The Main Event:
Rather than provide a basic biographical look at John Cena's life (which was already done in the WWE's John Cena: My Life in 2007), the newly released The John Cena Experience is more of a 'year in the life' style documentary. Given Cena's massive popularity and superstar status both inside and outside of the ring, he's the right candidate for something like this as the man is kept constantly busy not just with his wrestling career but with his different projects and appearances. It's here that the documentary portion of this three disc set spends most of its time.
When the film begins we get a chance to watch Cena as he gives us his thoughts on the U.S. troops serving overseas when he heads off to interact with and entertain some of the soldiers. Acting as a sort of goodwill ambassador to the WWE, this is an interesting start and it's inspiring to see him reaching out like this. From there we tag along as Cena makes various television appearances, some more interesting than others, which is a good way to segue into his thoughts on ESPN, sports in general. Cena's then invited to help out with the Fiesta Bowl, and we get to see him participate in the parade where he runs into mobs of fans.
John Cena has also had a reasonably interesting career in movies, having made a couple for WWE Films so far, so we get a chance to hear him elaborate on that side of his life. From there we touch on his aspiring music career, the pressures of gearing up for Wrestlemania, Cena's love of cars, and his approach to giving back to the country by working with the Make A Wish foundation and trying to be a responsible individual.
If you're not a Cena fan going into this set, it's probably not going to change your mind but if you appreciate his work and his enthusiasm you'll probably find a lot to love about this look into his work. This gives us behind the scenes access into what it's like to do what he does, as we see him preparing for various events and traveling around the country and abroad. Throughout all of this work, and there seems to be an awful lot of it, we get an appreciation for Cena's sense of humor and wit. He's a smarter guy than you might realize if you only know him from in the ring, and here that really manages to come through. You also get the sense that the guy genuinely cares about people, which makes his good guy persona in the WWE all the more tolerable. The guy's fan base absolutely adores him and this documentary does go a long way towards at least partially justifying some of that love.
As stated, again, this isn't specifically a biography of Cena, that's already been covered so those expecting such treatment might be disappointed by this documentary, but the WWE has at least done something different here in their attempts to cash in on all things Cena these days. Say what you will about his nigh-invulnerable presence in the ring and the WWE's writer's tendency to have him swoop in and save the day with almost superhuman abilities, but the guy has got loads of charisma and it's hard not to like him when you see him out there trying to make the world a better place.
That said, it might stand to reason that some WWE fans might be put off of this release from the lack of wrestling or wrestling industry related activities in the documentary. While it's true that the focus tends to be on what Cena does outside the ring, there is still a fair bit of involvement with some of his WWE counterparts and even if it isn't always in the spotlight, the documentary also spends a good chunk giving us some insight into the positives and negatives of having to prepare both mentally and physically for an event as big as the annual Wrestlemania pay-per-view special. So even if the actual wrestling isn't really the primary focus, it's always at least there, even if sometimes only in the background.
-Match #5 in the Best of 5 Series for the United States Championship With John Cena Vs. Booker T From No Mercy On October 3, 2004
-#1 Contenders Match for the WWE Championship At WrestleMania 21 With John Cena Vs. Kurt Angle From No Way Out On February 20, 2005
-Triple Threat Match For The WWE Championship With John Cena Vs. Kurt Angle Vs. Shawn Michaels From Taboo Tuesday On November 1, 2005
-WWE Championship Match With John Cena Vs. Edge From Royal Rumble On January 29, 2006
-John Cena Vs. Edge From Tribute To The Troops On December 25, 2006
-World Tag Team Championship Match With John Cena And Shawn Michaels Vs. Rated RKO From RAW On February 26, 2007
-Falls Count Anywhere Match For The WWE Championship With John Cena Vs. The Great Khali From One Night Stand On June 3, 2007
-WWE Championship Match With John Cena Vs. Bobby Lashley From Great American Bash On July 22, 2007
-WWE Championship Match With John Cena Vs. Randy Orton From SummerSlam On August 26, 2007
- John Cena Returns! From Royal Rumble On January 27, 2008
-WWE Championship Match With John Cena Vs. Triple H From Night of Champions On June 29, 2008
-John Cena Vs. Shawn Michaels From RAW On January 26, 2009
-John Cena Vs. Jack Swagger From RAW On April 13, 2009
-John Cena Vs. Big Show From Judgment Day On May 17, 2009
-Night Of Champions Tournament Semi-Finals Match With John Cena Vs. The Miz From RAW On June 29, 2009
-Triple Threat Match For The WWE Championship With John Cena Vs. Shawn Michaels Vs. Triple H
From Survivor Series On November 22, 2009
As far as the match selection is concerned on these two discs, the WWE probably could have done better, though with that said, at least there isn't any duplication between this set and the My Life set. Some of these matches have been seen on other WWE DVDs, and that's always a big strike against a disc like this and a lot of his 'bigger' and more important matches are nowhere to be seen. The positives? Well, Cena's a dynamic guy, the crowd loves him, and say what you will but he always gives 100% when he's in that ring. As such, even some of the minor matches collected here are at least good entertainment. It's easy to get behind him as he takes on ridiculously egotistic types (even by WWE standards) like Kurt Angle, Shawn Michaels and of course Randy Orton and the Miz and if you're the type to want to root for the 'good guy' in a wrestling match, you'll enjoy the material here. As stated, this set is more for the established Cena-phile than the casual wrestling fan (or any of his detractors) but the documentary is an interesting ones and the two extras match only discs contain quite a few hours of, if not classic wrestling, solid wrestling.
The 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen picture (with some matches windowboxed for a fullframe presentation), though interlaced, looks pretty decent. Some of the earlier matches are on the soft side and aren't quite as clean and colorful looking as the later day content is but this is generally quite a respectable looking presentation. There are times where the lights over the ring make skin tones look a bit off but this isn't a fault of the transfer or the authoring, it's simply the way the material has always looked (this is especially noticeable with some of the older video tape sourced clips that are used). Nothing here really looks worse than when it was broadcast on television, and to some eyes it might even look a little bit better, particularly the more recent matches which were shot in HD.
The same comments apply to the audio on this release - some of the earlier stuff sounds a bit flat, but most of the newer stuff sounds just fine. Everything comes at you by way of a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track and aside from one or two instances where some of the archival clips have a small amount of audible distortion, there aren't any issues worth complaining about here. There are no subtitles or alternate language options provided.
Those looking for the definitive biography of Cena won't find it here but The John Cena Experience does offer a glimpse into the life of one of the WWE's biggest stars from both inside and outside the ring. The bonus matches are decent and the audio and video quality are fine. Recommended for the Cena die-hards, a good rental for anyone with a more casual interest in the man and his work.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.