For well over a decade, John Cena has been at the forefront of World Wrestling Entertainment, no superstar has EVER created as much crowd emotion that the 15 time world champion. You could also even argue that no wrestler has ever been in a position where he is loved by the masses, yet fully hated at the same time. Whether you are a member of the Cenation or not you can not deny John Cena deserves everything he has earned. One of Cena’s biggest criticisms is that he is very predictable, that his character is stale and boring and a heel turn would be the saving grace for John Cena. Considering he isn’t wanting to bow out of wrestling for a while, the age old question continues can John Cena turn heel?
John Cena made his debut in 2002, accepting Kurt Angle’s open challenge in impressive fashion. Despite an explosive debut, John Cena fizzled into the background of a growing Smackdown roster. An opportune moment to rap at Halloween Smackdown kick started a rap gimmick for Cena. After a year of being a heel, the fans grow to love Cena’s very extreme and entertaining raps. Once the fans accepted Cena, he never looked back. After becoming WWE Champion Cena took a slow step back from his Dr Of Thuganomics gimmick into a more serious wrestler.
It’s hard to pin point an exact moment when the fan’s began to turn on Cena. It started sometime at the end of 2005, after beating Chris Jericho and Kurt Angle, fans began to get sick of Cena being shoved down their throats, boos were very quiet but began to warm up. New Years Revolution 2006 was the first key moment in the change in crowd momentum for John Cena. In his entrance to the Elimination Chamber clear boos were heard. The booking of the match didn’t help things either, Kurt Angle, Shawn Michaels and Kane were eliminated early, leaving Cena to face Chris Masters and Carilto. Two good superstars but nowhere near established enough. So as soon as John Cena retained his title the fan’s hated him for it. Overkill with a 10 months title reign and the fans reacted by chanting Cena Sucks throughout the match. The fan’s completed loved it when Edge cashed in his Money In The Bank contract, a change in the air had occurred. Edge’s reign lasted a mere 21 days and back to John Cena the title went.
Heading into Wrestlemania, Triple H was booked heavily as the heel, even aligning with Mr McMahon, this didn’t stop the Chicago fans turning against the norm and booing John Cena. Fast forward to One Night Stand to the most iconic visuals to ever grace a WWE event. The entire crowd was against Cena, the epic “Cena Wins We Riot” flag draped from the rafters. Depending on who Cena faced depended on how the crowd reacted against him. Fan’s got tired of his long title reigns and his never say die superman style character that always overcame the odds. 10 years later, a fair amount of fans still believe this.
When it comes to reaction, being booed or cheered is brilliant, having no reaction or stale boring chants are the beginning of a sinking ship. John Cena, always gets a reaction, in an interview with WWE Kids magazine (The UK Tour 2014 Edition), Cena talks about the divided crowd and how the older fans want him to be a bad guy.
It’s strange coz a lot of the older fans want me to be a bad guy, so they boo me. I don’t get upset though, sometimes the crowd like me, sometimes they don’t. I just go out there, work off the energy of the crowd and try to give them a great show.
Cena sums it up pretty well, the crowd reaction, doesn’t bother him, it feeds him and as a wrestler that is all you need to perform. When it comes to the “older fans” wanting Cena to become a bad guy, would that actually work?
The most famous heel turn in wrestling history is Hulk Hogan turning on WCW and forming the nWo. Like Cena, Hogan spent years parading the same gimmick and matches, fan’s were bored of him. One key difference to Hogan is that the younger fans were as crazy about Hogan as they are with Cena. The products were very different as well, more catering to the adult crowd compared to today’s family audience.
Timing is another issue, Cena has had a few chances to turn “heel” and it actually working. Those times have passed, there is too much of a crowd divide between Cena fans and haters now, he will get a reaction anyway. If Cena turned heel, the older fans would cheer the guy. A sense of relief that we can see a new side of Cena. However what does that mean with the Cenation? Kids, teenagers and a fair amount of adults look up to the guy. He is a ray of inspiration, to idolise and gain self belief. Cena is fantastic as being the role model, if Cena turned heel for the sake of the “older fans”, either the kids will get confused and cheer for Cena because everyone else is cheering for him, or it will alienate a generation of younger fans. Something in the long-term is not a great idea.
People give Cena alot of hate, as a wrestler I can understand why, he has a history of not putting over guys when it mattered, his superman, never die character is painful and predictable. Yes his moveset is limited and repetitive, but isn’t Daniel Bryan’s now? John Cena the man, is some I admire, his work ethic is incredible, media interviews and his incredible dedication to Make A Wish and Susan G Komen is remarkable.
Cena has adapted over time, we have generally chose to ignore it. By not being in the title picture is refreshing and something he has been mainly staying away from the past 5 years and has produced some of his best work with the likes of CM Punk, The Rock, Bray Wyatt and Daniel Bryan. His United States open challenge brought a fresh aura for Cena too. Quite honestly, as a fan in the arena its great fun, chanting “John Cena Sucks”, just like it was fun to sing “You Suck” to Kurt Angle, we know he doesn’t its a fun part of the show to get involved with. No-one will ever be satisfied with the character of John Cena, but for as long as he gets a reaction from the crowd John deserves to stick around. As for the heel turn, it would be the most pointless thing to do since David Arquette won the world title.