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DeMarco: Booking John Cena, WWE SummerSlam 2021 Through WrestleMania 38

John Cena is poised for the obvious comeback to WWE–assuming it happens, exactly how do you book his journey?

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John Cena Point WrestleMania WWE

John Cena is poised for the obvious comeback to WWE–assuming it happens, exactly how do you book his journey?

When you paint the Mount Rushmore of Pro Wrestling, it’s easy to include John Cena. His run at the top of WWE is second only to that of Hulk Hogan, spanning a solid decade before he took a step back. Cena is synonymous with WWE, kicking off the Ruthless Aggression Era, and becoming a bankable star that people loved–or loved to hate.

Earning the respect of nearly every fan by the end of his run, John Cena has seen his sports entertainment career become a launch pad into Hollywood, appearing in major movies including this summer’s Fast And Furious 9 alongside Vin Diesel (the star for whom John Cena plays the younger brother to) and the usual crew (minus The Rock and Jason Statham).

A favorite past-time of many a wrestling writer, including myself, is booking. Be it a card, or one individual’s span of time, we love to take the pencil out of the hands of those doing it for a living and publish our own ideas. Well that’s what I am doing now, as I book John Cena from WWE SummerSlam 2021 to WrestleMania 38.

SummerSlam 2021: vs. Roman Reigns

Yes, it’s happened before, but never like this. Roman Reigns is in the “John Cena” position, as “the Head Of The Table” isn’t just a gimmick–that’s the role he plays in the entire WWE. He has taken on all comers, and done so on his own terms. Since his return, he has triumphed over Braun Strowman, Bray Wyatt’s The Fiend, Drew McIntyre, Jey Uso (getting Jey higher on the card than ever before), Kevin Owens, Daniel Bryan, Edge, Cesaro, and most recently Rey Mysterio. He shows no signs of slowing down, with many expecting him to be Universal Champion going into WrestleMania 38, and possibly even WrestleMania 39.

I honestly think the better match for Cena is Bobby Lashley–and we can get there–but given the importance of the relationship between FOX and WWE, it makes more sense for John Cena’s return to happen on Smackdown. And if you are going to return on Smackdown, the most obvious opponent is also the best option, and that’s Universal Champion Roman Reigns.

For Roman Reigns to go down as one of the true greats, a win over John Cena within the current landscape is exactly what needs to happen in the main event in Las Vegas.

Winner: Roman Reigns

Survivor Series: vs. Bobby Lashley

With Cena making his return on WWE Smackdown, the inevitable WWE Draft could be a place to send him back to the red brand, WWE Monday Night Raw. Cena doesn’t “deserve” a shot against Bobby Lashley pre se, but the Almighty WWE Champion is sure to want to add Cena to his trophy case, one that isn’t as impressive as Roman Reigns’, but is starting to grow.

Winner: Bobby Lashley

WWE NXT Takeover: vs. Tommaso Ciampa

John Cena doesn’t need to go to WWE NXT, but could I see him wanting to? I sure as hell could. By this time NXT is back on the road for a Takeover, and John Cena is in the house. To me the obvious choice is Karrion Kross, but I firmly believe Kross will be on Raw or Smackdown by this time. At least he should be.

There are many stalwarts of NXT that Cena could stand against, including Johnny Gargano and Adam Cole. And as much as I would love a match with either (or Walter), the flag bearer for WWE vs. the flag bearer for NXT is the match-up we all need to see, in John Cena vs. Tommaso Ciampa.

Cena vs. Ciampa would have one hell of a build, as both men have a way of “getting real,” and pushing their opponents to the limit outside the ring. In the ring, this could easily entertain, as Cena would sell for Ciampa and Ciampa would get every ounce of sympathy out of a John Cena match.

Winner: John Cena

(I mean, I have to let Cena win at some point, right? Personally, I want Ciampa to win.)

Royal Rumble: vs. Drew McIntyre

It should be obvious by now that this is turning into a farewell tour for John Cena. I have no idea if he can truly do all of this, but it’s my fantasy booking so I am sticking with it! Drew McIntyre joins Roman Reigns and Bobby Lashley as the stars WWE is centered around these days, and McIntyre would treat this match-up with a certain level of respect that the other two can’t–for storyline and character reasons.

Cena vs. McIntyre is also a little fresher than the other two, and further cements McIntyre as one of the top stars in WWE regardless of championships (he’s already there).

Winner: Drew McIntyre

WWE NXT UK: vs. Walter

Yep, it’s time to go crazy and send John Cena to the most passionate fan base in al of WWE–the English! The UK crowd deserves another shot at John Cena, and John Cena deserves one more appearance in front of the UK crowd. While NXT UK has multiple potential opponents for John Cena, the only real choice is Walter. He can kick Cena’s ass all over the place, he can also sell for Cena. But in the end, Cena can pass the “LOLCENAWINS’ torch to the man who already has it.

Winner: LOLWALTERWINS

WrestleMania 38: vs. Edge

While Edge and John Cena had plenty of one-on-one encounters, they never got a WrestleMania singles showdown. In Dallas, we can fix that.

Bill this as John Cena’s final WrestleMania, not quite his retirement, and you have a renewal of arguably the greatest rivalry either man has had. The build would be fun, half nostalgia but half current as Edge is two years into his WWE return run and has been involved in major storylines.

Because Cena always seemed to have Edge’s number in the end, Edge gets the final win on the grandest stage.

Winner: Edge

WWE RawAfterMania: vs. Randy Orton

While it’s not currently announced as such, if WrestleMania 38 is a two-night affair, you can have Cena vs. Edge on Night 1, and on night 2 promote that John Cena will be on Raw to announce his retirement. It’ll pop a huge rating, and it’ll also bring out one last surprise…

Randy Orton.

With Edge’s (initial) career being cut short due to injury, John Cena and Randy Orton shared the ring approximately 389,472 times during their run(s) at the top of WWE. It seems fitting that Cena’s actual last match is against the man who he is most linked to in his WWE tenure in Orton.

Winner: Randy Orton

Those Who Didn’t Make The Cut

There are plenty of matches I want to see for John Cena, but we can’t have him against everyone, now can we. Here is a list of those I would selfishly love to see, in no particular order:

  • Seth Rollins
  • Cesaro
  • Ricochet
  • Adam Cole
  • Johnny Gargano
  • Karrion Kross
  • Joe Coffey
  • Matt Riddle
  • AJ Styles

What do you think of the potential for one more run in WWE for John Cena? Anyone I left out? Anyone that jumps out at you? Hit me up on social media @ChairshotGreg and let me know!


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Ratings Talk is Back!

Rob always brings logical insight to any topic, regardless of how often it’s brought up in the IWC. Sit back and give this a read, they don’t call Rob a genius for the t-shirts.

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OK, I know, I know, I’ve been saying it over and over for a very long time, ratings talk is dumb.  So why on Earth am I bringing it back?  Because now that some, ahem, developments have transpired I think I have a better case to make.  I don’t expect any of you who are obsessed with the subject to let it go, but you should at least hear me out here.  Now that the worm has turned a little, maybe the things that I and others have been saying all along will sink in a bit.

What am I talking about?  In short, AEW’s live audience numbers have taken a bit of a dip over the past couple of months, and this week even Dave Meltzer couldn’t say anything other than it was disappointing.  They haven’t gone over a million viewers for Dynamite in almost two months and Rampage slipped under five hundred thousand last week.  If this kind of thing was happening on the other side of the street then there would be some hot takes flying for sure.  So, are we going to get some of those now?  You know what I mean, things like:

  • AEW in the mud!
  • Worst ratings since (pick whatever date works for you)!
  • At what point does TNT start making demands on how the show is booked?
  • The ratings are obviously going down because the shows are unwatchable now!!
  • (Insert name here) is not a draw!
  • That title match in two weeks is hotshot booking to pop a rating!

Sound familiar?  We’re gonna see these soon, right?  No?  Why is that?  Are you trying to tell me that wrestling media doesn’t call this stuff the same on both sides of the street?  Seriously though, here are some other familiar things for you to chew on:

  • Dynamite is the highest rated non-NBA show on TNT, and it’s not close
  • Even on a disappointing night, it finished third in the ratings on cable
  • Rampage is the next highest rated and watched show on TNT after Dynamite
  • Fewer people watch TV now than before

Those are the kind of things a lot of us would say every week after people on the internet waxed doom and gloom about Monday Night Raw, of course.  And we were summarily dismissed as E drones or whatever.  But now that the falling numbers have struck AEW, the same rationalizations have begun.  But here’s the truth in both cases:

Everyone is doing fine.  RAW, Smackdown, NXT, Dynamite, and Rampage are all leading their respective channels for the day they air.  They all are among the top shows for their respective channels, even the much maligned (for their live audience numbers) NXT and Rampage.  There is literally nothing to see here folks as none of these shows are in any danger of getting cancelled.  No one is actually in the mud, guys.  The networks all know that Nielsen is suspect at best when it comes to measuring audience numbers, and they act accordingly.  There is no reason to rush to Shobuzz Daily every day at 4:30 unless you are just a numbers nerd like me but even then save the pontificating, ok? The numbers exist and that’s about it.  They serve no purpose for us as fans beyond goofy talking points.

But doesn’t it mean SOMETHING?

Well no, it doesn’t.  There are things you can derive from looking at the patterns over time but trust me when I tell you that your entire  narrative can be blown up in a matter of two weeks.  So don’t bother.  As I and many others have said before, a good rating does not mean a good show and vice versa.  There was a lot of trying to figure it out in the replies to Meltzer’s ‘disappointment’ tweet, and while there were reasonable takes there was also a lot of nonsense.  Which has been par for the course with RAW since like…….2002 at least.

So why do we keep doing this thing?

Well, it was a talking point that Eric Bischoff used to show how he was kicking the WWF’s butt over those 83 weeks.  But once that ended it became less and less relevant over time.  And then once TV viewership made the shift to streaming and DVRs it’s relevance was all but dead.  And it should have ended entirely once WWE signed two $1 billion TV deals in the face of nonstop ‘what about teh ratingz?’ talk on the internet.  That should have totally killed the conversation, but your friends Meltzer and company kept it going even though they (should) know better.  And they did it for traffic.

‘Fed bad’, ‘Fed down’, and ‘Fed in the mud’ has been selling Observer subscriptions for almost 40 years now while it has spawned a whole cottage industry of podcasts, YouTube channels, and websites over the last decade.  There is little to no truth to what any of these people are telling you when it comes to ratings, because if there was then they would be firing off the same takes about AEW that they’ve been using about WWE right now.  But they aren’t and that should be a tell.  If you ever needed proof that it was nonsense the last two months should be it.

Here’s a dose of reality for you:  Nielsen numbers are not accurate.  Several networks have already announced that they aren’t relying on them, Nielsen itself has lost it’s accreditation as an information gathering service, and the company itself has begun a shift to overall impressions from traditional audience measuring via Nielsen boxes.  What you read every day at 4:30 or on some wrestling website is by all accounts an inaccurate at best and dishonest at worst representation of how many people are watching these shows.  And the recent reporting of Fast Nationals, aka Overnights has only made it worse because those are a hastily gathered version of an already inaccurate report.

Here’s some more reality for you.  Regardless of what Nielsen says the live numbers are both WWE and AEW are going to get a nice bump in TV rights fees when they negotiate their new TV deals.  Other sports with smaller audiences just got more, and the NFL and NBA continue to get price hikes even as their numbers aren’t what they once were.  And your favorite internet loudmouths will continue to spout the same factually challenged gibberish that they’ve been saying for decades now.  None of it will matter unless you guys keep giving them money and traffic every month.

I’m going to make a bold statement here:  there is not a single thing that ratings talk has done to help the fan experience and in fact it’s only made things worse.  But it has made money for a lot of bad faith actors out there, many of whom want us to treat them as if they are reporting on Watergate or the Civil Rights Movement while they spout off takes based a change up or down of 100,000 people watching a wrestling show on TV.  At this point anyone writing serious essays or going on rants about ratings is not someone you should take seriously.  Just go do what you should have always been doing.  Watch the shows, enjoy the shows, go to the shows, talk reasonably about them with your friends, etc.  Anything else is just dumb.


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News From Cook’s Corner 12.6.21: The Kids Are All Right

Cook’s news has a grab bag of interesting topics! New faces in weird places, an NXT major event and more!

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Hi, hello & welcome to News From Cook’s Corner! I’m Steve Cook, and I can’t believe we’re approaching the end of 2021. It just seems like yesterday we were talking about how 2020 was the worst year ever and were excited to see it coming to an end. I haven’t seen that sentiment as much about 2021, but I think that’s because time moves so quickly that we don’t have the opportunity to take these things into account.

Has 2021 been good or bad? I have no idea! It’s been a year, as far as I can tell.

As for this past week in the world of wrestling…it was a week! Just glancing over the week’s news gives me the feeling that nothing happens when people aren’t getting released. Uncle Dave spent most of his time talking about who should make his hall of fame. Heck, the main thing to rock Wrestling Twitter last week was a casting decision for the NXT WarGames pre-show panel. I had no idea people still watched those things, especially on an NFL Sunday where there were a number of exciting finishes. I did catch the last bit of it though, and from what I saw I don’t think we have to worry about the future of wrestling journalism being corrupted.

I’m trying to work up some kind of take on the whole thing, because I know people love it when I go off on other Internet wrestling journalists/personalities for perceived grievances or for being hypocritical sycophants. Unfortunately, I don’t really know any of these people, and as far as I know they haven’t said any shit about me or my friends. So I’ve got nothing, other than my opinion that Denise Salcedo is more visually appealing than David Bixenspan. I know! It’s a hot take, but I went there!

Let’s look at what happened at NXT WarGames, a show I was interested in more than Broncos vs. Chiefs. Looks like I was right on that one.

Raquel Gonzalez, Io Shirai, Cora Jade & Kay Lee Ray beat Toxic Attraction & Dakota Kai in the Women’s War Games Match

First of all, credit to all the women involved, because they put it all out there and did the best they could. The only issue was a little bit of booking getting in the way. There’s a reason why War Games is almost always worked with the heels having the advantage. Unless Toxic Attraction & Dakota Kai aren’t heels, which I thought they were, but the match layout had the effect of having them get sympathy for most of it. Also some awkward moments where the heels got the advantage even whilst outnumbered. However, there was more than enough to make up for the weird psychology. Lots of weapons, Cora Jade losing her mind and doing a swanton off the top of a cage through a table, good times.

And I’ll probably get some crap for it, but I still don’t like the whole “pinfalls in WarGames” thing. I know it’s been a thing here in NXT, but give me “Submit or Surrender” any day of the week. In any event, it was nice to see the young girls do a good job here and shove it in the face of those that didn’t think they could pull off a WarGames match. Give the kids a chance, I say.

Imperium defended the NXT Tag Team Championship against Kyle O’Reilly & Von Wagner

Fabian Aichner likes to jump around, doesn’t he? I thought this was a pretty solid match, which did one thing much better than most of the NXT Tag Team Championship matches I’ve seen over the years. Imperium eventually hit their finisher after everybody did a bunch of stuff. One finisher ended it. Didn’t need to do five Imperial Bombs to get it done on one of these shows. I can dig that.

Then in a shocking surprise, KOR actually got the better of Von in the attempted post-match beatdown. We expected Wagner to drum the poor boy out, but that’ll have to wait for another day. O’Reilly also threw up some Undisputed Era sign language, just the thing to get people talking.

Cameron Grimes beat Duke Hudson in a hair vs. hair match

NXT’s crowds certainly have their rough moments, but I do appreciate their knowledge of mid-90s WWF Superstars leading to a “Duke the Dumpster” chant. The more I noticed the tell-tale signs of male pattern baldness on Hudson, I had a feeling where this was going. He got the ol’ weedwhacker haircut too, which is much worse than the clean shave. Match was ok, just killing time until the haircut.

Roderick Strong retained the Cruiserweight Championship against Joe Gacy

Roderick did the best he could with this one. Frankly, I would have been ok with Gacy becoming an All Inclusive champion, but that would have been a division-killing move more than anything else. 205 Live does seem to still be a thing for some reason, so that doesn’t seem imminent. I’m sure Gacy will find something to do, as we liberal scum always have some hopeless cause to fight for.

Kyle challenged Von to a cage match on Tuesday, because cage matches are the thing in WWE these days. Big E vs. Kevin Owens on Monday, this on Tuesday, all kinds of house show ones apparently. Not sure what the deal is there.

Team 2.0 defeated Team Black & Gold in the Men’s War Games Match

The young boys pretty much had to win this one in order to be taken seriously, and that’s exactly what they did. Proper WarGames psychology with the heels continually getting the advantage. You got Gargano & Ciampa doing their old tag team spots one last time. LA Knight showed more fire than usual. The youngsters were fine, but Bron Breakker easily stood out amongst the pack. We thought that Bron might get the win over Gargano, but Bron getting the win over Ciampa was the smarter move, to further set up the eventual title change. Lots of crazy spots, weapons randomly brought into the ring. I’d say it stood up well against previous iterations of the WarGames match.

I know that my general opinions on NXT fly in the face of most folks’ on the Internet. They’re upset that the super indy is no more. At some point, however, one must move on. Or at least try to give the new thing a chance. I will say that the wrestlers on this particular show put on a good effort, and I was especially impressed with the folks that people told me weren’t ready for a WarGames match.

The one downside of NXT 2.0 that I can’t deny? You’ll get some dumb shit like this:

Fortunately I was in the bathroom when this happened live. So my best advice to you would be to drink a lot of water so you’ll be in the restroom during commercials.

Who Was Where?

With all these companies releasing people lately, it’s only natural to expect names to show up different places than you might expect. When possible, I’ll try to update you on these matters so you know who to expect in what places.

AEW: Matt Taven & Jonathan Gresham were backstage at the AEW tapings in Duluth, GA this week. Both men are under ROH contract until the end of the year and currently have other things going on, but it wouldn’t be shocking if Tony Khan was interested in bringing either in based off of their working ability. Gresham is from the Atlanta area, while Taven was in town for the NWA’s Hard Times 2 event, which featured some other interesting names in a different place than usual.

NWA: The aforementioned Hard Times 2 saw a couple of interesting debuts for the company. Dirty Dango, formerly known as Fandango, appeared after the tag team championship match, forming a team with none other than JTG. Seems like an awfully random teaming, but I’m sure they worked together at some point during their tenure with WWE. It seemed like they were both there forever.

Matt Cardona also made his debut with the company, he’ll be targeting the NWA World Championship. I said the other night that Impact Wrestling should put their title on Cardona to try & make themselves more relevant, and the same definitely holds true for the NWA. Cardona easily has more buzz than anybody else working NWA shows right now. Heck, his positive buzz might cancel out some of the negative buzz surrounding other people on that roster.

AAA: A couple of familiar names returned to AAA at their TripleMania Regia event, neither coming as much of a surprise. Taya Valkyrie sent in a video declaring her intention to challenge Deonna Purrazzo, current holder of the Reina de Reinas Championship. Makes sense, as Deonna was the last woman to wrestle Taya before her ill-fated stint with WWE NXT. Taya has spent most of her career working for AAA and didn’t leave on bad terms, so her return was always just a matter of time.

A name less familiar to most of you but one I remember from back in the day also returned, as Cibernetico made his first appearance with AAA since 2015. He was one of the company’s top stars during the 1990s & 2000s, and has had several stints with the company. He usually seems to leave due to some sort of an issue with Konnan, and has returned to re-establish his issue with Konnan. Lots of people have issues with Konnan, what can I say? If you’re old like me, you might remember Cibernetico’s brief stint with the WWF as part of an AAA invasion deal that helped fill out the card for the 1997 Royal Rumble in San Antonio.

Jeff Hardy Sent Home

PWInsider reported that Jeff Hardy was sent home by WWE after Saturday’s live event in Edinburg, TX. He was working a six-man tag team match with Drew McIntyre & Xavier Woods against The Bloodline. Apparently Hardy spent most of the match selling in a more sluggish way than usual, and after tagging out he went into the crowd, not returning for the post-match celebration.

Naturally, given Jeff’s history people are going to be alarmed whenever reports like this come out. Hopefully things will end up all right.

AEW Had A Release

I almost forgot, we had another AEW release made public this week. Big Swole’s contract expired at the end of November, and she asked not to renew it. Swole hadn’t wrestled for AEW since a Dark taping on September 11, and hadn’t been on TNT since October 14, 2020. Her highest-profile feud was with Dr. Britt Baker D.M.D, and Swole even defeated Dr. Baker in the infamous Tooth & Nail match.

Swole is married to Cedric Alexander, who’s still under WWE contract. That used to be a pretty good way to get hired over there, but not so much these days.

Welp, that’s all we have time for this week! Thanks for reading, and until next time, keep your stick on the ice.


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