REVIEW: WWE SUPERSTARS JOHN CENA
I've been a longtime fan of the WWE -- long enough to remember when people like Hulk Hogan, the Ultimate Warrior, and Rowdy Roddy Piper were still the mainstays of the company. I remember the "Attitude" Era, the "Monday Night Wars" against WCW, when The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin were the main names, and much more. And I still enjoy watching RAW and SmackDown on a weekly basis.
What I haven't tended to do, for whatever reason, is collect the action figures, and there's certainly been plenty of them over the years. I can't really explain why I never did so. I suppose it was just that I had other priorities. Perhaps I simply preferred to bring in super-heroes, G.I. Joes, Transformers, and droids instead of wrestlers.
Certainly there's been plenty of WWE action figures over the years, and I have had a few here and there. Hasbro crafted a rather amusing line of rather exaggerated figures for a time. Later, Jakks Pacific had a very lengthy run. Some of their initial product was seriously awful, but over the years, it improved substantially. And more recently, Mattel has been the primary licensee for the WWE. Even so, about the only professional wrestler in my collection was Sgt. Slaughter, and that was just because he was a member of G.I. Joe.
I recently decided to take a closer look at Mattel's product. Anyone can tell that their WWE merchandise has a significant spot in any toy department. I'd picked up a couple of their "Elite" figures some time ago -- the Undertaker and Shawn Michaels -- but these figures also came with a fairly elite price tag, and it wasn't something that I could make a habit of, although I was certainly pleased to own figures of these legendary WWE Superstars, and was impressed with the product.
But somewhat more recently, Mattel created a more basic line. Carded figures, on a card that was primarily white with red trim, with a photograph of the individual on it, and a much more reasonable price tag. I'm not entirely sure this is the official name of this particular line, but I tend to refer to it as the "Superstars" line. Just about any currently active WWE Superstar is a contender for it, even as Mattel maintains the "Elite" line as well as some other collectible series, including a Legends line, and a number of figures with various action features.
For the most part, I liked what I saw with the "Superstars" line -- including the price tag. The worst thing I could say about any of the figures is that some of them didn't have the best likenesses in the world, or for whatever reason, were given rather quirky facial expressions. It's one thing for a WWE Superstar to look determined or angry. It's another thing for him to look like he's got an upset stomach or some sort of facial tic.
One of the figures that I felt would be appropriate to bring in, and which certainly seemed to have a good overall design, was JOHN CENA.
If anyone has become the "franchise player" of the WWE in the current era, it must be Cena. While most fans aren't quite equating him with the likes of Ric Flair or Hulk Hogan, he has certainly risen to the top of the current WWE mountain, and at the 2012 WrestleMania, faced off against another distinct legend, The Rock. Love him or hate him, his prominence in the business cannot be denied.
John Cena, for whatever reason, seems to spark a considerable mixed reaction from most crowds. Despite having been one of the good guys, a "face", for years, a role I sincerely hope he doesn't abandon, he gets as many boos as cheers from the average crowd.
I have to say that I'm one of those who would cheer him, and I just don't get the boos. Cena seems to take this mixed reaction in stride, almost gets a kick out of it. He's frankly more charitable than I think I would be. He's one of the best talkers in the ring today. And while by his own admission his in-ring wrestling skills may not be as extensive as some, he still gets the job done, usually in spectacular fashion. He certainly has substantial physical strength.
In addition to this, he is a staunch supporter of our armed forces, readily participates in the WWE's annual "Tribute to the Troops", most often making a heartfelt speech during the course of it, and makes side trips to military bases throughout the year. Additionally, he has set a record for most "wishes" granted through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which has showered accolades on him for the lives of sick children that he has brightened through granting their wishes to meet him. For all he's done here alone, the man is worthy of respect.
So why the hostility from the crowd? It's almost part of his gimmick at this point, and yet there is still no shortage of people willing to boo him. The closest thing to an explanation I've encountered, and it hardly seems justified, is that Cena seems to appeal more to the younger side of the crowd -- to the kids. To this I say -- so what? They're as legitimate a part of the crowd, of the "WWE Universe", as anyone else, and they're just as entitled to their heroes. And clearly, John Cena is one of them.
And the next time I'm fortunate enough to attend a WWE event, I'll be cheering John Cena -- not booing him.
For now, let's have a look at the background of John Cena, and then at his action figure.
John Felix Anthony Cena (hey, how about that, he uses his real name! -- Just not all of it...) was born April 23, 1977, and originally hails from West Newbury, Massachusetts. He is the second eldest of five brothers. After graduating from Cushing Academy, Cena attended Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts. In college he was a Division III All-American center on the college football team. He graduated from Springfield in 1998 with a degree in exercise physiology, after which he pursued a career in bodybuilding, and also worked as a chauffeur for a limousine company.
In the WWE, Cena has won 19 championships in total, including 12 world titles having won the WWE Championship a record 10 times and the World Heavyweight Championship twice. In addition, Cena has also won the WWE United States Championship three times, and is a four-time Tag Team Champion, having held the World Tag Team Championship twice, once each with Shawn Michaels and Batista, and the WWE Tag Team Championship twice once each with David Otunga and The Miz. Cena also won the 2008 Royal Rumble match, the 2012 Money in the Bank contract for the WWE Title, and is a three-time Superstar of the Year Slammy Award winner (2009, 2010, and 2012). He is the longest-reigning WWE Champion of the 2000s, having held the title for 380 days from 2006-2007, and also has the fourth highest number of combined days as WWE Champion behind Bob Backlund, Hulk Hogan and Bruno Sammartino.
Cena started training to become a professional wrestler in 2000 at the California-based "Ultimate University" operated by Ultimate Pro Wrestling. Once he was placed into an in-ring role, Cena began using a semi-robotic character known as The Prototype.
In 2001, he signed a developmental contract with the WWE and was assigned to its developmental territory Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW). During his time there, Cena held the OVW Heavyweight Championship for three months and the OVW Southern Tag Team Championship with Rico Constantino for two months.
Cena made his WWE television debut answering an open challenge by Kurt Angle on June 27, 2002. Inspired by a speech given by WWE Chairman Vince McMahon to the rising stars of the company, exhorting them to show "ruthless aggression" to earn a place among the legends, Cena took advantage of the opportunity to face Angle. Cena managed to counter the Angle Slam and the ankle lock submission hold, but ultimately lost to a hard amateur wrestling-style pin. Following the near-win, Cena became a fan favorite and started feuding with Chris Jericho, defeating Jericho at the pay-per-view Vengeance. In October, Cena and Billy Kidman took part in a tag team tournament to crown the first WWE Tag Team Champions of SmackDown, losing in the first round. The next week, Cena turned on and attacked Kidman, blaming him for their loss, becoming a villain.
For the first half of 2003, Cena sought the WWE Championship and pursued the reigning champion, Brock Lesnar. Cena won a number one contenders tournament against Lesnar at Backlash. However, Cena was defeated by Lesnar. At the end of the year, Cena became a fan favorite again when he joined Kurt Angle as a member of his team at Survivor Series.
Cena was drafted to the Raw brand on the June 6, 2005, becoming the first wrestler selected by General Manager Eric Bischoff in the annual draft lottery. Cena immediately entered a feud with Bischoff, after refusing to participate in the "war" against the ECW roster at One Night Stand. With Bischoff vowing to make Cena's stint on Raw difficult, he hand picked Jericho to take Cena's championship from him. During their feud, even though Cena was portrayed as the fan favorite and Jericho as the villain, a vocal section of live crowds, nonetheless, were booing Cena during their matches. More crowds followed suit during Cena's next feud with Kurt Angle. As the feud continued and the dissenters grew more vocal, sometimes seeming to outnumber fans by wide margins, the announce team was forced to acknowledge the booing on television and began calling Cena a "controversial champion", claiming some people disliking him on account of his "in-ring style" and his chosen fashion. Despite the mixed and negative reactions, Cena held on to his championship through his feud
During a match with Mr. Kennedy on the October 1, 2007 episode of Raw, Cena suffered a legitimate torn pectoral muscle while executing a hip toss. Surgery the following day found that his pectoralis major muscle was torn completely from the bone, estimating at the time to require seven months to a year of rehabilitation. As a result, Cena was stripped of his title, ending what was the longest WWE Championship reign in over 19 years. Cena's surgery was performed by orthopedic surgeon James Andrews at St. Vincent's Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama. Despite his injury, Cena attended the annual WWE Tribute to the Troops show filmed at Camp Speicher in Tikrit, Iraq on December 7, and aired on December 24.
Cena made an unannounced return as the final participant of the Royal Rumble match, winning the match, and the traditional WrestleMania title shot, by last eliminating Triple H.
On the June 7, 2010 episode of RAW, Cena was suddenly thrust into a new storyline when during his main event match against CM Punk, he was attacked by all eight former contestants of WWE NXT Season 1, with Wade Barrett as their leader. Punk, his follower Luke Gallows, and other personnel around the ring were attacked as well, but Cena took the worst of the attack and was carried out on a stretcher. This group would later refer to themselves as The Nexus. At the Fatal 4-Way pay-per-view, Cena would go on to lose the WWE Title to Sheamus, in a fatal four-way matchup involving Edge and Randy Orton, after the Nexus would interfere. Cena would again lose to Sheamus, after the Nexus would once again interfere. Cena would, in retaliation to the Nexus, form an alliance with Edge, Chris Jericho, John Morrison, R-Truth, The Great Khali and Bret Hart to face the Nexus at SummerSlam, where Cena's team defeated Nexus.
Cena competed in the 2011 Royal Rumble match at the pay-per-view, making it to the final five before being eliminated by The Miz, the current WWE Champion at the time, who wasn't an official participant in the match. At the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, Cena won the chamber match to face The Miz at WrestleMania XXVII for the WWE Championship.
At WrestleMania, Cena and Miz would initially fight to a double count-out, only for The Rock, who was the guest host at WrestleMania, to restart the match and hit Cena with a Rock Bottom to allow the Miz to retain. The next night on RAW, Cena, in response to the Rock's actions, would agree to face the Rock at the main event of WrestleMania XXVIII, making it the first match to be set up at WrestleMania one year in advance.
Over the course of the ensuing year, Cena would feud with CM Punk, Alberto del Rio, and Kane, before facing The Rock at WrestleMania, and ultimately losing the match. The following night on RAW, Cena addressed the Rock, admitting defeat and accepting the loss at WrestleMania; Cena then called the Rock the greatest WWE wrestler ever and invited the Rock to the ring so that he could congratulate him. However, Cena's call was answered instead by the returning Brock Lesnar, who then attacked Cena, leading to yet another feud.
Subsequent to Lesnar's departure, Cena would feud once again with CM Punk, and more recently, Dolph Ziggler. On December 19, 2012, at Tribute to the Troops, Cena would win a non-title match against Antonio Cesaro, and personally thanked the U.S. military on behalf of the WWE. And believe me, I've just hit the basic highlights here.
Outside of wrestling, Cena has released the rap album You Can't See Me, which debuted at No.15 on the US Billboard 200 chart, and starred in the feature films The Marine (2006), 12 Rounds (2009), and Legendary (2010). Cena has also made appearances on television shows including Manhunt, Deal or No Deal, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Saturday Night Live, Punk'd, and Psych.
John Cena has granted over 300 wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and is the biggest wish granter in Make-A-Wish history. In 2009, Cena received the Chris Greicius Celebrity Award.
A few other random notes: Cena is a fan of Japanese anime and has mentioned that his favorite anime movie is "Fist of the North Star". Cena is also a fan of the Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, New England Patriots, Boston Celtics and English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur. Cena collects muscle cars and has over twenty, some of which are one-of-a-kind.
Meanwhile, the rest of us have to rely on Hot Wheels for that sort of thing...
Okay, so, how's the action figure? Extremely impressive. I suspect that one of the greatest challenges of the WWE line is designing a reasonable likeness of the individual. For a time, Jakks Pacific used a computerized process called "Real Scan", which was able to take a three-dimensional scan of the actual individual's face, and transform it into a sculpt for the toy. This was really very effective. I have no idea if Mattel uses the same procedure.
But the challenge with the WWE line, especially, is coming up with an effective likeness of a real person, one not too far removed from how that person really looks. Now, the same can be said, to a certain degree, of some movie based lines. But if an actor is playing a character, there's a little bit of leeway there. For example, some of the figures from The Hobbit don't necessarily need to precisely match the actors from the movie (although generally speaking they do so superbly well), because for the most part, these actors are wearing various degrees of makeup.
But the WWE Superstars, for the most part, are as you see them, and they turn up on television several times a week, and are hugely popular individuals who have their photographic images regularly appearing on clothing, magazines, and all over the Internet. If you're going to sculpt an action figure of one of these guys, you'd better get it right.
Mattel did an excellent job with John Cena, and I have to say that I suspect it wasn't easy, because unlike some of the other prominent Superstars, especially of the past, there isn't really anything to "trademark" John Cena. He doesn't have Hulk Hogan's long hair and mustache. He doesn't have facepaint. He doesn't wear a mask like Rey Mysterio. He doesn't even have facial hair. Compared to a lot of these guys, Cena is rather normal-looking. And one has to wonder if that made his headsculpt tougher than usual.
Regardless, it's an excellent likeness. It really does look very much like Cena. The face has been sculpted with a slight grin, not at all inappropriate for Cena. The hair is short-cropped on top, leading to a very well-painted, if not outright airbrushed fade on the sides and back. My only very slight criticism with the headsculpt is that the eyebrows are a little heavier than Cena's appear to be on television, but this is something that might have been rather difficult to paint and get just right.
The Cena figure stands exactly 6-3/4" in height. According to online statistics, John Cena in real life is 6'1" in height, and weighs around 251 pounds -- most of it well-maintained muscle. I commend Mattel for the fact that they do their best to keep the heights relatively to scale with each other in the WWE line. Some would be more obvious than others. Huge individuals such as Big Show or Mark Henry pretty well fill their packages. Rey Mysterio, a comparatively small individual, is obviously represented by a smaller figure.
John Cena tends to fall in with the more standard-sized Superstars, even though as a group, they're all pretty much larger-than-average people. Even so, Mattel tries to maintain scale. I also have a Sheamus figure from the same line, and he's billed at 6'4" in height, and the Sheamus figure is very slightly taller than the Cena figure.
Now, I'm sure that there's some reusage of parts on these figures when it's appropriate to do so. However, this would have been a little more difficult with John Cena, who does not wear traditional ring gear. He's not one for tights. John Cena customarily wrestles in either jeans or khakis, cut off just below the knees, with a standard belt holding them in place, and athletic shoes instead of wrestling boots.
The upper body of the figure is muscular, but it has a more realistic look to it than, let's say, Mattel's DC Universe or Masters of the Universe line. John Cena and the other Superstars of the WWE are powerful athletes, but they're not super-heroes or Eternians.
One thing that makes me think that the arms used for John Cena could well turn up on somebody else is the fact that the armband around his left bicep, and his wristbands, are painted on, not sculpted on.
Cena tends to be rather colorful with his pre-match gear. He usually comes to the ring wearing a cap, a T-shirt, and the wristbands. These are removed before the match begins, and tossed out into the crowd, and a few people get some souvenirs to take home. Cena has been in the habit of changing the primary color of these items for some time now. I've seen red, black, purple, blue, and an assortment of other colors. This Cena figure was obviously created when Cena was wearing green to the ring, since the armband and wristbands are green.
This is one thing that has to frustrate Mattel just a little bit -- keeping up with this sort of thing. By the time you've designed and started to produce a WWE action figure with a certain look, by the time it's been produced and is on its way over from China to the warehouses, the wrestler in question is wearing something else. Then you've got folks like Rey Mysterio who every time he takes time off to rest or maybe heal from an injury comes back with three more tattoos. And somebody in the Mattel paint-and-imprint department smacks his head against a wall for a while...
Anyway, Cena's green armband has white lettering, outlined in black, imprinted on it that reads "CENATION", which is the collective name for Cena's fans. The wristbands on his right wrist read "U", followed by the international traffic symbol meaning not to do something, a circle with a line through it, and the letter "C" within the circle, and then the word "ME". This is a version of one of Cena's catchphrases, which he generally employs at the end of a match, "You can't see me!"
Cena's left wristbands have a hand sign imprinted on them which emulates one of Cena's own, inside of a circle with some printing around the perimeter that if you want to give yourself a mild case of eyestrain, reads "Hustle, Loyalty, Respect", another of Cena's axioms.
Cena is wearing jeans, trousers painted denim blue and very nicely detailed, right down to sculpted stitching on the seams and pockets, and is wearing black athletic-type shoes. He has a black belt around his waist, sculpted to look like it passes through the belt loops on the jeans. Again, very nicely detailed work.
The figure feels very sturdily made, and I am quite sure would withstand a generous amount of in-ring action in a play setting, and there are playsets available for these WWE figures.
Let's consider the figure's articulation. It's excellent, really. John Cena is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, knees, shoe tops, and ankles. The only slight downside to the articulation is that the legs move forward and backward, but not outward, and there is no upper leg swivel. This, as much as anything, is evidence of the somewhat "basic" level of these figures. If you want the higher level of leg articulation, plus a mid-torso articulation, that's where the "Elite Collection" comes in.
However, I have to say that I don't personally expect these figures to see extensive play usage, and I don't really feel like paying a significantly higher price tag for the sake of three articulation points. I've got no real complaints here whatsoever.
So, what's my final word? I'm impressed. Mattel seems to have a good lock on 6"-7" scale action figures, much as Hasbro does with the 4" world. DC Universe, Masters of the Universe, and the WWE are all excellent product lines of highly-detailed, accurate and precise action figures. And the WWE line is certainly popular, and has a generous presence in the toy aisles even as some other lines which one would think would be similarly popular seem to be diminishing of late.
I maintain that the WWE line is probably a bit more difficult to craft than some, since the individuals involved don't leave as much room for interpretation as others. It's got to look like the individual, and the individual is a real person who, in most cases, doesn't look all that different outside of the ring than inside, wrestling gear notwithstanding. Mattel has definitely achieved this with John Cena
If you're a WWE fan, and a great many people are, then have a look at this "Superstars" line. The prices are reasonable, the lineup is extensive, and you're bound to find some of your current favorites within it. One of mine is John Cena, and I was very pleased to add him to my collection. I'm certain you will be, too.
The WWE SUPERSTARS figure of JOHN CENA definitely has my highest recommendation!