Switching Gears: John Cena, Stone Cold and the Complexities of a WWE Heel Turn

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Switching Gears: John Cena, Stone Cold and the Complexities of a WWE Heel Turn
(image: wwe.com)

In a 2011 interview with online video gaming website IGN, Stone Cold Steve Austin spoke candidly about his 15+ year career inside the squared circle.

Austin, a former six-time world champion and a WWE Hall of Fame inductee, spoke at lengths about several subjects, including his admiration for the likes of Ricky Morton and Bobby Eaton, his early wrestling days in Texas and the overall demise of the American territorial system.

Interestingly, when questioned on his preferred role of playing a hero or a villain, Austin, one of the most beloved babyfaces in the history of modern professional wrestling, pronounced “Shoot, man, I loved being a damn heel…”


Revolving Door

Pioneered by the “Gold Dust Trio” of Toots Mondt, Billy Sandow and Ed ‘Strangler’ Lewis in the early 1920s and gaining momentum with the success of Gorgeous George in the 1950s, the roles of babyface and heel, as well as the transformation of a performer from face to heel and vice versa, has been at the core of the professional wrestling business for the majority of its existence.

By tying into the traditional rules of suspending fans’ belief to such an extent that the actions of the performers inside the ring became almost real, successful “good guys” such as Bruno Sammartino and Hulk Hogan became the heroes of the product, drawing incredible amounts of revenue in big-money matches with the likes of ‘Superstar’ Billy Graham and Sgt. Slaughter, heels that were so abhorred that they often needed security escorts to and from the ring.

A heel vs. face match is the most basic blueprint in pro wrestling, and by virtue of its simplicity, the most effective. The spine of all cards in every promotion around the world, the two characters use their respective roles to intertwine, working together to reach the ultimate goal of putting the babyface over (even if it takes a rematch or series of matches).

Lance Storm, former ECW, WCW and WWE star, concisely outlined this basic theory over at StormWrestling.com, the website for his highly regarded wrestling academy: “The babyface is the person people like, or associate with and want to be like, the heel is the person who challenges the babyface and fans want to see lose in the end.”

For years, the clear-cut heel vs. face concept had been a tried and tested formula that guaranteed interest in a feud and, ultimately, created roles in which performers (and promoters) could repeatedly make vast amounts of money.

Notable names such as the aforementioned Sammartino spent their entire careers almost exclusively squaring off in highly successful matches against the latest high-profile heels to come to their promotion, whilst performers such as Stan Hansen acted as the foils that the faces could overcome.

And then came the “turn.” A simple booking trick in which a face or heel turns on a friend, tag partner or occasionally their fans, cornerstones of pro-wrestling history such as Andre the Giant’s betrayal of his friend Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels’ Barber Shop superkick to long-time tag partner Marty Jannetty and Owen Hart’s attack on his brother Bret have all come courtesy of an impeccably timed and expertly performed character shift to a different direction.

The break-up of The Rockers was the start of Shawn Michaels' excellent run as a narcissist heel (image: wwe.com)

By the late 1990’s, however, the expansion of the WWF and WCW products created a seismic shift in the heel/face landscape. With an emphasis on television ratings now firmly in place, character switches became more frequent as they, by and large, guaranteed a healthy viewership for the next TV broadcast, as fans would tune in desperate to witness the fallout of the previous show’s events.

Eventually, pro wrestling began to place an over-reliance on the character switch. In 1999 alone, the WWF and WCW featured high-profile storylines that resulted in a complete character overhaul for The Rock, Hulk Hogan, Triple H, Kevin Nash, Vince McMahon, Sting, Kane, Diamond Dallas Page, X-Pac, Ric Flair and a whole host of others.

Such was the frequency of a heel or face turn that, at a point, they were occurring almost on a weekly basis and, by the turn of the new millennium, it was apparent that the days of a slow-burning alteration was a thing of the past.

Resultantly, the overexposure to heel and face turns diluted the effectiveness of the original idea, and the current audience is suffering the consequences of the Monday Night War’s dependency on a shotgun switch for quick heat.

Today, heel and face switches are no longer as convincing as they once were. Compared to the promotions of the '70s and '80s (where character changes certainly occurred but were fewer and further between), the current product features an incredible number of performers changing direction, and in the last 12 months we have witnessed, amongst numerous other examples, the arrogant aristocrat Alberto Del Rio hurriedly transform into a reformed man-of-the-Mexican-people with little-to-no explanation, the Big Red Monster Kane become part of the comedy skit that is Team Hell No and The Miz make the illogical jump from a smug, cocky heel to a smug, cocky babyface.

Whilst, to the credit of the creative team, the constant switches have kept programming watchable and, to a certain extent, unpredictable in recent years, turning performers face and heel in a somewhat random manner creates several issues.

Often, as seen most recently in the case of Del Rio, a character turn will defy logical reasoning, and as a result performers can wind up floundering in a role that they are either uncomfortable playing (Randy Orton as a face) or cheered regardless (Daniel Bryan as a heel).

In the worst-case scenario, however, a performer could be completely rejected by the audience if their character is perceived to be phony or downright unbelievable. A testament to this is the story of the man who is currently wearing the richest prize in the business around his waist.

 

The Time is Now

Throughout most of the '90 and '00s, the McMahon organisation relied on the “Anything can happen in the WWF/E” tagline to sell the thrilling unpredictability of the product. However, in a time where WWE, and perhaps even the whole of professional wrestling in general, is more predictable than it’s ever been, it seems increasingly apparent that one scenario will likely never happen: the John Cena heel turn.

A concept that has been discussed amongst the Internet and other die-hards since as early as 2005, the idea of WWE’s perennial nice-guy turning to the dark side is one of the hottest topics in pro wrestling today, and potential angles and theories as to how to execute such a turn have WWE-savvy minds racing daily.

For example, back in April, the WrestlingFigs.com fan forum hosted a poll simply entitled “Should John Cena turn Heel?”, and received an overwhelming 80 percent of voters answering with the affirmative, providing a sharp insight into what the average WWE fan is currently craving.

At the core of the issue is the undeniable fact that the John Cena superhero gimmick has grown remarkably stale, and the man himself, unavoidable since his first WWE Championship victory at WrestleMania 21 in Los Angeles, has effectively become a one-dimensional bore, so much so that fans are crying out for change.

Evident in the progressively hostile receptions Cena receives at arenas worldwide (see the vicious responses on WWE’s recent tour of Europe for proof that the anti-Cena theme is not limited to the US), the disdain towards the 13-time world champion has reached near fever pitch.

The message from the vocal fans is clear: they want a complete overhaul of the Cena character, and they want it now. A heel turn would be the simplest and most effective way to implement such a drastic change.

In terms of kayfabe, the debut of a heel Cena would refresh the upper sections of the WWE card. As a face, the current WWE Champion has faced and beaten all comers, from second-in-command babyfaces Sheamus and Randy Orton to the latest heel to succeed in the main event, CM Punk.

There is, as of June 2013, quite literally no credible threat to Cena going forwards that would make for an intriguing feud/series of contests.

Hulk Hogan, a performer whose WWF career mirrors Cena in the fact that both men enjoyed the full weight of the McMahon powerhouse behind them despite being limited in-ring workers, found himself in a similar scenario in the early-to-mid-90’s, a time when the pro-wrestling world itself was shifting balance.

Hogan, like Cena, was the company’s superhero at the top of the main-event scene, defeating all in his path, including other top stars such as Andre the Giant and Randy Savage.

By 1993, Hogan had beaten them all, to an extent that the crowd had grown tired of his dominance, and his once impeccable star value was beginning to show the early signs of waning. A move to the burgeoning WCW and programs with the likes of Ric Flair seemed to stop the rot initially; however it quickly became clear that the 90’s crowd were tired of the red and yellow, and were no longer satisfied by Hulkamania.

Admirably, Hogan noted this, and in 1996 took the brave step of “turning his back on the fans” and turning heel for the first time in almost 15 years. What followed was the foundations of the historic New World Order storyline with Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, coinciding with WCW’s rise to prominence at the expense of the WWF.

The storyline of Hollywood Hogan and the nWo is fondly remembered to this day (image: wwe.com)

In relation to John Cena, Hulk’s heel transformation to Hollywood Hogan was successful because he had a built-in reason to turn, much like does Cena today: the fans.

The negative and occasionally riotous (see One Night Stand 2006 and Unforgiven 2006 for examples of astonishingly volatile reactions) heat that Cena receives on a nightly basis would cement the groundwork for a sensational heel attitude, not dissimilar to the one-time behaviour of another performer that Cena knows incredibly well: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Jeered relentlessly at various points throughout his WWE career, The Rock was at the centre of a fantastically executed heel turn in 2003 when, shortly after returning from a sabbatical to Hollywood and receiving a frosty reception from the fans, the former WWE Champion took the opportunity to give his once-beloved “people” the (purely kayfabe) cold shoulder.

Cutting surprisingly scathing promos and targeting fan-favourites such as Stone Cold Steve Austin and Bill Goldberg, The Rock smartly used the WWE audience as justification for his heelish antics, and this period remains one of the finest of his glittering career.

If a turn was to materialise, Cena could adopt a similar manner to The Rock in his heel prime and, as seen in his early WWE days in which his “rapper” gimmick earned him the reputation as a performer with a knack on the microphone, he possesses the capability to provide clever and, above all, believable promo skits.

If Cena was to take the plunge and deliver a promo that expressed contempt towards the fans, the viewer would be hard pressed to find a more believable segment in the whole of mainstream professional wrestling.

In the seemingly unlikely event that WWE are indeed entertaining the thought of a transformation in the immediate future, they may have recently missed the perfect opportunity to kick-start the storyline on the grandest stage.

Cena’s WrestleMania program with The Rock, starting in 2011 with the latter’s return to the WWE, was (ultimately incorrectly) tipped to be the series that finally saw the switch that the Cena haters had been craving for the better part of 10 years.

A heel turn would have also been the perfect culmination to the feud, and would have made sense in conjunction with the recent “Cena’s worst year ever” sub-plot that began with his high-profile loss at WrestleMania XXVIII.

This year’s Showcase of the Immortals, a show that was notable for its striking lack of a true “WrestleMania moment,” would have benefited from a big angle to close the show, as opposed to the widely rejected finish of The Rock passing the torch to a man who had already been the recipient of a massive push for much of the last decade.

The conclusion of WrestleMania XXIX made a great picture opportunity, but made little sense in terms of passing the torch (image: wwe.com)

An interesting booking scenario could have seen Cena, like one year previously, struggle against and lose convincingly to The Rock in the main event, and The Champ, frustrated at the continual boos and the fact that he couldn’t get the job done second time around, could have finally flipped and turned his back on the good side, much like Hulk Hogan and The Rock himself had done before him.

With this one booking decision alone, a whole world of possibilities would have presented themselves for not only the traditionally dry post-WrestleMania season, but for the foreseeable future of the WWE main event.

And what a reaction it would have received. Interestingly, Nick Aldis, better known as TNA’s Magnus, was questioned about the roles of heels and babyfaces in his column for the May 2012 issue of Fighting Spirit Magazine.

Aldis, a young yet journeyed man of the business, answered with a logic that could, above all else, fall in line with the idea that a John Cena character switch is the correct move to make: “Promoters should listen to the audience and promote the acts the people want to see…Give the people what they want. Simple, really…”

 

Basic Thuganomics vs. Basic Economics

It has been said that the lack of a John Cena heel turn may be the result of Vince McMahon’s finger slipping from the pulse of what the audience wants. For every reason that Cena should turn heel, however, the basic economic structure of WWE suggests that turning the company’s biggest star may be the entirely wrong direction to take.

John Cena, as is evident in his seemingly quarterly overhaul in shirts, baseball caps and the like, is the performer that brings in the merchandise money. As reported by ESPN anchor Michele Steele, Cena as a retail brand earned a staggering $106 million for WWE in 2010 alone.

A spectacular amount of money for any entertainment company, the figures prove that the Cena character sells, and the man himself is unrivaled as the performer who can sell WWE merchandise by the bucket-load.

Upon re-viewing the previous three WrestleMania pay-per-views (27, 28 and 29), it is interesting to note that Cena is debuting a new line of merchandise in every single one of them. This is no accident, as it is entirely by design that Cena, consistently one half of the biggest main event of the year, is modeling a new line of shirts, hats and accessories on the biggest night of the WWE calendar: a night that just so happens to have the largest number of viewers with disposable income watching.

The idea of Cena’s clothing being an important factor in the argument for not turning him heel may be somewhat laughable, but the garments, however garish they may be at times, bear messages (“Never Give Up”, “Rise Above Hate” etc.) that WWE is keen to relate to children, in accordance with its attempts to make the product completely family-friendly.

Additionally, these slogans are not only throw-away mottos to sell to the youngsters that look up to Cena, but are also clever nods (and thinly veiled statements of defiance) to the crowd reactions that the WWE Champion, and at times his legions of young fans, receives from the group of anti-fans at every show he appears on.

A heel turn would, undeniably, lose some of the financial opportunities that come with him being, as the top WWE superstar, an idol for millions of children around the world. In a time of worldwide financial instability, WWE is simply unwilling to risk losing its most valuable and profitable asset, a stance that is hard to disagree with from a business viewpoint.

Yet, despite WWE’s understandable love of the cash cow that is John Cena, the refusal to turn him heel is, admirably, not just about the money.

By virtue of his popularity, John Cena is the face of WWE's praiseworthy charity work (image: wwe.com)

A tireless company ambassador and the link to commendable work with the likes of Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the WWE/Creative Coalition’s ‘Be a STAR’ campaign, John Cena is quite literally the face of WWE’s charity side, and a heel turn would mean that The Champ would have to take a step down from these duties, and a replacement would be required to fill in.

For a time, most notably in late 2012 with the major advertisement/donation deal with Slim Jim and the United Service Organisations, it appeared that The Miz was being groomed for a similar spot to Cena, but his recent failings in connecting with the audience as a babyface may have put paid to those initial plans.

Therein lays a very real problem for WWE. If Cena did indeed overhaul his character, who would elevate themselves and fill his spot as the media-friendly company man? The notoriously cantankerous Randy Orton? The credibility-lacking Sheamus? The increasingly absent Triple H?

The company would have an incredibly difficult task in finding another performer who would be able, or have the genuine media appeal, to perform duties such as Cena’s enthusiastic efforts with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, work that has, according to Patrick Michael of Yahoo! Sports, included over 300 wishes to sick and terminally ill children.

In terms of the actual in-ring product, a Cena heel turn would open up a spot at the top of the card that, in all honesty, could not be adequately filled if taking into account the WWE roster of present. The company has had a widely documented problem with producing new babyface talent over the previous 10 years, and, bar the obvious exception of Cena, it is worth noting that there has not been a genuine babyface star since the latter days of the '90s pro-wrestling boom.

This is why top faces from the Attitude Era such as The Rock, Triple H and the Undertaker are still finding themselves at the centre of mega-shows such as WrestleMania and SummerSlam: there are, conceivably, no other faces in the company that could adequately fill these slots.

In 2010, Randy Orton, as the Rattlesnake-esque Viper, was primed to be the next top face, as was CM Punk following his outrageous work/shoot promo in 2011. Even as recent as last winter, Ryback was rumoured to be the man to dislodge Cena as the face at the heart of the company.

These, for varying reasons, failed to come to fruition, a fact that raises questions about both WWE’s commitment to making new face stars that can adequately connect with the audience, and indeed their ability to do so. Taking this into consideration, it is simply easier for WWE to keep Cena as the No. 1 babyface, whether the “haters” like it or not.

Cena's shirt slogans are often a direct response to his detractors (image: bleacherreport.com)

Another alarming issue that surrounds this delicate heel turn situation is the idea of how the WWE fans would react to the moment that Cena turns. As mentioned elsewhere in this article, the fans would welcome this change with open arms, and that in itself is a fundamental problem.

If Cena did indeed turn, a move that could only happen at a major show such as WrestleMania, the very vocal majority would openly cheer this sequence of events, thus nullifying the very notion of a heel turn and, as a result, rendering the turn a complete failure. Oddly enough, Cena turning heel would be the biggest babyface move that he could possibly make at this stage of his career.

Conclusively, those vehemently against a Cena turn could argue that WWE is doing the right thing, from a financial and in-ring standpoint, by keeping him as the top face in the company.

Fin Martin, writer and editor for the UK’s Power Slam Magazine, sums up the predicament with an outlook that, whether you fall into the pro- or anti-Cena camp, is difficult to argue against: [Cena] is the guy who earns WWE tens of millions of dollars annually. Irrespective of how annoying, predictable or lame his output often is, WWE needs him.”

 

Don’t Trust Austin

The argument that there is no adequate face replacement for John Cena at the top of the WWE tree is, from several viewpoints, a solid theory for Vince McMahon and Co.’s reluctance to pull the trigger on a character swap. This notion, however, did not deter McMahon from giving the green light to one of the most contentious changes in WWE history, the 2001 heel turn of Stone Cold Steve Austin.

To understand the magnitude of Stone Cold’s heel run and it’s relation to John Cena, one must gain an understanding of the years preceding the event.

Austin, as is widely celebrated, rose to the top of the promotion during the late '90s period of prosperity, becoming one of the most over babyfaces ever seen in American professional wrestling in the process.

Much like Cena is today, Austin was the company money-maker, with WWF pay-per-view buys and merchandise sales soaring during the Texas Rattlesnake’s initial run at the top in 1998 and 1999 (fittingly, the “Austin 3:16” shirt, via LA Times Sports, is still the best-selling wrestling shirt in history).

Around the midway point of 1999, Austin’s body was starting to deteriorate, with a neck injury stemming from a botched Owen Hart piledriver in 1997 starting to have a serious impact on his performances and, ultimately, his run at the top.

As a result, Austin took roughly a year off to recuperate and, upon his return, began a redemption angle that led towards its conclusion in the main event of perhaps the greatest pro-wrestling card ever staged, WrestleMania X-Seven.

At the event, Austin turned heel by aligning with long-time adversary Vince McMahon in order to defeat The Rock for the WWF Championship. With a single handshake, the WWF had transformed its biggest babyface into a heel.

Austin aligning with McMahon was a scenario that the fans simply did not want to see (image: wwe.com)

In defence of this move, Steve Austin had excelled as a heel for the most part of his career. From his time with Brian Pillman as the Hollywood Blonds in WCW, through his brief yet memorable ECW period to his early WWF days as the foe of the still-popular Bret Hart, the majority of his best work had come as a heel.  

His run in 2001, however, never truly took off and for this, several issues can be held responsible.

To identity the first mistake made by McMahon and the creative team, the focus needs to be placed directly on the moment that Austin turned: the conclusion of his exceptional WrestleMania 17 bout with The Rock.

Taking place in Texas, Austin was the hometown hero, and the extremely pro-Rattlesnake crowd mirrored the feelings of the WWF fans across the globe: they simply did not want to boo Stone Cold Steve Austin.

He was still hugely over, and the WWF’s most successful character since the Hulk Hogan era was not, at least in the eyes of the fans, ready to make such a drastic change, especially after a year-long spell on the injury shelf.

The fans did not want to boo him and, surely enough, they cheered when Austin won the belt at WrestleMania, a moment that Cageside Seats accurately states “stunted the heel turn in its infancy.”

Austin’s heel turn was the recipient of the worst possible response: complete rejection from the crowd.

Initially, WWE threw several heat-seeking devices his way to help him along, even going so far as to have Austin attack long-time friend Jim Ross and female competitor Lita. However, it soon became clear that there was no believable babyface foil to his heelish actions, as the only viable option, The Rock, was busy in Hollywood filming his cameo for The Mummy Returns.

Other options were simply not available: Triple H was a heel at the time (and was placed as Austin’s tag partner immediately following WrestleMania), the Undertaker was in the middle of his underwhelming American Bad Ass period and Kane, despite gaining momentum, was still far from getting over as a superstar babyface.

Even the temporary elevations of Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho could not plug the hole left by Austin’s jump to the dark side.

By the time The Rock had returned in July, the Austin heel character was dead in the water, and the then-WWF Champion had been demoted to playing a goofy comedy role with McMahon and his sidekick, Kurt Angle. This could not have been what the company had in mind when they turned Austin at the conclusion of the biggest show of 2001.

By the end of the year, Austin had quietly turned face again, and once the angle had concluded with the end of the WCW/ECW “invasion” storyline, the heel turn was never mentioned on WWF television again.

Six months later, creative differences saw Austin walk out of the company, returning briefly in early 2003 to compete in his last match to date, the third bout of his trilogy with The Rock at WrestleMania XIX. Looking back, it could be argued that Austin’s ill-fated heel turn was the beginning of the end of his professional wrestling career.

In his WWE DVD treatment The Legacy of Stone Cold Steve Austin, the man himself spoke in a refreshingly honest manner about the failure of his run as an antagonist. “If me and Vince ever talk about this, I told him I would have called an audible in the ring, knowing what I know now, that people did not want to hate me, and that I didn’t really have anyone to work with…I would have looked at Vince and I would have told him ‘Stunner’ and I’d have kicked him in the gut and dropped him.”

Austin's battle with The Rock in 2003 marked the end of his sparkling in-ring career (image: wwe.com)

Although the unsuccessful heel run remains a smear on the otherwise illustrious career of Stone Cold Steve Austin, both John Cena  and Vince McMahon can use the episode as an extremely useful learning resource when contemplating a heel turn for the company’s current leading babyface.

In light of Stone Cold’s failed stint, one could argue that Vince McMahon, ever the businessman, is skeptical of making the same mistakes twice with a John Cena character turn, and it could be further discussed that the WWE Chairman and CEO is making a wise move in refusing to even contemplate working within the similar restrictions that crippled Austin’s run as a heel.

If WWE were to turn Cena heel, however, they would have to learn from the mistakes made with Steve Austin.

Firstly, as was the case in early 2001, the current lack of top level babyfaces would need to be addressed for a heel turn to materialise. Austin suffered from the lack of opposition on a similar level to him, and for Cena to succeed in an antagonistic role, a new and (most importantly) believable babyface would need to be elevated to the top of the card.

Up-and-comers such as Daniel Bryan or Dolph Ziggler seemingly have the capabilities and could make interesting foils for a heel Cena, but the WWE would need to show faith and patience in building them up with a sustained push over an adequate period of time.

CM Punk, a performer whose character is often compared to the envelope-pushing Austin of 1998, could have a decent run opposite Cena when he inevitably re-enters the role of babyface.

WWE, and Punk himself, would have to show more commitment than they did in the 2011 “Summer of Punk,” however, when the astonishing amount of momentum gained from Punk’s famous RAW promo was inexcusably allowed to dwindle away in dull angles with Triple H, Kevin Nash and, ironically enough, John Cena.

On the subject of commitment, WWE would have to go for broke with a Cena switch, and there would no better time or place to show the company’s intentions than the actual moment that Cena finally turned.

As mentioned above, the majority of the live audience would enthusiastically cheer a Cena change, and to avoid the awkward response that Austin received upon his turn at WrestleMania X-Seven, WWE would need to book the current champion in a scenario in which the crowd would have literally no choice but to boo him.

The WWE creative team has been long-rumoured to be mulling over the idea of John Cena challenging the Undertaker at an upcoming WrestleMania, perhaps even as soon as WrestleMania XXX in April 2014.

The only remaining credible threat to the Deadman’s undefeated streak, Cena and WWE could use this opportunity to launch the angle that has been discussed amongst fans for much of the previous decade.

An underhanded, or plain dirty, win for Cena, thus ending the streak, would garner an almost unthinkable amount of heat, a fact that would immediately offset the idea of fans cheering the fact that Cena had finally turned heel.

Obviously, it would be a controversial move, as the Undertaker’s WrestleMania record is as sacred to pro-wrestling fans as Yankee Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hit streak is to baseball enthusiasts or Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game for the Philadelphia Warriors is to fans of basketball.

The heel credibility that Cena would stand to gain, however, would set the groundwork for the next era of WWE programming, and Undertaker, an old-school performer with the mentality of giving back to the business, would surely understand and be willing to hand over his impeccable streak to a reinvigorated John Cena.

If McMahon and WWE as a whole could avoid the pitfalls of the Austin situation, Cena could have a very real chance to make history as the top heel in the pro-wrestling world.

 

The Future is Unwritten

Regardless of the direction WWE takes regarding a John Cena heel turn, one constant theme in all theories is that Cena needs to change, be that as a heel or not, and soon. The superhero gimmick is as stale as a character possibly could be, and for WWE to move forward with Cena as the top face, his character needs to develop and grow.

All of the modern greats evolved at certain points of their careers. Names such as Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Triple H and the Undertaker all realised, while at the top of their game, how important it is to freshen up their characters, something that Cena has refrained from doing, under orders from Vince McMahon, since his initial face turn in late 2003.

Despite continually bringing in the cash, the John Cena character is in dire need of a change (image: wwe.com)

In this writer’s opinion, John Cena would benefit from taking a strategically placed sabbatical from professional wrestling. During this time, Cena could take the time to conjure up a master plan to rejuvenate his character and add a different dimension to his act, if he is indeed to remain a babyface. This would also give the fans a much-needed break from the repetitive Cena act.

Stone Cold Steve Austin, writing for Fighting Spirit Magazine in April 2012, noted that taking time off, be it self-imposed or through injury, gives a performer the chance to “step back out of the forest so you can look up at the trees,” meaning that once a performer is able to step back, they can gain a clear perspective on what they were doing right or wrong, and how to further proceed.

Cena, however, cannot do this by himself. The WWE champion needs the full support of Vince McMahon and the WWE machine to make his character mean more, and to warrant, from an in-ring perspective, his continued spot at the top of the card.

At present, the WWE main event scene is exclusively John Cena’s playground and, as can be seen in the growing dissatisfaction towards his act, the WWE product is suffering as a result.

Even Steve Austin has said, via WWE.com, that all Cena needs is “to be poked and prodded in the right way.”

For John Cena, and as a result the entire WWE and professional wrestling landscape as it is viewed today, the right way may or may not be a heel turn.

But something needs to happen. And, as they used to say so often, anything can happen in WWE.

 

Thank you for reading!

Comments welcome below and on Twitter: @matthewtsquires

Matt Squires is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, and covers other sports for websites such as This Is Futbol. For more on Matt, please visit his personal website Matthew T Squires.

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