The Live Wire - By Tony Cottam

TLW: Word Life

Well, hello. It’s Monday yet again, which means that it’s time for The Live Wire – this week, the column that quite frankly doesn’t know what on Earth is
happening. The UK is the midst of an epidemic of either the flu or some form of life sucking virus… guess who caught it?

Well, hello. It’s Monday yet again, which means that it’s time for The Live Wire – this week, the column that quite frankly doesn’t know what on Earth is happening. The UK is the midst of an epidemic of either the flu or some form of life sucking virus… guess who caught it?

That’s right – everybody. Including me, Still, any excuse to put my feet up and listen to some tunes… this week I have mostly been listening to Thunder, both on CD, DVD but also in the flesh, live in Glasgow last week… top notch it was too. Check them out, they’re well worth it.

Anyway, it’s been another funny old week in wrestling; John Cena is seemingly the new ‘Golden Boy’ of the WWE, Kurt Angle has neck surgery, Goldust is told he can leave, and Mark Henry still sucks. At least one thing remains constant.

We all know Mark Henry sucks, Goldust being released is probably the right decision (can we try for Bradshaw next?) and Kurt will be back, just as he always bounces back from these surgeries. What I wanted to ramble aimlessly about today was John Cena and his huge push.

Strange as it may seem, I’m not here to start any Cena-haterising or criticise the WWE for pushing him – nope, somebody else can start that bandwagon in a couple of months. Cena deserves his push – as far as I can see, it’s justified, although I do worry about them burning him out, or pushing him too far too fast (see also : Maivia, Rocky) onto a unsuspecting public.

There’s no doubt that Cena is probably the most likely crossover star on the WWE roster to the MTV generation of today – but the WWE have hopefully learned from the Rocky Maivia push. In case you’re not aware, Rocky Maivia debuted and was pushed to the moon straight away – he was just this big, dumb goof – think Billy Gunn with charisma – who the (then) WWF pushed down the fans throats – they told him to smile all the time, to look really happy… and it went down as well as Michael Jackson’s application to become a childminder.

The fans hated him because he was so smiley-happy-joy-joy all the time… because he was pushed so much, but most of all – because he simply wasn’t entertaining. A knee injury took him out of the picture for a while, and the ‘Die, Rocky Die’ chants clearly caught on, and young Rocky returned much further down the card, where he was allowed to shape and develop his act… an act that propelled him to seven World Championships and Hollywood stardom later in his career.

This is the problem they face with Cena. He’s the hottest thing in the WWE right now, and could no doubt be justifiably pushed all the way to the world title on Smackdown, but the WWE have to resist the temptation. Cena WILL be World Champion one day, but now is not his time.

The WWE has a credible contender for Brock’s title on Smackdown right now in the shape of Chris Benoit, so there’s no need to push Cena into a title shot right now – let’s face it, his last PPV match against Brock didn’t set the world on fire, and although both have improved and moved on since then, I don’t see the need to resurrect the Cena-Lesnar rivalry just yet.

There’s an issue to be settled between both Lesnar and Benoit, and Cena and The Big Show. The US title needs some credibility, seeing as how McDonalds’ favourite poster boy hasn’t even defended it on TV since he won it, and Cena could well be it.

Having a run with the US Title would be a smart move for Cena – it would give an indication of how he handles a championship – can he get the fans to buy him as a legit champion? Is he in a place where he can drive a feud forward as not just a champion, but as a face?

Personally, I don’t know about his ability to be as over as a face as he was as a heel, but hey – if the fans cheer for him, then a face he becomes. It worked wonders for Steve Austin! Funny, the Austin analogy comes into play as I get the feeling that Cena’s career could be on the same path as Austin’s – no, not to the neck surgeon, divorce court, nearest bar and celebrity mugshot website – but to the top of the business.

I remember the buzz I got when the WWE pulled off the Austin face turn at WM13… I felt the same buzz at Survivor Series when Cena managed to deliver the FU to The Big Show. I felt the same buzz at WrestleMania when Cena had the 60,000 plus crowd eating out of his hand, despite just being given 4 minutes on Heat to cut a rap. I felt the same buzz at No Mercy when Cena delivered a killer rap with the fan outside… and I felt the same buzz as Kurt Angle definitively put Cena over as a major player.

Cena’s career has been televised for a little over 15 months – beginning with an impromptu match against Kurt Angle, but it’s fair to say that his career didn’t hit the ground running until that fateful Halloween edition of Smackdown where he cut his first rap on TV. That kick-started an incredible rise up the ranks, thanks to his ‘streetwise’ character overhaul – raps, chains and retro jerseys.

The retro jerseys are an incredibly smart piece of work. If he’s a heel, he dons a jersey of the most hated team in the region – if he’s a face, just wear the local team’s jersey… might seem obvious, but that’s why it works so well!

From where I sit, Cena is at the forefront of the next line of WWE main eventers, and it’s all down to his ability to pull off this incredible gimmick, not to mention some really good booking from the WWE – let’s hope that they don’t screw it up now. Booked correctly, Cena can become the next Austin and Rock rolled into one… book him wrong, and we could be left with the biggest fall from grace since Kane’s 24 hour title reign.

Enjoy this time – it’s a time when a genuine superstar is on the horizon, and soon you can turn round to your kids, or your friend’s kids and say “I remember when he was just starting out” and act like a really annoying old git. If you don’t do that already, that is…

Until next time… You can’t see me.

Tony Cottam

Sign up for The Live Wire mailing list – have this column mailed straight to you!