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Posted in: Fact or Fiction
Fact or Fiction Returns! (CM Punk, Cruiserweights, Final Deletion, Lucha Underground, John Cena and More!)
By Steven Bell
Sep 22, 2016 - 12:00:00 PM

Your eyes do not deceive you! After an absence of over a year here on Lords of Pain, it's time once again for...

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Welcome to the party. I'm Steven Bell, (@StevenFnBell on Twitter), host of The Late Shift every Monday night on Lords of Pain Radio and Admin of the Columns section of LOP Forums, among other various sundry things. If you're unfamiliar with the concept, here, it's pretty straightforward. I came up with four statements and got some of my writer pals to tell me whether they feel said statements are FACT or FICTION, elaborating on why they feel as they do along the way. The spotlight in this column is intended to shine bright upon the writers joining me, here, but I'll add my brief thoughts at the end of each topic just for those curious. Pretty simple stuff, right? So let's cut the chatter and get to it.

Before we jump in the fire, though, allow me to introduce the folks who will be participating this time around. All three of these guys are writers in the Columns Forum, chosen because I think they are great representatives of what that place is all about. For those unfamiliar, the CF is the place to go if you want to write a column for Lords of Pain. You head there, get your write on, prove that you can write consistently and draw a decent audience and boom, you very well may find yourself next in line when a spot opens up here on the LOP main page. See that bold "Columns Forum" a couple sentences back? You can click that to find your way there now. After you read this, of course. There's also a great big link waiting down at the bottom, if you prefer.

Anywho, our participants are...

ColdKnowledge (@ProWLegacy on Twitter) - A relatively new writer in the Columns Forum who has been turning heads and steadily making his mark since his arrival.

theImplications (@TheDamnImplicat on Twitter) - An incredibly entertaining fellow and overall good guy who has been around for a few months and has become one of the leaders of the current "class" of CF writers.


TripleR (@TripelRLOP on Twitter) - A very familiar face to many of you, I'm sure, Rob had an extended run on the LOP main page with his Chair Shots column, writing extensively about Lucha Underground early on in their existence with his Welcome to the Underground works before real life issues forced him to take a leave of absence. That leave ended a bit ago and he returned to the familiar turf of the Columns Forum as a veteran presence to help lead the newer writers down the path towards awesomeness.

You can click each of those gentlemen's names, there, to find their latest columns. Good stuff all around, covering everything from Lucha Underground recaps, Raw reviews and even an argument for the return of a TV Title. If you'd like to read my latest piece, which I warn you is a fairly personal affair written as part of a competition we have going on in the CF right now, you can click right HERE

With that squared away, let's put these dudes to work.

We'll start with a topical but easy one. CM Punk finally made his UFC debut and it went exactly as any mildly educated fight fan would anticipate, with the inexperienced white belt, Punk, being handily and soundly defeated by the multiple pro fight seasoned brown belt, Mickey Gall. Opinions on Punk's loss, whether or not he should've even been on the card or signed to UFC in the first place and plenty of other things were split and widely debated on the internet. One point of discussion that has emerged, though, is whether Punk's sound defeat will make him rethink both his commitment to MMA and his previously seemingly unshakeable aversion to pro wrestling. Bearing in mind that it need not be under the WWE umbrella, is it FACT or FICTION that CM Punk will return to pro wrestling within the next few years?

ColdKnowledge - Before I say anything on CM I just want to point out that Mickey Gall got the short end of the stick.

While Mickey's career is sure to go straight up from here on out if he can stay healthy and stay hungry, that pay out was a far too lopsided. I'm not a punk detractor like most people are, (for the sake of just being one), but to be paid out beans here when this match was promoted the way it was and he won in the manner that he did. Fans of MMA, and folks with common sense, knew CM wasn't going to win this match at all; he was a cash cow for Dana White and this PPV. While CM had honest intentions in wanting to try out MMA before it's all said and done, Dana wanted to stick one to Vince while having the added benefit of having a guy who is awesome at self-promotion. Giving the CM the payout wasn't going to be a problem for UFC, but not giving Mickey a bigger cut says a lot about how they value other members of their roster; kind of reminds me of someone else ..

CM Punk vs Mickey Gall did the numbers that it did because CM Punk promoted the hell out of that match by being a heel; CM Punk is bigger than what people want to admit. I mean the guy literally had ZERO experience when it came to fighting inside of the octagon, whereas other fighters spend years trying to make their way to UFC. That fact alone speaks volumes about his ability to promote himself in anything that he does. Some will argue that he only did the numbers that he did because they wanted to see him lose or wrestling fans wanted to relive some nostalgia with him walking to the ring. Well news flash, that’s a part of his self-promotion and a classic wrestling technique used by the greats.

I say all that to say it is indeed a FACT that CM Punk will show up in either New Japan or ROH at some point soon. Besides the fact that he started going back on his comments putting down wrestling recently by saying he would go work in Japan where he could just wrestle and not be famous, I truly believe he misses it. The whole reason why he left was because WWE creative and people with egos killed what could have been an epic run. When the fans are behind you and you’re doing some of the greatest work on the mic and in the ring that no one else at the time was doing, just to have it thrown in your face would deflate anyone in his position. But now that he’s crossed off something on his list he can go back to doing what he loves while having influence on his storyline, (which isn’t something I agree with to a degree). I’m not going to rule out a WWE return either because the pop for him and ratings boost that he would bring is invaluable to WWE and the figure heads that be knows this too.

Phil Brooks will return, it’s just a matter of when and where he decides to do that.

theImplications - Only if getting inducted into the Hall of Fame in 20 years counts as ‘returning to wrestling’. To be honest, how is it possible to answer this question without actually being CM Punk? I can analyse everything I’ve seen, but all those signs would just point to the man being burnt out and in need of a long ass break. To talk on his passion for the business however, that I cannot possibly answer.

Looking at things right now, he’s in the middle of a lawsuit with the WWE, still signed to UFC and seems to be having the time of his life. Nothing is telling me a return to wrestling is anywhere near that man’s mind, anyway if he were to scratch the itch in the future it probably wouldn’t be under the CM Punk name. He has previously stated that if he wrestled again it would be in a bingo hall, under a mask and against one of his mates.

So do I think it’s true that CM Punk will return in a few years? Not at all, then again I’m not CM Punk, how do I know what’s eating at him in the back of his mind? For all I know he’s planning on pulling a Bobby Lashley and getting into some wrestling action on the side, I can’t prove or back that up though, because I literally just made it up.

TripleR - FACT. I do believe Punk will end up back in a professional wrestling ring, but whether or not it’s a WWE one is still in question. However I don’t think Punk will give up on MMA just yet. I foresee Punk having one, maybe two more fights in which he’ll get his ass handed to him again, much like the Mickey Gall fight. Let’s be honest here, Punk is insanely out of his depths in an MMA ring. The only way he’s going to get a victory is against, I don’t know, ME perhaps. And even then I think I might have a shot based on the way Punk went after Gall.

See Punk can’t quit MMA just yet. If he does, he’ll look like a complete idiot. I mean he’s not far off that now, but he needs to get back in an MMA ring again to at least make it look like he’s somewhat serious about this. Then, and only then can he get back to professional wrestling, which as we all know is where he belongs, love him or hate him. He’s burned some bridges with the WWE, but as we’ve seen in the past pretty much any bridge can be repaired if you bow down and kiss Vince’s (or Trips’) feet. Would Punk’s ego allow him to do that? I don’t know, but he’s got tons of other options should he choose not to do that. He could go to Japan, back to Ring of Honor, LU, or even TNA. The options are wide-open. So yeah, Punk will be back wrestling. Give it 2-3 years though.

Steve - I think Imp has it right in saying that it's tough to say one way or the other unless your name is CM Punk. This isn't "Fact or Fiction or Who Knows?", though, so I'll bite the bullet and say it's a FACT. As was mentioned by the others, coming back to wrestling doesn't mean coming back to WWE. Though still a fairly young man, Punk is old by "MMA rookie" standards. That being said, paycheck don't suck. I could definitely see a scenario where he takes a date or two in Japan per year to supplement the cash he wisely saved during his WWE days. He could demand and get top dollar in the Land of the Rising Sun, as well as achieve the one thing he's never really done in his career. He expressed at least a minor interest in possibly, maybe doing exactly that in a recent interviews so I figure he'll eventually feel the itch and want to scratch it while making some well earned fat cash along the way.

The Cruiserweight Classic is one of the most talked about events in recent memory with virtually universal love for the tournament across the board. Now many of those involved find themselves as part of the Cruiserweight Division on Raw with an opportunity to shine on an even larger stage. Given the fact that previous attempts to establish a worthwhile Light Heavyweight/Cruiser Division have been ultimately lackluster, at best, is it FACT or FICTION that the Cruiserweight Division will succeed this time around to eventually become as steady a part of WWE as the Women's Division?

theImplications - God I want this one to be true, the cruiserweights really could be that injection of life RAW ever so desperately needs. Just think about it, would you rather the time fillers to be Darren Young vs Titus O’Neil again, or even worse Jinder Mahal vs Bo Dallas? Or would you prefer two cruiserweights to go out there and absolutely kick ass?

I’m not announcing the division should be used as filler, I’m just saying that’s my RAW sandwich filling of preference, add a bit of spice to bland taste of late. If the division is anywhere near the high level of quality that the Cruiserweight Classic was I’ll be impressed, hell I even commented on this very site declaring I’m going in to RAW with low hopes, man wouldn’t it be great for this to be one hell of a division?

I think that’s where I’m struggling with whether I think the division will actually succeed or not, I desperately want it to, but what I want doesn’t mean anything because I’m not the one working for WWE. If they really want it to do well it will, when WWE actually puts time and effort into something it normally shows in the outcome. However that’s exactly what the division will need to be given, time and effort, the wrestlers will 100% do their part but creative has to be just as passionate.

That’s the reason I’m going in with low hopes, RAW has had at least one good match for the last few weeks, yet still been an absolute bore as an overall show. So why should I expect that to change? It’s not as if Braun Strowman’s jobber matches are suddenly going to evaporate into thin air, it’s up to WWE to make this work, not my hope for it to work carrying my investment.

There’s also the presentation to take into consideration, will it be slightly more unique like the CWC or the same as the rest of RAW, except with Michael Cole shouting, “You’ll only see the cruiserweights on Monday Night RAW!” down the mic every couple of minutes. Hell, with the ring having those snazzy electronic boards now they could even give the division its own ring apron graphic, really distinguish it from the rest of the show. They probably won’t, I expect they’ll heavily brand it as a RAW thing, but it would be a nice extra touch.

So will the Cruiserweight Division succeed? The characters are there, the wrestling talent is there, it’s all down to creative really. I’m going to say FACT, but with a thin layer of pessimism on top, more of a glaze than a thick icing. You can see that there’s doubt there, but it’s mostly optimism and excitement.

TripleR - FACT. First off, how insanely spectacular was the CWC? That thing was on point from top to bottom. Big applause for TJ Perkins, who I had as my pick from very early on. With Ibushi and Sabre not signing with the WWE, it was the best and most enjoyable choice for me. Now TJ goes into Raw as the first ever Cruiserweight Champion of the new era. And yes, I do believe the Cruiserweight Division WILL succeed, because honestly I think the talent pool is better than ever. Even signing half of the competitors in the CWC will create a stellar product right off the bat.

But you don’t have to stop there. The WWE already has talent on their roster that would fit right into that division, like Neville for instance or Sami Zayn. The fans want this, as was evident by the crowd reaction at Full Sail, and the love for the matches all over the internet. Given that Raw has become increasingly difficult to watch for 3 hours lately, the addition of the TJ and the Cruisers will make for some very Tender Years of great wrestling. I’m looking forward to seeing what guys like Cedric Alexander, Jack Gallagher, and new Champ TJP can bring to the table. Cruiserweights Forever!!!

ColdKnowledge - Sadly I call FICTION on this by a long shot. Monday Night Raw is terrible when it comes to the way they book shows. My beef with the product boils down to creative and the powers that be over at the USA Network. I could go on and on about how they suck as a whole but in regards to the Cruiserweight Division, they won’t be as electric as they were during the CWC. There are a couple of reasons as to why I believe this:

1. Between influential people in the back, the company heads at the USA Network and Vince’s own handpicked prodigies, none of them will want to see any part of that division wrestling better than their main eventers. Let’s be honest, Cruiserweights are built on taking high risk moves and spots that can pay off as looking great. When WCW was beating Raw all those weeks straight, it was because of the Cruiserweight division and the likes of Eddie, Mysterio, Jericho, Dean, La Parka, Juvie, Ultimo and the rest of the guys in the back. They were having great matches weekly and to do that now when the last hour of Raw isn’t drawing honestly would be a death sentence for Raw. We’ve seen how fans can start off hot and be dead by the end of the show simply because it’s way too long. Having them do the same thing they did on the classic on a weekly basis would take too much shine off of their money maker. Someone will get hip and sabotage the division.

2. There’s a stigma against smaller wrestlers in the WWE. While you could arguably go anywhere else in the world and succeed regardless of what you look like, as long as you can actually wrestle, in the WWE it’s the opposite way. They like what they like, wrestlers that look nothing like their fan base. That’s nothing different and that will never ever change until Vince dies and everyone that panders to his every need is gone. Even when Finn won the WWE Universal title the first thing you saw almost every single columnist bring up was the fact he was too small to be a main eventer; (I can see Kevin somewhere calling them vanilla midgets). Only other guys who I can think of off the top of my head that was that small and won a title would be Rey Mysterio and Chris Jericho. You can say that Rey won because of what happened to Eddie and Chris is just an undeniable talent overall. As long as that stigma is in place, a lot of those guys won’t ever want to see those guys flourish in anyway, and that’s just sad.

3. The creative team on Raw sucks ass. When you can’t even figure out who is face and who is heel on your main event, what to do with the women’s title or what the hell your tag team division is doing, you really can’t say they can be trusted to do anything good with another division. Until WWE can figure out what the hell is going on with that cluster fuck of a show then they will never get it right with that division in addition to all of the other facts I mentioned above. I really wanted that division to go to SmackDown for the simple fact that I know it would have been handled better. Just like the Diva’s Revolution that was so heavily touted, I wouldn’t get my hopes up with this division.

Steve - I think I can very comfortably say FACT on this one. A lot of time, effort and especially cash has been thrown at this in an effort to make it seem legit and set it up to succeed as best as possible. I couldn't disagree more with those conspiracy theorists out there who think that the entire thing was set up just so Vince could intentionally sink it to prove that "little guys don't draw". I'm not kidding you, I've actually seen people saying that.

They're wrong. The CW division is a Triple H project, very much like the Women's division. These are guys that H has hand picked and vetted, guys that he has largely staked his reputation as a purveyor of talent upon in many ways, and I don't see him letting it be casually discarded or buried. While I doubt that it will reach as high a profile as they seem to be aiming for (and steadily working towards) with the women, I do think that it will become a strong entity unto itself and potentially produce some breakout stars. The key, of course, is in the execution. This is one of the very few instances in which WWE should look back towards how WCW handled something as a model. WCW's Cruiser division started very similarly to this one, with a roster full of guys that very few people had ever heard of but who had proven themselves among the top talents in the world before making their debut on the big stage. If they follow that blueprint and just let the matches speak for themselves, these guys WILL get over and, with the protection of HHH behind them, will be given time to establish the division as something worth holding onto.

The Final Deletion recently made waves and became the most viewed TNA angle/match in years. Lucha Underground has garnered rave reviews and a fanatical following in just two years on the air. Both the Deletion match and LU as a whole represent a new take on the pro wrestling formula, taking things beyond simply wrestling or even what is traditionally seen as sports entertainment to leap into previously unexplored territory. Given the increasing success of these nontraditional formats and flirtations with similarly styled things from the industry leader, WWE, is it FACT or FICTION that we are on the verge of a sea change in the overall presentation of professional wrestling?

TripleR - FICTION. History will tell you that the overall presentation of professional wrestling as a whole hasn’t really changed all the much over the years. Yeah it’s gotten flashier and prettier with more lights and pyro and kick-ass theme music, but at its core it’s still the same product it’s always been. While the Final DELETION, and its sequel DELETE or Decay were interesting experiments, they’re not going to be the new norm in wrestling. Lucha Underground, even with its emphasis on story is still heavily reliant on what goes on in the ring. And there’s one undeniable cog in that machine that is necessary to make it all work- FAN INTERACTION.

The TNA segments were great. LU’s filmed storyline is great. But neither of them involve the fan response at that moment, at that time. A crowd response can make or break a match on TV. Even the best of matches can fall a little flat if the crowd can’t get into it. Take the CWC that we just talked about as an example. Those crowds were insane, and it only adds to the TV viewer’s enjoyment. Filmed segments, though a great innovation, can only go so far. Will we see more of them? I certainly think we will, as TNA seems very heavily invested in Broken Matt Hardy and Brother Nero and what they’re doing there. They also had an Empty Arena Match with Spud and Sutter as well. But will it become the norm in the sport? No, I don’t think so. They are fun though.

theImplications - I’d say no, but you only have look at how ECW’s influence changed both WCW and WWE’s perspective on things in the 90s to see how strong such waves can be. That said, can you really call it a wave yet? More of a seductive splash if anything, a peak of interest, something worth keeping your eye on.

On the other hand, it’s not like this pre-taped mystic stuff is brand new anyway, you guys remember the Dungeon of Doom right? How could you possibly forget Hulk Hogan venturing to the dungeon, touching a rock and screaming, “ARGH, IT’S NOT HOT!” WCW put out loads of crap like that in the 90s, the only difference now is that in LU’s case it’s made professionally. Also presumably without drugs, I simply can’t make guarantee’s like that with the Dungeon of Doom.

With TNA’s The Final Deletion and Delete or Decay, they were stupid fun, but do they have that much longevity? How many of you laughed at Sharknado but tutted at Sharknado 4? It’s something different, but will we all be just as accepting if it becomes a norm? Lucha Underground’s pre-taped shtick is produced to a high standard, TNA’s is bad on purpose, there’s a reason the latter is more sporadic.

You can’t have too much of a good thing, but you can have too much of a bad thing, unless that bad thing is so bad it becomes a good thing. However, can too much of a bad thing that’s become a good thing become too much of a good thing? Thereby contradicting my original statement of not being able to have too much of a good thing. Savvy?

Trust me, there’s a solid point somewhere in that last paragraph. I think what I’m trying to say is FICTION. I don’t think it’s true that we’re on the verge of the overall presentation of wrestling changing. If anything, at most we’ll get some weird ‘off campus’ stuff every now and again, but nothing overly drastic. It works for TNA, works for LU, but like most things before it I can’t see WWE taking it and doing it well.

Although, this question was never about whether it is going to be done well…

ColdKnowledge - This is definitely a FACT and WWE is already moving towards that. Even though I hate it with a passion, WWE has already switched up their camera angles during matches. Where you only saw that kind of movement in TNA, (don’t ask when it was because I watch sporadically), WWE is applying it to their weekly broadcasts. I was impressed by it in TNA simply because of the way they managed to switch the angle right to when a high impact move was happening. My favorite would be when Samoa Joe would deliver a really stiff kick to the chest. But with the way that Final Deletion was a hit, it’s just a matter of time before WWE, (SmackDown in particular until Raw gets their shit together), hands the reigns over to talents to be more creative with their characters. That’s pretty sad to say because the likes of Zack Ryder, Cody Rhodes, Curtis Axel and Damien Sandow have all shown that with time and a chance they can really make shit into gold.

The most recent case of change in that format would be Heath Slater’s family. While skits are nothing new, the whole combination of how WWE wants to be presented as a live sporting event, the combination of that and a really well placed promo has added a new degree to the product. Will we see something like Final Deletion and Delete or Decay in the WWE soon? Probably not right away like we did with Wyatt’s Compound and the negative reaction that it got as a whole on social media for seemingly copying Final Deletion to the T. I’ll say in about five years’ time we will be calling Matt Hardy a genius and Lucha Underground underrated for their contributions to the way that they helped shape WWE’s new production style. But that’s only contingent on letting wrestlers develop characters and having the ones who can really make shit out of gold find their way to the spotlight.

Steve - I've gotta go FICTION on this one. While things like Final Deletion and the unique style of LU are definitely successful in their own ways, I don't see that style of presentation breaking through in any large way on the WWE product. Will we get a few things here and there? Absolutely. WWE has never met a good idea that they didn't want to try and put their own spin on (which is a nice way of saying steal). I know that the question was whether there would be a sea change in the overall presentation of pro wrestling, not just WWE, but let's be real. WWE is pro wrestling. Every other company out there could embrace these new ways of presenting the product and it'll still be seen as "out of the ordinary" if WWE doesn't adopt those styles, in kind.

I do think that things are shifting around a bit, though, and that we could very well see more of a shift towards the Lucha Underground style, specifically, in non-WWE promotions as time marches on. Will it last? Doubtful. People were also saying that Wrestling Society X was revolutionizing the way that pro wrestling was presented over a decade ago and we see how hard that stuck. This style of presentation will ultimately be seen as a gimmicky thing from this specific era, though some aspects very well may wind up sticking around to influence the future.

Finally, John Cena recently returned after a weird sabbatical in which he didn't appear on TV but still wrestled in dark matches after every show for whatever reason. That means nothing as it pertains to what I'm going to ask, I just found it really strange. Anyways, upon his return he was named as one of the top contenders to AJ Styles' WWE World Championship and as part of a triple threat title match at the next Smackdown exclusive PPV, No Mercy. If successful, this would mark Cena's overall 16th World Championship win, tying him with the man widely regarded by many to be the greatest of all time, Ric Flair. Whether he ties the Nature Boy's title record or not, after the mindboggling amount of accolades he has gathered over an unprecedented 10+ years as the biggest star in the industry, is it FACT or FICTION that John Cena is greatest WWE Champion of all time?

theImplications - FICTION, as that accolade is still held by the mostly safe hands of Steve Austin, there’s a goddamn reason Vince McMahon still calls him the greatest draw of all time. Don’t get me wrong, Cena has his achievements, but was he ever as hot/beloved as Stone Cold was? In determining the greatest you have to take every aspect into account, unfortunately for the big fella Steve Austin’s got John Cena beat every day of the week in that field.

Unfortunately, with huge changes in the way people watch television/consume entertainment nowadays you can’t really compare the two statistically. Even the way the WWE Shop works has drastically changed, you can compare the number of orders, but wouldn’t you say John Cena has that ever so slight benefit in the form of a lovely thing called ‘shopping online’. The two essentially operated in completely different worlds, so let’s just give them both a pat on the back and tell them they’ve done really well.

However personally, I think sales/ratings numbers shouldn’t be the determining factor with this kind of thing. Nor should how many titles they won, how many shows they main evented, or the average ratio of women layed per annum. Which unfortunately means it all comes down to opinion, in that regard, when it all boils down to it I just prefer ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin’s character. The badass nature in which he was portrayed pulled me in, he really could be a damn intimidating figure, him not being a nice guy just worked so well with the anti-hero role placed upon him.

John Cena is more akin to Hulk Hogan, the slightly preachy, yet really nice guy who gets serious when the right occasion calls for it. I just find those kinds of character bore me really easily, it’s partly why the Captain America character gets on my tits, no one is that good of a person! It’s also why I immediately did not like the direction Roman Reigns was going in, he should have been way closer to Stone Cold’s character than John Cena’s. I’m not saying Reigns had the potential to be the next Steve Austin, but you can’t deny WWE tried to make another John Cena with the complete wrong guy, he was the badass of the S.H.I.E.L.D. for God’s sake!

Why would you ever try to turn the no nonsense badass into the relatable father/underdog/man out for revenge/man fighting against the system? The two (ultimately four) traits contradict each other so much, Stone Cold’s character rarely altered and it worked like a charm. The biggest issue being the wrestling style of the era, with Stone Cold’s having a hell of a lot more brawls and John Cena’s slowly moving into a more in ring based affair.

Cena is one hell of a talker, but the PG Era hurt his character badly, resorting in very predictable affairs ending with the infamous 5 Moves of Doom. Fans got bored of his run way before then anyway, how long did it take, six months? Cheered at WrestleMania, booed at SummerSlam if I’m not mistaken, the kids loved the guy though. I’ve talked about all that in the Columns Forum Classic, so you can go read it all there if you feel so inclined, but John Cena really was the Hulk Hogan of this generation.

Maybe when the kids of today are our age this conversation will feel completely different, but as of right now, in this one man’s opinion John Cena is not the greatest WWE Champion of all time. I’ll take badass over Superman every day of the week, sorry Mr Kent, but Punisher’s my boo.

TripleR - FICTION. As much good as John Cena has done for the WWE, the Greatest WWE Champion of All Time is Hulk Hogan, like him or not. Hogan made the WWE (F) what it is today. Honestly, if Vince had not brought Hogan in from the AWA, all of this may have never happened. Hogan’s reign defined entire generations of wrestling fans. And while John Cena is without question the lynchpin of the current era, he’s not irreplaceable. At THAT TIME, in THAT MOMENT, Hulk Hogan was irreplaceable.

As we’ve seen with Cena being off TV, the fans have embraced change. We have Owens and Styles holding both major titles and the fans are actually ecstatic about it. The question you have to ask yourself is whether or not the WWE could survive without John Cena. And while it would be quite different without him around, the answer is YES! Could the WWE have existed at that time without Hulk Hogan? I seriously doubt it would have reached the heights that it did. Hell, professional wrestling as an entire sport may not have reached the heights it did. Hulk Hogan defined the business, and this is coming from a guy that always rooted for whoever Hogan was wrestling.

ColdKnowledge - I’m going the controversial way and I’m going with neither option. I don’t like getting into the greatest of all time conversations for the simple fact that they aren’t really constructive. Every period produces one wrestler that transcends the times he’s in and the prior incarnation; plus it also boils down to the type of wrestling that you like on a persona level. Recent wrestlers have gotten more exposure than their predecessors who were on closed circuit television for decades, or restricted to high PPV costs, whereas now they are accessible through virtually anything with a screen for the low cost of $9.99 a month. While you can watch the likes of legends at any given time, most fans don’t, they just take historians word on how good someone was. That plays a big part in these conversations because you can’t actually feel the impact a wrestler has on the world around him. I know that when I was growing up Hulk was huge and I was power slamming my brothers all of the time or they were putting me in the figure four like Ric. Then it was me and my friends’ stone cold stunning each other the way the kids are delivering the attitude adjustment to theirs. Popularity can’t be judged based just off replays of older videos.

This is the way that I look at this topic.

Bruno Sammartino was the best during the Golden Ages
Ric Flair was the best during the territory days and rise of wrestling in the early 80’s.
Hulk Hogan was the best during the wrestling boom of the late 80’s and early 90’s.
Stone Cold was the best during the Attitude Era.
John Cena is the best during the PG Era.

That’s just how it works in sports, you can always debate who the best at something is until you’re blue in the face. Rather than debating those things I simply enjoy the athletes who do enough to even put their name in the hat for best of all time. Do I think that his championship runs are a little inflated due to ratings and other kind of politics? Yes I do. But the same thing could be said with Ric Flair by some guys who watched it back then. It could honestly go either way for all of the guys on the list for various reasons. While Stone Cold was the best during the attitude era, his run at the top was probably five years at most if we’re being generous. Hulk and Ric were around for long periods of time but there were periods where you scratched your head at what they were doing, (*cough* TNA *cough*). John Cena has been good for a long time, but there were questionable moments where we asked did he really need to win certain feuds; just like we question a lot of great wrestlers. That’s just a part of the game that is professional wrestling, like it or not, and that’s the part that makes these conversations a little fuzzy to me.

If I had to say John Cena is the greatest professional wrestler of all-time, I simply cannot bring myself to do such given so many different circumstances. But to say he’s the greatest professional wrestler in terms of combining entertainment, wrestling and putting WWE in the mainstream the last 15 years is definitely a FACT. While I’m not the biggest John Cena fan I can admit that without him at the helm from, WWE would have crashed and burned. Just like his predecessors did with their respected promotions, (Ric with the early days of WCW, Hogan with both WWF and WCW and Stone cold with WWF). John Cena will go down as the man who led the PG era when no one else could break through and for that he has my utmost respect.

Steve - I knew this one would be a cheap heat magnet. I think our friend CK misunderstood the question a little bit. I wasn't asking if Cena is the greatest wrestler of all time. I was asking if he's the greatest WWE Champion of all time. And to that question I have to say... FACT.

Yes, Sammartino had an unprecedented run of dominance, but there's no way in hell that he or anyone else could or would pull that off in the modern era. Decade long title reigns died right along with the territories. Hogan is beyond question the single most important pro wrestler since Gorgeous George. Period. He not only revolutionized the industry and made the WWF in 1984, he then turned around and revolutionized the industry and made WCW by turning heel and forming the nWo in 1996. That's unprecedented and will very likely never be equaled again.

Steve Austin is, indeed, cited as the biggest draw of all time... but look at the rest of the roster. I love me some Stone Cold and all, but I'm pretty sure that named like Undertaker, Foley, DX and the fucking Rock just may have lent a helping hand in that. Maybe. Just a little. Furthermore, Austin was only on (arguably) the top draw from 1998 to 2003. That's 5 years. One of those years was spent recovering from neck surgery and almost another full year was spent sitting at home after the whole walkout thing. So Steve Austin was, at best, on top of the wrestling world for 3 years. If you factor in that Rock was just a big a draw, if not bigger, from 2000 on, you've basically got Austin having been the undisputed top guy for the years of 1998 and 1999. So we're down to 2 years.

While I don't doubt that Austin packed houses and brought in merchandising cash and all that hand over fist at ridiculous levels in '98-'99, it's still only two years. I've always taken issue with Vince pointing to him as the undisputed top draw, as Hogan was a massive draw for the better part of a decade. Sure, Austin probably drew more cash in his two biggest years that Hogan did in his two biggest years, but there's no way in hell that Steve Austin made WWE as much money from 1998 to 2003 as Hogan made them from 1984 to 1993. No way in hell.

Now take into account that John Cena has been the undisputed face of the company since 2005. That's 11 years as THE guy. Sure, others came up over that time but Cena has, to the consternation of many, been the biggest draw in the industry for the duration. He has headlined the most financially successful WrestleMania events of all time, breaking his own records a few times along the way. He has been a consistent monster merch seller for the duration of that time, as well, a spot that he holds even right now with second place well behind him in the running. John Cena is, without question, the most well known currently active professional wrestler in the world. It's not even close.

All of that is important, which is why I bring it up. Even in a kayfabe sense, though, Cena is ridiculously successful. Whether you agree with the creative processes that brought his legacy about or not, the fact of the matter is that said legacy is virtually unrivaled within the history of WWE. No other modern WWF/E Superstar has headlined consistently for as long as him. No other modern WWF/E Superstar has garnered a consistent massive reaction for as long as him. No other modern WWF/E Superstar has consistently maintained the Championship pedigree that he has for as long as him.

If you look at the sheer numbers, whether those numbers pertain to money, Championships, tenure or virtually any other meaningful category... John Cena is the greatest WWE Champion of all time.

Don't worry, nobody said you had to like it.

Alright, that's that. I would like to once again thank ColdKnowledge, theImplications and TripleR for participating in the return of Fact or Fiction. I hope to bring this back to being a regular thing, appearing at least once every month here on Lords of Pain.

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Much love, folks.