It only took 16 years, but WWE finally figured out a way to get people to cheer for John Cena!
On last night’s episode of Monday Night Raw, the final episode before WrestleMania 34 this Sunday, John Cena once again called out The Undertaker, and once again that call went unanswered. The crowd, though, was firmly on Cena’s side, especially towards the end of the promo when Cena told Undertaker that he knew he left his hat in the ring at WrestleMania 33 last year, but apparently he “left his balls there, too.”
Having Undertaker not answer Cena before WrestleMania is a really interesting strategy. I think everyone assumes that Undertaker answers the call on Sunday night, and Cena and Undertaker have their match, but the mystery surrounding the angle is a new way of promoting such a big match.
Realistically, WWE can only do this with a show like WrestleMania. There are plenty of other “big” matches on the show to sell it, so they can get away with the mystery of this angle and promote the match as “will Undertaker show up?”
A random show in June or July, WWE can’t do this. Here, they can.
It’s no coincidence that Cena is getting cheered, though. For the first time in a long time, he’s showing more of an edge with his character. I wrote last week that Cena is nearly heeling his character on Undertaker. This is the edge that “hardcore” fans have been looking for out of Cena for years. Instead of coming on earlier segments, Cena last night was on at the 10 p.m. hour. Most of the younger Cena fans are in bed at this point in the show, or asleep in front of their televisions.
Cena’s character change comes at the exact time he’s starring in an R-rated comedy, Blockers, which hits theaters this weekend. Cena’s movie career, especially recently, has swayed back and forth between appealing to kids — Ferdinand — and more adult titles.
It’s not just a wrestling character change for Cena, but this feels like a wholesale change to his persona, both in the ring and in Hollywood. Maybe it’s a clue that, after all these years, it was WWE who didn’t want Cena‘s image to change, and he was more open to it.