As the top dog in WWE, it has long been known that John Cena makes the company a huge amount of money. Now that there is a number to put on his worth, though, it shouldn't make the company rethink a possible heel turn.
ESPN's Michele Steele is reporting that Cena made the WWE a reported $106 million in 2010. While it's impossible to tell precisely what that entails, you would have to think that merchandise sales and pay-per-view sales are at the forefront.
The WWE is a cash cow in its own right, so it's not really a surprise that its top guy was worth that much in 2010. With the crowd reaction becoming increasingly hostile and Kane referencing it in his current feud with Cena, there has been talk of a heel turn. Such numbers could make Vince McMahon think twice, however.
It would be understandable if the WWE wanted to stick with the status quo due to how successful it has been, but I think that would be a big mistake, and it certainly isn't McMahon's style to take the safe route. Perhaps Cena himself wouldn't gross as much as a heel, but I truly believe that the company as a whole would be better off.
I liken Cena, in a lot of ways, to Hulk Hogan in 1996. Hogan was in WCW at the time, and it was already well established that he was the most well-known and iconic wrestler of all time. Despite that, he was beginning to get a frosty reaction from the crowd, as they were growing tired of his act.
While reluctant at first, Hogan agreed to turn heel and join Scott Hall and Kevin Nash in the formation of the nWo. It was a risky move by the WCW, since Hogan was their biggest established star, but the heel turn was a rousing success and it ultimately led to the Golden Age in WCW's history.
I'm not saying that a Cena heel turn would be as successful, but I'm not sure how it could fail. On any given night, roughly half the crowd is clamoring for Cena to turn heel. If he does, then that half of the crowd will be pleased, and if even a fraction of the current Cena supporters remain loyal, then there shouldn't be much of a drop-off in terms of how much money he grosses.
It's fair to say that a Cena heel turn would be the biggest wrestling angle in the past decade or so due to his stature. Naturally, such an angle would increase fan interest greatly, and that would probably help make up for whatever revenue might be lost in merchandise sales.
You also have to consider the fact that whomever a heel Cena feuds with will be launched to new heights as well. My guess is that it would be CM Punk, who happens to be the hottest thing in wrestling right now anyway.
While I feel that television ratings for RAW and SmackDown are a bit overstated, seeing as WWE has no competition, there may be some concern regarding whether Punk can be the go-to guy as far as faces go. If he gets involved in a program with a heel Cena, though, his fan support will be at an all-time high and he may very well develop into the next Cena.
When it comes down to it, the WWE is an entrenched institution that simply isn't going anywhere any time soon. Turning Cena heel is a risk to be certain, but it's a risk worth taking. Cena's current state is likely the stalest thing in the company right now. Turning him will keep things fresh, and the increased interest will almost certainly make up for the change in Cena's image.