Musings of a Mark: John Cena (2005)
The reviews contained in this column will be considerably shorter than my look at John Cena and Kurt Angle’s performance at No Way Out 2005 in the last ?Musings?? That’s not to suggest the matches are inferior (though undoubtedly most are!), rather I wish to scan over the remainder of John Cena’s 2005 offerings without producing something akin to a Tolkien novel. Enjoy!
John Cena vs. John ?Bradshaw? Layfield ? ? Wrestlemania 21
Considering the grander story arc of John ?Bradshaw? Layfield’s title reign, what John Cena endured to attain challenger status and even the occasion itself ? The resultant match feels jarring. From the beginning we understand that Orlando Jordan and the remaining Cabinet members (Doug and Danny Basham) won?t be an interfering presence. Is this actually explained? Why would JBL, on such an occasion, divert from what secured him a lengthy run as WWE Champion in the first place? We don?t even receive indication of whether JBL’s being uncharacteristically honourable or condescendingly confident. Or both ? In retrospect the injected drama probably would?ve been beneficial for the match. You can?t tell me that John Cena overcoming the numbers advantage wouldn?t have been more satisfying than the one sudden FU that did end the contest ? At least it would be appropriate, attaching this performance to the trends that characterise the entirety of JBL’s main-event stint.
Then we turn our attention to the other participant and his journey to this particular occasion. Cena traversed Hell just to challenge JBL, clinging desperately to a shred of hope in a fantastic encounter with Kurt Angle. In short, Cena weathered the pain and survived barely. Natural progression would dictate that the champion would be an equally tough assignment, right? Apparently not, as Cena not only brushes off the (admittedly good) bullying offense of JBL in a sequence of almost pure no-selling but solidifies victory via one surprise FU. I?m not arguing for the finisher to be kicked out of, as it should defeat opponents, but this match serves as the culmination of two grand narratives ? the climax of JBL’s title reign, the ascension of John Cena ? and therefore should implicate the consequences of what transpires. In other words, it should?ve felt ?bigger?, ‘significant?, perhaps even ?epic?. Even despite JBL’s characterisation as an opportunistic heel, the odds he has overcome design him as competitive and tough. Being brushed off by the so-called ?doom? sequence compromises that.
WWE Championship I Quit Match:
John Cena ? vs. John ?Bradshaw? Layfield ? Judgment Day 2005
It doesn?t take much of an imagination to proclaim this Cena’s best match during his inaugural WWE Championship reign. The displaying / raising of both belts – the traditional title and Cena’s spinner variation ? frames this match as a contest of change; a proverbial ushering in of the ?new guard?. (I?m refraining from writing ?passing of the torch? after Ben’s latest column!). Therefore that aura of significance absent from the ?Mania match is present here, and capitalised on in a truly impressive showing by both performers.
Through the build, the phrase ?I Quit? is loaded with importance as a form of extreme humiliation. As Layfield says: ?To make a man say ?I Quit? is to own his soul?. This, combined with their blatant disdain for one another, justifies the violence executed. Furthermore the intent is to brutalise the opponent, to drain them of fight and spirit whereby they feel uttering that shameful phrase to escape is worth it. They ask each other during prolonged torture (belt choking) and in threat of damage (conclusion, table spot) or desperation measures (JBL on the limo, the steel chair, Cena sending JBL into the television). Time isn?t wasted searching for weapons either (a flaw in the recent Hardy Boys match). They either happen across them (steel steps, concrete floor, table) or are in close proximity (belt, truck exhaust pipe ? from Cena’s entrance). This maintains focused motivation on the need to keep the opponent drained. A great example of this is: JBL tosses Cena into the steel steps, before searching for the belt ? which is actually an allusion to part of the build and thus signifies a premeditated strategy.
Honestly this is a great contest. The spots are exciting and meaningful. The selling is top notch. The finish believable. And the final image of John Cena brandishing both championship belts provides a symbolic ushering in of a new generation of main-eventers.
John Cena ? vs. Chris Jericho ? Summerslam 2005
The proposed dynamic is Jericho’s wrestling ability versus Cena’s brawling tendencies a la Angle / Cena at No Way Out 2005, with undercurrents of an experience / youth dualism to boot. In actuality I?d argue Y2J largely bypasses the ?wrestling? emphasis (it creeps in midway through), instead opting to increase the jeering and taunting. I like it; he’s confident (experience?) and heel, plus it distances this performance from the otherwise similar Angle / Cena. Chris Jericho adopts a grounding presence, with Cena injecting pace bursts amongst the more slowed Y2J control segments. Despite being framed as the superior ?wrestler?, Jericho mostly utilises ?bombs? to contain Cena. A great sequence exemplifying this interaction between characters: up against the ropes, Cena is ridiculed and slapped by the veteran before being hit with a suplex and a graceful spinning heel kick. Jericho’s smile afterwards highlights his belief of superior ability and experience.
All in all, I view this as quite a decent offering. It follows through with the relationships established above, and doesn?t really possess anything that detracts from its appeal. Jericho squeezing every last drop of his performing mojo in what would be his second last match prior to lengthy sabbatical could be a direct reason for this quality, although one can?t discount Cena meeting him halfway.
John Cena ? vs. Kurt Angle ? Unforgiven 2005
Whilst I did, and in large part still do, admire Angle’s progression into this relentlessly aggressive machine ? I can?t help but feel that it invites in most of the performance’s flaws. For example, Angle’s drive to establish this ruthless mindset by running through various power moves and strikes removes his focus from other significant points of the match (i.e. Cena’s damaged ankle). Furthermore the amount of offense granted to each performer is too even. How is it possible that John Cena, WWE Champion or not, can maintain toe-to-toe competitiveness with an Olympic Gold Medallist? It goes against the logic behind both men’s characterisation and what was established in their clash at No Way Out 2005. For those that didn?t read the previous column, what that particular match had was two distinctive roles: Angle as the dominating figure, Cena the enduring / surviving opponent. All the effort went into establishing Cena’s drive to survive Angle and his submission finisher, leading to some fantastic ‘selling? overall. The lack of this dynamic only a few months later, where not even the Ankle Lock seems impactful anymore highlights a loss of narrative logic and decent character-acting.
John Cena ? vs. Kurt Angle ? Survivor Series 2005
Beyond the somewhat dubious representations of nationality ? presenting an extreme fantasy whereby the corrupt Arabic Middle-Eastern figure is subordinated under American (Kurt Angle, attire adorned with stars n? stripes) control, obediently complying with every order ? there’s nothing much of interest here. Thankfully the writers had mind to position Angle as a hypocritical antagonist, delaying the cynical interpretation (that I just made) of the relationships between characters. He’s not a ?hero? or ?role model?, which creates his master-servant scenario with Special Referee Daivari as an ?undesirable? one. Maybe ?
Moving from politics back to pro-wrestling; the dramatic focal point of the performance is this corrupted officiating presence. It provides a solid core, despite being slightly overplayed as the referee body count surges skywards. Regardless the interactions between John Cena, Kurt Angle and any of the numerous officials do mildly amuse. In a nice touch, having a Smackdown referee make the fatal three count brings the showdown into line with the general theme of the event (RAW vs. Smackdown). The actual combat is improved from Unforgiven 2005, granting Angle greater dominance (though still not akin to the superb NWO ?05 encounter). However Cena’s inconsistent selling of endured punishment does undo even this small triumph.
Well that’s it folks! Have any thoughts and / or feedback, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.