John Cena gave his thoughts on the current state of WWE during an in-depth interview on Corey Graves’ “After the Bell” podcast.
During the conversation, Cena says he’s aware the product has become faster and “more surgical” in terms of how precise everything looks. However, he believes it would be helpful if talent were able to pull back on the surgical aspect of things in order to play off the crowd more.
“Here’s a message to all the talent out there; be brave enough to fail,” he said. “Go out there with an open mind and open ears and entertain your audience. I think that’s the sort of way to bring that performance back. But here’s the drawback, it’s not gonna be as surgical. It’s not gonna be as precise. It’s not gonna be as intricate. And the audience has shown that they enjoy that stuff!”
“Some performers work for the sound [of the audience], rather than being there listening to the sound and adapting to the environment,” Cena later added while talking about the importance of in-ring improvisation. “I think when you empower the audience, our biggest star of the actual product, when you empower them … they’ll put you on the wave and then you just gotta reign them in to the confines of the story.”
Cena admits the current generation is hindered by social media, however. “Your keyboard emotions aren’t necessarily the same as watching it live,” he explained. “But the keyboard sentiment and the social sentiment which I love cause it is driving our business forward and certainly extending its reach throughout the world often can cause that chain reaction of like, ‘Hey, now we’re not going to like this guy. Right, us?’ And then everybody’s like, ‘Yeah!’ and then that person is not liked.”
The 16-time World champ also believes that in order for this generation to become more defined, it needs a top star whose traits can define the “era” and things can be built around that. Unfortunately, he’s not sure if that can happen in the current landscape.
“It needs what I’m not sure it can produce,” Cena stated. “It needs a front man or woman and that’s what will be able to define what the era is. Because it takes on those personality traits of its top star.”
“I’ve said it before. I don’t know if, all things considered – the crowd is so mixed – that if the company puts its faith behind an individual, the knee jerk reaction of the audience (even if they liked the guy last week) is to say ‘F*ck you. You’re not gonna tell me who I like.’ So the audience is also tipping the scales of this not being able to happen. Universal popularity will never happen because someone will see it and get on to it. And be like, ‘He seems to be getting popular. Let’s stop this right now,’ or ‘She seems to be getting popular, let’s change this right now.'”
Cena also notes that not having one person at the forefront of things isn’t necessarily bad either.
“I think the business is reaching farther than ever, it continues to reach farther than ever. A segmented group of performers – Roman, Braun, Sheamus, New Day, The SmackDown roster, the Raw roster, the NXT roster – you don’t have one person you go to see. If you go to an NXT show, you go to see eight or nine people. You go to a Raw, you go to a SmackDown, you go to see eight or nine people. I don’t think there’s ever been more potential under one roof than right now.”
Listen to the full interview below.