If you look up polarizing sports figures, one name that you're bound to see pop up is Barry Bonds, the man who is currently Baseball's all time Home Run king, a record that many call the most prestigious record in all of sports.
One of the reasons Bonds is so polarizing is because while some contend that he's the greatest Home run king ever legitimately, there are many others who believe his record isn't valid because they think he cheated by using steroids to enhance his hitting power, thus giving him an unfair advantage...one that the two men he passed Hank Arron and Babe Ruth, did not have when they reigned as HR kings.
Now Babe Ruth was the original home run king, before Bonds and the great Hank Arron took his spot, and is widely regarded as the sport's most important figure, by setting countless records and bringing a new level of popularity and interest to the game.
Now obviously when comparing Pro Wrestlers to legit sports figures, one cannot simply compare professional records, because Pro Wrestling records aren't real, so one can only compare things like impact on the business, box office drawing power, and overall popularity.
One man in Pro Wrestling that is often compared to Babe Ruth is Hulk Hogan, a man who's often been called the Babe Ruth of Wrestling.
The reason for that comparison is that Hogan set many box office records, and brought Pro Wrestling to a whole new level of popularity that had never before been seen in the industry.
It would be hard to argue that Hogan isn't wrestling's Babe Ruth, but who would today's WWE leader, John Cena be compared to in sports, I'd argue that Barry Bonds would be a fitting comparison.
If you looked up polarizing Pro Wrestlers, the first name you would see is definitely John Cena, but why?
I've often wondered why this is, what is it about Cena that some people just can't stand, and why do some love him so much.
As a performer Cena is IMO, is just in the middle of the pack in just about every category.
He's not the best, technician, talker, seller, charisma, or overall worker, but he's far from the worst in all of those categories either.
I think it's the numbers, which is where he is polarizing.
I think his push in the non competitive era in Pro Wrestling is the equivalent to Barry Bonds's alleged use of steroids in the minds of some fans.
See, when Hulk Hogan, set his records and was considered the most popular man in the business he did so in a very competitive era where the WWE had several wrestling territories to compete with and then eventually companies like NWA and WCW.
In fact when every other man that followed Hogan had their shot at being the man of the company they had other major organizations to compete with, everyone except Cena that is.
When Hogan, Austin, Rock, or even Bret Hart, HBK, and Undertaker were on top is was a clear indication that they were the most worthy to lead the company, because the WWE had to put the most popular guys on top in order to compete with the rival organizations, there is no way the WWE would have ever placed a polarizing figure on top as the face of the company when another company was a viable option for fans.
You had to be the most popular man on the roster to be considered THE man, back then.
The WWE creative machine was always searching for the next Hogan to be able to compete with WCW, once Hogan left, but if the push towards certain guys didn't work the way the WWE wanted they would move on to the next possible star.
Guys like Lex Luger, and Kevin Nash were given huge pushes in order to allow them the chance to reach a level of popularity where they could lead the WWE against it's competition, but when fans didn't respond they way they wanted they were moved aside, so the WWE could find people more popular.
This is the advantage Cena has had for 7 years since he's been on top, because even though the fans have never fully supported his main event Hogan type push, he's never had to be pushed aside, because the WWE is in such a position now that they can see a guy who looks they way they want and performs they way want their top star to, and keep him there.
Cena has never really been the most popular man in the WWE, which before him, was the only way to come close to the type of push he's had for even a little while let alone 7 straight years.
The WWE knows there is know alternative Pro Wrestling organization that viewers can go to, with the same level of production quality that they've become accustomed to.
TNA will likely never be able to compete with WWE the way WCW did in the past, so instead of a Coke/Pepsi battle it's more like a Coke/Wall Mart Generic Soda battle.
While it's certainly not Cean's fault that he leads the WWE in a non competitive era, he definitely has an unfair advantage to be on top the way guys like Hogan never had, because no matter how many fans like him or not, the WWE can just continue to push him as the face of the company as long as they want, and the dedicated fans will continue to watch.
Cena's box office numbers could certainly be a sign of his sustained popularity, but it also could be just a sign that WWE's faithful fans will always tune in as long as they keep a certain level of quality programing.
Every single fan who buys a ticket to a WWE show, where Cena is in the main event, could be buying it because of Cena or in spite of him.
Cena's merchandise may sell the most, but how much Cena merchandise is produced in comparison to all of the others, because if there's more Cena stuff out there wouldn't that make a difference in those numbers?
When a guy like CM Punk, is more popular with the live crowd and Cena is hated and jeered by the majority of them, doesn't that make it possible that many of them aren't' actually fans who came to see Cena?
This cannot truly be proven one way or another, much like Barry Bonds has never been fully proven to have used steroids, though there has been much evidence to believe it so.
In the end I believe this is why he is so polarizing.
Some fans find his push and run fun and good for the industry while some view it as illegitimate and completely manufactured by the WWE.
In conclusion, this is why I'd consider John Cena WWE's version of Barry Bonds...because like Bonds, you can't argue with his success, but you can argue the legitimacy of his legacy.