WWE: Is John Cena's Run on Top Nearing the End?

Andy SoucekFeatured ColumnistOctober 3, 2012

photo from wwe.com
photo from wwe.com

John Cena has been WWE's main attraction for seven years and counting.

How much longer can it go?

Guys like Steve Austin, the Rock, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels and Triple H all ran the show for a couple years each.

Only one other wrestler has had the longevity on top that Cena has.

For the better part of nine years, Hulk Hogan was the face of the WWF.

But nothing lasts forever in the WWE, just ask Hogan. We may be seeing history start to repeat itself.

The past two episodes of Raw, WWE made a statement with Ryback.

He’s the next in line.

It's not CM Punk, Daniel Bryan or even Sheamus. It looks like the company's future belongs to Ryback.

He got the show-closing staredown with Punk, he was the one who saved Jim Ross. Sheamus instead gets a throwaway Main Event match against Punk for their first meeting.

It's clear who McMahon wants to take over.

The potential dynamic between Ryback and John Cena recalls back to Hogan's run in the '80s.

At the time, Hogan was the top draw, he was the headliner of every major show. But he mainly appealed to children. He was also unstoppable in the ring, and never lost cleanly.

Sound familiar?

From 1984 to 1990, Hogan was the biggest name in town. Sure, Randy Savage had a long run with the belt (like CM Punk did as a face), but we all knew who's show it really was.

After a few years, a lot of fans grew tired of the same old, same old. Those Hulkamaniacs grew up and wanted something new. Sure, Hogan was still big, but the WWF needed to groom a successor.

They chose the Ultimate Warrior to take on that role.

Warrior's character parallels Ryback's pretty closely. They both were chosen for their looks, they both rely on short matches and both enjoyed a lengthy undefeated streak

With Warrior, the company finally felt they had someone who could take over. With Hogan wanting time off, and dabbling in Hollywood, it was necessary to move someone into that coveted role.

We may be seeing history repeat itself, Ryback may be groomed to overtake Cena as the top babyface.

And it may happen sooner rather than later.

John Cena is 35. His body is beat up. He also makes countless promotional and charity visits year round.

The WWE lifestyle will wear every one down, no one can keep up with it forever. The travel and the injuries begin to add up and the piles of money have already been made. Suddenly taking time off starts to seem like a good idea.

Make no mistake, Cena will probably be around another five to 10 years. But his gimmick isn’t going to age well. A man at 35 looks ridiculous in jorts. At 42 it’ll look downright embarrassing.

Ryback is five years younger than Cena, and has nowhere near the mileage on his body. He could be a big star for the next decade if he keeps healthy.

The times have changed from when Hogan was on top. He may have lasted longer than Cena as the main star, but he wasn't nearly as overexposed as Cena either.

Hogan didn’t appear on TV every week and wrestle. He only had four pay-per-views a year to attend. Seeing him at all was a big deal, and it was the exception, not the norm. 

Due to WWE's current television structure, Cena has basically burned through all of his heel opponents multiple times.

The biggest matches left for him is another go around with Sheamus (this time as a face), and Ryback.

It’s doubtful that the company is going to rush into either one of those feuds, so it looks like we'll be in rerun mode if he takes the title again.

But if Ryback is going to be WWE's choice as a successor, they would be wise to remember how the story ended.

Warrior flopped as the top star.

Fans didn't latch onto him like they did Hogan. In longer matches, he was exposed as a terrible worker. He made Hulk Hogan look like Ric Flair.

His promos were also just too strange and nonsensical for mass appeal

The WWF was left with no choice. Hogan eventually returned and reclaimed his spot.

By that time, McMahon had created a monster. When the time came for Hogan to truly step aside, and hand the keys to the company over to Bret Hart, he refused.

When a company relies on one guy so heavily, (Austin, HBK, Hogan) bad things can happen when things don't go their way.

If it is time for Cena to start stepping aside, will he do it gracefully? Will he pass the torch, or will he take his ball and go home?

We may begin to find out.

Ryback looks to be the company's future, we should start getting ready to feed him more, whether we want to or not.