John Cena is taking a page out of Dusty Rhodes’ playbook.
The current United States Champion once again began the United States Open challenge, an open invitation for wrestlers to come down the aisle and take a shot at dethroning “The Champ” on live television.
Cena has faced plenty of WWE talent since he claimed the title from Rusev at WrestleMania. The fact he has built the title essentially from the ground up has encapsulated the respect Cena not only has for the title, but is a staple for everything Cena stands for.
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It also draws similarities to Rhodes, who is considered by many to be the greatest “People’s Champion” of all time.
With no disrespect to The Rock, it was Rhodes who embodied the type of fan who plunked down their hard earned money to see him and other stars of the NWA wrestle night after night and his affinity with the fans, or the common man, made him the legend he grew into.
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Cena has become that type of legend in his own right – having come to be known as a symbol of the people.
His love for the military and country and of course, the sick children he visits for Make A Wish Foundation and his contributions to Susan G. Komen and Breast Cancer Awareness, just some of the examples.
I’m not saying Cena is another Rhodes-like character. The American Dream can never be replaced in the annals or wrestling lore.
But the means by which Cena is defending his title is more of a Rhodes-like move that was used effectively in the 1980s while Rhodes was a booker for Jim Crockett Promotions, the precursor to World Championship Wrestling.
Rhodes is often considered to be one of the most innovative and creative bookers in the history of professional wrestling.
As previously mentioned, his work in the development of "supercards" and gimmick matches did much to enhance the quality of entertainment and move the industry forward, as evident by other major promotions following with their own major cards and gimmicks.
At the same time, however, he and JCP had an "old school" philosophy that did not bode well with the changes that were brought with fast moving media such as cable TV, etc.
The long-standing storylines and the frequent use of the aforementioned "Dusty Finish," techniques that had worked well during the NWA's territorial days, had now started to leave many fans dissatisfied with the promotion's booking.
OK, enough with the Rhodes shrine, back to Cena.
Lessons from history
The thing that connects Rhodes to Cena is The Great American Bash concept. The “Bash” was a series of wrestling events in the NWA/WCW days consisting of large live events where Ric Flair would put up his world title against all talents – some of which may not have had a chance to wrestle for the title.
Cena is doing the same thing, and in the process has made the United States Title arguably the most important title in WWE’s arsenal.
The New Day presented a great parody, but wasn’t enough for the Cena machine.
Now that Cena has faced the likes of Dean Ambrose, Cesaro, Kevin Owens, Cody Rhodes and many other worthy opponents, he continues to weave a path that has made the belt prominent – even more so than the Intercontinental Title that rests on the shoulder of Owens right now.
And until the “Open Challenge” is met with opposition, it is likely the belt and Cena will continue to gain momentum, even if how he designed this challenge wasn’t really his to begin with.