John Cena is WWE's top babyface and has been for several years. At least, that is what the WWE creative team would like fans to believe.
WWE has previously faced the possibility of a top babyface becoming stagnant.
It happened to Hulk Hogan in 1987 following his victory over Andre the Giant. Rather than featuring Hogan in the main event again the following year, WWE opted to limit him a reduced main event while Randy Savage ascended to the top of the WrestleMania card.
The focus, at that point, was to direct fans' attention to Savage as the company built him up to Hogan's level.
There was an evident fear that the fans may begin to get bored with Hogan if left overexposed for too long without a break. The WWF reacted accordingly in order to extend the life of Hogan's character, and the plan certainly worked.
The company removed Hogan from the main event again following his loss to The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VI for this same reason.
In contrast, John Cena has not held the WWE Championship in nearly a year yet has headlined nearly every pay-per-view event in that time span.
Not only is WWE aware that a sizable portion of its fanbase is tired of Cena's act, but the company is actually banking on this fact. They are consciously pushing Cena down older fans' throats in order to pacify and retain the younger audience.
WWE wants to instill a hatred in older fans' minds. The company has held pro wrestling captive and repurposed it to fit its own needs. This could possibly be the most profound heel action in the history of pro wrestling.
Cena is a heel masquerading under the guise of a babyface. Unsurprisingly, it is WWE that promotes Cena as a babyface, casting itself as an accomplice to John Cena's heel persona.
Let's look at the facts. Every week, John Cena is booed by the majority of adult wrestling fans. Many of these fans lament Cena victories and wish to see him lose.
CM Punk, now portrayed as a heel on WWE programming, is adored and supported by the majority of these fans.
These two facts together, when looking at the all conventions of characterization in pro wrestling, would suggest that Punk plays the face to Cena's heel.
Ultimately, the fans distinguish heel from face, regardless of what WWE says. The distinction lies in he eye of the beholder; children likely see Cena as a face because they are told that he is, while older fans are able to think more independently.
What if, beneath all the propaganda and influence the WWE spits at viewers, the real heel is he company itself? What if, the WWE marketing machine is meant to play a heel for the older portion of the audience that is loyal to pro wrestling as an art form first and to WWE as a company second?
Case in point: older, diehard wrestling fans love Bryan Danielson for his stellar work in other promotions. They chant "yes" at him as a sign of support, despite WWE's insistence that he is being mocked.
Daniel Bryan, as a character, is simply Bryan Danielson being held hostage and forced to play a novelty act by the evil WWE empire, outside of which pro wrestling does not exist.
Was CM Punk's attack on Jerry Lawler a terrorist act or a liberating action? It all depends on how the viewer perceives the WWE Universe. Is Lawler truly meant to be a babyface or is he really the "Minister of Propaganda" for an evil, brainwashing company as CM Punk has suggested?
Will either Cena or WWE itself ever be revealed as true heels? Only time will tell. Until then, there exists a certain wonder in the subtlety of it all.
As fans, we may think we know better, but what if we are actually behind the curve? WWE was not born yesterday, nor is it going away anytime soon.
Thank you for reading.