A long time ago, when The Nexus was in full push mode, there was talk of turning John Cena heel. He lost a match and was forced to wear the colors of his enemy, but there was no heel turn. A year later, during the rise of CM Punk, talk arose of turning Cena heel, in order to give Punk the opportunity to shine on his own. Again, they were just rumors and creative found a way for both Cena and Punk to co-exist as fan favorites.
Buzz erupted again that creative flirted with the idea as build up began for Cena’s match against The Rock at WrestleMania 28. Theoretically, the storyline needed an aggressor to move forward and build heat for the event. Given that The Rock wasn’t a full time roster member, you’d think it would be a no-brainer that they’d use his A-List Hollywood ego to get him over as a heel. Looking back at history, The Rock had traveled that path upon the much anticipated arrival of Goldberg in 2003, but the WWE Universe has been split over the popularity of John Cena for quite some time.
While younger fans adore Cena, the older demographics despise him – much like many wrestling fans did with Hulk Hogan when he was forced on them as the “go-to-guy” and spotlight hog throughout the 90’s. For Hogan, a heel turn was the only thing that could resurrect his aging career – but Cena is still in his prime. Does it make sense to toy with something that works so well?…or is the real question, does it STILL work so well?
A few years ago on an edition of Monday Night RAW, the late WWE Hall of Famer Rowdy Roddy Piper invited Cena into the legendary Piper’s Pit. As the WWE creative writing had been improving by leaps and bounds over those last few months, it was time to address the Cena issue in the open public. Why are the fans booing him? What is it that they don’t like about him? Is it time for Cena to respond to the haters and give them something for them to really hate him for?
Piper said it best when he referred to Cena as “the face of the company”, because he truly is. There is not one piece of WWE merchandise that doesn’t have Cena’s image plastered on it. His likeness is synonymous with the WWE brand. He IS the WWE brand and he IS the Hulk Hogan of this generation.
In my personal opinion, I truly believe that a Cena heel turn would be catastrophic for merchandise sales. Not just because he’s the face of the company, but because he is the ONLY legitimate idol.
Wrestling fans respect guys like Randy Orton, Seth Rollins, and Kevin Owens – but they’re NOT idols. John Cena is a genuine good guy who cherishes the children, supports the troops, fights for the greater cause, and appreciates everything the WWE Universe has given him. In his promo on Raw several years ago, he summed it up by saying – “If you don’t watch, we don’t work”. John Cena is a true leader, but most of all, he’s a true hero. And a hero that kids can idolize is something that today’s youth desperately needs.
This is an era where role models are hip hop artists, who brag about being millionaire womanizers, and whose stories depict a rise from a life of crime to the criminally insane wealth they’ve glorified in their music; This is an era where real sports stars are arrested on drug or domestic charges every other week, and tainting the legacy of the game for using performance enhancers; This is an era where citizens around the world have lost confidence in their government and leaders. It’s become a dark era of chaos and despair. An era where the world looks for a hero to save them from the ruins -and if he can’t come to save us from reality, at least give us one in an animated world where we can briefly get lost in our fantasy and suspend disbelief to wish that he was in fact real.
Have you ever seen the George Clooney movie, “Up In The Air“? There’s a scene where Clooney’s character is sent to perform the grim task of informing a group of corporate employees that they are being laid off. When his sidekick botches her first attempt to break the news to a 56 year old man with two children, Clooney comes in to make the save, and reveal the silver lining. The dialogue goes something like this:
“Why do kids love sports stars?”
“Because they **** lingerie models…”
“No. That’s why we love sports stars. Kids love sports stars because they followed their dreams.”
Randy Orton is NOT an idol because he lacks charisma. He’s a great and intense character, but his goal is to severely hurt his opponent and render them into a state that may be career ending. CM Punk was NOT an idol because he makes it okay to disrespect authority as he marches to the beat of his own drum. While we admire his willingness to stand up for what he believes in and challenge the authority of “the man” – it can easily backfire and turn a young child into a rebel against his parents and teachers.
While I believe in the fight, I also believe in just cause. Kids are easily influenced but not capable of making their own decisions without the proper guidance. So having them idolize a character like CM Punk runs the risk of having the youth backfire on society as they run wild without a care for order.
Like it or not, John Cena is the proper balance of a well-rounded character. He’s a leader, an achiever, a motivator, an ambassador, a Samaritan, and a hero. He’s proven that goals can be achieved and dreams can become reality through hard work and persistence; He fights the rising trend of youth bullying with his “Rise Above Hate” apparel; He challenges authority ONLY for the greater good and equality of the people, not for selfishness and self-gain. If anything else, Cena is a symbol of what this world has lost, and the last of a dying breed.
You may hate him, but what you don’t realize is that you NEED him. He is not only the face of the WWE brand, but the face of responsibility for the WWE Universe. A universe whose product is based on the foundation of full contact violence, yet can pull itself away from the fantasy warfare and fiction to remind your kids that they are trained professionals and – I can’t believe I’m saying this- …entertainers.
It’s FAKE. It’s a STORY. It’s a bunch of CHARACTERS. The responsibility lies in telling the kids NOT to follow the things you see on TV…but if you are, then follow a guy like John Cena.
Ironically, Cena’s catchphrase is “You Can’t See Me”. And the truth is – the fans can’t see him right now. Nor can they appreciate him. But the time will come, like it did for Hogan, when those little kids who wear his merchandise will grow and look back at the positive figures in their childhood. I have a ten year old son of my own, am I’m proud that he’s a John Cena fan (even though Seth Rollins is his real favorite). And while they may be few and far between, John Cena will stand amongst them being honored as a legitimate hero, and the kids who follow him now will be there to thank him later as adults for giving them something to believe in when the entire world was turning to ****.
You’re right John – They CAN’T see you now. But one day they will.
I’d love to hear your feedback with your thoughts on the impact of a John Cena heel turn! Share them in the comments section and with me on Twitter @DieHardDerekG