Whether you hate John Cena and Roman Reigns, or love them, or hate one and love the other, you have to acknowledge that their contract-signing promo this past week on Raw was buzz-worthy. Everyone is talking about it. After the promo aired, there was some speculation that Cena went off-script, but other sources suggest that it was “exactly what the WWE wanted” (https://wrestlingrumors.net/john-cena-go-off-script-raw-segment-roman-reigns/). But more importantly than that, it was exactly what the fans wanted.
When the John Cena vs. Roman Reigns match was announced for No Mercy, I have to say that I was honestly kind of dreading it. Cena and Reigns both have a very limited technical wrestling arsenal, and they don’t really provide a lot of shock-value with their moves. They’re both predictable wrestlers. Earlier in the Raw episode, after seeing an ad for No Mercy, I thought, “Wow, they really haven’t built up this match/rivalry at all.” But their promo changed everything for me – even how I feel about the future of WWE.
Before I say anything more, watch the promo if you haven’t already:
At (9:40) Roman says Cena gets booed because he sucks, to which Cena responds, “According to them [the fans], so does he [Kurt Angle], but that’s okay because he won a gold medal.” This is the part that felt to me like it was off-script. It seems as if Reigns – based on his expression – didn’t expect Cena to say anything in that moment. So far, the argument has been a lot of back and forth, without interjections, up until this point when it deviates from that pattern. And realistically, that isn’t how an argument goes. When two people argue, they don’t exactly listen to what the other has to say, and then respond. They yell over each other when they hear something they disagree with.
Further proof of straying from the script is that Roman loses his train of thought. You can see it happen. He pauses for a moment, then suppresses a grin. Of course, Cena points this out: “Go ahead, find it. Go ahead. I’ll wait.” Officially we don’t know whether this moment was scripted or not, but either way it’s typical Cena. He’s witty and quick, and that is one of the main reasons why he has been so successful in this business. When Roman can’t seem to come up with a response, Cena tells him, “It’s called a promo, and if you’re gonna be the Big Dog you’re going to have to learn how to do it.” This moment was mic-drop worthy. Later, he calls Roman stupid: “It’s better to keep your mouth shut and to have people think you’re stupid than to open it and prove them right,” and “It took you five years to cut a half-way decent promo” (10:25). In this segment, Cena becomes a champion of the people by telling Roman what has been on our minds since the company starting pushing him. It’s like Cena read all of my angry tweets directed at Roman Reigns.
Cena is not only speaking for the people, but he is speaking candidly to the people. He breaks the fourth wall, addressing the fact that people want him to have a heel turn. Typically, we’re supposed to pretend that the entertainers and their characters are all one in the same. They’re not supposed to break kayfabe by using backstage terminology such as “heel,” “face,” and “promo.” Cena even says at one point, “See ya fourth wall!” We feel close to him in this moment. We feel as if there isn’t this huge barrier between the company and the fans, between the storylines and the entertainers themselves.
The most profound quality of this promo is that it seems as if the writers are reading the comments section on social media and responding to the people. They are researching what the people want. This is confirmed when Cena says, “they [the fans] hold the keys, they always have.” This gives me hope for the company’s future.