John Cena has reacted to criticism of the WWE product after Stone Cold Steve Austin’s Attitude Era, and on if he agrees with The Undertaker calling the new WWE generation soft. Cena also reacted to some fans saying he, Brock Lesnar, Batista, and Randy Orton ruined WWE with Ruthless Aggression.
Cena told Forbes, “I guess I’ve viewed the WWE as a product outside of myself for a long time. I guess that’s why I was so interested in the business side of it from very early on in my career. In that, I’ve seen it evolve, but I’ve also been called ‘everything that’s ruined sports entertainment.’ I could look at the economics of it and make an argument that between myself—and the large amount of folks that carried on the roster beyond the Attitude Era into the Ruthless Aggression Era and the Reality Era—the fans of the Attitude Era certainly looked at our product as not what they’re used to, and it wasn’t. So I may have a bit of disagreement with Undertaker’s word choice because I don’t think it’s soft, I think it’s different.”
He added, “I think it’s bold, it’s forcing people to take chances. Forbes did an article on me back in 2020 where I had said that I don’t believe that WWE will ever have a marquee star. And here we are, less than a year later, and I can blatantly say I was wrong. You wanna talk about being too close to the product? I was just too close. Having seen it, having lived it myself, I should have just realized that the company is in transition. It takes a long time—I would say it’s three-and-a-half years or more—to build a certain talent because I’ve walked in those shoes.”
Mike Bennett said on The Wrestling With Awareness Podcast, “You know, so first and foremost, I have the utmost respect for Undertaker. I always have and he was one of my favorites growing up. He was nothing but kind to me anytime I interacted. I didn’t interact with him a lot at WWE, but every time I did, he was great. My issue is, his problems seem to come at the talent and say that it was their fault that the product is soft. I can promise you that the talent has zero input on the product that gets put out. They get told what to do, if they go off script they get yelled at, or they get punished. It’s not the talent.
“The talent has always been ready and willing to do whatever is asked of them and most of the talent have had far more success on the independents, doing what they normally do, than when they get to WWE and they get watered down. They get told to do this, and do that, and do this. I do, I understand where Undertaker’s coming from. It’s just, from what I see it as, it’s just a generation gap. It’s a difference. We as the professional wrestlers of my generation, we look out for each other. We have each other’s backs. We understand when the company’s trying to screw us or not screw us or this and that, and I don’t think the guys are soft.”
“And I don’t think the guys are soft and… like my wife is very close with Michelle McCool and having that interaction there, I don’t think Undertaker was trying to be disrespectful. I think it’s just a generational thing. I think it’s his mindset of, ‘Well, this is the way we did it. They’re not doing it this way so it must be wrong’ as opposed to someone like Mick Foley, who’s adapting and understanding the way professional wrestling is evolving. Or someone like Edge, who’s helped out so many of the younger guys and understands where wrestling is evolving. So, I don’t think it was a disrespect thing from Undertaker, I just think it was a generational gap and not understanding this generation of professional wrestlers.”