Thus Spoke Kevin Owens and John Cena (6/1/2015)

Wow, things are fairly groundbreaking, even game-changing, in the feud raging between Kevin Owens and John Cena. This stuff gives me chills! I am working on an editorial about the Cena/Owens duality for Tim Kail to read on his Work of Wrestling podcast, but I need to transcribe these promos to work from so I’m sharing them here.

Notice how literary these words are when you see them in print. Kevin Owens speaks in precise, short sentences and phrases, chooses simpler language to underscore his position as the working class parent wrestler: a regular guy, nothing flashy, playing the heel only because it pays the bills when in fact he is a devoted family man. He is an antihero for the common man, and yet there is rhetorical complexity in the structure of his monologue, and his delivery was authentic and honest. And in his minimalist language on Monday Night Raw, he swiftly and utterly deconstructed the Cena character that WWE has spent a decade milking for all he’s worth. The company allowed, perhaps even encouraged Kevin Owens to lay bare the materialistic commercialism of one of the company’s top sources of revenue, then declared himself as the rightful heir to Cena’s position as the company’s premier role model. This is what I mean by game-changing.

When you read Cena’s promo, you’ll notice his rhetoric is not nearly as clean and organized as KO’s. He’s all over the map, he’s not careful with his grammar and word choice, but his passion powerfully elevates his truths. This highlights an interesting contrast between a skilled, scripted delivery by a guy who recently had a crash course in how to work a camera and the speech of a master orator in which the main ideas are planned but most of the words and gestures are spontaneous. Cena did something incredible here — he cut a promo that made him sound like either an epic hero or a bitter asshole, depending on your point of view. He was in fact both: he mounted a strong defense of his catch phrases, even made the case that Owens himself exemplifies the “Never Give Up” idea, and yet he called the devoted father of one of his biggest fans a jackass and half a man (not very big-R Respectful to say such a thing about somebody’s dad on live TV). He avoided such uncomfortable truths as the vast wealth he’s gained from all the merch designed for planned obsolescence and his sponsoring of sugary cereals that are in fact contraindicated for a healthy childhood. Instead he played the Kid With Cancer card, which admittedly is a tough one to trump. Even as he scrambled desperately to regain the moral high ground, Cena made a strong argument about his legitimacy.

So for those who must outsource their heroism to a corporate character, John Cena remains the dependable live action superhero who never gives up. But for those of us who model for our kids by setting real life examples and teach them to critically think before falling prey to manipulative marketing strategies, there is finally a champion in Kevin Owens.

Anyway, here are both of these memorable promos:

Kevin Owens:

When I say I’m going to do something, I deliver. When I got to NXT, and I said I was going to win the NXT title, I delivered. When I said I was going to take out Sami Zayn, I delivered. And when I said I was going to leave John Cena laying in the middle of the ring at Elimination Chamber, I DELIVERED.

Now, last night was the biggest win of my career by far, so I should be on top of the world tonight, but the fact is, I’m not. Because the first thing I did after the match was call home, and I spoke to my wife, and she told me how happy and proud of me she was, and that meant the world to me. Then, uh, I spoke to my son, who, uh, like pretty much every other kid who watches WWE, is a huge John Cena fan. He’s a kid, he’s a kid. And, uh, when he talked, all he could say was, Daddy, how’s John, is he okay, is John Cena alright? And you know, I get it, because he’s been watching Cena for years, but just because I understand, doesn’t mean I think it’s okay. See, because it’s not his fault, it’s not my boy’s fault, because what it is, is blind worship, spurred on by that fact that for the last decasde, John Cena has been portrayed as a living, breathing, real life superhero. Think about it, think about it, the bright colors, the powerful catch phrases, “Hustle Loyalty Respect”, “Never Give Up!”

You know what, while I traveled the world for over ten years honing my craft, in hopes of one day making it to WWE, my son was being influenced by John Cena. That’s when John Cena became the hero to my son that I never got the chance to be! Because I wasn’t featured on WWE television every week! That’s when John Cena became Super Cena. Yeah? Well last night, I beat Super Cena! So tonight, as I stand before you, those ridiculous words, “Hustle Loyalty Respect” and “Never Give Up”, are being uttered by a broken, empty shell of a man. And in two weeks at Money In The Bank when I beat him again, I am going to expose the lie that is John Cena. And you know what? I’m going to make sure my son watches every single second. And if you’re a parent, and you’ve got a little kid out there begging you for a John Cena shirt, or a John Cena-themed birthday party, take my advice, sit them down and make sure they watch it too. Because I’m going to show them that a real role model doesn’t rely on marketing, catch phrases, and bright colors! A real role model says they’re going to do something and then they deliver, just like I do.

John Cena:

Man, Kevin Owens is a jackass. Shut your mouth, just stop talking! I mean hell, I know it was your first match, but act like you been there before. SHUT UP! Because after last night the entire world is talking about Elimination Chamber. After last night the entire world is throwing out hashtags like #DebutoftheDecade, #MatchoftheDecade, #FightOwensFight. The entire world is talking about Kevin Owens!

And for those at home that can’t understand that, they  are saying the truth, because last night, in what could be called the most unbelievable debut in WWE history, not only did you take me to the limit, but you WON.  I got beat. Ever since I had this [belt], I’ve said there was going to be a superstar to one day walk down that ramp, accept my challenge, beat me, and be the better man. And until you opened your trap five minutes ago, I was going to walk down here with my chin up, shake your hand, and hand you this because you deserve it.

But I agree with them. You don’t deserve this. Hell, you don’t even deserve the NXT championship. Oh, no no no, you did win it, it’s not because your not a good wrestler, Kevin Owens is a great wrestler, it’s because you’re so concerned with being a real role model when you are not yet even a real man. You see, Kevin, a real man throws jealousy aside, a real man doesn’t judge another man on the color of their t-shirt, their physical appearance, or how they choose to live their life. Do you want to know why your son feels the way he feels. According to you, it is the WWE marketing machine! If that were the case, your son would have an Adam Rose t-shirt, he would still love the Funkasaurus, and wanna grow up to play in the XFL. Your son feels the way he feels, because like the person holding that sign right there, or the young man in the second row on his father’s shoulder, or the young person right there with a “You Can’t See Me” hat and a sign that says “I Am Beating Cancer”! They feel the way they feel because they believe! And they believe because they see me each and every week on this stage deliver! And those corporate slogans and catch phrases you talk about, they weren’t puked up by a bunch of suits in a boardroom table. For over ten years they’ve defined who I am and how I choose to live my life, both in this ring and outside of it.

And I take nothing away from what you have done, but over the past decade it is blatantly obvious that my undying passion is both the WWE and most importantly the people that fill the seats every single week! It’s so obvious that whether you’re six or sixty-nine, whether I win or whether I lose, whether you chant “Let’s Go Cena” or “Cena Sucks”, if I say, or if I wear the words “Never Give Up”, not only am I telling the truth, but I am encouraging young and old all alike like that person right there to do the exact same thing! [pointing to the kid with the “I’m Beating Cancer” sign]  And by the way, you keep fighting and never give up, you understand that? And that’s from me.

Three words. You would be amazed, Mr. Owens, at how those three words can affect people’s lives. It would be like working day in and day out for a decade, trying for an opportunity, being told time after time, “you’re never gonna make it.” but still scratching and clawing and finally the day comes when opportunity knocks and you don’t just answer the door, you kick it down, you raise your hand and say “the champ is here!” And that is exactly what happened to you last night, Kevin Owens. Do you see, the three words that define the life journey of Kevin Owens are not “Fight Owens Fight”. And this one is going to be a tough pill to swallow, homes — because the three words that define Kevin Owens are “Never Give Up”.

A bit of advice, man to almost man: think before you speak. Because you just said you deliver on every promise but in two weeks at Money In The Bank, you are going to have to explain how a really good wrestler couldn’t deliver on his promise because he got his ass kicked by a real man!

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  1. June 4, 2015

    The general angle of this feud reminds me a lot of the Wyatt/Cena feud of last year, where a scruffy fat badass declares he will expose Cena as a liar by beating him in a wrestling match. Hopefully this won’t end as flatly and generically as the last one (now I’m thinking of Owens/Wyatt vs Cena/Zayn tag matches, damn my imagination).

    I’d pick this apart more because Wyatt/Cena was the shit and I’m really enjoying Cena/Owens thus far, but it’s getting late and my day is ridiculously busy tomorrow.

    • June 4, 2015

      Addendums: I think it’s possible for Cena to defend himself against his commercialization by saying something like he considers it a necessary price to pay for expanding his reach and being able to inspire and influence more people.

      I’m still not buying KO as a family man, though. There’s no doubt that he strives to take care of his family, but I get the feeling that he’s bringing it up so much so it can divert attention away from his anger and sadism. I am glad that it’s undefined and up to interpretation, though, as it’s uncharacteristically subtle for WWE programming. It’d also be nice if Cena challenged Owens on this point, bringing up counterexamples like Roman Reigns and Titus O’Neil as men who provide for their family without resorting to excessive brutality (and I’d be interested to hear Owen’s response).

      • June 6, 2015

        I absolutely LOVED the Wyatt/Cena feud. It was better than this one (though I’m personally more markish on Owens than Wyatt). I wrote a bunch about it, but then Wyatt took such a nosedive I got all sad and jaded about the whole affair. There’s a post I think called “On Bray Wyatt” back in the archives that I’m pretty proud of, and if you poke around in the time frame near it you might find the Wyatt/Cena feud. If you go back and read those posts, I was just coming back to wrestling after, like, an 8 year hiatus (got married, no cable, moved to Alaska, had kids, just lost track of it) so I was a little fuzzy on the nature of the whole Cena problem, But yes, I agree, so good. I actually kind of liked Cena in that feud and still do sometimes, but I’m just so ready for the Kid Rock winds of change to bring in the NXT generation.

        You make an interesting point about comparing Owens with somebody like Reigns or Titus O’Neill. Or even Paul Heyman or Brock Lesnar. I would be impressed to see Cena mount a real defense here, and then see how Owens responds. But as you know I’m bullish on Owens’ brutality — I see it as an honest, rather old school depiction of wrestling as it really is. And I hear the idea that he’s using his family as an excuse, except that he is a for real family man outside the ring, so what he’s really doing here is complicated, unclear. I love the way he and Sami Zayn, who are most likely fine with each other, have been working under old school kayfabe principals, in which the line between real and work has become really fuzzy. And now Cena’s doing this too, I think, because he and his character are somewhat interchangeable, and now he’s having to defend his legacy and the effect he has had on real life children. It’s all good stuff and I look forward to seeing how it will all play out…

      • June 7, 2015

        I agree that this would be much more interesting if Cethe main thing Cena needs to do is point out that Little Owens admires Cena not because of authentic manliness or the WWE Marketing Machine, but because he stands for and believes in something. Contrast this with Owens, who is essentially one of those postmodern nihilists who thinks the fact that the world isn’t all sunshine and roses is an acceptable excuse for leaving your ethics at the door.

        I totally agree about the blending of reality and kayfabe leading better angles, though. There’s a reason Dusty Rhodes’ Hard Times is a classic (even though it’s rather condescending and stupid if you think about it too hard), and it’s the same reason the Pipebomb won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

        I was in a similar position about Wyatt too, actually. I had occasionally dabbled in wrestling before (mainly caring for Rey Mysterio and a couple others), but when I really started getting interested in it this past February one of the first matches I was linked to on Reddit was the Wyatts/Shield match at Elimination Chamber, and I simply had to know more about this Wyatt guy.

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