Saturday Night Live welcomed John Cena to Studio 8H to host the long-running late night sketch show this weekend and the WWE Superstar didn’t disappoint. He won praise from critics for his first time at bat, with one describing the wrestler, actor, and reality TV star as SNL’s best host of the year.
Even though Cena hosted an SNL episode where Bryan Cranston reprised his famous role of Walter White from Breaking Bad — the drug lord now lined up to head the Drug Enforcement Administration under President-elect Donald Trump, according to Saturday Night Live — the 15-time WWE world champion walked away with many of the plaudits.
This week’s episode caught a C+ grade from the AV Club, which claimed John Cena had shown “unexpectedly good comedy chops” in his appearances in the movies Trainwreck and Sisters and gave the star props for being game for pretty much anything the writers could throw at him. Cena was down to wear a Fabio wig, have vomit and owl droppings dumped on him, and appeared in the guise of “The Gronk” Rob Gronkowski.
Reviewer Dennis Perkins noted John Cena’s limits as a performer, even though he is a charming and charismatic one, and suggested it was smart that Saturday Night Live kept positing Cena “in the winner/overdog role, a theme that could have been off-putting if not for Cena’s dutiful dedication to amiable goofiness.”
Far more effusive in its praise of John Cena was Indiewire. The publication’s reviewer, Sophy Ziss, noted that casting Cena as host is one of the things Saturday Night Live is doing correct at the minute (the others, for the record, are the show remaining weird and making viral sketches). Ziss argues that Cena is the best host SNL has had this year, in a walk.
She gave Cena props for being funny, exuding natural comedic timing, and being willing to poke fun at himself. Ziss noted that “to see his enthusiasm, and his dedication, was a freakin’ joy” and that the future WWE hall of famer “knocked it out of the park.”
Over at Uproxx, Mike Ryan wrote that Cena is on the verge of becoming a true crossover star as he edges from the wrestling world into the mainstream sphere, much like a prior WrestleMania opponent of his, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson — himself a multiple-time Saturday Night Live host and now perhaps the biggest movie star on the planet.
“If you saw Trainwreck you already know he’s funny and the fact he can host SNL effectively should come as little surprise,” Ryan wrote of John Cena, but added that the show as a whole seemed uninspired, noting that it was rare for Saturday Night Live to have such a long sustained run of episodes without more than a week’s break, with the inevitable creative fatigue perhaps pointing to a reason for the writers lacking any particularly memorable material.
John Cena also won plaudits from Ryan McGee of Rolling Stone, who concurred that he “makes for a natural if overdue appearance as host.” McGee gave Cena due recognition for giving it “his all” throughout the night but again opined that this was one of the poorer episodes of the season.
However, Josh Hill of late night TV news site Last Night On suggested that the episode was the weakest Saturday Night Live has had to offer this season. He wrote that Cena’s “stage presence doesn’t translate to comedy gold” and that the writing of the episode didn’t necessarily work as well as it has through the rest of this season.
Though the writing may have let him down, it seems that Cena performed admirably in his debut appearance as Saturday Night Live host, and should be able to return to WWE with his head held high.
[Featured Image by NBC]