One of the most interesting stories to emerge in 2012 was the doubt surrounding John Cena's long-term future in the company.
Cena, who has been a cornerstone of WWE for nearly a decade now, has been plagued with injuries in recent times (notably his elbow, which required surgery in September). It's very likely that the years of hard-hitting matches and an ultra-hectic schedule have taken their toll on him.
He's no spring chicken, either: The star turned 35 last year, raising further questions about just how much longer the company can rely on him.
Whether or not he'll find any ideal candidates on such a depleted roster remains to be seen, of course, but the company is wisely preparing for a future without Cena.
But what about the wrestler's future without WWE?
It's an interesting question: What will Cena—who has let the business consume his life for the past ten years—do when he's no longer a full-time WWE performer?
Of course, the first thing that pops to mind is that he will likely pursue some sort of Hollywood career.
We've seen it before. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is, obviously, the most famous wrestler to get into acting, having assembled a deeply impressive resume full of blockbuster hits like The Scorpion King, Fast Five and The Game Plan.
While they haven't replicated Johnson's astronomical success, names like Kevin Nash, Dave Batista and Steve Austin have also managed to pick up steady acts gigs in Hollywood in their post-wrestling lives. Austin, in particular, has become a notable name in the action-movie genre, even appearing in The Expendables in 2010.
Others have picked up parts here and there: Chris Jericho was in a couple of low-budget horror films and Stacy Keibler appeared in hit comedies like How I Met Your Mother and Blue Mountain State. Thanks to his size, The Big Show has been featured in a few movies—the list goes on.
Of course, the ultra-competitive acting industry is still difficult to succeed in, but it seems to serve as a backup plan for many wrestlers.
For his part, Cena is in a better position than most when it comes to getting into Hollywood.
First of all, he's a well-known name thanks to his WWE exposure. It's not hard to imagine some studio executive deciding to put him as the lead in a kids' movie, thanks to his marketability with the younger demographic.
More importantly, he has an extensive list of credits on his resume, appearing in a wide assortment of television and movie roles. He has more experience in the industry than most realize.
OK, sure. Some would point out that most of his WWE films—Legendary, 12 Rounds, The Reunion—flopped, indicating any potential acting career would fail.
But he did star in the most profitable WWE film to date: 2006's The Marine (which made $15 million dollars and spawned two sequels), meaning he does have some track record as a box office success. (Box-office numbers from WWE's SEC filings via Wrestlechat.)
With this in mind, it may not be that people don't want to see him in a movie—it just depends which movie.
Certainly, putting him in a sappy Lifetime style coming-of-age drama like Legendary was a mistake on the company's part. Come on—did anyone really want to see a film where an emotional Cena attempts to put his fractured family back together? Of course not.
People are far more likely to want to see Cena as a butt-kicking action hero. He certainly has the looks and physique to be the next Steven Seagal or Sylvester Stallone.
Similar to Austin, he would also benefit from working outside the WWE bubble. (After the misstep of WWE Studios’ The Condemned, Austin's acting career didn't truly take off still he started working on his own projects).
Who knows what the right director could get out of Cena?
Of course, that's not to suggest he will be able to make the transition to Hollywood easily.
First of all, for all his terrific promo skills, he's simply not that great an actor. Oh, he's gotten better (his performance in The Reunion was shockingly solid), but he still comes off as wooden and unemotional for the most part.
In wrestling, he emanates charisma and personality. But in movie/TV roles? Not so much.
It's truly puzzling—even Hulk Hogan, an awful actor by any standards, could replicate a modicum of his wrestling charm in movies like Rocky III and No Holds Barred. Maybe Cena simply hasn't learned to be fully comfortable on screen yet, but he lacks that certain something you would want in a leading man.
There's even the question of whether Cena even wants to get into acting full-time. In the buildup to last year's WrestleMania he took a few digs at Rock for leaving the wrestling business and getting into Hollywood full-time. Maybe Cena will always be strongly associated with WWE in some manner or other for the rest of his life, like Mick Foley or Triple H.
Is he really someone like The Rock, who can branch out entirely on his own?
But with his wrestling career winding down, it might be time for Cena to assess his future options in the entertainment industry. There’s certainly the potential for a Hollywood acting career—assuming he wants it, of course.