Previously reviewed DVDs and videos:
Jeff Jarrett: King Of The Mountain
WWE Legends Of Wrestling
Twist Of Fate: The Matt & Jeff Hardy Story
Triple H: The King Of Kings
The Triumph and Tragedy of World Class Championship Wrestling
FMW King of the Death Match
JCW Volume 3
King Kong Bundy: The Missing Matches
Before They Were Famous
FMW Ring Of Torture
Andre The Giant
IndieMania (3PW, ROH, UPW, FMW)
Pro Wrestling's Ultimate Insiders: Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara
The Road Warriors
Compilation Tape Extravaganza~!
The Definitive Guide to Mick Foley on DVD
Cheating Death, Stealing Life: The Eddie Guerrero Story
A Guide To ECW On DVD
TNA Best Of The Bloodiest Brawls Vol. 1
The Best Of CM Punk (In Full Impact Pro)
Born To Controversy: The Roddy Piper Story
Brian Pillman: Loose Cannon
The Spectacular Legacy Of The AWA
WWE Unauthorized Hulk Hogan's Unreleased Collectors Series
One of my new year's resolutions (and the only wrestling-related one, in fact) was to go through my massive collection of DVD's and videos so that I can review at least one per month in this space. I'm a little behind on that, given that we're now into February, but there's no time like the present.
I'm kicking off 2010's reviews with John Cena: My Life, a DVD set that was literally sitting on my shelf unwatched for a good six months. I purchased it (along with The Legacy of Stone Cold Steve Austin) in a two-for-one special but never got around to watching them... until now.
How do I feel about John Cena? To begin with, I think he's in a tough position. He's an edgy guy by nature that has to play the stereotypical "good guy" in a time where such behavior is often jeered, and do so in WWE's new PG-friendly era.
And yet... he pulls it off so successfully, and with a ton of class, while remaining a great ambassador/promoter for the wrestling industry. It's hard to not to have tremendous respect for the guy, regardless of how I feel about the gimmick or his in-ring ability.
The documentary portion of My Life is different from most WWE biographies in that Cena isn't actually interviewed for it. Instead, you have comments from John's high school/college friends; his brothers; his father (and former Club WWI guest) John "Johnny Fabulous" Cena Sr., as well as top names including Edge, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Vince McMahon, Mick Foley, John Bradshaw Layfield and Jim Ross.
The first thing that struck me is how HUGE Cena was as a teen bodybuilder. Seriously! You see a little tiny head on top of this massive puffed-up frame and would assume that someone photoshopped the image. While it probably gives more fuel to the "all wrestlers are hopped up on steroids" pundits, I find it amazing that Cena has transformed his physique so much over the years to give him a much more wrestling-friendly look.
After flirting with bodybuilding and college football, Cena moves on to wrestling as The Prototype, a cross between Sting and The Terminator. The gimmick and Cena's energy are well-received in the California-based Ultimate Pro Wrestling, at which point JR recruits Cena for WWE's developmental program and tells McMahon that he's signed a "WrestleMania headliner five years from now". To his credit.... Ross was right.
Once in Ohio Valley Wrestling, Cena worked alongside some fairly important future prospects (Batista and Randy Orton leading that group) and was already head and shoulders above most of the industry in terms of his ability to conduct interviews and talk trash. However, Cena was still -- as no less an authority than Vinnie Mac calls it -- "green" and needed time to ripen.
Cena is next shown debuting on SmackDown during WWE's "ruthless aggression" phase, including his now-famous debut match with Kurt Angle. Still, as a so-called "white meat" babyface and wearing trunks whose color coordinated with whatever sports team's town he was wresting in, Cena needed to freshen up his character.
Sure enough, Cena morphs into his "white rapper" persona and wins over locker-room veterans such as Foley and Tazz (wait.... Foley? Tazz? Angle? Is this a WWE documentary or a TNA one?) because his gimmick was different than anyone else's out there.
Personally, I loved the gimmick and have wished for years that he'd turn heel and revert back to it. Mind you, many of the freestyle interviews he came up with wouldn't fly in today's WWE because of their edgy nature. People joke now about Cena's "dog poop" promos, but around 2003.... well, here are some (reader discretion advised) examples, courtesy of the following website:
So now I wrestle Mr. Ass, the dude who likes to suck it/Torrie's a cover up, bro; we know you take it in the bucket/Hey, I'm not nervous cause you got this weird fetish with butts/I'm scared because your favorite food is sausage and nuts.
Look, here's 20 bucks. Please rip Sable's top off/You see, I got this little fetish with nipples, and I'll definitely get my rocks off.
We just saw Brock Lesnar break Zach Gowen's only good leg/Well, I guess Zach should cut his losses and learn to walk on wooden pegs/It ain't no secret, everyone knew he was gonna get smoked like a joint/Forget his handicap; Zach sucks because he's from Detroit/The only time you people look good is at nighttime during a blackout/This ain't Joe Louis Arena; it's the world's biggest crackhouse/And please don't read between the lines, because I'm giving you the middle finger/Detroit's got more trash than Jerry Springer/The best part about this city is that I'm leaving here tomorrow/You think I suck? Well I know you swallow!
You're the poster child for the birth control pill/You go down quicker than a ho for a five dollar bill/I'm the real Superman; you ain't nothing but Clark Kent/I go for four quarters; you're half time, like 50 Cent.
But I digress....
From there, we go through Cena's face turn, his road to the United States and WWE Titles, his game-changing jump from SmackDown to Monday Night Raw, his music and film careers, and feuds with the likes of Triple H, Edge, JBL, Umaga and others.
The real value to me, however, is the look back at Cena's first two years in WWE. Just reading some of those freestyles, I can't believe he's the same squeaky-clean guy today that's wiping the mat with some of wrestling's biggest villians.
The first disc closes with a look at Cena's classic car collection. I'm certainly not an auto buff or anything, but the featurettes are still kind of interesting, and no one could accuse Cena of not knowing his stuff. If he ever leaves wrestling, he has a great future hosting shows on the Speed Channel.
The second disc contains seven matches, which is definitely on the light side. That said, some of them are rarities for DVD: in particular Cena vs. Randy Orton in Orton's final OVW match, and Cena's first pay-per-view appearance in a decent effort against Chris Jericho. Nothing here is a "must see" to me, but I guess they had to save some footage for the inevitable "Ultimate" John Cena anthology in a few years time. There are also some extra featurettes here, but nothing to write home about.
The third disc is, surprisingly, my absolute favorite. A few years ago, wwe.com featured a web show called Five Questions With The Champ. At the time, I (like many people) avoided anything to do with Cena -- this was during his peak of obnoxiousness/popularity -- but looking back, that was a big mistake. Thankfully, this disc serves as a 'best of' the show.
Five Questions is an unpredictable, off-the-cuff forum for Cena to answer fan letters, and it allows his true personality to shine through. Despite my wariness, some of the material is laugh-out-loud funny.
For example, Cena has an ongoing feud with segment producer Steve "Brooklyn Brawler" Lombardi, in which the Brawler's frowning mug is flashed across the screen every time Cena swears (which is often). And he tears apart silly storylines, then-wwe.com executive Michael Cole, and whatever else he sees fit to. While kayfabe is still obviously there, there are enough "insider" nods and politically incorrect statements where even the most jaded fan will warm up to him.
Once again, it's amazing to me that 2010 Cena wouldn't be allowed to say half the things he says on Five Questions.... and this was just a few years ago.
In summary, this DVD set definitely isn't for everyone. If you're one of those people who swears by ROH and find yourself disgusted every time Cena shows up on Raw.... you probably won't like this. But if you admire the guy's effort, charisma and talent, it's a worthwhile collection to watch (one that you can probably pick up on the cheap these days).
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