Some gimmicks in WWE history are destined to fail. The UnderFaker, The Goon, and Mantaur come to mind as characters that were never going to work. There once was a time when Paul Heyman believed that John Cena's early "rapper" gimmick was the Isaac Yankem of his generation.
On a recent episode of Something to Wrestle, former WWE official, Bruce Prichard told the story of Paul Heyman doing some heavy lobbying to put a stop to John Cena the rapper. According to Prichard, Heyman was sure that it would end Cena's career:
"To quote Paul Heyman, 'you put the rap gimmick on Cena and you will kill John Cena's career. Paul felt that the rap gimmick was going to be the death knell of John Cena and that it would stereotype him and pigeonhole him and he would never be able to work his way out of it. Hated the idea, went to Cena and told Cena, 'they're killing your career', 'don't do it', 'it's going to be bad'. And [Heyman] went to Vince and told Vince it's going to kill [Cena] and the fact that Paul petitioned so hard against it probably helped Vince [decide], 'yeah, let's try it.' And I think it worked out alright for him."
Things ended up OK as Cena would go on to be a 16-time WWE Champion (and counting). Even though Heyman was clearly wrong in his prejudice towards the gimmick, he wasn't wrong to be hesitant. A white rapper is one of the toughest gigs in pop culture, so combining that with wrestling was quite the daunting task.
However, what Heyman may not have been aware of was that Cena was actually good at rhyming. Cena was never going to be Eminem but he did actually spend his spare time writing and rapping lyrics. So in a sense, the role was perfect for him.
In fact, the expected
Hey, maybe someday Cena would bring back his old self. It would be terribly ironic and probably would be a huge hit - even if just for one night.