WWE fans have been calling for John Cena to turn heel for what feels like years, and the buzz has intensified in the aftermath of Raw as Cena cut a passionate promo on The Rock. As intriguing as a Cena heel turn would be, the WWE simply doesn't have the big guns necessary to pull it off currently.
After two weeks away, The Rock made his Raw return on Monday with the WWE Championship in tow. He and Cena then took part in a question-and-answer session with a panel of five WWE Hall of Famers, including Jerry "The King" Lawler, Booker T, Mick Foley, Dusty Rhodes and Bret Hart. Lawler moderated while the other four asked Cena and The Rock questions to close the show.
Both Cena and The Rock did a great job as they made their feud seem very real and the stakes attached to their match at WrestleMania XXIX were certainly raised. Cena was sure to hammer home how much the loss at WrestleMania XXVIII affected him and he even went so far as to break his usual character while recalling last year's events.
Cena doesn't lose matches often, but when he does he always seems to give due credit regardless of the manner in which the loss occurred. That wasn't the case on Raw as he told The Rock that he didn't really beat him at WrestleMania XXVIII. Cena maintained that he beat himself by making the stupid decision to go for a People's Elbow.
That obviously doesn't mean that a heel turn is in the works or that one is going to happen any time soon, but Cena's promo definitely has a lot of fans talking. He was definitely out of character, which I'm sure was by design, but it just doesn't seem like the WWE is in a situation where it can afford to take its top moneymaker and turn him heel. If anything, Cena's attitude was meant to show that he is serious about winning and won't allow a repeat of last year.
Cena turning heel would undoubtedly be revolutionary, but it doesn't seem like the WWE has a proper contingency plan in place. CM Punk was red hot as a face at this time last year; however, he is currently the top heel in the company and can't just turn back out of nowhere. That leaves a small pool of faces for the WWE to choose from when it comes to replacing Cena as "the guy" in the WWE.
Among them are Sheamus, Randy Orton and Ryback. All of them have fairly sizable fan followings, but they aren't anywhere near Cena in that regard. Orton has a comparable track record of success, however, the writing is on the wall in terms of a heel turn for The Viper as well. He has played peacemaker between Sheamus and Big Show thus far, which makes me believe that the WWE is setting the table for him to turn at WrestleMania.
If that happens then there is no way that the WWE would go through with a Cena heel turn in addition to that. Not only would it overshadow Orton's heel turn, but the face side of things would suddenly be extremely weak as Cena, Orton and Punk would all be heels. Perhaps a Cena heel turn would be the boost that Ryback needs to take the next step, but he needs to be built back up before he's ready to take on that responsibility.
While WCW did a lot of things incorrectly when it came to the nWo, the timing of the group's formation and Hulk Hogan's heel turn were perfect. Hogan had been receiving a lot of abuse from the fans as Cena is currently and it was clear that his face character had run its course. The main difference between the WCW then and WWE now, however, is that WCW had a top-flight face in line to feud with Hogan/
That face, of course, was Sting. While Hogan was a bigger name, Sting was always a WCW guy and was the perfect person to combat the group that was trying to take over his company. The WWE simply doesn't possess a superstar of that magnitude, so turning Cena could be disastrous. Perhaps The Rock could serve in that role through Extreme Rules, but he isn't the answer either because he's obviously going to leave at some point in favor of his acting career.
Cena is going to turn heel at some point. The popular thing to say is that it's never going to happen, but the word "never" should never be spoken in reference to professional wrestling. There will eventually come a time down the line when Cena is no longer the WWE's top draw. He'll be unseated by a young upstart at some point just like every top star has been in the past. When that finally comes to fruition, then Cena's heel turn will as well.
Maybe that next great face is already on the roster in the form of Sheamus, Ryback or somebody else, but unfortunately they aren't entrenched enough to take that giant leap to the next level. As much as most fans probably don't want to see it, Cena is likely to beat The Rock cleanly at WrestleMania for the WWE Championship and his redemption tour will begin soon after as he tries to wipe 2012 out of the WWE Universe's consciousness.
In one respect the WWE has a perfect opportunity to turn Cena heel at WrestleMania XXIX as it is abundantly clear that he is willing to do anything to beat The Rock. The puzzle is missing a very important piece in the form of an heir to Cena's throne, though, so it isn't in the cards quite yet.