On John Cena as American Beast (or, a Subliminal Message From Vladimir Putin)

Friends, I have discovered a subliminal message on Smackdown this week.

Remember the email Rusev received from Vladimir Putin? I took a look at the Russian for my own nerdy purposes and compared it to Lana’s translation. Her translation of the email was more or less accurate except for one small phrase. And what a phrase it is!

Here is the sentence in Russian:

Как президент великой державы, Матери-России, я с гордостью хочу выразить вам свою благодарность не только за вашу победу в воскресенье над американским зверем, но также за вашу стойкость и силу не склониться перед американской тиранией, когда в понедельник вечером Джон Сина грубым образом потребовал от вас матча-реванша.

Here is Lana’s translation:

From the President of the great land of Mother Russia, I am so proud and grateful for not only for your victory, but also for your fortitude and for your not bowing down to the American tyranny when John Cena crassly demanded a rematch on Monday night RAW.

The missing phrase is “над американским зверем” which means “over the American beast.” So look at Lana’s translation again with the missing phase inserted in bold:

From the President of the great land of Mother Russia, I am so proud and grateful for not only for your victory over the American beast, but also for your fortitude and for your for not bowing down to the American tyranny when John Cena crassly demanded a rematch on Monday night RAW.

As best as I can tell, Vladimir Putin described John Cena as “the American beast” on Smackdown. Consider the foreign policy implications! Who put that in there and why didn’t Lana read it?

Maybe it’s just that Brock Lesnar is “The Beast”, somebody noticed this conflict in calling John Cena an American beast, and there wasn’t time to fix the Russian. But if you set that aside, kayfabe Putin’s words sound more like the kind of incendiary rhetoric to come out of North Korea at a very tense time in U.S./Russia relations. I have to wonder what shoot Putin thinks of being quoted like this on Smackdown. Is he somehow complicit in all this, or is it all satire? That couldn’t have been a real email, could it? Perhaps this is a rare sighting of old school kayfabe, in which reality blurs into fiction and we don’t know which end is up.

If so, I support it, sort of. I recently wrote about the NXT kayfabe renaissance, in which I proposed that this sort of thing breathes new life into WWE’s stagnant product. But this one is touchy, because stoking the flames of low information public opinion against Russia (if this is in fact what WWE’s doing here) is an ugly game. With the global reach of the WWE Network, this message is finding audiences that in fact view Rusev and Lana as the heroic players. These are not the 1980’s, the stakes are much higher for us now, and Lana and Rusev are far more potent characters than Nikolai Volkoff and Boris Zhukov. And we as an audience in the internet age should know better than to chant “USA” at the behest of John Cena. Let’s hope the Rusev storyline continues to walk its interesting tightrope and that we the viewers continue to benefit from its satire rather than letting it sink us in our own useful idiocy.

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