John Cena is in his own stratosphere.
He’s been the WWE’s biggest, most marketable star for nearly a decade now, headlining pay-per-view after pay-per-view, selling truckloads of merchandise and being one of its most recognizable faces. But with that constant exposure comes staleness. Cena still has the younger portion of the crowd firmly in the back pocket of his jorts, but the older crowd boos him with feverish passion each and every night.
He’s become more of a formula than a character: present him with an obstacle that is supposed to be too much for him to overcome, let him get beat down, overcome said obstacle and reign once more. It’s been the same old thing for the last 10 years. “Overcoming the odds” is what Cena is about. He’s destroyed entire factions for crying out loud.
But when the audience stops believing in you, in your inability to ever succumb to those odds, what happens then? How long until the younger crowd starts to tire of the same Superman act that you’ve been trotting out for so long?
The natural inclination, at least for just about everyone else in the wrestling world, is to turn them heel. After all, whenever you get stale, just change allegiances. That’s how wrestling works. Unfortunately, it seems as though the WWE brass doesn’t understand or are too scared that a turn would hurt Cena’s merchandise sales. John Cena himself has said that he won’t turn heel unless the brass says so.
Unless he and Vince McMahon forget that the biggest face arguably in pro wrestling history turned heel and revitalized his career for nearly another decade? Hulk Hogan was in the same position, getting booed for his usual schtick, fans tired of him ending up on top regardless of who he had to step on to get there.
But then, the biggest turn in pro wrestling history happened and Hogan was reborn as the leader of the New World Order. Hollywood Hogan was his new moniker and it was perfect. It summed up what Hogan had been doing as a good guy for the last 10 years: putting himself above everyone else in as slimy a way as possible. Except this time, it was lauded because he was supposed to be a bad guy doing crappy things. Hell, it helped launch the nWo and helped WCW put a beating on the WWF in the ratings.
A similar turn for Cena could see the same impact: fresh, new faces to take over the top spots in the company while starting new, fresh-feeling feuds with a suddenly bad guy Cena. It gives the WWE more stories, more possibilities and might even make Cena relevant again with the older crowd in the way that Hogan did during his WCW run. It could extend Cena’s run longer than it perhaps would have gone if he never turned. It gives him new life.
Unfortunately, it really does seem as though the turn will never happen. There are too many kids who scream his name, too many wishes to be granted. Which means it’s going to be a long, long time before The Champ isn’t here.