John Cena has had the WWE to himself for years.
Sure, there was a time when Batista challenged him for popularity, but the two were kept on separate brands.
Randy Orton and CM Punk also had their shot, but they just couldn't reach Cena's level.
Now, we may be seeing the beginning of an heir to the throne.
Every week, Ryback is getting a louder crowd reaction. More importantly, Vince McMahon seems to be fully invested in him as the company's "next big thing."
In a short time, he seems to have already leaped over Sheamus and Orton in the pecking order. There’s only one more dragon to slay.
That dragon is perennial babyface Cena, the face of the company. With the recent ratings troubles, McMahon may be ready for someone else on top, or at least begin to lay the groundwork for a transition.
With Brian Gewirtz out as head writer, who knows what else McMahon may do to shake up the format? If ratings keep falling, something big will have to happen. Bringing back an Undertaker or The Rock for an appearance is a very short-term fix.
He needs something big.
Luckily, Vince still has one large ace up his sleeve to get people talking.
A Cena heel turn would be something that could drastically revitalize WWE. And with each new fan that Ryback picks up, it comes closer to becoming a reality.
When will John Cena turn heel?
With the brand split over, it’s hard to believe that WWE would keep two huge babyfaces together. They’d have to share the spotlight, and opponents.
Unfortunately for WWE, the heel side of its roster is heavily depleted. No one is going to buy into a Ryback versus Ziggler feud or Cena versus Cody Rhodes. It seems there’s only room for one big match each month.
During the Attitude era, The Rock and Steve Austin both could have easily been the top star at nearly any point in the company’s history. However, they came from the same era.
It was a great problem to have, but the WWF usually decided to keep them on opposite sides.
In the same vein, if Ryback continues to win over the crowd, a Cena turn may become inevitable.
WWE creative could always decide to turn Ryback instead, but that’s not what this is about. This is about building a successor.
Cena is almost 36. In wrestling, that’s usually not old at all.
But the workload that Cena has taken on the last eight years is unsustainable. The matches he’s had, the PR appearances, the charity events. It all adds up. The injuries and stress just keep piling on.
Many fans have claimed that Cena will never turn heel. And it does often feel that way. There have been plenty of opportunities the past few years for him to make an impactful turn.
Will Ryback overtake Cena in popularity?
Don’t give up hope on a Cena heel turn. It’s inevitable. And it may happen sooner than you’d think.
Every top face the WWF/WWE has had over the past 25 years has turned heel after his babyface run on top: Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, The Rock, Andre the Giant, Steve Austin, Randy Savage, Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar all played the bad guy.
Its Cena’s turn next. He's already reached his peak popularity, and he needs something new.
As of now, Ryback is being groomed for the top spot. We’re about to find out if it will work.
At Hell in the Cell, Ryback is taking on CM Punk in the main event. Will WWE have the patience to keep Punk strong, or will it hot-shot a Ryback title reign? At this point, it’s best not to rule anything out.
Whether it's six months from now or six years from now, Cena will have to step aside. Ryback may force it to happen sooner than later.
Ryack's push hasn't been as organic as Cena's was. Vince forced us to like Big Hungry. It seems to be paying off, but he still has a way to go.
Maybe there's no time to wait. How much further can the ratings slip?
Vince may have found someone to cast as the next top star. The biggest question now is whether Ryback will be ready for his close-up.