John Cena: Would a heel turn work for him like it did for Hulk Hogan?

john cenaJohn Cena as a heel. It will happen one day, or it won’t. It would be good for business, or it would kill a cash cow. There are as many views on this as there are wrestling fans to debate it.

My view is it will never happen. Cena as the top face in WWE makes Vince McMahon a lot of money, and as long as that continues to be the case, there’s no way McMahon allows his creative team to mess with a good thing.

The same could have been written 20 years ago about Hulk Hogan, of course. Hogan as a face was like printing money, but the act went stale when he jumped to WCW, and Hogan and Eric Bischoff made maybe the gutsiest move in wrestling creative history in turning him heel and installing him as the leader of the nWo.

Plenty of fans think Cena’s act long ago went stale. (I’m among that sizable subset of wrestling fans.) A key difference to where Cena is now and where Hogan was in the mid-1990s is where the two are/were in their careers. Hogan was nearing the end of his run as a top in-ring performer when he changed from the yellow and red to the black and white. Cena has another 8-10 years in him if he wants to stay at the top of the game that long before we can say he’s at the end of his run.

The question, then, is, does Cena even stay in the game that long? You’d hope for his sake that he (and others of the new generation of top stars) learn the lessons from the Hogans and Ric Flairs of the world who made and spent tens of millions in their careers and have to keep trotting themselves out in front of fans into their 50s and 60s because they need the money.

Hogan extended his usefulness to wrestling by a good five years by finally turning heel. Cena, if he plays his cards right, won’t have to worry about needing to extend his run after having had a long career as the face of pro wrestling.

My bet is on Cena to age gracefully and step aside quietly at the end. I’m not assuming we see a well-past-his-prime John Cena hobbling to the ring for a paycheck to supplement his Social Security. Thus I’m not assuming we ever see him turn heel, as interesting as that might be.

– Column by Chris Graham


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