John Cena is the face that runs the place. That place is the WWE, and his face has been at the forefront of it for over a decade. Since winning his first WWE Championship at WrestleMania 21, Cena has held a firm grip on the main event picture, rarely relinquishing that imaginary brass ring. His career will certainly lead him into the WWE Hall of Fame on the first ballot one day, and his charitable work outside of the ring has been incomparable. However, the WWE Universe has grown tired of his "Hustle, Loyalty, Respect" shtick and has been clamoring for a change in character since he traded in his collection of throwbacks for WWE-licensed merchandise aimed at the younger demographic.
That change that the vocal majority chanting "Cena sucks!" long for generally revolves around the concept of turning Cena heel, or in layman's terms, making him a bad guy. As noted, Cena won his first major championship 11 years ago. And his 14 other subsequent title reigns have all come as the company's top babyface (or good guy). The colors on his t-shirts have changed, but the man and the message have remained the same throughout his entire run. He's been called this generation's Hulk Hogan because of his mainstream appeal and superman-like abilities in a predetermined sport.
Meanwhile, the company has refused to turn Cena heel, due in large part to his merchandising sales, Make-A-Wish affiliation and the opportunities presented to him outside of wrestling. But, if Cena were ever to turn to the dark side, it would certainly be one of the most memorable moments in the history of the business. Here now is a look at the top five candidates to face John Cena if he were ever to turn heel, limiting it to those only in WWE or NXT. AJ Styles would have definitely been at the top of this list had he himself not turned on Cena to close out the month of May.
10 Apollo Crews
8 Sami Zayn
7 Hideo Itami
6 Enzo & Cass
5 Dean Ambrose
4 Shinsuke Nakamura
3 Finn Balor
2 Roman Reigns
1 Brock Lesnar
I know what you're thinking. We've seen Cena vs. Brock Lesnar many times, and we've even seen it recently. Their 2014 feud was compelling and even offered up what essentially became the first ever main event squash match at that year's SummerSlam. Even when Brock first came back to the WWE in 2012, his first feud was with John Cena. However, all these high profile matches that we mentioned pitted a babyface Cena against a heel Brock Lesnar. Flipping the script will only draw more money and more eyeballs to a feud that dates all the way back to 2002, the year both stars debuted in WWE. Fans forced WWE into turning Lesnar face last year, and those same fans are dying to boo Cena against anyone. Seems like the perfect storm, especially considering Paul Heyman can carry his weight in gold when it comes to selling this to the masses.
Cena has trolled his fans numerous times by literally turning his heel around, and proclaiming he was ready for a "heal turn" when he returned from injury. But each time he comes back, Cena is the face of the company with a new t-shirt and hat to sell. If people realized that if they stopped buying all his merchandise, they might consider turning him. Trouble is, the people buying it like rooting for him. Or at least their kids like cheering him.
Before Cena can ever turn heel, the WWE needs to feel comfortable with a replacement that can perform in and out of the ring like Cena does. This latest attempt with Roman Reigns has been an abject failure, which likely extends Cena's run as a top face. We'll have to wait and see if there is a plan B as it pertains to Reigns, but for now, we'll settle for Cena wearing cargo shorts with Ellen's face on them.
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