One of the biggest “What If’s” in wrestling history is the long-rumoured John Cena heel turn.
While he had a brief heel run as The Doctor of Thuganomics, for two decades Cena preached the virtues of Hustle, Loyalty and Respect.
He was a hero to the people (especially the young WWE fans), and brought in incredible amounts of t-shirt and ticket sales for events he was on.
There was never a perfect time for John Cena to turn heel – although a match with The Undertaker would have been close to it – and WWE never pulled the trigger on their own “Bash at the Beach” Hogan moment.
That’s not to say there wasn’t appetite for it. Fans booed him into oblivion for years, wishing for Cena to turn to the dark side.
Even The Champ himself wanted to on occasions, with the most notable being during his feud with The Rock, on the run-up to their WrestleMania 28 main event.
John Cena Didn’t Turn Heel Due To Business
John Cena never turned heel in the WWE because it never made business sense to do so.
As the top face in the company, John Cena drew huge crowds and TV ratings, with millions clamouring to see The Champ on their TV screens each week.
He main evented some of the biggest WrestleMania’s of all time. His bouts with Triple H, Shawn Michaels and The Rock were some of the best of all time, and made WWE huge amounts of money.
John Cena spoke about nearly turning heel on The Rock before WrestleMania 28, during an interview with Pat McAfee.
He revealed that Vince McMahon told him he was going to turn heel on The Rock, but Cena convinced him otherwise, due to the virtues his character possessed in the WWE.
“I remember Vince toyed with the idea of possibly turning me heel for The Rock when he won in Miami. And I told him, ‘Hey, no problem, 100%. I’ll do it.’ But just remember, we’re so deep in at this point that we can’t do it and then jump back. We’ll be sunk at both ends.
So if we do it, I have to be the opposite of virtue, I have to be pure evil, and we have to go all in. And from a believability standpoint, I’ve always wanted people to see me in uniform – in a suit, in WWE – or in a ball cap, t-shirt, jean shorts, sneakers – in uniform.
Because I want people to know that what they see is somebody they can relate to. And he decided against it. At that point, he was like, ‘Listen, I don’t think we’re ever gonna do it.'”
Ethan Carter III , or EC3 also spoke about the lost heel turn on Sportskeeda’s “The Wrestling Outlaws. The former WWE and TNA star spoke about a conversation he had with John Cena about turning heel.
He revealed that Cena told him he couldn’t turn heel due to business reasons, and that the booing crowds when he appeared did not correlate with a loss in revenue.
John Cena was still a hero to the people, and the WWE couldn’t afford to turn their biggest star heel at that time.
“The behind-the-scenes of that or the way the sausage is made with that because I have talked to him about that [John Cena] and he said the overall business on merchandise and other intangibles that weren’t direct crowd reactions or reflected in the ratings were so good and so strong with him as the top babyface. He said it would have been insane to change, and I think he wanted [to turn heel] it too.”
EC3 also revealed that the heel that John Cena had made (and showcased on Total Divas), was for his match with The Rock at WrestleMania 28.
He noted that Cena wanted to go “full heel” against The Rock, making the most of the intense negative reaction he faced during that feud.
However, he reiterated that he didn’t do so due to “business reasons”, which was clearly a good thing – WrestleMania 28 & 29 had the biggest buy rates of all time for the WWE.
“Top secret info – He really wanted to go full heel for the first match with The Rock, so much so that he had gear made, and I have seen it. So it was always in his mind cause he knew. The guy could do anything; he’s super gifted and has his fingers on the pulse. Business wise it didn’t make sense; maybe that’s why they didn’t go with it.”
The other reason why John Cena couldn’t turn heel was because of the incredible work he does with the Make-A-Wish foundation.
The sixteen-time World Champion holds the record for the most Make-A-Wishes complete ever.
Since 2002, he has met with over 650 ill children, helping them to fulfil their final wish. This selfless act brought light to these kids life, and is something he needs to be commended for.
The immense PR this brought to the WWE was invaluable. This put Cena and the company on the front and centre, keeping them in the media on countless occasions.
WWE could not afford to lose the publicity brought by Cena’s charity, and was one of the reasons why they could never turn him heel.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.