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Jim Cornette – “I Thought John Cena Was Going To Be Ric Flair Level”

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Jim Cornette has recently given his opinion on the legacy of former protégé John Cena, calling him the “last big star in wrestling”.

During a recent episode of his Drive Thru, the legendary wrestling manager was asked his opinion of John Cena, a man he helped to both train and mould in Ohio Valley Wrestling along with the likes of Brock Lesnar, Batista and Randy Orton.

Jim Cornette expressed his opinion that, although he would become the face of WWE, John had some very big shoes to fill:

“John unfortunately came along at the wrong time to be viewed as fondly by the real, dedicated wrestling fans, as they do Austin and Rock. Or even Hogan, or even definitely Bruno, or whatever. How do you follow Austin and Rock? How do you follow the Attitude Era?”

John Cena first arrived in WWE back in 2001 after graduating developmental territory, Ohio Valley Wrestling, where he wrestled as ‘The Prototype.’ The star soon drew attention from management, appearing in several Dark Matches at WWF television tapings before making his main roster debut in June 2002 by famously confronting Kurt Angle and beginning the ‘Ruthless Aggression’ era.

Jim Cornette, who was lead booker and co-owner for OVW during this period, remembers seeing Cena for the first time and believes that, ‘The Prototype’, was on his way to becoming the next standout heel superstar:

“When I first saw John I thought he was going to be the Ric Flair level heel of the next 10 years. Because he had the physique, he had the athletic ability, he had the promo, he was incredible even then. He could talk about anything off the top of his head. And he was working as a heel and he got the idea of how to ‘heel’. And he was a very good one, he was just green.

I thought that with a few years experience, if his work kept progressing like that, his promo was insane off the charts already. And as mentioned before, his work ethic, his personality, no bad habits […] he came in and was more self sufficient than almost any trainee we’d ever gotten. He had such responsibility, he was driving the ring truck before too long.”

John Cena would go on to become one of the biggest WWE Superstars of all time. A 16 time World Champion, Cena’s accolades include two Royal Rumble victories and topping the PWI 500 three times.

He has appeared on over 160 WWE pay-per-views and is one of the companies top merchandise draws. Despite this, Cena often receives a mixed reaction when appearing live. Cornette believes this is due to John’s near 20 year reign as a babyface:

“He had to basically work milk toast babyface thing for so long, and that gimmick. Secondly, he pretty much, as he got over and got be the guy that was the top draw in the company, he wasn’t going to take any chances. They probably wouldn’t let him take any chances. So his work kind of settled into, I’m not saying he was the s**ts but he did the same thing all the time, and it was fairly safe. And as a heel I think he would have been more impressive in the ring with people, and gotten over more for his work. And then if he had switched, then they would have respected his in ring work more. As a babyface, he was doing what he was doing, and it was ok.

I love John, and he f***ng drew a s**t tonne of money. And he’s a great guy. But I think that’s why he’s not looked at in the pantheon of Austin, Rock, Hogan. Because it was kind of watered down, you know, a gimmick that kind of appealed to the young folks. And he got a lot of backlash cause they smashed him over, which they should have. But he wasn’t a badass that the majority of the people going to the TV tapings and the pay-per-views would think should be the top guy.”

John Cena last performed in WWE at WrestleMania 36 in a losing effort to ‘The Fiend’ Bray Wyatt. Although the former ‘Doctor of Thuganomics’ appeared in the recent, “WrestleMania Report”, video released by WWE, he has confirmed that he will not be appearing at this years event.

Credit for the interview: Jim Cornette’s Drive-Thru