Perhaps no WWE topic has been discussed more over the past couple years than a potential John Cena heel turn. Many fans believed that the WWE had the perfect opportunity to make it happen at WrestleMania XXIX, but it ultimately didn't, and that was the correct decision.
Cena earned the redemption that he sought out for an entire year as he defeated The Rock on wrestling's biggest stage and regained the WWE Championship for the first time in over a year and a half. It should have been a feel-good story as he and The Rock embraced in a show of respect after the match, but it turned into an airing of grievances among the Internet crowd.
Even Cena's biggest supporters would probably agree that a heel turn would be extremely interesting. It's something that will almost certainly happen one day, and when it does, it will generate a ton of interest in the product. There is a proper time and place to make it happen, though, and WrestleMania XXIX at MetLife Stadium definitely wasn't it.
For as many reasons as there are in favor of a Cena heel turn, there are equally as many against it. As Cena's theme song puts it, "His time is now," but the time for a heel turn hasn't come quite yet.
No Logical Heir to Cena's Throne
When fans call for something to happen, they usually consider how great of a moment it would be but often fail to understand the repercussions. Cena turning heel on The Rock at WrestleMania XXIX would have easily been one of the most memorable moments in WWE history, but that will remain true whenever it happens, because it would essentially be the equivalent of Hulk Hogan turning.
With that in mind, why should the WWE waste the one bullet it has in its chamber without a proper contingency plan in place? Had the WWE turned Cena, then it would have needed somebody to step up and take the top face spot that he would have vacated. The WWE has some popular faces such as Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio, Randy Orton and Ryback prior to his supposed heel turn on Raw, but none of them can realistically replace Cena.
A Cena heel turn also would have usurped CM Punk in terms of No. 1 heel status, which is something that the same fans who wanted Cena to turn heel probably would have complained about as well. Cena is a one-of-a-kind superstar, but there is bound to be another guy who comes around one day and elicits a similar reaction. Whenever that time comes, that is when the WWE should turn Cena.
Turning him in order to face guys who the fans don't really care about would be a complete waste of a great angle. When Hogan turned in WCW, he had Sting and eventually Goldberg to feud with. No face other than Cena receives Sting or Goldberg pops right now, so it wouldn't have been feasible to turn Cena.
Turning Cena Would Have Harmed Rising Talent
It's easy to see how a Cena heel turn would affect Cena himself, but it's also important to understand how everyone around him would be impacted as well. Essentially every other heel on the roster would cease to exist, as Cena would be the WWE's shiny new toy that it wants to show off. Fans complain about Cena getting shoved down their throats currently, but his exposure certainly wouldn't be lessened by a heel turn.
Also, Cena turning wouldn't have been beneficial to rising talent such as Ryback. Had Cena turned at WrestleMania XXIX or even on Raw the following night in front of the New York and New Jersey fans, he would have been applauded for the most part. That means whoever stepped in to contest him most likely would have been received negatively. Ryback attacked Cena following his match with Mark Henry on Raw and got a thunderous pop, so he is suddenly a hot commodity in the WWE right now.
Ryback isn't going to be cheered everywhere that the WWE goes since he appears to now be heel, but turning in front of that crowd gave him a ton of momentum. Had Ryback been the face to combat a heel Cena, though, he would have been much worse off. Cena would suddenly be the one receiving a favorable reaction, and Ryback would suddenly be in Cena's old spot as the "super hero" whom all the fans hate.
There is no question that Ryback is better off as a heel, or even a tweener, than he would be as Cena's face foil. Had Ryback challenged a heel Cena, the story still would have been that Cena turned heel and Ryback would have been thrown on the back burner. Ryback is the story right now, though, and for everyone who wants the WWE to build up stars other than Cena, this situation should be applauded rather than criticized.
No Monetary Incentive to Make a Change
Although there are fans out there who care about being entertained and nothing else, it's important to remember that the WWE is a business, so Vince McMahon and those in charge are going to make decisions based on capital gain. It's possible that a Cena heel turn could be lucrative, as the "smarks" would presumably grow to like him and begin buying his merchandise, but it could also affect the WWE adversely if the younger crowd turns its back on Cena and stops supporting him.
If nothing else, the WWE knows what it has with Cena as the top face and the company's No. 1 guy. There are people out there who hate him, but there are many more out there who love him and support him by throwing tons of money at the WWE. The WWE has been down in terms of pay-per-view buys and television ratings in recent years, so there was some incentive to make a change, but things have actually improved over the past year.
According to the WWE (h/t WrestlingNewsWorld.com) Elimination Chamber buyrates were up from 178,000 to 210,000 this year, while the Royal Rumble was up from 443,000 to 498,000. Perhaps the rise can be attributed to The Rock and nobody else, but the increase still happened. Most fans knew that Cena was going to win the Rumble, but they ordered the pay-per-view anyway, and that speaks volumes.
Also, according to WWE, the company is on pace to surpass the past two years' first-quarter marks in DVD sales, online merchandise sales and Internet traffic. All of that means more money for the WWE, and it also tells the company that there isn't a need for drastic changes. That probably isn't something that the fans want to hear, but it's a fact of life when it comes to a business. As the old saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
There are plenty of people out there who will argue that the product is broken and that a Cena heel turn is the proper way to repair it, but the numbers suggest otherwise.
Although there is a lot to like about a possible Cena heel turn down the road, the WWE realized that now simply isn't the time, and the company should be complimented rather than ridiculed for understanding that discretion is the better part of valor.