The writing on the wall pertaining to the slow erosion of John Cena's in-ring career is scribbled quite blatantly.
Cena recently turned 36, has been battling a laundry list of nagging injuries for a while now and is in the early stages of recovering from a serious procedure on his elbow as he looks at a one-month timetable to return to the ring following surgery by world-renowned orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. James Andrews.
Reports have already begun to surface questioning just how much longer Cena will be the WWE's lead workhorse, as has been the case over the past decade.
During an interview with MLW Radio, former WWE writer Court Bauer heavily suggested that Cena's in-ring days may be numbered when he submitted:
The reality of it is, John Cena is coming off a divorce, he’s beaten up. He’s got a bad neck, a bad hip, bad everything. He’s closing in on 36. The wear and tear of a guy like that, that goes, goes, goes and is a company man, you gotta think about.
And if you’re Vince McMahon, you look at the clock, you look at the calendar and you think, is it time to build the next John Cena?
Not only are these concerns valid, but they should resonate with wrestling fans more coming from somebody who spent a considerable amount of time inside the oft-mecurial WWE bubble. John Cena is often compared to Superman given his durability amidst an admirable 24-hour work ethic; however, even Cena has not been without his share of major injuries.
In October of 2007, the WWE involuntarily received a cruel glimpse into their Cena-less future when Cena tore his pectoral muscle and was forced out of competition for what was thought to be six to eight months.
After returning prematurely in 2008, Cena would go on to suffer a neck injury that summer following a blockbuster match against Batista at SummerSlam.
The pair of major injuries in such close proximity was an alarming reminder that John Cena was not going to be around forever, and Cena's current ailments should force the WWE to take a hard look at their roster and commit to the next John Cena.
The front-runner for this position seems to be Ryback, currently riding a 30-plus-match win streak with no signs of slowing. Ryback was even featured in a show-closing staredown with WWE Champion CM Punk this past week on RAW, so you know the WWE is serious about their budding demolition man.
Ryback may be a bit too old for the WWE to fully commit to when it comes to being their future star, as WrestleZone reported that officials may find it in their best interest to go younger, which may end up being the better common-sense choice.
The WWE should be considered as being at a crossroads with John Cena, as they will still look to feature him while grooming their next top star. Cena will surely be at the top of the card come WrestleMania 29, but the story to watch for next year's historic 30th WrestleMania may be an imminent changing of the guard.
Watch Big Nasty and Justin LaBar debate what Mick Foley's role in the upcoming Hell in a Cell match should be!