Ever since the road to Wrestlemania 21, I’ve been one of God’s most pathetic creatures: a professional wrestling fan.
I was at the peak of my fandom back in my younger days. When everyone else was out at the movies or at a party on Friday nights, my eyes remained glued to the television set during every episode of Smackdown!
That was 2005 and I was 12 years old. As we now approach Wrestlemania 28, I’ve recently thought a lot where has all the time gone?
In the past seven years, most of my friends who followed wrestling with me have outgrown it. Admittedly, my interest in the show has also dwindled but I remained a casual observer of what was going on in the WWE Universe for the same reason I first got into wrestling: Jonathan Felix Cena.
Since the months before and after Wrestlemania 21, John Cena has really lacked a true rival that has threatened to beat him.
Actually allow me to rephrase, since the months before and after Wrestlemania 21, wrestling has lost its magic and has become more predictable.
Watching wrestling is a lot like believing in Santa: when you believe the sheer joy you receive from it is indescribable but once you learn about the truth, the experience is never the same.
Gradually, I learned what to expect. I saw the angles before they happen, the twists before they twist and the double crosses before they’re crossed.
12 year old me hung on to the edge of my seat when John Cena narrowly defeated JBL in their WWE championship rematch at Judgement Day, the pay-per-view that follows Wrestlemania. 20 year old me now knows when a wrestler wins a championship, he probably won’t drop the title within a month.
However, during those magical months when wrestling was real (and I would shutter in fear whenever the Undertaker entered) few people loved it more than I did.
I remember when Cena would unleash verbal libel upon his opponents in the form of rap, his fearlessness lent me the courage I needed to stand up for myself in elementary school.
I remember my heart racing as Cena nearly submitted to Kurt Angle’s ankle lock in their number one contender’s match at No Way Out, screaming at the TV “DON’T TAP JOHN PLEASEEEE!”
Most of all I remember Cena’s attire. His penchant for wearing jerseys out to the ring capped off with his padlock chain has inspired my wardrobe even today, without the chain though of course.
But then it all changed. Cena was drafted to Monday Night RAW on June 6, 2005. Gradually his character changed. He morphed from the Doctor of Thugonomics to the corporate face of the WWE. He went from the underdog everyone loved to cheer to the fan favourite who loved to jeer. All the qualities that Cena’s original fan base loved him for were stripped away as he climbed the WWE ladder.
While Cena won more matches and titles, the wins meant less and less to me.
The fans booed him, but I had to stay loyal as a fan because Cena was as vital to my childhood as Kobe Bryant and Thierry Henry were. The three of them got me through the darkest days of being the new kid at school who couldn’t speak English that well.
After Wrestlemania 21, Cena continued to headline pay per view after pay per view. But none it mattered as the magic was gone. Up until this past year when the Rock came back from Hollywood to challenge my hero.
Just as quickly as the magic evaporated, it came back equally as quickly when this match was announced.
The WWE is marketing this as their biggest match ever, a once in a lifetime bout between two wrestling titans.
I’ve always been looking for a perfect way to cap off my wrestling watching career (go ahead, laugh it up), a fitting ending to my love-love relationship with John Cena. For me to move on with my life and get into international politics or something more mature than professional wrestling.
This match against the Rock is perfect as once he beats the Rock, hopefully, who else is there for Cena to face?
It pits the attitude era of wrestling fans head to head with my generation of wrestling fans. The Triple H and Undertaker Hell in the Cell match may mark the end of an era but the Rock and John Cena match will define the past two.
The Rock claims he has to win this match to prove to himself he’s the greatest wrestler of all-time having defeated Hulk Hogan and Steve Austin already. Cena feels he must win as wrestling means everything to him while it’s merely a hobby for the Rock.
I’ve come a long way since being the kid who waves his hand in front of his face gesturing “You Can’t See Me” to fend bullies off from stabbing pencils into my lunch.
For the first time in seven years, Cena is once again the underdog. If he can overcome his greatest challenge to date, he’ll inspire a whole new generation of fans while providing this one with one last defining moment to remember him by.
At my first live event, I was the little kid star struck at the fact that Rob Van Dam pointed at him in the crowd. At the live event I attended three weeks ago, I found happiness starting “let’s go Cena” chants with the 6 year old kid who was there at with his dad.
Times are certainly changing. I won’t be watching wrestling anymore after tonight, but I’ll continue to apply Cena’s moniker of hustle, loyalty, respect to everything I do.