast a wide net, y'know? Anyway, here goes, ranked in ascending order of desire (meaning the last one is the one I want the most):

10. Win one of his matches with his wonky-ass hurricanrana - He's going to be wrestling a ton of matches, provided WWE doesn't conveniently forget about this angle sometime after Extreme Rules. Let him win just one match with his godawful looking rana, please. PLEASE. I want to watch the world burn.

9. Face off against Nikki Bella, or if that has too many gross implications, Charlotte or Paige - Look, I know I'm the "intergender wrestling guy," and WWE may never do it the way I want them to do it, but it's my fucking wishlist, alright? Cena and Bella have a built-in story about respect in their relationship, although I do admit that maybe WWE couldn't be trusted to pull it off without putting in a gross domestic violence angle. Even if WWE played it straight, the idea of spouses wrestling each other could seem like a trigger warning for some. Still, Charlotte or Paige are more than capable in their abilities to throw down with Cena.

8. Do NOT tease or engage in any kind of unification match with Daniel Bryan or whoever the Intercontinental Champion is - Honestly, WWE has come this far keeping the belts separate, and even if Bryan doesn't do the same thing Cena on RAW is doing on Smackdown, he's still doing his best to rehab the belt and make it a prestige title on its own. Putting the two together would just be sad, lazy, recursive booking that helps fewer people than they would separately.

7. Accept an open challenge from a returning legend, preferably Vader - WWE isn't shy about bringing back legend-types, but one role where they could play around with the concept for guys who can still go is putting them against Cena, especially with gold on the line. Sure, Bret Hart or Scott Hall may not be able to go the way they used to, but other wrestlers like Diamond Dallas Page, 2 Cold Scorpio, or The Fucking Man They Call Vader would fit the bill. Vader would be the most interesting choice because he, unlike anyone else that WWE would call back for a one-match dosey-do, could conceivably and believably make Cena play the underdog in the match without the viewer wanting to put skewers through his or her eyes. Plus, Cena has the freakish superhuman strength to be able to hoss around the Mastodon for a spectacle match.

6. Wrestle one US Title match in NXT - So many wrestlers are trying to make it to the main roster, but NXT is being built as its own brand in demand. Why shouldn't the flux work the other way as well? The brightest star in WWE coming down even for one match would solidify the brand's standing as a big fuckin' deal. It really doesn't matter whom he wrestles, and by the time he gets down there, he could have his pick. Maybe a bout against Finn Bálor to set up a SummerSlam program (see #2)? How about a big main event against Kevin Owens or Sami Zayn? I wouldn't mind seeing Hideo Itami play the role of the rawest CM Punk Cena's ever faced either. Tyler Breeze, Solomon Crowe, even Big Cass. I don't care, just as long as one of them throws down with Cena at Full Sail, I'm good.

5. Take out Triple H in the shortest match of his entire run - Honestly, this one's in here just to amuse my pre-2013 self and see Trips get the shortest end of the stick, brother.

4. Defend against Goldust on pay-per-view - Goldust is going to go down to NXT and train the future of WWE, but before he goes, he should get some kind of sendoff better than "Hey, scram, and no, I don't care that we forgot to blow the feud with your brother off at something better than fucking Fast Lane." Once upon a time, I dreamed of him holding the Big Gold Belt before it was merged into the current WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Now, the expectations are lowered. A mere feud with Cena over the United States Championship he once held in another lifetime might seem like a pittance, but for Goldust, it'd be one last moment in the sun for him, one last chance to dazzle a crowd on a pay-per-view stage before he goes behind the scenes, maybe coming out once in awhile like William Regal to wrestle the potential chosen ones as part of a vetting process.

3. Drop the belt when the time comes on RAW to someone who's already challenged for the title four or more times - Dean Ambrose immediately comes to mind for the guy who fits this role, but to be honest, I'm hoping his back to chasing his former brother Seth Rollins by the time Cena's good and ready to drop the belt. Anyway, the story of the scrappy guy who doesn't know when to quit is a story that's not been told well in WWE, but with Cena's stature, it can be used as a springboard device for someone on the cusp. Cena's going to be defending the belt on every RAW and pay-per-view, which will give him ample time to run through all the available wrestlers who could challenge him at least twice between now and, say, Night of Champions or even SummerSlam (see the next entry). Having someone not ever give up would be a fitting parallel for Cena's own self-described no-quit attitude as well as provide the ultimate underdog story who finally breaks through.

2. Defend the title against Finn Bálor at SummerSlam - Imagine the scene in the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn, NY, one of WWE's loudest and most popular hardcore fan venues. Cena is standing in the ring, milling about with the referee and Lilian Garcia when the lights go out. The first bass thumps of "Catch Your Breath" echo, and then the false stop hits. Red strobe lights begin to flicker. The main riff starts up, and a figure rises from the stage in his red and black demon paint, fog machines giving the appearance of a smoking hellion rising from the underworld. Then in full view of 20,000-plus, Finn Bálor drinks in the crowd for a moment before beginning his descent into the ring as those fans are whipped into absolute frenzy. Tell me that wouldn't be the most surreal, memorable SummerSlam moment since Davey Boy Smith pinned Bret Hart.

Oh yeah, the match would be pretty good too, but man, that entrance. I'm getting goosebumps just imagining it.

1. Go an hour with Zack Ryder - Zack Ryder has become a punchline in pro wrestling, and for good reason. Starting with his "Hoeski" music video that he made trying to pump life into a story that was clearly told to make him look like a forgettable geek and write him off the show, his career has taken a rapid descent into nowhere. However, once upon a time, he was a promising prospect, someone who could have figured into the longterm plans of WWE on some level greater than sitting at craft services and coming out only when Rusev needs an easy win to remind people that he's super-strong like Russian bear. Long Island Iced Z is the main piece of evidence, but back in the glorious world of WWECW (aka, NXT before NXT became what it is today with a fraction of the fanfare), he got to be in feuds and wrestle longer matches. He was pretty good at the latter, before his oeuvre was reduced to doing a Broski Boot, missing the Ruff Ryder, taking the other guy's finisher, and getting that three second tan.

So, why would Ryder going to a pseudo-broadway with Cena be the thing I want most? For one, I think he can pull it off, obviously. Two, I'm still rooting for the guy, the one guy who got himself over before anyone even heard of the "YES!" Movement. Three, it would be a legitimate shock in an age where very few things surprise, and it would deliver on some deeper level than the Russoesque SWERVE! for swerving's sake. The argument against it would be that Ryder is a geek and going long with Cena would only detract from the latter. I disagree. In sports, few teams ever run roughshod over their competition the entire year. Mostly everyone has that close game with a scrub team or inexplicable loss on the schedule that no one can understand en route to a Championship season. Ryder can be that anomaly, the 16 seed that gives a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament all it can handle for 35 minutes before losing steam in the last five. He can be the too-close-for-comfort 27-25 win for the Patriots over the Jets. He can be that underdog for one hour. It would be mind-bending and nostalgic and he would win the crowd over again, even if it's just once before he goes back to the obscurity Triple H has allegedly sentenced him to.