The Cena Situation: Bringing WWE Creative To Heel

(Editor’s Note: This draft is about a year old, and has been up­dat­ed to pub­lish now. If any ref­er­ences seem out­dat­ed then blame the ed­i­tor!)

Let’s start this off with a hy­po­thet­i­cal. Imagine you’re a man­u­fac­tur­er of some­thing which was very suc­cess­ful in 2 dif­fer­ent forms. For 12 years since the ini­tial boom af­ter it had burst onto the scene in its oth­er vari­a­tion, that prod­uct be­came more bland and gener­ic form that was be­gin­ning to wear thin on the con­sumer base. This dis­sat­is­fac­tion had in­ten­si­fied to the point of peo­ple jeer­ing and hiss­ing at the very thought of it. You still try to push the more bland of the two vari­a­tions as the more ex­cit­ing one, de­spite un­wa­ver­ing de­mand for the pre­vi­ous form. Imagine if Coca-Cola had dou­bled down on New Coke.

This bland prod­uct form is the baby face (good guy) ver­sion of Massachusetts na­tive, and hold­er of mul­ti­ple WWE cham­pi­onships, John Cena.

Back in 2004, John Cena was a mag­nif­i­cent­ly spicy heel (bad guy) who (upon turn­ing heel for the first time) ini­tial­ly wore such things as a fuzzy white buck­et hat or a vi­sor, with pump shoes, some­times a lock on a chain, and es­sen­tial­ly looked like Vanilla Ice. This man was known as the Doctor of Thuganomics.

Let me in­tro­duce you to the good Doctor

He would oc­ca­sion­al­ly use the chain he wore as a weapon, when he wasn’t re­duc­ing his ri­vals and lessers to a pile of ash be­cause of how bad­ly he burned them.  

Alas, that is not the John Cena we know to­day.

Since rough­ly 2006, Cena has been the same gener­ic tough guy that fans have been boo­ing in what seems like ex­po­nen­tial­ly grow­ing num­bers. These num­bers have grown to a point where the cur­rent TV crew (*cough* Kevin Dunn *cough*) has to qui­et the au­di­ence mics be­cause Cena is sup­posed to be a face; then again, that could just be a very “tooth­ful” con­spir­a­cy. They can’t have what is half the crowd at times boo­ing one of the biggest stars and mer­chan­dise sell­ers that they’ve seen in years.

Let me clar­i­fy just how fu­tile main­tain­ing Cena’s face sta­tus is.

First off, they’ve done seg­ments over the past few years that would have you be­lieve Cena is ei­ther just a heel or an ass any­way. Prime ex­am­ple is him join­ing The Rock in telling fat jokes to Vicky Guerrero (who­ev­er green­lit that is a nump­ty). Secondly, there are pops when heels — or faces for that mat­ter — hit or diss him.  Usually, peo­ple are only cheer­ing when some­one gets punched if they’re a bad guy — or they are dis­liked in their cur­rent form (see Roman Reigns). The now sad lev­els of ef­fort they’ve made to push Cena as a face have been es­ca­lat­ing for years, de­spite signs pop­ping up that they need to turn the Cena car around and down the heel high­way.

But they con­tin­ue to speed down the ever­more tur­bu­lent Interstate 5 (Knuckle Shuffle).

For those who’ve watched the mod­ern prod­uct cir­ca 2018, you’ll know that peo­ple can still get be­hind a ma­jor trash talk­er, even when that trash talk­er has no sem­blance of ring smarts or ex­pe­ri­ence. One said trash talk­er Enzo Amore was re­cent­ly oust­ed from the com­pa­ny over le­gal trou­bles in ad­di­tion to ex­treme lock­er room ten­sions due to his bad at­ti­tude. If you ask a lot of peo­ple, in­clud­ing the Backlash 2018 crowd – who “wants Enzo” – there is pret­ty heavy de­mand to once again have a trash talk­er. Watching the re­ac­tion to Samoa Joe pro­mos alone can tell you that.

John Cena hasn’t been do­ing much as of late, out­side of get­ting squashed by The Undertaker at Wrestlemania 34. The kick­er here is, Cena got more sol­id cheers when he was pulling dirty tricks, roast­ing peo­ple every week and hit­ting them with a pad­lock and chain than he is these days. If you go back and watch 2004 Cena on Smackdown, you’ll hear more pure cheers for him as a shit talk­er than a goody-goody su­per­man type that is over­all drowned out by boos.

While a case for Cena’s longevi­ty doesn’t need to be made, his en­ter­tain­ment val­ue has shrunk to ba­si­cal­ly no­tice­ably and stal­e­ness now firm­ly rests in its place. In cur­rent times, the cre­ative team have shown they’ve little-to-no is­sue with peo­ple us­ing in­nu­en­do or per­son­al in­sults, which plays right into what The Doctor of Thuganomics is known quite well for. It’s en­tire­ly like­ly the en­ter­tain­ment val­ue of a re­turn to heel­dom for Cena could ar­guably have draw­ing pow­er like nev­er be­fore seen from him in the last decade. This could open the door for ri­val­ries with peo­ple like AJ Styles, Finn Balor, Seth Rollins and Jeff Hardy. This would, in turn, im­prove rat­ings even fur­ther, as they’ve been dwin­dling late­ly as of this writ­ing. This has un­for­tu­nate­ly been the case since just af­ter Wrestlemania 34 seem­ing­ly.

WWE has had to cut the num­ber of pay per views they’re hold­ing the past year, as the last sched­ule of count­less shows with very lit­tle breath­ing room not only meant greater burnout amongst the fans, but a more than slight burn­ing of the company’s prof­its. Writing and book­ing a heel turn for John Cena is the one ma­jor thing that could rein­vig­o­rate fans both old and new.

And guess what we were giv­en at this lat­est Wrestlemania 35? We got our sweet Doctor back, to come and diss Elias. And it worked! They didn’t even have a match and it was still a mem­o­rable Wrestlemania mo­ment.

Which means that ei­ther some­body read my mind, or more like Cena was able to con­vince cre­ative that this would be some­thing fun for the au­di­ence. Knowing Vince‑y boy as we do, I would bet my mon­ey on the lat­er. I can only hope this is some­thing that lasts, and we can see Cena play the rest of his days as a Doctor on TV.

What do you think about a John Cena heel turn? Can you think of any way to pos­si­bly make him more vi­able with­out one?

The fol­low­ing two tabs change con­tent be­low.
Nathan Pulham

Nathan Pulham

A frost­back by birth, English by blood. Pun mag­is­ter and in­ter­me­di­ate shoop­er with a se­ri­ous pas­sion for the wrestling busi­ness and a love of red hot takes.On PlayStation un­der Juicer873 (ref­er­ence to that old rac­ing game Juiced 2: Hot Import Nights. Yes, it was that bloody good.) Uploads his best match­es from WWE video games to YouTube for the shits, gig­gles and pos­ter­i­ty and is found on Steam un­der Slotter Otter. Pun pro­fi­cient pain in the ass painter.Dynasty Warriors Die-Hard — Hack n Slash Heroin Addict
Nathan Pulham

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