These days, it seems a lot harder for WWE to commit to changing a wrestler's on-screen personality, when many years ago, the chance of a competitor's personality changing was part of what kept fans watching. The idea that you might not know when a person's MO for competing could go from chasing titles one night to decimating an arch-enemy the next was part of what made the business so fascinating!
Your favorite star could go from a glorious hero to a glory hogging villain in the blink of an eye. You had to appreciate every single second you could spend cheering for your favorites, because very soon, they could be entirely different people.
I'm not a fan of Shakespeare, but look at stories like Caesar and Macbeth. The title characters died before the end of each story, meaning the time they spent alive needed to be that much more meaningful. If Caesar and Macbeth had lived to the end of their tales, and Shakespeare had written Caesar 2 and Macbeth 3, the meaningful parts of their existence would have been seriously watered down.
Anakin Skywalker's character lasted six whole movies until dying in Return of the Jedi, but at least things changed for him along the way. Chronologically, we can see him dreaming as a little boy, nurturing his skills as a teen, falling in love and impregnating Padme, embracing the darkside as an adult, losing the battle with Obi Wan and getting set on fire in the most impactful climax of the timeline, then rising to the right hand of the Emperor as a grown-up and addressing the son that he sired before passing away.
In essence, the biggest factor of the prequels ended up being that Star Wars, as a series, was less about Luke (like some of us older kids initially thought when watching Eps. four, five and six) and more about Darth Vader. But again, at least Vader's life took major turns along the way.
He wasn't born a mask-wearing villain (a "natural heel, if you will), there were steps necessary to lead him to that, to motivate him into being evil. Furthermore, if one were to watch the Star Wars movies in chronological timeline order, one might think Anakin was going to grow up to be the hero!
Instead, he chose to embrace his darker natures and his son ended up being the real do-gooder hero. Anakin grew up! He changed with his age. Just as he was poised to be a great Jedi warrior, he was tempted by the dark and made a choice to give it a try in order to fix the sad state his life had become. He was enraged at his parents being killed, he felt like he had no other choice to save Padme. He was desperate!
And it was only until much later, when he knew that the younger and stronger progeny had defeated him in battle, that he decided to show his humanity, remove his mask, expose his dark secret and die with some level of dignity.
Miz isn't anything like Cena's son would be, but just like Luke continued the bloodline after Vader passed, the torch needs to be passed to The Miz. It's his turn to be the hero for a change.
I realize that in the economy we're currently working with, WWE doesn't feel like taking drastic measures with their characters like they did during the Monday Night Wars. They don't want to risk losing what ratings they have by moving this or that character from a good position to a bad one or vice versa, but as PPVs have been compelling less and less people to buy them each year, something has to give eventually.
The next time you analyze a character in WWE, and say that they lack personality, that they offer nothing to competition and that they simply take up space on the roster, do yourself a favor.
Ask yourself how many of the Seven Deadly Sins they've committed, and how many you've seen them fight off.
If your numbers are high, then ask yourself...why exactly do I feel like they don't have personality if they've done so much good and bad in their career?
If your numbers are low, then dare I say, that's not entirely the performer's fault. They can act certain ways in the ring, yes, but they can't tell every aspect of the story all on their own. WWE needs to be far more creative in putting these people into situations where either sinning, or fighting off sin, can be an option of theirs.
That's not speaking from the perspective of religious sin either. More like generally ethical sins.
John Cena is WWE's top babyface (aside from The Rock and Austin, whose appearances are very likely going to be less and less in coming months), and although I'm not compelled by his on-screen persona any longer, I do always acknowledge how much value he has to the company and how much he can still offer. I've never said he should be fired outright and I've never said he wasn't a talented wrestler. He just needs to do more interesting things on camera.
At only 34 years of age, when is Cena going to have his proverbial mid-life crisis (because being a 34- year-old full-time WWE Superstar/Movie Star is like being a 60-year-old office jockey), where he starts saying to himself, "man, my life is flashing before me. Is this where I wanted to be? What else do I have on my bucket list? Is this what the rest of my life is going to be like?" Sixty-year-olds ask themselves that all the time, and many of them decide that they need to pursue other interests before it's too late.
For Cena to never go there is a crying shame. All it does is keep bottom lines in order. It doesn't present fans with a believable product featuring relatable human characters.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, WWE used to attempt to present its product as "real" to the viewers. Every move, every hold, every match, it was all marketed as "real." The days of fooling consumers into thinking wrestling is just as 100 percent real as they were 10-15 years ago are pretty much over, but that doesn't mean the people we see on TV need to represent concepts that don't act, think, feel and react the way real people do.
A character like The Heartbreak Kid may have had an overblown ego that was far bigger than most civilians walking down a street, but the way the character reacted to problems was real, and Shawn sold that to us brilliantly. No one says wrestlers need to be 100% realistic, but come on. Certain moments have required severe turnarounds and they haven't been coming as often as they should.
One particular opportunity for such a turnaround will be the central topic of WWE Role Reversal Vol.2...I promise, it will be pure perfection.