There is no duty we so much underrate as... being happy. -Robert Louis Stevenson
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: (We Always Did Feel the Same/We Just Saw It From) A Different Point of View
Re: Official The Rock WWE Championship Discussion
The problem is you can't take a set of circumstances and neatly, completely transplant them to a different period of time.
John Cena's rapper character was able to take off in large part because pop culture had changed significantly from the late '90s to the early '00s. It's no coincidence that the character was formally born in the days leading up to the release of the Eminem-starring 8 Mile. Popular culture had shifted from the mid-to-late-'90s. The conditions for the rise of a marketable man with that gimmick and character were right.
But that doesn't mean Cena could not have risen to the top in the very heart of the Attitude Era. You can't prove a negative, especially when you're talking about someone who--as a midcarder, mind you--was responsible for practically 25% of WWE's merchandise revenue in the year of 2004.
The argument that Cena would be some midcarder in the Attitude Era is a questionable straw man at best. If WWE treated him and contained him within the midcard, well, of course. But if they had given him any shot at all the way they did in 2002-2004, I don't doubt that he would have found the right thing at the right time like he did (and thanks in large part to Stephanie overhearing his rapping, ha).
The problem is you can't take the conditions of say, 1998, and apply them seamlessly to 2002 or vice-versa. It was a different time. Vince knew Austin was not long for the business, and while he didn't fully know how soon Rock would be leaving for good for Hollywood, exactly, he still knew that his role in the company was changing and they were in need of new stars before too long.
Nevertheless, talent that cannot be ignored cannot be ignored. If Kurt Angle could penetrate the main event level against Rock and Austin, I see no reason to believe that John Cena simply could not. Cena didn't have the background or talent skillset Angle brought to the table but all other things being equal, Cena's impact on the industry outshines Angle's. Angle, however, was highly blessed by working top tier main event programs with some of the biggest names in the modern history of wrestling. So, again, you have to take all of these nuances into consideration if you want to attempt to find out how and where Cena would have fit in during the Attitude Era.
Credit to TAR for bringing this .gif to my attention.