We can all pretty much agree that John Cena sucks.
I mean, what other top star in wrestling could get away with performing signature moves so sloppily?
And the lax way he puts on the STF is a disgrace to a classic submission hold.
Plus, every one of his matches ends in his Five Moves of Doom: Shoulder block, shoulder block, Protoplex, Five Knuckle Shuffle, Attitude Adjustment. Just pick any match of his at random and it’ll end the exact same way, unless it doesn’t.
The only time he ever seems to job is due to safety concerns, like when the finish of Wrestlemania 28 was changed at the last minute because this highly influential fan threatened to riot.
And yet, for a guy who is the worst wrestler in history, Cena somehow always ends up in some great matches, managing to have a Match of the Year candidate or three every year and even snagging the Wrestling Observer award in 2011.
In 2012, Cena was on a roll, working top-ten matches on consecutive pay-per-views, including the uniquely brutal match against Brock Lesnar.
The lucky streak ran out the next month, though, when at Over the Limit, John faced off against this dynamic dude:
Together, Johns Laurinaitis and Cena made history, becoming the first pair of former Observer Match of the Year winners to go one-on-one in the Worst Match of the Year, stinking up the joint in a perfect storm of garbage wrestling, bad storylines, and, as we’ll see, a total disregard for the established characterization of the company’s top star.
John Laurinaitis, as tyrannical General Manager, had booked himself into a match at “The Over Limit” against John Cena, thinking he could rely on outside interference to gain the unfair edge. However, thanks to action by that beloved plot device, the Board of Directors, not only would Laurinaitis be fired if he lost, but any WWE Superstar who interfered on his behalf would also have his contract terminated.
That pretty much sealed Johnny’s fate, so Laurinaitis, in a bad mood, humiliated the Big Show into begging for forgiveness (Show having ridiculed his voice), only to fire him anyway. That meant Big Show was no longer a WWE Superstar, and that any fan who watched Raw could guess the outcome of the Over the Limit match six days in advance.
(Although, to be fair, even if Show didn’t have the motive or opportunity to interfere on Johnny’s behalf, there was still a good chance he’d turn heel anyway, given his legendary habit of switching allegiances)
And so the stage was set for the 49-year-old Johnny Ace’s first wrestling match in twelve years.
Any fans hoping that Ace could pull off a shocking return to the ring like Shawn Michaels, or at least have a few moments to shine in the spotlight like Ricky Steamboat, were quickly brought back to reality when Laurinaitis’s opening offense consisted of running away.
And as remarkable as the aforementioned comeback matches were, neither of them were the main event. This dud, on the other hand, not only headlined a $45 WWE pay-per-view (with champion CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan on the undercard), but was Johnny’s first-ever U.S. pay-per-view main event. In fact, the last time Johnny had even wrestled on PPV in this country was 1990’s Capital Combat — before his opponent Mark Callous had ever even picked up a shovel.
Cena dealt with his feeble opponent the way a true sportsman would: by pummeling and degrading him. Sure, Laurinaitis had been acting like a bully for months (even fining Sheamus half a million dollars just for kicking a referee full-force in the head), but viewed out of context, this “match” made Cena look like total hypocrite, given his participation in the Be a STAR campaign.
Scratch that; even in context, Cena looked like a complete jerk, since all he had to do was pin his aged adversary to win the match and kick him out of the company. Instead, he entertained the audience with such tolerant and respectful antics as pulling Johnny’s shirt over his face…
…slapping him bare-backed…
…airplane-spinning him Fresh Prince-style…
…sounding the ring bell right next to Johnny’s head…
…and sticking the barely-conscious sap at the announce table for some mock-commentary…
…before denying Ace’s plea for mercy like a true champion…
…rejecting his handshake in favor of physical torture and applying the STF in intervals of ten-seconds on, ten-seconds off.
By the time John retrieved a bottle of water from ringside, fans feared we might see WWE’s first ever water-boarding.
Instead, John just dumped the contents onto Johnny’s head…
…and crotch, so as to simulate his victim wetting his pants. Didn’t I see that in WWE Studios’ “That’s What I Am”? (No, obviously. No one did)
Michael Cole, still in heel mode, defended Laurinaitis against ridicule and vowed to stick by him to the bitter end. That loyalty didn’t stop him from laughing at his boss every few minutes, since the WWE announcers these days have the consistency of an Ed Wood film.
(Except Jerry Lawler, who has the consistency of leather)
Cena continued to stick up for the little, uh, big guy, smothering the 49-year-old with a fire extinguisher…
…then dumping garbage onto him.
When Laurinaitis finally snuck in some offense, nailing Cena with a steel chair, it was hard not to root for Mr. Excitement.
The big comeback was not meant to be, though, as Cena quickly regained control of the match.
After what seemed like an eternity of toying around with his opponent and not even attempting to win the match, Cena was taken by surprise when Laurinaitis tried to bail out of the arena and the match instead of taking his never-ending abuse like a man.
Fortunately, the recently fired Big Show was on the scene to throw Johnny right back in.
Instead of helping John Cena grind Laurinaitis into dust, though, Show knocked out Cena with one punch, allowing Johnny to pick up the win and keep his job. It was all an ingenious plot by the wily GM, albeit one that could only work if Cena bullied him for seventeen minutes rather than just pinning him at the earliest opportunity.
When you think about it, this whole match was a heavy-handed morality play as clear-cut as any of Aesop’s fables, except at least the hare never knocked the tortoise onto his shell and made it looked like he’d pissed himself.
However, since Ace was the bad guy and Cena the good guy, the only lesson learned was what a jerk the Big Show was.
The next night, Laurinaitis explained Big Show’s actions, claiming to have signed him to a new contract on Saturday. Anybody having paid attention to the match stipulations would have immediately recognized that this meant the Big Show was already a WWE Superstar on Sunday and should have been fired again for interfering. Instead, the announcers soon covered for Johnny’s slip-up, claiming that Big Show had negotiated with the GM the night before the PPV, but didn’t finalize the deal until after he had interfered in the match.
I’d like to say that this match served no purpose but to advance a storyline, but that wouldn’t be true either. After all, there was little “advancement” made, either, as Cena ended up giving Johnny the boot anyway four weeks later.
And perhaps most embarrassingly, Big Show wound up with an “iron-clad contract” wherein he could not be fired under any circumstances, which certainly complicated things when Show was singled out the very next year by The Authority and threatened with termination on a weekly basis.
But after seeing the champion of “Hustle, Loyalty, and Respect” spend a whole wrestling match making a far weaker man completely miserable just for the fun of it, we can safely say that storyline continuity is not a major concern for WWE’s writers.