John Cena was reportedly injured in a match against Ryback during the latter stages of WWE's European tour. The report came from WWE.com, so it may be more of a marketing tool than a legitimate injury. But regardless if art is imitating life or not, the WWE is once again being reminded that its aging horse is slowing down.
It's a plague of the never-ending grind that most severely affects top stars tasked with being everywhere men. As a result, their bodies break down, and the WWE's transition to its next workhorse is almost always tricky.
It was an awkward transition from Bruno to Backlund. A near-fatal transition from Hogan to (eventually) Austin. And with John Cena's heir apparent still MIA, the WWE's dark ages of the mid-90s could be back to eat into its business.
Say, for the sake of discussion, John Cena's injury is real. Then what? Ryback is a clunky heel who is not in a position to be the WWE's flag bearer. A subsequent face turn would be panicky and contrived, likely backfiring.
Former WWE champions and current babyfaces Sheamus and The Miz are telling examples of WWE's half-hearted strategy in promoting good guys. Both were given chances to carry the WWE Championship. Unfortunately, the WWE went out of its way to present them as wrestlers who were not in Cena's league.
Sheamus had Brock Lesnar-like qualities. Big. Bad. Snarling. A red-headed Irish nightmare perfectly equipped to maim.
If John Cena's injury is legitimate, is the WWE screwed?
Sheamus, too, would fall into an inexplicable slump after dropping the WWE Championship. He is now a lukewarm babyface, at best.
Miz beat Cena at WrestleMania XXVII but as the third-biggest star in a two-person main event. It took smoke, mirrors, The Rock and a computer to make that happen. By the time WWE signed off from Raw the next night, Cena-Rock was positioned as the top program. The WWE Championship and its champion were rendered secondary.
Following an extended post-championship fall from grace similar to Sheamus', any heat Miz now has as a relatively new babyface is only pity.
The WWE is left with a wasteland that will be looked to carry its business sooner or later. It would be fitting if John Cena really did suffer the injury he did. Booking babyfaces has certainly become the WWE's Achilles heel.