When did John Cena first start getting booed?

When did John Cena first start getting booed?

Someone who was a newer wrestling fan asked this question about a year ago, and the following was my response, edited a bit to be a little easier to understand for people who aren’t exclusively wrestling fans:

It was a slow-burn audience turn. We had just had all of the 1990s where there were legitimately a few guys who could win at any given moment (Hogan, Warrior, Flair, Savage, and Undertaker between 1990-1992, plus the surprise of Sgt. Slaughter winning it at Royal Rumble 1991; Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Sid, Razor Ramon, Yokozuna, Undertaker, and Owen Hart were all legit contenders between 1993-1996; Attitude era had Austin, Rock, Triple H, Undertaker, Kane, Mick Foley, Kurt Angle, Big Show, and Chris Jericho). And after the WCW buyout, it felt like there were still a few new-to-WWE guys who got added that COULD win (Booker T, Scott Steiner, Chris Benoit, Goldberg, Kevin Nash, Rob Van Dam), even though Triple H kept beating them.

But after 3 years of Triple H basically having the World Heavyweight Championship belt superglued to his waist, a lot of fans still yearned for that “anybody could win” feeling.

There’s a mentality that the WWE Championship swapping hands drastically “devalues” it, but I think that’s crap. Do people complain about the Boxing or UFC championships being “devalued” because someone new wins? Absolutely not. Championships are made to be won. Defend it successfully for as long as you can, but eventually, someone new is always going to win.

John Cena vs Triple H

So when Cena got moved from the Smackdown roster to the Raw roster in the summer of 2005, hey, that was exciting! The World Heavyweight title is probably going to Smackdown, and we don’t have to deal with Triple H holding it forever anymore!

And then Cena kept winning.

And winning.

…and winning.

…and winning….

John Cena vs. Edge

And there wasn’t anybody that could maybe beat him. We didn’t have the list of 5-8 guys who could win the title on any given night. It was JUST Cena. And an endless supply of victims.

And, look, I like Triple H and Cena both, but there’s a point where we all have a thought like, “oh. This just isn’t going to end, is it?” Some people hit that same point by Summerslam of that year when he faced Chris Jericho. Others took a little longer.

So by the time the New Year’s Revolution 2006 Pay Per View came around, and Edge cashed in the Money in the Bank contract for a guarnateed title shot — Which was a brand-new concept, by the way. We’d never seen MITB before 2005 — He brought Cena’s Reign of Terror to an end. The following Raw was the most-watched episode in a couple of years, because, hey, we all remembered Edge from the Ladder matches and stuff over the last few years. And he won the title? That sounds awesome! Gotta check that out, right?

Edge as WWE Champion was legitimately a breath of fresh air. He didn’t have the huge, muscular body that Rock, Triple H, Cena, Batista, or Brock Lesnar had. He wasn’t clearly an attempt to force a new top guy like Lesnar, Batista, Cena, or Randy Orton were. He was a guy we’d all watched struggle from the undercard in 1998 to reach the top of the mountain over the last seven and a half years. It was a feel-good moment, just like Eddie Guerrero and Benoit holding the belts at the end of Wrestlemania XX a little less than two years earlier had been. And that’s despite the fact that Edge was playing a villainous character

Edge’s first reign as WWE champion legitimately gave long-time fans a feeling of “if you work hard and stick to it, you can accomplish anything.”

Edge & Lita celebrate winning the WWE Championship from Cena

And then he dropped the belt back to Cena a few weeks later at the Royal Rumble Pay-Per-View, so that Cena could headline Wrestlemania.

We went from, “work hard and keep at it” to “LOL Nope, fuck you, the boss picked this guy for the *promotion.* Edge, you just keep doing *the job*” (puns absolutely intended).

And THAT is when wider audiences turned on the John Cena character.

The most remarkable thing about Wrestlemania 22 was that the Chicago audience – who was SICK of Triple H just a year earlier – were 100% behind him. This was the first “Punch-Boo!-Punch-Yay!” chant on WWE television. People may have been sick of The Game as champion, and there was plenty of rumor and innuendo about him only being on top because he married into the McMahon family, whatever. But we had been watching Triple H’s WWF/E career for 11 years at that point. We knew about the quad tear in 2001 and the fact that basically anyone else’s career would have been over. So all the other stuff didn’t matter, because one thing about Triple H is, he actually was willing to put other people over. He DID lose the Big Gold Belt to Shawn Michaels and Goldberg and Benoit. Cleanly. Despite any of Triple H’s perceived shortcomings, at least we knew him and his story.

But there’s no fighting City Hall, and Vince McMahon had elected John Cena to be THE Guy.

And when the “John-Ce-na Suuuuucks!” chants in time with his music started, that was it. If the WWE audience is going to chant “You Suck!” at legitimate 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Angle, then there’s no way they aren’t going to tell Cena what they think of him, forever.