We're hours away from another John Cena return to the WWE universe. As we wait for his Smackdown arrival and to discover his intentions for 2017, we consider how the time away could allow for the WWE to reimagine the Cena character that we have come to know for the past 10 years.
If the speculation holds true and Cena begins his path to a Wrestlemania dream match with the beloved Undertaker, this could be the perfect chance to turn John Cena into the heel wrestling fans have dreamt of for so long.
If the past is any indicator, we shouldn't get our hopes up. Cena's make a wish history and merchandising sales suggest he will remain the company's top babyface until the day he hangs up his jorts.
Here are 5 other times the WWE should have pulled the trigger on a John Cena heel turn, but passed.
In late 2010, The Nexus were the hottest faction in wrestling since the NWO. At one point, Wade Barrett defeated John Cena in a Hell in a Cell match, which resulted in Cena having no other choice but to join his stable. Throughout the following weeks, John Cena would be forced to help Nexus and even referee a match between Barrett and Randy Orton. Cena failed to help Barrett win the match, which "cost him his job" for a few weeks. Eventually, Cena returned to single handedly destroy the faction. A fact Ryback still remembers.
Instead of defeating them, Cena should have joined them. The move would have given Cena a new edge and kept the group relevant for years to come. Daniel Bryan was on his way back to company and would have been the perfect underdog to feud with a Cena and Barrett led Nexus faction.
In 2011, Zack Ryder was arguably the internet's most popular wrestler. The guy just wanted on TV. Eventually he started making a few appearances backstage with John Cena, which led to Ryder being positioned as Cena's buddy in the Kane "embrace the hate" feud.
At the time, Zack was interested in diva Eve Torres, but she dumped him to try to get with Cena as the two shared a kiss. A week later, a wheelchair bound Zack as thrown off the stage by Kane, effectively killing his push and any momentum.
With all the sympathy and goodwill that Ryder had built up with the internet crowd who were already booing Cena, this would have been a perfect time to pull the trigger on a heel turn. Cena could have easily cut a promo on how he was sick of all the love Ryder was being given while Cena was out there busting his ass night after night. Imagine if Cena had finally embraced the hate and given in to his darker impulses by destroying Ryder and taking on Eve Torres as his valet.
The revamped, WWE-run version of ECW ultimately fizzled out, but before Rob Van Dam got suspended for pot (shocker, I know) the brand was regaining a bit of it's cult following.
As early as 2006, fans were already tired of John Cena's superman act; booing him heavily in nearly every feud he was involved in. At the One Night Stand PPV in 2006, fans took it to a whole new level, promising a riot if John Cena won in his match against RVD for the WWE Championship.
RVD won the contest and instead of Cena showing disgust for fans who turned their back on him, he stayed the hustle/respect course and eventually won his WWE championship back 3 months later.
A heel Cena would have been perfect to blast the "bingo hall, bush league nature" of the hardcore ECW fanbase.
After The Rock screwed John Cena at WrestleMania 27 out of his match against The Miz for the WWE Championship, a match for the following year's Wrestlemania was set up between the two icons.
Instead of the face vs. face dynamic the WWE went with, Cena could have cashed in on his displeasure for the fans booing his loyalty while cheering Hollywood part timer, The Rock.
After losing to The Rock at Wrestlemania 28, Cena could have easily abandoned his ideals in order to defeat the one man who had his number. He could have been consumed by his hatred for The Rock and let it seep into a new, darker version of himself.
When a rematch for the "once in a lifetime" match was set for Wrestlemania 29, everyone knew Cena was "getting his win back." A Cena heel turn would have been the only thing that would have made it worthwhile.
The most ridiculous angle in wrestling has been the "Authority doesn't want John Cena to be the champion" storyline that comes up every time the Authority needs a reason to feud with John Cena. While it makes sense (wrestling sense, at least) for the Authority to not want a little, bearded, Daniel Bryan to be champion, John Cena is every corporation's dream.
Were we really supposed to believe they didn't want their most marketable star as their number one guy? Going into Survivor Series in 2014, The Authority provided John Cena with a chance to join them, but of cousre, Cena passed, which led to a Team Cena vs. Team Authority traditional five-on-five elimination match with everyone's jobs on the line.
This would have been a great opportunity for Cena to align himself with the evil powers that be and get all of his "friends" fired. Not only would it have given the exiled babyfaces a tremendous amount of support, but it would have given Sting (who debuted that night) an even greater reason to seek justice.
Out of all of John Cena's potential heel turns, a Corporate Cena would have most closely resembled the real life criticism Cena has gotten from the WWE universe for so long.
Would you like to see John Cena come back as a heel tonight on Smackdown?