Welcome to March everyone. We are officially on the road to Wrestlemania! That being said, this time of the year is the most exciting period in the WWE calendar. We're always told to expect the unexpected! While the product is always high quality, rumors swirl, people talk, and we are kept on the edge our seats wondering what will happen next.
One of the biggest rumors every year is "This is how John Cena will turn heel". And every year my demographic (18-40 year old males) are disappointed when it doesn't happen. So I need to ask the question, did it already happen? How could it have happened? John Cena is a good guy! In this article I will point out unconventional, but logical, reasons why according to history and wrestling theology, John Cena has slowly turned into wrestling biggest heel, only we haven't accepted it yet. Until today.
Heels in wrestling aren't always the bad guys. And bad guys aren't always the heels. One parallel I can draw to this conclusion is the New World Order invasion in WCW in 1996. They dressed in black, they used baseball bats, they cheated in matches. Those things are pretty nefarious and under minded. You automatically think because they do those things, they're the bad guys. I'd agree, except they were cheered when they did it. Steve Austin made a career out of being an anti-establishment ***hole between 1997 and 1998 in the WWF. He drank beer, swore, got disqualified, and assaulted the owner of the company! But he was cheered. These storylines and characters created a new type of heel in wrestling. An edgy, gray area, where the classical "kiss the babies and slap the fans hands" were no longer cool. You've all heard this dialog before, so I won't spend more time discussing it.
In wrestling, heels carry certain characteristics and responsibilities both inside and outside the ring that define what their classification are. It was once said from local and territory promoters that heels made the most money for the companies, because people paid to see heels get beat. While faces sold the merchandise and kept people happy, it was the bad guys the fans really wanted to see. There's something alluring about watching someone get their comeuppance. Another aspect of a heel is the ability to get their opponent "over". In simple terms, their role is to get the crowd to cheer their opponent. Heels rarely get pinned during a match, relying on the face to spend time kicking out of near falls, building suspense for the finish. You can usually identify who is the heel based on the layout of a match, in a traditional setting. Heels will also cut mean-spirited interviews and promos. They will talk down to the crowd, they will belittle their opponents, and they will talk about how great they are. They want you to dislike them. Its all about creating the atmosphere where you will want to boo them.
So what does this have to do with John Cena? People cheer him. The announcers talk about how good he is, how he overcomes the odds all the time. But is he really a face? In this day and age in wrestling it's hard to understand the underlying dynamic of characters due to the "gray area" we have found ourselves in that I discussed above. Fact is, John Cena meets most of the criteria of being a classic heel!
It might be viewed as absurd by many, at the very least, he is the most unconventional heel character of all-time. When Cena talks, he will put down his opponents. In insider terms he "buries" talent, incidentally, whether intentional or not. I have found myself being disgusted with some of the things John Cena's character has said over the last year or so. The things he says border on delirious, and out of touch. He would often make pseudo-homophobic remarks towards members of The Nexus during his feud with them. We laughed. But the comments weren't exactly funny.
During his feud with Dolph Ziggler, on New Years Eve 2012 he brought up how Ziggler wasn't able to win the big one, belittling Ziggler and his past failed characters, going from being a golf caddy, to a cheerleader, to his current character. That was the point his comments stopped being funny to me, and I no longer laughed. How could a good guy be so mean spirited and judgmental? Because the point of a heel is to get you to cheer their opponent, remember? When Dolph Ziggler finally wins the World Heavyweight Championship, we will be reminded how he could never accomplish that, and we will be happy for him; we will cheer! The last two weeks on RAW, John Cena has cut two interesting promos which drove home this fact for me. The first one involved him saying how "For once this is no longer about you Punk, it's about me." To me, that was very selfish. He took the spotlight away from someone else and put it on himself. He was trying to point out how CM Punk is selfish, but ended up seeming arrogant himself. And most recently, Cena discussed about all the successes he's had, rambling off a list of accomplishments, stating he is a 10-time WWE Champion, and Royal Rumble winner (two times!). Why is he putting himself over and bragging about his accomplishments if he is such a good guy? It's because he's not.
John Cena has accepted his role, and the company was forced to change based on the fans both booing and cheering him. They have put a positive spin on the dual chants during shows, claiming he drives more of a reaction from the crowd than any other superstar. But referencing the theories of old, many fans buy tickets and pay-per-views to see John Cena lose. I know I do. Additionally, John Cena allows people to gain interest in his opponents. According to a majority of the 18-40 male crowd (And that composes 50-75% of all crowds), whoever Cena's opponent is, is who they will cheer. Whether that's The Rock, Dolph Ziggler, CM Punk, or anyone else. That's what good heels do. That's their role. All the signs are there, I just ask you all if you're willing to accept it. John Cena has already turned heel, and he wants you to boo him.
In closing, the strongest faith I have in this subject is the fact that the WWE's current product is being developed and controlled by Paul Levesque, the son-in-law of Vince McMahon. We all know him by the name Triple H. He is respected among fans, and everyone backstage, as a true "student" of the business, as he strives to perfects the psychology of the business both backstage and inside the ring. His nickname, "The Cerebral Assassin" is a reflection of that respect. Triple H knows the business. What does this have to do with John Cena? Under Triple H's guidance and direction, I could only imagine that Triple H, one of our generations best heels, can help John Cena become one of the greatest heels ever. Only, we will be told how great John Cena is in the meantime. Heels lie.