(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 If any references seem outdated then blame the editor!)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.
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?