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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: BORING...? The Time is Nearly Now for John Cena to Change
By The Doc
Aug 7, 2013 - 9:09:52 AM

All wrestlers are at their character best when they believe in what they're doing and saying. That has been one of the underlying reasons for my excitement as it pertains to the John Cena vs. Daniel Bryan match. Cena has been the top guy for so long that motivating him to back up with his words with unbridled passion all the time is asking way too much. There are too many weeks of TV per year to expect excellence from every promo. This is not, after all, the Attitude era or the Rock 'n Wrestling era - the most competitive periods in wrestling history. It is not even The New Generation or the Brand Extension era. The periods that followed wrestling's greatest economic booms still featured fights to climb up the ladder from stars that new full well what it looked like to be the #1 guy in pro wrestling at its fiscal finest. Where the WWE is at right now is uncharted territory, to a degree. Cena has been "The Man" for eight years, having outlasted all his real competition for his coveted spot. Batista, Edge, and Randy Orton were the only other guys who had been in the company - even if as nothing more than developmental talents - when it was at its peak. They all achieved success, but Cena emerged as the head of the class.

All that having been stated, I do not expect John Cena to compete on a weekly basis for his spot when there is really no viable competition that can challenge him for it. Cena is "The Man" until either business tanks, he quits voluntarily, or he is forced into early retirement. I understand that. Nevertheless, when he becomes passionate about his opponents and puts his heart and mind into his promos, I still do not think that there is a more engaging personality in wrestling today. I saw him do it on Raw this week. He had some spirited words for Daniel Bryan. You know Cena is motivated for an interview when traces of The Doctor of Thuganomics can be heard. Cena can be quite the eloquent speaker, but some of his best promo work finds him loosening up his grip on being the "company guy" and morphing back to a dialect that was quite common when he was spitting rhymes every Thursday night on Smackdown. Last night was a bit of a throwback, even if the words were reminiscent of more recent stylings. I thoroughly enjoyed what he had to say because it came across like he meant every word. A couple of months ago, I wrote about the importance of authenticity in regards to being a successful wrestling persona. When Cena is being authentic instead of just going through the motions, I'm a big John Cena fan.

Something odd happened last night in the midst of Cena's promo. Right when I was getting invested and was expecting the usual dueling chant that has become so commonplace in the last seven years since Wrestlemania 22 popularized "Let's Go Cena" vs. "Cena Sucks," a different word came booming from the audience: "BORING!" That is not a chant you hear from an invested group of fans. Rather, "BORING" is a word used to fundamentally describe disinterest. To say that a wrestler sucks is to insult his television character. To say that he's boring is to insult the man behind the TV character. Go back and watch Cena's reaction. He was not expecting it. He was thinking that the crowd was about to do what they usually do, but they collectively threw a verbal uppercut when he was preparing for their tried-and-true jab.

There may be no deeper meaning to it whatsoever, but considering that the crowd that chanted "BORING" was not Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, or Miami - a trendsetting audience, in other words - and that it instead emanated from Green Bay, Wisconsin, I have a feeling that we could look back on it down the road and see it as a turning point. So much talk has gone into John Cena turning heel over the years that it is almost monotonous to even suggest it. I have maintained since 2011 that I think John Cena has to, at least occasionally, ponder what a heel turn could do for his legacy. That is about the extent to which I have discussed it considering that there were so few talents over enough - and I'm talking "throughout the country, everybody and their brother seems to love a guy" overness - to think that the WWE might even consider making such a status quo-altering move. Rather than it being a "product is stale" point of view that so many of my peers have taken, I look at Cena's heel turn as being a matter of his legacy. At some point, it would make sense to me that he would want to prove that he could play the #1 heel for awhile. All of the contenders for "Greatest of all-time" have played both the top heel and babyface roles for at least a short time. Surely, by now, Cena has entertained the idea that he is getting close to being one of the final wrestlers mentioned in that conversation - whether you, the Cena hater, wants to admit or not. Why wouldn't he want to do the one remaining thing that he's never done and attempt to be the lead antagonist?

"BORING" from a Green Bay-type city suggests to me that the fan base, at large, is starting to sell their stock in Cena. It was only a matter of time before blatant dislike turned to apathy or indifference. "BORING" is still chanting something, so it is not quite to the latter, but it is also something different than the former. As with everything in life, there are transitions from one phase to another most of the time rather than black/white, abrupt shifts. Cena has long drawn comparisons to Hulk Hogan, who had a similarly lengthy run at the top in the WWE. It took nearly ten years, in total, for his act to finally fizzle out. In WWE, he was still over in his waning days, but to no degree even close to even his 1991 "Savior of the USA" level. By the time he signed with WCW and feuded with Ric Flair, Hulkamania was running on fumes. The same old, tired act was no longer viable and it began hurting not just the creative product, but the financial bottom line (which is far more important than the quality of the show, make no mistake about that). You simply have to adapt, eventually, or risk being rendered irrelevant. Look at Blockbuster Video...slowly but surely they tanked into nothingness because they were too late in their attempts to change. So, it's only a matter of time before the WWE changes up their Cena playbook. I see a lot of "all or nothing" thinking in regards to Cena on the internet - he either HAS TO turn heel or he will NEVER turn heel. The reality is that there will be a slow, steady process that brings the WWE to the conclusion that he can be turned. We're in the midst of that process. The question is: how far along are we?

Daniel Bryan and CM Punk were the most over individuals at last night's Raw. Dolph Ziggler has been getting a huge reaction in the strongest markets. There are some hungry pro wrestlers out there that may not know the kind of success that Cena was brought up on when he was first exposed to the WWE as a prospective superstar, but they've seen the kind of success that Cena has enjoyed as Wrestlemania has grown into everything that it was originally intended to be. Cena's achievements have defined what "success" means to the modern WWE superstar. For years, the critical masses have been referencing that the WWE must find a replacement for Cena before he can have his "Hogan 1996" moment. Well, who says that the replacement needs to be one person? Can it not be a committee of multiple wrestlers until the WWE finds, pegs, and grooms their next unquestionable "face of the franchise"? Sheamus wants to do as many media appearances as possible. He's already the "Cena" of Europe, in a way. The Miz loves (and is quite good at) doing media appearances. Both well represent the WWE brand as smart, articulate, entertaining personalities in those settings. I'm confident that Ziggler will excel in that role when they unleash him at some point. Bryan is a very likeable guy who comes across well in interviews as a contrast to the usual star. That's four guys ready, willing, and able to step up. There are some seriously well credentialed athletes on the WWE roster that could make sports media appearances, as well. "Media" is the area where Cena has broadened the WWE scope on a consistent basis. He's a workhorse in many regards, but perhaps no more so - by comparison to his peers - than on the media circuit. "By committee" could get it done for a year or two until the WWE finds the next Cena.

In my radio show a month ago, I suggested that the time and place of Cena's heel turn should be April 7, 2014 - the night after he completes his final task of the Hustle, Loyalty, and Respect character and loses to the Undertaker at Wrestlemania XXX (I do not believe that Taker-Cena can be as effective without Cena playing his current role). That will be nine years and a handful of days since he won the WWE title for the first time in 2005. Wrestlemania is the foundation of the current WWE business model. Cena turning heel most likely would not affect the foundation. They would have a year to ensure that the new Cena is as effective as possible before unleashing him to the next Wrestlemania's masses. If they did, indeed, find a replacement for Cena in that short a time frame, then Cena would then be in prime position to best put over the new #1. The story of the babyface putting over the babyface is not nearly as effective as the heel putting over the new babyface. There would be the question of TV ratings and PPV buyrates from April to December to consider, but I suspect that it would all work out. I think it is time that we realize that the kids and women who love Cena will be around no matter how long the WWE chooses to keep the Golden Boy on the beaten path, but the large majority of the youngsters that Cena attracted in the beginning are now approaching the age of the Hulkamaniacs circa 1994/1995. The CeNation kids are growing up. They're getting "BORED," perhaps.

Wrestling is a cyclical business. There will come a time when the Cena era as we know it ends. Eight years ties for the longest period that any WWE star in the Wrestlemania era has held the undisputed title of "top babyface." The time is coming. The time could soon be up. One day, we may look back on August 5, 2013 - remember the "BORING" chant - and deem it as the apparent moment that the time for the long-awaited heel turn became "now."

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