The Royal Rumble, one of WWE’s most celebrated events, takes center stage tonight.

The show is expected to draw one of the bigger pay-per-view numbers of the year. The annual 30-man battle royal is always good for a few surprises, and with The Rock returning to the ring in an attempt to dethrone long-standing WWE champion C.M. Punk, the event looks like another successful WWE venture.

But after listening to John Cena’s promo last week on Raw, my interest in a Rock-Cena rematch at this year’s Wrestlemania hit an all-time low.

Those who saw it hopefully know what I mean. And before I continue, allow me to state, as I have on a number of previous occasions, that I think there’s no finer WWE goodwill ambassador than Cena. He’s a tireless company workhorse whose contributions to Make-A-Wish and countless other worthy organizations have been well documented.

But there’s a reason why a performer like Cena, who should be the darling of the WWE Universe, is disliked, if not downright reviled, by a healthy portion of the fan base.

The kind of promo Cena delivered Monday night is a big reason why.

To call it garbage would be an insult to garbage. It was sophomoric tripe that went the extra yard of being insulting to fans in the audience.

Normally there’s nothing wrong with heat-seeking heels taking verbal shots at ringside fans (see Ric Flair’s “Shut up, fat boy!” line), but Cena’s long-winded, nonsensical rant should have never made it out of the locker room.

Cena, who opened by talking about how Sunday is always the day of rest, began the sorry spiel by targeting fans in the crowd.

He pointed out a youngster and joked that kids don’t play outside anymore, they just play video games, and accused the fan of always beating him at online game playing.

The wannabe comic then poked fun at a female about how her life consisted of spending Sunday reliving her girls night out from Saturday, posting pictures on Facebook and listening to Taylor Swift.

He joked with another embarrassed front-row fan about blow-up dolls, bodily fluids and hangovers.

His lame attempt at cheesy, obnoxious, stand-up comedy came at a time when he should have been trying to help hard-sell a major pay-per-view.

Cena got neither a face reaction nor a heel reaction for his efforts. What he did draw was indifference. Awkward, uncomfortable silence.

It was — in a nutshell — bad TV.

Even Sheamus, who mercifully interrupted Cena’s corny jokes and irrelevant taunts, called the promo “bizarre.” From all accounts, the boys backstage didn’t like it either, especially coming after strong showings from Punk and The Rock earlier in the show.

Cena has established a dubious reputation for delivering campy, juvenile promos.

But to think he saved this ridiculous waste of valuable air time for the go-home Raw show, just six days before the Rumble, made absolutely no sense and did nothing to help push tonight’s pay-per-view.

Cena has proven in the past that he is capable of producing serious, money promos. There’s no reason he shouldn’t have used the opportunity Monday night.

By the time he finally did get to the point — about winning the Rumble and getting to main-event Wrestlemania — some viewers surely had either tuned out or muted the volume.

Could anyone really take him seriously after that?

“Unfocused, unfunny, and they are lucky Bama was not kicking around Manti Te’o’s fake dead girlfriend on the other channel,” quipped one fan.

Cena has been the source of constant boos, jeers and cheers for much of the past decade. That certainly doesn’t mean it’s time for the 35-year-old superstar to be put out to pasture, but it could mean a bigger financial upside for the company and some fresh new programs with Cena in the role as a heel.

He markets the product well, has an unquestioned worth ethic, and is popular with the ladies and kids. He’s one of the company’s top commodities and one of the most accommodating individuals in sports entertainment.

But while Cena has remained popular among the majority of children and female fans, the young male demographic — the company’s biggest constituency — has turned on him in droves.

The gimmick and Superman routine have grown stale, and the jokes have gotten lamer.

Most WWE officials say it can’t be done. But it happened with Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin and The Rock. It can happen with Cena.

Monday night’s show was saved somewhat by a pair of vastly superior, and certainly more passionate, efforts from Punk and The Rock. Rock rarely fails to hit his stride, and although Monday night’s promos were far from his best, they shined in comparison to Cena’s. Punk, accompanied by the entertaining Paul Heyman, was solid as usual.

I’m not sure who authored or approved Cena’s unfunny comedy routine Monday night, or how much input Cena had in the process, but there’s a common question among old wrestling types that’s always posed after a debacle like this.

“Who booked this (fill in the blank)?”

— A fan petition has been started to get the late “Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert into the WWE Hall of Fame.

Gilbert, a mainstay in the Memphis area during the ‘80s, was considered one of the most creative bookers in the business. The son of Tennessee fixture Tommy Gilbert and brother of wrestler Doug Gilbert, Eddie worked in WWE at the beginning of his career as well as WCW, ECW, GWF and Puerto Rico. He is credited with mentoring such talent as Sting, Mick Foley, Rick Steiner and Shane Douglas.

Gilbert, whose ring and interview ability more than made up for his 5-9, 200-pound size, was regarded as a rebel who more often than not went against the grain. His talent inside the squared circle was surpassed only by his creative genius in the booking office, and he parlayed those skills into high-level booking positions with WCW in Atlanta, ECW in Philadelphia, the USWA in Memphis and the UWF in Bill Watts’ Mid-South territory.

Gilbert died in Puerto Rico in 1995 at the age of 33 from a heart attack which was thought to have been brought on by a combination of injury to his heart after an accident and excessive use of prescription drugs.

Fans are asked to go to and sign a petition to induct Gilbert into the WWE Hall, and once 2,077 signatures have been collected, it will be presented to WWE officials.

— Sad news to report that Don Arnold, whose lengthy resume included pro wrestler, career educator, administrator, counselor, lecturer, hypnotherapist and professional athlete, passed away Nov. 22 in Hawaii at the age of 90.

Arnold, who defeated the likes of Gorgeous George, Buddy Rogers and Johnny Valentine, spent more than three decades in the wrestling business. But, unlike many of his peers, wrestling was just a small part of who Don Arnold really was.

For several years he was a high school teacher, coach and counselor by day, and a pro wrestler by night. Neither his students nor his employer knew that the popular Arnold was the same man they watched — and hated — on television, hiding behind a hood as the menacing “Dr. Death.”

Arnold retired from the ring at age 61 after competing for 34 years.

— Old School Championship Wrestling returns following its holiday break with a big show Feb. 10 at the Hanahan Rec Center.

Former WWE star Gangrel will team with Dr. Creo in a three-way bout with Legit and current OSCW tag champs Vordell Walker and Callie Casanova. Also featured will be Malachi and John Skyler against Josh Magnum and Pete Kaasa. TNA’s Robbie E is a recent addition to the lineup.

Adult admission is $10 cash at door; kids 12 and under $5.

For more information, visit or call 843-743-4800.

Reach Mike Mooneyham at 843-937-5517 or follow him on Twitter at @ByMikeMooneyham and on Facebook.