Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The 2015 TWB 100: Number Four

Hustle. Loyalty. Respect. Number Four.
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4. John Cena
Points: 5950
Ballots: 65
Highest Vote: 1st Place (Brian Brown, Nick Malone, Rich Fann II, Bob Godfrey, Ryan Foster, Cam Is Like)
Last Year's Placement: 13th Place

TH: John Cena, the overall performer, is still a piece of flint that is used way too much to start debates about wrestling and WWE's penchant for spamming its top guys. While I am not entirely sure how I feel about him as a total package anymore, one thing is certain. He's become one of the best, most consistent in-match performers in WWE, especially in 2015. He garnered the nickname "Big Match John," which may have started out ironic or trolling in nature, but I doubt anyone of sound mind can argue that he's not a special wrestler between the bells. In fact, I'd argue that nickname doesn't fit Cena because he rose to the occasion every time a big match came up last year; instead, Cena himself made nearly every single match he was in a big match through is performance. Matches that were more often than not stashed in the midcard felt like main-event worthy contests, and in theory, that would have driven up the worth of every show he was on. He took a wide variety of opponents, from Brock Lesnar to Sami Zayn and everyone in between, and busted his ass to make sure that they were looked at as important as he was, even if just for a few minutes out of a show.

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Bill Bicknell: I think a lot of us were skeptical about John Cena's US Title reign when it started. Cena is such a specific force in WWE storytelling and constantly feels like an inevitability; "CENA WINS LOL" didn't become the gag from nothing. And while that inevitability remained - Cena beat Rusev, beat Owens, beat Neville, beat Cesaro, beat Zayn, beat everyone until his anticlimactic loss to Alberto del Rio - it was an incredibly fun ride, one that at times deconstructed what it meant to be in a wrestling organization with a John Cena in the midst of it. As with most WWE stories, I wish it'd taken more risks, but boy did we get a lot of great matches out of it.

Elliot Imes: Okay, so he probably didn't need to win that feud with Owens. I get that. But putting aside the baggage that comes along with his character, one cannot deny that Cena went a long way to change his perception in 2015. We now see him as a guy who might grind our gears with his words, but is indisputably one of the best wrestlers in WWE. I'm actually bummed that he's not at WrestleMania this year, and I never thought I'd say that.

Joey O.: Keeping Big Match John away from the main event picture for most of last year did wonders for his reputation and matches. Instead of facing Randy Orton for the 21,140th time, his U.S. Title Open Challenge gave him a wide range of new opponents to mix things up with, including much of the up-and-coming NXT class (Neville, Owens and for better-then-worse, Zayn). And while the Philly Royal Rumble will always be remember for the Reaction to Roman Reigns, that Cena-Rollins-Lesnar triple threat for the title was one of the best matches I've ever seen in person.

Butch Rosser: For all the deserved and undeserved grief that The Face That Runs The Place gets, we can say this about his '15 before he too fell prey to the injury bug--more often than not, especially in the spring and summer, his US Open title challenges were the best and sometimes only watchable part of RAW. A clear case of the man making the belt, he made moments shine like when Sami Zayn made his attempt and put on a series of matches with Cesaro that individually made arguments for being Free TV MOTYs while easily making you wonder "why don't these guys become a tag team and LOLNOPE everybody else to death?" The thing that drives me crazy about Cena, per usual, is the presentation. But the title run in the upper midcard and facing a bunch of excellent wrestlers along the way did a lot of rehab and gave me guarded hope that they've given up on masking their resident LeBron James as a Jimmy Butler and they'll let him rule until they're ready to have him break Flair's record.

Brandon House: Yeah, he's over-exposed and more stale than a bag of potato chips from a decade ago, but when he held the US title and was wrestling people weekly for said title, he was ON POINT. While there were a few clunkers in that run, his matches against Dean Ambrose, Neville, Sami Zayn, and Cesaro more than made up for them. Those matches against Cesaro were some of the best of the year, carrying some seriously unremarkable episodes of RAW. While the booking was... questionable (at best), Cena's matches against Kevin Owens were fantastic, the two acting as the perfect foils for each other. Even the matches against Rusev and Seth Rollins were fun.

Photo Credit:
Joey on Earth: No one has delivered as many great matches in WWE history as John Cena. That’s obviously due to opportunity and longevity but still impressive with 2015 being his best in-ring year yet. Between the memorable matches against Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins, Cesaro and just about everyone he defended the United States Championship against, Cena was a guaranteed great match every week on RAW until he took some time off and later suffered an injury to end the year.

Stygimoloch: Accusations that John Cena can't wrestle, or that he only knows five moves, were already several years out of date going into 2015; coming out of it, he's a legitimate contender to being WWE's most consistently great wrestler. While the narratives of his feuds with Rusev, Seth Rollins and Kevin Owens were questionable, the match quality wasn't, and his United States Championship open challenges were regularly the best matches on WWE programming in any given week. He made his opponents look like megastars even in defeat.

Ryan Foster: By far my favorite part of the post-John Cena era of WWE is John Cena. Freed from his role as perpetual top dog, Cena finally has the artistic freedom to achieve results unlike anything we’ve seen in his decade-plus WWE career. No more endless monotonous feuds with the Randy Ortons and Kanes of the company. No more hitting the panic button to shoehorn him back into the main event any time ratings dipped. Instead, Cena was permitted to escape his comfort zone and create brilliance with the likes of Seth Rollins, Cesaro, and Kevin Owens. He could have sleepwalked through those matches in the usual style – his paycheck would have been the same. Instead, he not only cleared but vaulted to the high bar posed by his competition, and proved every bit their equal. Cena made the US Championship – a mostly forgotten hunk of storytelling convenience – into a must-watch part of RAW every week. In a year dominated by fresh faces, Cena resisted the urge to fight the tide and instead let it lift him to the very top.