John Cena is WWE's biggest full-time star, but his goody two-shoes, grinning good guy act has gotten increasingly irritating.
He doesn't need to turn heel, but his character needs some kind of boost to break out of its state of sterility.
Cena has long been a polarizing performer. He's been fantastically popular among his fans but he also gets booed and suffers "Cena sucks" chants. It's been primarily his boy scout-like character that has gotten him those negative responses.
It's not as if Cena can't deliver in the ring.
He's had a five-star match with CM Punk, a classic on Raw with Shawn Michaels and a tremendous Last Man Standing match with Umaga.
These kinds of performances aren't going to matter if Cena doesn't tone down his goofy, straight-laced persona.
Cena's promo before the Royal Rumble is a prime example of the cloying nature of his current character. His meandering performance was reportedly so bad (via Cageside Seats) that his peers were upset with him.
Apparently, rambling on about Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 doesn't make fans want to watch the Royal Rumble.
In a segment with John Laurinaitis last year, Cena likely made some folks laugh. It's hard, though, to buy this guy as a legitimate fighter.
Cena evokes Jim Carrey here with the kind of jokes that may cause fans' eyes to roll.
Besides this juvenile sense of humor, the trouble with Cena's character is that it's just too one-dimensional. He offers no complexity, no weakness, nothing to latch onto.
The greatest heroes often have psychological warts.
Tony Stark is a braggart with no social skills. Bruce Wayne is a shut-in with deep-seated mental issues. Sherlock Holmes is an eccentric with no talent for social interaction.
Seeing a hero struggle with his flaws helps the audience to connect with him, to be pulled in by his journey.
This is what Cena is lacking.
Where are his flaws? Where are his issues?
WWE appeared to be headed in an interesting direction with Cena's 2012 feud with Kane. Kane sought to dredge up Cena's dark side, to have him "embrace the hate."
This was exactly the kind of path that could lead to a more complex version of Cena. Watching him battle with conflicting feelings, seeing him unsure of himself and heading down a path of self-discovery would be excellent entertainment.
Cena returned to where he was before, the infallible hero with a taste for immature humor.
A good guy in real life and a big contributor to the Make-A-Wish foundation, it would be hard to buy Cena as dastardly.
He doesn't need to turn heel, though. He doesn't need to be the anti-hero that Steve Austin or CM Punk was either, but he does need depth.
Give him inner conflict. Give him flaws he must overcome, and perhaps even the loudest Cena booer may be intrigued.
Cena is a big asset for WWE.
He sells T-shirts. He draws in the casual fan. He is popular with kids and the troops.
That can all continue with a slightly edgier Cena.
There has to be a way to extend his character to entertain everyone else. There has to be a way to have him evolve into a cooler persona.
A good screenwriter writes a kid's film that pleases both the kiddos as well as the parents. WWE needs to tap into that skill.
Cena needs a gimmick adjustment in a bad way. There's a more interesting persona hiding under Cena's grin and WWE must find a way to draw it out.