Let me be really honest. I read an article this morning about the Royal Rumble results all the way through the second paragraph before I stopped and started typing this. Here's where I stopped, and I'll let the bracketed blanks illustrate where this article started to lose me:
"The creative team at WWE had the perfect opportunity to turn him over to the dark side in his [PPV] bout against [so-and-so] and they dropped the ball."
Anyone else feeling serious deja vu?
I have no problem with writers all over this site banging out article after article about why they think Cena's going to turn or why they don't think he's going to turn. I've put out plenty myself, but that paragraph has come up an infinite amount of times.
As a brief sliver of constructive criticism to anyone else putting together such an article, please don't add it to any more articles, as it only serves to water down the explanation.
No matter how good or bad your argument may be to support your point, when you look back at how swerves typically work, they tend to be pretty surprising. Thus, as just about every PPV in the last five to six years (including TLC 2011 where Cena didn't even appear on the broadcast), they could've found a way to do it.
That's why they're "swerves." They're sudden, dangerous, and unexpected, just like when a car swerves out of the way of some obstacle or danger. Since WWE has dug themselves into a nasty rut of allowing Cena "the character" and Cena "the real-life person" to bleed together into one muddy, awkward, corny conglomerate, it's taking a long while to drag the character out of the man again.
As I said in my last article regarding the Funkasaurus, Cena rose to popularity years ago as a flamboyant rapper character, and as time went on and he became more popular, WWE changed around him into a PG format. Cena carrying the company at the time meant that HE had to change as well. Thus, they stripped him of his profanity-laced freestyles, his throwback jerseys and locks and chains, and of course, his very edgy urban hip-hop accent and style (aside from his entrance music that served to sell maybe 300 or so extra copies of his oft-forgotten, now obscure, rap album).
As much as I've carried the "Cena Heel Turn" torch over the past year and a half plus that I've written for this site, I had no expectation WHATSOEVER that Cena was going to turn officially or unofficially at the 2012 Royal Rumble.
In order to flesh out the character from the man, it's taking time. They've had to construct this whole "Embracing Hate" concept in order to build the circumstances necessary for Cena to once again become a fictional character who does fictional things on TV, so that Cena "the real-life person" can establish for people, "look, what happens on TV, it's not all real, it's just a story."
I didn't think for one second that a heel turn was happening at the Royal Rumble, but frankly, it didn't need to. It actually served an even grander purpose.
It continued to show Cena getting weaker.
The reason they call his little business before the AA the "Five Moves of Doom" is because it's been so typical that when he sets those moves up, the match is just about over and his opponent is ready to take a nose dive.
People have been saying for months that it's poor and ridiculous booking to show Cena weak going into WrestleMania 28.
Is it? He's been looking like an invincible, unstoppable monster face for AT LEAST the past five years. In 2011 alone, he won the WWE Championship three times. Once from Miz and Morrison, once from Mysterio, and once from Del Rio. An established heel, an established future hall-of-famer, a newish up-and-comer, and a guy who might still be here had a world title win been given a shot. He squashed them all.
Exactly how much stronger do some of you want him to look? The guy's resume with this company sparkles. The current WWE Champion still carries around the "Spinner" style of belt modeled specifically for Cena. He's an over 10-time world champion. He's looked strong for years.
Fact is...it doesn't tell any kind of compelling story if Cena looks like the best WWE has to offer to stack up against an even easier pick for a future WWE Hall of Famer. It would just tell the same boring story over and over.
Admit it. Even during Cena's most unstoppable surges last year, he still didn't look like a Tiffany's bag worth of dog droppings when put next to The Rock. Cena gets in the same ring with The Rock, it ends up a landslide who comes out looking better based solely on crowd response.
Why do you think WWE started making "Cena Sucks" shirts?
Yes yes yes, we've all heard the argument that people who hate Cena are hypocrites when they buy those shirts because (1) it increases Cena merch sales and (2) it bolsters Cena's paycheck. Fine.
But the bigger issue is, they made those shirts because with the popularity of the Rock (1) completely unwavering and (2) completely squashing Cena, WWE knew conclusively that they couldn't ignore the boos any longer. They finally had to address it. It was becoming too large to turn a deaf ear to.
Cena's looked weaker and weaker lately, and that's so important to developing his CHARACTER. He's said over and over that he's not changing, well, that's 100 percent true! Cena "the real-life person" will likely never change. Cena "the real-life person" will always be a strong and powerful member of WWE.
But Cena "the character"? Since turning face back in 2003, he's seen scarce humiliation, and even less genuine, inarguable failure. Although "B.A.Star" is largely built to help kids avoid humiliation through help from popular WWE Superstars, Cena should absolutely go through some failure.
I've made a vow to not simply tow the "heel turn" line anymore, and I intend to stick to that. However, what I will not waver on is supporting the idea that Cena's character, in order to be reborn into whatever else Cena can believably offer us (a heel character, a deeper more complex face, whatever), needs to fail.
It's simple math. Regardless of ratings and profit, from a completely kayfabe perspective, if what a character believes and says and does works well enough to get titles and spotlight and success, you stick with it. When they don't work anymore, you change course.
Cena's mantras, ideals, and beliefs, although good enough to win him plenty of titles and accolades over the years, are not cutting it for him anymore. They're not winning him gold unconditionally, they're not shooting him to the top, and they're not ensuring he prevails over evil, hate, negativity and self-doubt.
Cena and Ryder were left flat on their backs following the match at the Rumble last night, and when the end-match bell rings at WrestleMania 28, it should be Cena who has again failed.
It's so easy for business-minded pundits in the Internet Wrestling Community to say, "Cena's the past, present and future, and Rock's just a movie star, Cena needs to win to carry the torch into 2013 and beyond." You're right about the beginning part. Cena's a huge star, and his matches should definitely be center stage until he takes a long period away from the company and someone else needs to carry ratings, PPV buys and so forth.
But all in all, he's succeeded enough. In order for his career to go anywhere new, he needs to fail in his quest to beat The Rock.
He fails, and we could see new changes, new storylines, new attitude, new and fresh encounters, new characters for so many folks in WWE who have stagnated besides Cena.
He succeeds and pins Rocky? Cena's arguments all get validated, the company stays exactly where it's been, and the build to such an epic confrontation gets flushed down the toilet, as fans end up waiting an entire year for Cena to get the same kind of revenge that they seen him get so many times in the past.
Cena "the character" can be who he's been for many years up to WrestleMania 28, but something new needs to happen at the big dance.
If Cena does win, it needs to be dirty. The character and the real-life person have been one in the same for too long. They need to be separated with the jaws of life.
Kane's monstrous physical prowess and clever turn of phrase has indeed loosened them a little. Rocky will be the surgeon that splits the Siamese twins in two for good.