John Cena's reign over WWE is eventually going to end. Fans of the company have been aware of this for quite some time, but knowledge has never equaled reality.
WWE's top guy is taking a step back, as the time for the New Era is now in full swing. The WWE draft is over, the brand split is official and now it's all about the future. But even though fans will be excited for what the future holds, the odd man out cannot be forgotten.
This is a bittersweet time for John Cena.
He's still in the fold, of course; it's not as if he's gone from the company. But his diminished role is something that will affect his image in the eyes of fans. Cena's infamous hype is not just hype; it's also the defining aspect of his WWE career, and now that hype will begin to die down.
Simply put, Cena is a guaranteed winner.
It's what he's known for, and it's who he is. While every other Superstar in the WWE locker room is capable of losing big matches or having an off night, Cena is a rarity. He just does not lose all that much, and with the exception of Brock Lesnar, no one has bragging rights over him right now.
Cena is the alpha male of WWE, and that's just how it is.
The hype surrounding his gimmick is not just hype, either; he is a fighter. Though fans have seen him as the bulletproof face of WWE, he's never carried himself that way. He's always been humble and soft-spoken outside the ring, and he's always had positive things to say about the business.
The cliche that he works harder than everyone else is not a cliche. That is who Cena is.
He is the character, and he embodies everything that's good about the industry because he is such a perfect ambassador to the outside world. When non-wrestling fans see Cena, they see a genetic freak of nature.
But as soon as they hear him talk, they understand he's just a regular guy who loves what he does.
He's kind and professional in every way—a well-spoken representative for WWE. He's not the typical wrestler, and he never has been. He doesn't hold any obvious grudges, he never makes it about himself and he always gives back. That's also who he is.
"Superhuman" doesn't begin to describe him.
But therein lies part of the problem many fans have with him: He's too perfect. He wins too much. He smiles when he should be serious, and he's too nice when he should be outraged at the hate he receives.
This is the guy who has carried WWE for over 10 years, and fans hate him for it? How could any regular guy withstand that kind of hate without snapping?
For that matter, how could any character handle that type of rage and not turn heel? That is the next big issue fans have with Cena, and it's one that will never go away. Fans know that, if Cena was to ever make the turn, he would immediately get over and become cool again.
Maybe that's why the desire to see him turn has always been so strong. Fans just want it all to make sense.
However, fan logic does not always win out. As Cena sidesteps, his character remains intact. He's still the same guy who wore the industry's top championship 15 times, and he's the same guy who endured all the venom that came from fans with each title win. But he weathered the storm, and now he will do the right thing and allow the next generation to step up and take the spotlight.
So perhaps the time has come to let go of the hate.
It's never served a purpose, and now that Cena has outlasted the cries for a heel turn, maybe it's time to accept who he is and what he's done for WWE. While he's not perfect, he has done so much for the company and for the fans; maybe now is the time to give him a break.
Cena is a company guy. He's never decided to heed the call of Hollywood, he's never left when times became rough and he's never bailed out on the fans. He remains as passionate about the business as he was on his first day, and he's always loved pro wrestling just as much as any diehard fan who's ever booed him out of the building.
Cena is not just a talent; he's also a fan. That has to mean something.
Fans should stop and begin to realize just how valuable Cena is and how much respect he's earned along the way. If that happens, his reduced role will begin to be felt a bit more. Fans will appreciate who he is and what he's done to entertain them.
More importantly, they will see that it's a scarier time for WWE than anyone can even imagine.
The excitement over the New Era is palpable, and that's a good thing. But how many potential heavy hitters are there in WWE right now? How many true main event powerhouses are on the roster and ready to take the belt at a moment's notice?
Which one of the new faces is even remotely capable of catching fire and elevating the way Cena did? Is WWE choosing to throw as many workers as it can at the void Cena will leave instead of taking the time to build the next top stars?
Can WWE even build anyone to compare to Cena in terms of heart and contribution to the business?
The truth is that Cena's imminent change is something of a sad day for WWE. It is good to move on, and it is good to evolve, but that does not mean fans should forget. Cena has given his all, and he's not done yet. But he will near the end eventually, and when he does, his impact on WWE will be understood.
He's never changed, and that includes his commitment to WWE. Fans can only hope the same will be said of the stars vying to take his spot.
Tom Clark can regularly be seen on Bleacher Report. His podcast, Tom Clark's Main Event, is available on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Android, Windows Phone and online here