WWE: Can John Cena Turn Heel Without Actually Turning Heel?

Shane CombsCorrespondent IIApril 9, 2012

John Cena, WWE Champion during 'See No Evil' Premiere - Arrivals in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by J.Sciulli/WireImage for LIONSGATE)
John Sciulli/Getty Images

If I could recommend one video to WWE creative and John Cena, it would be when Pinocchio becomes a real boy. Such is the disbelief of those in the room, while hearing Pinocchio speak, that they still believe him dead. But oh, how they celebrate when they come to realize Pinocchio has actually become a real boy. There is jumping and cheering and revelation in that moment.

It makes me wonder what it would be like in the wrestling world should Cena ever become a real boy.

I’m not sure when I last saw booking as poorly executed as Cena’s WrestleMania 28 loss to the Rock followed by one of the most utterly senseless reactions in the history of WWE.

Cena, who we are told for a year has to win his WrestleMania match, lost. Cena, who put everything on the line—especially his reputation—lost.

Cena’s reaction?

“I never thought of losing. But now that it’s happened the only thing to do is to do it right. That is the obligation to those who believe in me.”


After a year, in what was called the biggest match in WWE history, the man who lost stands plastic and offers wooden words on obligations. There is a sign behind Cena, in his own colors, that best signifies what has become of WWE’s biggest star. It reads, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH.

Honestly, if he said more than blah, blah, blah, I can hardly tell you what it was.

One question I ask myself is, how might a real boy have reacted to Cena’s WrestleMania match against the Rock?

For one, he would have done everything in his power not to let it happen.

I don’t know how WWE came to the decision to book the Rock over Cena, but I’ve yet to see any evidence of how it was a good move.

Needless to say, though, it happened.

Cena’s character should be pissed. He should be embarrassed. He might feel himself a bit of a liar and a phony.

Instead, he tells us all he wants to do is congratulate the Rock.

And nobody wanted to see that. They chanted Daniel Bryan and Brock Lesnar and pretty much anything that kept them from concentrating on the mindless exhibition of phoniness being performed in front of them.

This might be a good time to tell you that I am a Cena fan. I put Cena, and Cena alone, on a list with Hulk Hogan and Steve Austin as men who have moved merchandise and been the face of WWE on a certain level.

But what has become of Cena is mesmerizing to me. I don’t know if it is his choice not to turn heel or the choice of WWE, but somebody is holding Cena hostage.

"Oh, God, what have I become?!"
"Oh, God, what have I become?!"Jacob de Golish/Getty Images

Among the opportunities to turn Cena were during the Nexus program, and even at WrestleMania 28. Again and again, WWE has avoided using the WCW Hulk Hogan punch of a heel turn.

That would be fine if they had chosen to keep him a babyface, to keep him good.

But have they already turned Cena without the punch? Like a talentless author, did the main character change during an off-screen scene? Do we need to be informed that Cena, wooden character, is now the enemy of entertainment?

Let me quote Cena from this same Raw after WrestleMania 28.

There was a lot of speculation on how I would respond to all of this [his loss? the fact that almost the entire arena hates him?]. Would I be a person to makes excuses? Would I be a person to lash out at my opponent?

Fans break his speech to chant, “You’re a loser.”

Cena holds the mic for them and smirks.

Cena continues, “Would this finally be the day that I lash out at the WWE Universe?”

Fans chant, "Yes! Yes! Yes!"

And here comes the punch line: “I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that will not happen.”

What I just took the time to type out for you, under any other circumstance, with any other wrestler, is a demonstration of the meanest and cruelest heel. What Cena is saying is, “I am aware of exactly what you want to see; I will tease you with it; I will not do it.”

He presents the popular option and yanks it back.

He smirks.

He tells them, I am aware of what you want and I will not give it to you.

That is the work of only one type of wrestler: a heel.

Somewhere Chris Jericho’s character, with CM Punk beer bottle in his hand, is listening to Cena and saying, “Damn, heel, you ain’t got to take it that far.”

There was a time when WWE had the power. They could turn Cena or not turn him. Only those who thought about wrestling 24/7 were expecting a Cena heel turn back then.

They could have had the Hulk Hogan moment. It could have been a shocker and a game changer.

Instead, they chose to let people know that they knew what fans wanted, only to let them know it wasn’t going to happen.

And now, Cena is a tease, and his character is also a loser. And all he talks about is obligation. (When he’s not mocking the fans, that is.)

Cena performs as a heel, but uses words that are too white-meat for an 80’s Hulk Hogan.

All at the same time.

If Cena is going to be a heel, why not give him the benefit of the turn?

Until then, the conversation is not about good or bad, babyface or heel.

It’s about real or phony.

And while Cena may act like a heel and think himself a good guy, the one thing he is not is the one thing he needs to be.

A real boy.


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