Despite being booed and jeered by the crowd for many years, fans never got the John Cena heel turn that they wanted. He did wrestle heel at the start of his career as the Doctor of Thuganomics, but quickly transitioned into the “Marine” character and the happy-go-lucky John Cena we know today.
On his way there he won 16 world titles, tying Ric Flair‘s record for the most ever. However, it always felt something was missing. The hardcore fans never really accepted his super babyface persona and longed for a John Cena heel turn, something which they never got to see. Now he edges near to retirement, it looks like we never will.
He always seemed keen on it. Cena had a set of new gear made for a heel turn that was allegedly planned for a short time. Obviously the idea was nixed but he held onto the gear, finally revealing it the the WWE Universe during an episode of Total Divas.
A heel turn could have reinvigorated a stale character and brought eyes back to the product, with fans intrigued to see how their childhood hero would fare as a bad guy, a la Hulk Hogan joining the NWO in WCW in 1996. Hogan became the biggest star in wrestling (again) and extended his career by a decade, something which would have greatly helped The Champ and the WWE.
Why Didn’t John Cena Turn Heel?
Former WWE Head Writer Brian Gewirtz has revealed the reason why John Cena didn’t turn heel. The man known as “The Rock’s personal writer” revealed that the writers did pitch multiple times to turn him heel, and while it was considered by Vince McMahon, it was eventually nixed due to the amount of merchandise sales he brings in and all the “Make-A-Wish” wishes he has granted (he has the record for the most wishes granted ever).
Speaking on The Cheap Heat podcast, Brian Gerwitz revealed;
There was a time. We did push plenty of times for John to turn heel. There was a lot of reasoning going into it. Vince was tempted. He was very tempted a couple of times, but ultimately, there was the merch and everything John does.
John himself said when approached with the idea, he was like, and this is what is so great about John, is he was like, ‘Ok, listen. If you want to turn me heel, if that’s what Vince says you guys want to do, I’ll do it, but just so you know, I will go full boar heel. There won’t be any of that, oh, he’s a fun heel, he’s a cool heel, he’s winking at the audience, heel. He is going to go full heel.’
I think Vince was like, John is captain of the ship here. There’s the issue of who he would work with. Who would replace him as the top babyface? The merchandise and everything else John does off-screen. So, ultimately, Vince didn’t want to pull the trigger on that. I think he made the right decision because John has been the standard bearer.
John Cena – “I don’t run the company!”
John Cena has also spoken out about a potential heel turn, revealing for the first time just how well he would have received being told he was turning heel by Vince McMahon.
Speaking with GQ to promote his hit TV show Peacemaker, former WWE Champion John Cena revealed that he would have loved to explore a heel side of his character in WWE, but stressed that it was not his decision to make to turn himself into a bad guy.
His claim of “I don’t run the company” implies it was Vince McMahon who made the call to keep him face, which does corroborate the quote above by Brian Gerwitz.
It takes a certain type of individual to go out there and play your hit song every night for two decades. There are decisions I can make but I don’t make “Okay now John Cena is going to be a bad guy”. I don’t make that choice.
So, I can be like “OK, I’ll never be a bad guy. How can I nuance this virtuous character?” Would it have been great to be able to mess with the flaws of WWE John Cena? Oh my goodness! I think there’s another 10 years with the storylines here but it’s not my choice. I don’t run the company!
Sadly, with John Cena out of WWE filming movies and nearing retirement, it looks like that heel turn dream will never happen. However, with rumours he is set to return to WWE in 2023, we could see him don the dark side for the first time in 20 years and become the bad guy he always wanted
Would you like to see John Cena turn heel? Let us know in the comments or click below to read about Hulk Hogan vs Ric Flair.
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.