Wrestlemania 27: A Purely Business Argument for Why John Cena Can Turn Heel

Marc MattalianoCorrespondent IIIMarch 15, 2011

Coming off the heels of an article that spawned great response and debate (good and bad), I'm going to pull a major Rachel Miller and stick with a topic I've had considerable thought on.  Granted, my thoughts on John Cena are entirely opposite and counter to the thoughts she has about Cody Rhodes, however my last article brought out some good and bad points I feel need to be addressed.

Please see that particular piece here:  http://bleacherreport.com/articles/623887-nexus-likeness-to-nwo-could-reinvent-a-stable-and-save-wrestlemania-27

First off, I would like to go on record and acknowledge how extreme and drastic the plan stated in this article would be.  Were we still embroiled in the Monday Night Wars/Attitude Era time period, it'd be much more likely that we could see a scenario like the one I posed actually happen.

But these are very different times.  The economy is worse, the state and image of pro wrestling is worse, the power and influence of WWE's direct competition is far worse.  Thus, I would like to briefly acknowledge those of you who state that WWE is making a healthy decision by maintaining certain aspects of their business approach and keeping some things static in favor of effectively working toward meeting their bottom lines.

Hey...if it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?

In short, I proposed in the link above that CM Punk get attacked by his former rookie henchmen from Nexus, and pull a major swerve by having Randy Orton (his current arch-nemesis) come to his aid, and then help John Cena (a previous arch-nemesis) win the WWE Title, thus reforming Nexus as a new trio.

Many readers hailed it as a terrific idea, and creatively, you have to admit it really has a lot of charm.  Linear details, a carefully constructed plot and all that black and yellow merch can finally go to good use, instead of just taking up space in some warehouse.

However, from a business perspective, a few people found the major flaw.  It would hurt business, mainly in the way that it would take their top merchandise seller in John Cena, and two other decent merch sellers in Orton and Punk, and lump them all together in one heel stable which might not sell nearly as much "stuff."

After fighting and clawing through debate to show how it would actually be healthy for the company, it finally occurred to me what we were all missing in the argument.

By the way, any Economics majors out there can feel free to fill in the terminology, because I do not know any.  And keep one thing in mind:  I'm not attempting to prove that what I said in my last article lacks risk.  I'm merely pointing out certain aspects of the business end of things the debate didn't take into account.

WWE doesn't only make money from selling "stuff."  They also make money on instantaneous things, things that DON'T have a tangible form, things that customers need to keep purchasing in order to maintain the pleasure they receive.

Like pay-per-view buys, sponsorships and ticket sales.  Okay, tickets are a tangible item, yes, but as far as holding something in your hand that only provides pleasure by holding it?  A shirt is more likely to do that than a ticket.  In order to experience joy from a ticket, you need to attend the show the ticket can grant you access to and after the show is over, buy another ticket to the next show.

WWE is actually a lot like an insurance agent.  They stand to make more money from the loyal relationships they establish with customers than just selling a little bit and moving onto the next customer.  After all, what is WWE's prime product?  T-shirts?  Necklaces?  Armbands?  Lunch boxes?  Action figures?

Maybe, just maybe, WWE's primary product is professional wrestling/sports entertainment!

In many decades past, before WWE had regular weekly TV programs that broadcast their primary product for a wide audience to view, you could probably go years without seeing anyone wearing a Hulk Hogan t-shirt, but if you did?  Conversation would definitely unfold!

As the Golden Era became New Generation and New Generation morphed into Attitude, WWE's stock had skyrocketed and every major corporation that sold anything of note wanted to advertise on WWE programming.

Anyone remember JR's classic Skittles rant(s)?  I sure do:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFIewQRbu4M&NR=1

Skittles, being part of the all-powerful MARS company at the time (MARS, for those of you who don't know, produces just about every major household name in snackfood including M&Ms and Snickers), had a couple years worth of ads every week on Raw and Smackdown stacked up to pretty big bucks.  And if WWE created a lasting relationship with the Skittles people, by providing a reliably high level of quality on their programs, they would keep advertising on Raw and Smackdown, ensuring years of income for both parties.

How do you create a good relationship like that?  Part of it involved WWE ensuring that their end of the bargain (creating a show with high enough ratings) was up to high enough snuff that Skittles and MARS felt like putting up the dime to beat out other corporations for ad space during Raw and Smackdown.

Unlike a lasting relationship, if WWE puts most of its money into manufacturing only John Cena shirts (because he's the top guy), once every fan owns his newest line, they need to create a brand new line to keep bringing in that merch money.

On the other side of the coin, if they keep the drama, storylines, characters and promos compelling and entertaining enough, people will not only buy everyone else's stuff, but they'll also buy the next PPV, and they'll continue buying them throughout the year, making the gimmick PPVs that critics view as uninteresting suddenly look much more important.

Like I said, the creative plan I had proposed for Wrestlemania 27 in the link above was an extreme one, no question, but like any company, WWE can feel out how certain outcomes might work out.

You see it every day on TV.  A fast food joint will talk about some new offer, an electronics store will talk about special deals.  For the most part, their standard offerings stay the same, but if their new deals work out well enough, they can later be incorporated into their standards and keep the money flowing in.

WWE knows that keeping John Cena as their top guy, while they have tons of talent itching for a chance at the top, isn't going to work forever.  And they have, in fact, been feeling things out in 2010.

The first instance happened in June, when Nexus arrived.  The heel group immediately targeted John Cena, and only weeks after Nexus shirts appeared in WWEShop.com, the crowd was filled with Nexus initiates.

With CM Punk being the last man standing, it's now looking that by Wrestlemania, Nexus might be all but dead.  Doesn't matter.  Their behind the scenes purposes succeeded.  People, even some small children, want to support a powerful force that can take down John Cena.  No lie, I saw a six-year-old at Panera wearing an original Nexus shirt.

The second instance happened later on at Hell in a Cell, October 2010.  John Cena vs. Wade Barrett, in that if Barrett won, John would be forced to join Nexus.  Practically everyone that frequents this site believed the rumors that Nexus would be done around that time anyway, that Cena was invincible and that he would come out unscathed.

To everyone's shock and awe (including a little boy on YouTube who completely flipped), he did not come out unscathed.  We had no idea what John's take on the situation would be, but the next night on Raw, we saw him downtrodden and his spirits broken, at least momentarily.

Again, feeling things out.  With John joining the bad guys, would people still root for him, or would they boo?

The third instance happened at Survivor Series.  John Cena was special guest ref for Orton vs. Barrett for the WWE Title.  If Cena helped Barrett win the belt, he'd be free of Nexus.  If Barrett lost, Cena would lose his job.  Cena "did the right thing," handed Orton the belt and sacrificed his job.

Once again, WWE feeling things out, seeing how crowds would react to losing their messiah.

Now, they're feeling things out again.  The Rock, a legend of the Attitude Era, the People's Champ, the Most Electrifying blah blah blah, a face of all faces, primarily targets John Cena in his return speech.  Nexus was a band of rookies that many easily wrote off as a silly gimmick stable tied to NXT.  How does one write off The Rock as easily as Nexus?

I'll be honest, in the Rock's prime, I found him really annoying.  Put next to Cena?  I'm chanting his name with the "millions and millions."

A poll was put up on WWE.com recently (still might be there actually), asking fans to vote on who they thought was winning the war of words between Rock and Cena.  The third choice, which I chose, was The Miz, but the winner by an incredible, but not unbelievable, landslide...The Rock.

With The Rock as "host" of Wrestlemania, we're going to be seeing and hearing a lot of him at the event.  And if John Cena and Rock still haven't mended their differences, then we're bound to see just as much of Cena.

For the record, those of you hoping for the epic Rock vs. Cena match?  Just stop that.  Won't happen, at least not any time soon.  However, for those of us hoping for them to duke it out impromptu style?  I can practically guarantee that.  Rock might take a bump or two, Cena might take a bump or two, but what will the end result be?

Will Cena be the face in the situation?  Will The Rock?  Answer seems obvious...

I'd like to address a considerably powerful and erroneous idea in the IWC.  Apparently, there are those that believe that John Cena being a "natural babyface" is what's keeping him a good guy.  I'd like to counter that argument by pointing out a couple things.

You ever notice how Cena and Cody Rhodes' faces are kinda similar?  What's keeping one a face and one a heel?  Their attitudes?  One's cocky about his looks, the other's more humble?  About it, basically.

Honestly ask yourself this.  If, in years past, when John Cena uttered his long gone catchphrase, "You want some?  Come get some," he changed his demeanor slightly, would he not have looked different? 

Instead of buckling down and getting serious, hiking up his jean shorts, taking a defensive stance out of respect for his adversary's power and urging an opponent to come at him so they could fight, he raised his arms casually in the air, changed his tone to a higher pitch, and said the same words but sounded like, "yeah, come at me, you're just going down anyway," would one not have looked more "heelish" and the other more "faceish?"

Don't fool yourself.  John Cena's good guy looks, cutesy-poo smile and "Never Give Up" attitude are extremely marketable in a PG environment, this is all true, but they CAN turn bad.  And how is that done?

By introducing a face that completely eclipses Cena.  By introducing a face so legendary, it puts Cena right back down with the rest of the grunts.  Yes, I know, his rap responses to Rock's responses have largely occurred at the end of Raw, making his promos something of a main event.

But in Rock's eyes?  Cena's just another gimmick wrestler primed to get struck down, and the way Rock speaks to Cena in his responses shows this clear as day.

Rock's anger gets cheered because Rock's ability to entertain reaches a much more general audience.  Cena's anger is getting a lot more bitter, a lot more frustrated.  People who are frustrated and bitter, people who feel abandoned, they do drastic things.  Look at what Cena said at the beginning of all this.

"I thought Rock was a cool dude!"  He thought he and Rock would be buds.  He thought the two of them could practically co-host Wrestlemania.  And now the people are cheering louder for Rock than him.

Cena's a human, just like everyone else.  We refer to him as Superman, because he's been the ultimate, unbeatable good guy hero for a long time.  But just as Superman has had his darkside shown, Cena can have his darkside shown through, too.

All WWE needs to do is two things:  1) feel out the landscape to see if the Universe can handle it.  Check.  2) Find a wrestler, or more than one wrestler, on their roster that can rise to the occasion and be the next top guy.

The Miz doesn't need a belt for that.  He's only on his first WWE Title reign right now.  He can easily lose the belt at Wrestlemania as Miz kicks out of the AA, forcing Cena to lose patience and feel compelled to cheat because he's so cornered.

He doubts the people are really behind him, thinking they've gone off to support Rock instead of him (jealousy is common for heels, we all know that), his trademark move didn't work, his "five moves of doom" didn't work and being so enervated and enraged by not gaining any ground in his promos against Rock...he takes drastic measures.

Maybe it was wrong of me to suggest three top stars in WWE reduce the company's merch sales.  Turning one guy heel and replacing him with Miz?  Hell of a lot safer.  Much less risk, and accomplishes exactly what I intended my previous article's plan to accomplish:

Making WWE TV unpredictable, compelling and interesting again.  Enough so that PPV buyrates go up, ratings go up, pushing sponsorship up and the face of WWE isn't just a walking billboard for fuzzy armbands, loudly colorful shirts and matching ballcaps.

And instead, the face of WWE is a guy whose crafty in-ring style can take you down while you're underestimating him.  It's a guy who went through a ton of cheesy bullcrap before becoming WWE Champion.  It's a guy who can cut a person down on the mic, while still taking some lumps of his own.

The Miz is living the new "boyhood dream."  One day, he'll have people cheering for him as strongly as they cheer for Cena.  Before that, though, certain things need to change.

As a final thought, I'd like to point out how ironic it is that The Rock finds himself in the middle of the battle between John Cena and The Miz.  Stone Cold was massive before The Rock rose to power, and even though their personalities are inherently different, if you look really carefully, their in-ring stances, their "don't trust anyone" attitudes and their dominant, yet vulnerable and entertaining, approaches were very similar.

We were all sad to see Austin fade into the sunset.  But for many of us, The Rock was a fine substitute to carry the torch that Austin lit.  Miz can fill Cena's shoes any day.  Miz acts the way he does on the mic because the people boo.  Miz makes conscious attempts to make the people boo.

If the people were to cheer him as a result of his actions and heart at Wrestlemania, his promos might come out sounding very different.


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