Induction: John Cena, This Is Your Life – Baloney, fudge, and mustard, this was terrible!

38 Submitted by on Thu, 16 October 2014, 20:00

WWE, 2011

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In wrestling, there are certain ideas that were so successful at one time that writers can trot them out almost verbatim with no other justification but, “Let’s do this again because you liked it the first time!”

Just look at The Four Horseman. Not only did it re-form repeatedly in the 90s, but as late as 2010, TNA had Ric Flair state that his new faction, called Fortune, was the Four Horsemen with this unique twist: it was called, “Fortune.”

For WWE, one of the old stand-bys is “This Is Your Life,” where a wrestler’s supposed long-lost acquaintances are brought to the ring with hilarious results. The original “This is Your Life” segment for The Rock was Raw’s highest-rated segment ever, so it only makes financial sense for WWE to try to recreate it over and over again.

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Besides the first on in 1999, WWE re-lived the shenanigans with the roles reversed, The Rock now bringing Mick Foley blasts from his past (but not the ones that nearly killed Terry Funk in Japan).

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In 2011, it was time to drag the segment out once again.

See, at that year’s Survivor Series, the team of The Rock and John Cena would be in action, in the sense that old WWF shows used to advertise Men on a Mission “in action” as a euphemism for a squash match against two unknowns (in this case, Miz and R-Truth).   cenalife06
cenalife07 To commemorate the return of The Rock, WWE held a special three-hour Raw. This, of course, required plenty of filler material to eat up the extra hour. As we all know, Raw would soon expand to three hours permanently, but WWE writers would eventually learn to produce a tightly-booked, coherent program on a weekly basis. (That program is called NXT) 
But on this night, eighteen minutes of prime-time television was devoted to the newly-returned Mick Foley so that he could recreate the “This Is Your Life” magic and bring in important figures from John Cena’s past.
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Pictured: the least important figure from John Cena’s past

cenalife09 Why? To bring the rivals Rock and John Cena together. In a segment all about John Cena where there was no Rock to be found. It all made about as much sense as this stitched-together shirt of Mick’s that read, “TE BRINSE OVE TE.”
First, Foley presented a video package set to music not edgy enough to play over the speakers at your local Walgreens pharmacy. cenalife10
cenalife11  Then it was time for the surprise guests. Mick’s first guest was supposedly John’s little league coach, who looked about ten years older than John himself and told a story about Johnny striking out and crying about it. The audience ate it up like cinnamon by the tablespoon.
The next guest was Cena’s former hip-hop sidekick, Bull Buchanan. A clip of B-Squared together with John Cena was provided for that portion of Cena fans too young to have seen it when it first aired in 2003 (100% is a portion). It just happened to be one of Cena’s worst raps, where he dissed Rikishi with such biting lyrics as, “You’re so fat, when you sweat, you sweat grease.” cenalife12 
cenalife13 But instead of the promised Bull Buchanan, we got Will Sasso! No, sorry, that was Bull Buchanan. He just looked like Will Sasso.
Poor Bull never got to be his own man, starting out as a uniformed mook in the Truth Commission, then moving on to stints dressing like the Bossman, dressing like Steven Richards, and finally dressing like John Cena. It turned out that, when left to his own devices, old Bull preferred the casual look. cenalife14
cenalife15  Bull proceeded to deliver Raw’s most miserable sob story since Brutus Beefcake’s, except at least no one in the audience shouted, “Kill yourself!” One fan did tell John Cena that he saw him cheat on his wife, though, and this was even before the whole Eve incident!
I’m surprised Bull didn’t mention how Cena swapped him out for Red Dog. Hey, remember Red Dog? cenalife16
cenalife17 Cena continued to be embarrassed for himself, for Mick, and for all of us, but Foley hoped to save the day by bringing on a guest guaranteed not to tell off John Cena. And that guest was…
…John Cena, Sr.! “Hey, that actually is John’s father!” remarked Jerry Lawler in astonishment. Was he implying that the first guy wasn’t his real baseball coach? cenalife18 
cenalife19  Cena, Sr. harangued the audience for booing his son just because kids like him, at last saying what you’ve always been thinking (assuming you, the reader, are Vince McMahon. It’s an honor, sir).
Cena, Jr. begged dad to stop embarrassing himself and his family. cenalife20.1
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But embarrassment was the theme of the night, which made it an even bigger shame that this photo of John Cena teaming with Trish Stratus didn’t make it into the festivities. We’ve all considered John a Boy Scout, but who knew he could pitch a pants-tent like that?
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The real joke’s on me. After all, I’m the one who now has “john cena erection” in his search history.

cenalife22 All in all, the segment was a disaster. Not even John Cena, supporter of all things poopy, could put his confidence into this segment, which ranked right up there with the Gobbledy Gooker — Cena’s words, not mine. Here was a segment that was intentionally bad, and, in that sense, it exceeded its creators’ wildest expectations.
I would at least give the writers credit for not simply rehashing the “This Is Your Life” concept from the famous 1999 skit, flipping it on its ear so that every guest ended up backfiring on Foley. But then I remembered that that was the running joke in the original segment. cenalife23 
cenalife24 Without The Rock there to tell the guests to something-or-other their ass on out of there, the segment fell flat. Fortunately, the man himself was in the arena that night.
After an excruciating 17 minutes, a juiced-up Rock at last arrived in what I can only guess was a tie-in with the WWE All-Stars video game. He gave Mick Foley the Rock Bottom and left to an ovation. cenalife99 
cenalife26 WWE could have achieved the same sort of reaction without turning the fans against Foley over the course of an overly-long and tedious gag. Just have him show up and punch The Miz in the face (not because they were feuding; that would just be a lucky coincidence).
That would have really been something for John to smile about with that “Oh, gotta love that Rock!” look on his face. cenalife25
    

While the original “This Is Your Life” segment didn’t really further a storyline (especially by the swerve-every-half-hour standards of the Attitude Era), it was entertaining and did at least reinforce the unique relationship dynamic between The Rock and Mankind, who were in the tag team title hunt, after all. That, and it drew staggering ratings, which certainly didn’t hurt matters.

But “John Cena: This Is Your Life”? Unless Mick Foley was planning on forming a tag team with Cena, or even simply sticking around as a regular performer on WWE television, this segment was like a broken pencil:

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Annoying and extremely painful to have shoved into one’s eyes and ears. Oh, and also pointless.

Written by

A wrestling fan ever since the days of Wrestlemania IX, Art graduated from college in the same building where Art Donovan called King of the Ring 1994. He also runs the "How Much Does This Guy Weigh?" blog, where he reviews New Generation-Era Monday Night Raws. Follow him on Twitter @Art0Donnell. Email at: art@wrestlecrap.com
38 Responses to "Induction: John Cena, This Is Your Life – Baloney, fudge, and mustard, this was terrible!"
  1. Andre R. says:

    Goshdarn cheese and crackers, I really don’t give a rat’s patootie about Cena or his life. Dagnabbit!

  2. Brad says:

    I want to like John Cena….I really do. He does so much stuff for charity, and he seems like a decent enough guy, but he just sucks the life out of every segment he’s in.

    • Griffin says:

      Blame the writers as much as Cena himself. You have a guy here that was on the verge of being released in 2002 until he asked to be himself and start his heel rapping gimmick. The fans ate it up and he became a successful anti-hero who, even when he turned face, was more than happy to cheat to win if necessary. But he was neutered by WWE desperately wanting another Hogan, only they made him look like he was kissing Vince’s butt while feuding with Eric Bischoff. Not only that, but they were at the time booking Batista pretty much exactly as they SHOULD have been booking Cena. Cena’s title win against JBL – whose entire run had been built around him being an incredibly lucky bitch who everyone wanted to see get what was coming to him – was ridiculously botched, with JBL looking like the better man for the majority of the match only for Cena to string together a few moves at the end and steal the win. Batista was made to look awesome against Triple H, then again in two rematches. Batista was booked as a smart face who seemed to simultaneously trick heels into thinking he was a lantern-jawed neanderthal idiot while winking to the audience that he was a lot more intelligent and pragmatic than he was given credit for. That should have been Cena’s role, instead they just had him piss about with Jericho and Bischoff then put him in a surprisingly flat program with Angle. Looking back at Cena’s career, almost every criticism people still have towards him as a performer goes back to that original title reign. Even with all the good matches he’s had since then – some of which he’s hung well with superior talents like Shawn Michaels (which is easier said than done) and some where he’s done well to carry others (his matches with Great Khali which were way more entertaining than they had any right to be) – he still gets the same criticism almost a decade later when it really isn’t justified. For me, the reasons to dislike Cena are almost all to do with how he’s been booked, not with Cena himself. If WWE would let him just be natural, he’d probably be a lot more entertaining. We can tell he’s smart since he’s a great improviser and has fun with the negative fan reaction, unlike Batista who threw a fit when ECW fans booed him whereas Cena planned for it in advance and played the heel against RVD. He’s hamstrung by poor writing in my opinion.

      • Griffin says:

        In fact, I would like to see Cena vs JBL at Wrestlemania 21 inducted for the reasons I just gave. You’d have to look at how both men were booked in the build to Wrestlemania and how little that booking was ultimately related to how the match itself panned out, almost killing Cena’s credibility.

        • Down With OPC says:

          It would be fun induction, especially if you also bring up stuff like the police cavalcade that escorted JBL out to the arena. So dangerous.

      • Jason says:

        You know in that before that original title run, they tried to go full on anti-hero with him ala Steve Austin. After a tag match with Chris Benoit he attacked Benoit dropping him with the F-U. The crowd crapped on it and it was edited off TV

        As for B-squared, I’m pretty sure that they replaced Red Dogg with him. Dogg was an unfamiliar black guy and I’m pretty sure Cena was meant as a poser in those early months as a rapper, it spun out of him dressing as Vanilla Ice after all, and a familiar non-rapping white guy who was a follower was better for the role

  3. Alexandru says:

    This just shows that you can’t recreate magic as the original, in any kind of entertainment, is almost always the best. Thank God I didn’t have to sit through this, unlike the audience

  4. Down With OPC says:

    “Like a broken needle, kid, you missin’ the point!”

    ~John Cena

  5. Jay "The Brain" Mann says:

    The best part of this segment was B-Squared.

  6. Griffin says:

    Poor Cena. He knows the writing sucks but he can’t exactly say no to the most ridiculously prolific career imaginable. Like when he not only had to say in a promo that Miz was lactose intolerant, but actually explain “that means you poop yourself a lot” because kids wouldn’t understand the term. He even said immediately afterwards “it’s PG, I’m doing the best I can.” Cena was almost born a generation too late, he may actually have done better in the Attitude Era as one of many big and interesting main eventers instead of just one expected to carry the company while spouting wooden child-friendly catchphrases and fraternal toilet jokes.

    • Paul R. from Spook Central: The Ghostbusters Companion says:

      You bring up a lot of good points, Griffin. I actually like Cena better when he was doing the rapper gimmick because he was entertaining and fun. Unfortunately, being the tail-end of the Attitude Era meant that that wouldn’t last long. Had he come up in the company five years earlier, I could easily see him being one of the big starts of the Attitude Era, like you said.

  7. RD Reynolds says:

    RED DOG!!!!

  8. Geoff says:

    This was such wrestlecrap that this was inducted twice. Wow!

    • Art0Donnell says:

      No, it wasn’t, but if you’d like to try to prove me wrong, feel free to search the Wrestlecrap archives for a one-time fee of just — how much? $14.95!

  9. C. Peter Roberts says:

    If you decode Mick’s shirt, it says: DON’T FORGET TO DRINK YOUR OVALTINE.

  10. Gabe says:

    What the hell is going on with Cena having a boner while wrestling?

    • Jinx says:

      What’s even more interesting is the fact that when he was wearing the jean shorts with the giant Ecko logo on the ass, he always looked like he was sporting wood and I was always taken aback by it. It’s like…what do you say when you notice the dude is hard in all of his matches?

  11. Ze Frenchie says:

    “A clip of B-Squared together with John Cena was provided for that portion of Cena fans too young to have seen it when it first aired in 2003 (100% is a portion)”. This made me laugh so much! Excellent induction, monsieur O’Donnell.

  12. Doc 902714 says:

    The segment was okay until John Cena Sr. showed up. Man every segment that douche is in turns to crap…..and in a hurry. I ordered the best of “RAW Off the Air” DVD and immediately clicked on the DVD menu link that said “John Cena joined by DX and…..” I was so anxious to see who the “special guest” would be. Imagine my disappointment when it turned out to be that douche. Easily the worst segment on an otherwise very entertaining DVD. Something about him just makes me want to slap him. Well, guess Edge had the right idea.

    • Jinx says:

      Didn’t Orton once punt kick Cena Sr.’s head off once? I guess the heels know what we all want to see, Cena’s dad getting own repeatedly to make up for his douche-ness.

  13. Rob Brown says:

    Oh good Lord. Not only did Vince not know the meaning of the word “notwithstanding”–which made his own commentary irritating enough–but he was apparently writing promos for his talent which had them using the word incorrectly too. Beefcake talks about all the unpleasant stuff that happened to him, and then says that “notwithstanding” all of that, he was walking along the beach one day when he got hit by the parasailer and his face got broken.

  14. Jerichoholic Ninja says:

    Perhaps the worst thing about WWE to pop up after the last decade is their open mocking of a segment shortly after or during it. Basically they’re saying “That was terrible, and you’re an idiot for watching this!” Imagine a baseball game being stopped to have the players mock themselves for errors. Or actors breaking character in the middle of a show to make fun of a bad take. They’re basically trying to follow the Seth MacFarlane Rule: If you point out your faults then people’s criticism won’t be valid… After all, you are aware of your faults! (I call it that because in just about everything he’s ever done there’s been a joke to point out the flaws or say that critics will hate it)

    In short, WWE is scripted and if they’re trying to pull off purposely bad comedy (and to be fair, Mick Foley is capable of pulling it off) they certainly shouldn’t have someone bury it when it fails miserably. That’s something for DVDs and the WWE Network, not live TV.

    And yeah, this was bad. It was completely out of context for the storyline. Rock and Cena were teaming up to take on the supposed unbeatable alliance of Miz and R-Truth, allegedly the two most dangerous wrestlers at the time that can only be taken down by a superstar combination. Instead of building up that aspect, they just resort to a bunch of lame comedy like this. I’ve said it before: late 2011 was not a good time to be a WWE fan.

  15. John says:

    I’m probably in the minority but I have always felt the original “This is your life” segment from 1999 is overrated and this is coming from a die hard Attitude Era fan. I didn’t hate the segment but I felt it went on way too long and IMO not deserving of all the praise it receives, namely being the highest rated segment ever on WWE TV or whatever it is.

    • Jinx says:

      Agreed, it was slightly amusing… but back in the days before DVR… even I felt it was long and tedious.

    • Al Lobama says:

      The gigantic rating “This is Your Life, Rock!” received didn’t have as much to do with the entertainment value of the segment as people think. This was the Summer of 1999, when Crash TV conditioned the fanbase to expect ANYTHING to happen, especially in a segment like this. As a teenage fan I was glued to the TV during this part of the show because I expecting it to end with the debut of a new wrestler jumping ship, or a surprise sneak attack by the Corporate Ministry, or a big secret being revealed that would add a new wrinkle to the story. When NONE of that happened and the biggest surprise we got was the return of Yerple the Clown, I went away from that segment angry…and I have to imagine I wasn’t the only one. However, ratings only count how many people watched the segment, not how many people enjoyed it, and the big ratings points inflated the myth that this was the greatest moment in the history of RAW.

  16. Mister Forth says:

    They really screwed up the writing around 2 big WrestleMania matches.

  17. Paul Matthews says:

    Actually, the Austin/Undertaker title change from June 99 drew a 9.5 in the ratings, which is higher than “This is Your Life”. WWE will never tell you that. “This is Your Life” is actually NOT the highest rated segment in RAW history and no one mentions that the ratings took a huge drop after that segment.

    I’ve always believed the true test of a segment is how many people stick around after it. That tells you how many people were turned off by the segment.

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