On July 7th, 1996, the entire landscape of professional wrestling changed. It all happened from the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, Florida, at World Championship Wrestling’s pay-per-view named Bash At The Beach. At this historic event, Hulk Hogan shocked the entire wrestling world by turning his back on WCW and joining The Outsiders (Scott Hall and Kevin Nash) in what would later be known as the New World Order (nWo). The main event of Bash At The Beach saw the team of Sting, Lex Luger, and Macho Man Randy Savage facing off against the team of The Outsiders and a mystery partner. The Outsiders came to the ring without their mystery partner, claiming that although he was in the building, they didn’t need him to secure the victory.
Towards the end of the match, Hulk Hogan came down to the ring seemingly to the aid of WCW causing Scott Hall and Kevin Nash to flee to the outside. Then Hogan shocked everyone by revealing he was the mystery partner when he performed several Atomic Leg Drops on the fallen Macho Man. Hogan threw the referee outside, and the match subsequently ended in a no-contest. After the match, the audience flooded the ring with garbage as Mean Gene Oakerland questioned Hogan and his actions. Hogan claimed they were “the future of wrestling,” and could be called “the new world order of wrestling.” Hogan said he was bored with WCW and declared their intention to take over the wrestling business destroying everything in their path. To this day, the turn by Hogan is widely considered to be one of the most shocking and memorable moments in the history of professional wrestling.
Almost 20 years later, the Internet Wrestling Community loves to fantasize about the thought of John Cena turning heel. They make outlandish claims like “it would be bigger than Hogan’s turn” or “it is best for business.” Would a Cena heel turn be fresh and new? Sure. Would the John Cena heel turn be great for a multitude of various reasons? Definitely. No argument there. Nonetheless, the purpose of this article is not to argue those points, as they’ve been made before. This article is to explain why that will never happen and why John Cena will never turn heel.
In theory the thought of John Cena turning heel does sound great. It even sounds plausible, but the unfortunately the reality of the situation is that a John Cena heel turn will never ever happen. First and foremost, you don’t fix what isn’t broken. Why mess with success? John Cena is a 15-time world champion, consisting of 12 reigns as WWE Champion and three reigns as World Heavyweight Champion. He is the public face of the WWE and has served as their franchise player since 2005. Cena has had more title reigns than anyone in modern history, he has served as the undisputed top draw for over a decade and more importantly has main evented more shows than anyone ever. Moreover, he’s just as over now as he ever has been. From a business standpoint, you can’t argue with that kind of success and that track record.
Tribute To The Troops is an annual event held by the WWE together with Armed Forces Entertainment in December around Christmas since 2003 as a way of honoring the men and women of the United States Armed Forces serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Selected WWE wrestlers and employees travel to the said countries and interact with the members of the U.S. Military for at least three days. The WWE wrestlers regularly visit military camps, bases and hospitals, including the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Bethesda Naval Hospital, during their travels to bolster the morale of the troops. WWE then holds a special wrestling show with the troop members in attendance for free. Though some wrestlers are more patriotic than others, few WWE Superstars show their appreciation for the Armed Forces more than John Cena. From wearing dog tags, to saluting at the entrance ramp, to starring in The Marine, Cena clearly respects the Armed Forces a lot. He has participated in 10 of the 12 Tribute To The Troops events. Love him or hate him, John Cena respects the military, and they in return show their appreciation for him. Cena often mentions on-air when Armed Forces members are at ringside, and has explained how much they mean to him. On a recent episode of RAW, when Paul Heyman was trying to get Cena to turn heel, Cena mentioned how proud and honored he was when a soldier gave him his Purple Heart. John Cena as a heel simply wouldn’t be able to use that relationship with the military. While members of the military might find Cena boring as well, that possibility does not even come close to how much he gets cheered by the military and by patriotic fans. In the grand scheme of things, as long as John Cena shows his respect for the military, he will never turn heel.
Next there is of course the whole Children and Family Demographic. There’s no denying it- John Cena’s target audience is younger children, usually under the age of 12, and families. His very PG vocabulary (which only rarely veers off into more mature language), wholesome good-guy image, and positive message make up the cornerstone of WWE’s PG environment. Cena is, for all intents and purposes, the poster boy for WWE’s PG era. Furthermore, a cornerstone of Cena’s mantra is his dedication to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. It has been stated many times in the past, Cena is extremely dedicated to making the wishes of sick children come true. He holds the title for the most wishes granted by a single individual, with over 450 wishes. If he were to turn heel, it would completely destroy the image that he has cultivated for himself. His association with the Make-A-Wish Foundation is centered on him being a babyface and a hero to younger audience members. That dynamic simply wouldn’t work if John Cena was a heel.
In Mel Brooks’ classic film Spaceballs, Yogurt has the famous quote “Merchandising! Merchandising! Where the real money from the movie is made. Spaceballs: the T-shirt, Spaceballs: the coloring book, Spaceballs: the lunch box, Spaceballs: the breakfast cereal, Spaceballs: the flamethrower–the kids love this one–last but not least, Spaceballs: the doll.” Logically think about that. Do you think the WWE is any different? In terms of WWE merchandise and sales, John Cena is number one in overall product sales and has been for years. The guy doesn’t only sell shirts; he sells action figures, sweatbands, hats, pendants, shoes, and bibs (because we all know how badly babies want to represent John Cena as a part of the Cenation). If you go to the WWE’s website and look at John Cena’s merchandise you’ll see he currently has over 120 items available. Do you think for an instant the WWE would even consider doing anything to potentially jeopardize the sales generated by their number merchandise seller? I don’t think so.
Okay, for a second let’s hypothetically pretend John Cena actually did turn heel. This creates two massive problems. One problem with this happening is the lack of top babyfaces available to take his place. The second problem is that John Cena’s good guy character has been carefully cultivated over time. He has proven to the WWE Universe that he’s a workhorse, who does what he’s told and goes out of his way to make the young audience happy. It is because of this as well as the other reasons stated above that he wouldn’t be a believable heel, which simply doesn’t make sense from a business standpoint. Don’t forget, the WWE is a public traded company with investors, so they naturally do what’s best for business.
Finally, the biggest reason Cena will never turn heel is because he already is one! Now hear me out, hear me out. To all the people (primarily children) chanting, “Let’s Go Cena!” he’s the biggest babyface and hero, but to everyone else chanting “Cena Sucks!” he’s becomes a heel by process of elimination. Sure, maybe Cena is not doing traditional heel tactics but he’s still getting the same heat. He’s getting that heat while still having that babyface appeal to the vast majority of WWE’s demographic. More importantly, the turn wouldn’t make sense because it wouldn’t result in a uniform reaction from the audience. Cena is not Hulk Hogan. I repeat, Cena is not Hulk Hogan. Everyone loved the Hulkster. He was the babyface that everyone cheered and because of that uniformity he was able to flip things so successfully. On the other hand, the audience is split when it comes to Mr. Hustle, Loyalty, and Respect.
A Cena heel turn would likely produce the same reaction he’s currently getting without the perks for the WWE. All the children who had once cheered him would begin booing him and those same adults who had previously been chanting “Cena Sucks!” would likely start cheering him. That’s a lot of work for the same results minus the perks, but you have to weigh those perks because they are important, not just to WWE but to John Cena. There is the family demographic, the military, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and the almighty merchandise sales that need to be accounted for. It makes absolutely no sense from a business standpoint to jeopardize all the work and success created with Cena to satisfy the wants of a smaller portion of the WWE’s audience. In conclusion, for all the aforementioned reasons, John Cena will never turn heel.
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