Business vs. Booking: Time To Turn Cena?

Nick Paglino

WWE Survivor SeriesJohn Cena teams with The Rock this Sunday at Survivor Series.

John Cena fights The Rock at WrestleMania 28.

The crowd will not accept The Rock as a heel against Cena – ironically, for many of the same reasons they refused to accept Hulk Hogan as a heel against The Rock.

Babyface vs. babyface doesn’t work. Well, not since Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior and Sammartino vs. Morales. The crowd – except for the kids – would choose The Rock.

How the kids react if Cena turns heel shouldn’t be a big concern. If it’s done right, they’ll keep watching to see Cena get his ass kicked. (Like the adults do now.) But those kids buy lots of tickets, too, and The Rock doesn’t work house shows.

For ‘Mania’s sake, though, it makes TOTAL sense to turn Cena on The Rock Sunday. Beat The Rock down 3-on-1 with Miz & Truth, then ridicule him for his stupidity and trust. (I’m not normally for making babyfaces look dumb, but it’s been par for the course since WCW booked Sting like that virtually his entire career.) “You’re not around often enough, Rock. You’re just an out-of-touch B movie actor. You don’t know what’s what.”

Cena would be a great heel. He’s a great heel now, really.

So, what’s the problem?

Money. It always is.

Cena moves a ton of merchandise. That fact is almost certainly the reason he’s not already a heel. Kids buy anything & everything Cena.

Kids might stay interested if Cena turns. But there’s no guarantee their buying power would transfer to another performer, especially not a part-timer like The Rock. Kids watch every week. Heels rarely sell merchandise.

So, what will WWE do?

Realize first that WWE will do whatever it does without rhyme or reason. Twitter is the latest parasite to burrow into VKM’s brain, because he sees tweets as instant feedback and increased followers as instant affirmation. It’s just like WCW in its death rattle, when wacky Russo embraced feedback on’s post-Nitro real audio program like judgment handed down via stone tablet. WRONG PEOPLE TO LISTEN TO.

But logically, you’ve got to turn Cena. GOT TO.

You shouldn’t bend your creative process to (hopefully) maintain merch sales. To positively influence PPV buyrates, yes. To positive influence ticket sales, yes. But adjusting creative to keep selling T-shirts…that’s a tough tightrope to walk.

I totally understand. It's a big revenue stream. But Stone Cold Steve Austin was selling mucho merch when he turned heel and ill-advisedly fronted the WCW invasion in 2001. Through no fault of Austin’s, the whole thing tanked. Point is, the creative process came first.

It should come first here, too. A Cena turn for ‘Mania makes sense. It’s Wrestling 101. You don’t want an ambiguous main event.

Credit to Cena for never allowing frustration to make him break character when the live crowd turns on his babyface persona. He’s even used that friction to make his promos more memorable – again, without breaking character. Just a few good one-liners.

Some feel that babyfaces & heels don’t exist anymore, or that the distinction isn't important. THE CROWD DECIDES FOR ITSELF, I once heard wacky Russo say. Vintage wacky Russo: One minute he treats marks like idiots, the next like colleagues.

Anyway, this column is pointless. Right, like most of them.

Cena is NOT turning heel for ‘Mania. ‘Mania will be face vs. face, with lots of merchandise on sale. Maybe Cena will steal The Rock’s pin Sunday to restart their conflict. Perhaps creative will come up with something else equally meaningless. But those Cena T-shirts will keep moving.

Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM, Pittsburgh, PA (105.9). Check out his web page at Contact Mark by emailing FOLLOW MARK ON TWITTER: @MARKMADDENX.

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