Ex-WWE Writer: Vince McMahon Considered John Cena Heel Turn but Didn’t Want It
John Cena remained a babyface in WWE after abandoning his short-lived heel character in 2003, but the topic of a heel turn was brought up numerous times.
Appearing this week on The Masked Man Show (h/t Andrew Thompson of Post Wrestling), former WWE creative writer Brian Gewirtz said that while WWE Chairman Vince McMahon considered a Cena heel turn, he decided against it and was happy with his choice:
“There were plenty of times when the writers would come in and be like, ‘Can we just turn John heel?’ With the, ‘Let’s go Cena, Cena sucks. Can we do it? Can we pull the trigger?’ And it was something Vince never wanted to do. He considered it, he always considers all ideas but ultimately he didn’t wanna do it and I think in the end he was like, to put it bluntly he was like, ‘Thank God I didn’t listen to you,’ as far as turning John heel because John was the standard-bearer and made a ton of money for the company and Make-A-Wish and merchandise and everything, you know? And Vince I think considered that as, by not turning him heel, that saved the company—not saved the company but made a lot more money within sticking to his vision as a babyface as opposed to taking the short-term approach by getting a pop in the ratings or a spike in interest by turning him heel.”
Cena has long been the ultimate babyface and was essentially the face of WWE from 2005 until he stopped wrestling on a full-time basis in 2018.
For most of his run at the top, Cena was a polarizing figure. He was hugely popular with younger fans, while adult fans tended to rebel against him and root for whichever heel he was feuding with at the time.
Cena was a dominant force who came to be known as “Super Cena” by his detractors because of his penchant for overcoming the odds. Though there was a large section of the fanbase that couldn’t stand Cena, perhaps an even larger portion ate up everything he did.
Turning Cena heel could have been akin to what WCW did in 1996 when it put Hulkamania on the shelf by turning Hulk Hogan heel and making him the leader of the New World Order as Hollywood Hogan.
That led to WCW’s most successful stretch and even made it the top wrestling company in the world ahead of WWE for a period of time.
Perhaps turning Cena heel would have been a more attractive option for WWE during a different time, but WWE never had any true competition during Cena’s run at the top, so there was no sense of urgency to do so.
A Cena heel turn likely would have made for compelling television and perhaps resulted in more fans getting on Cena’s side in the long run, but it is tough to argue with the success WWE enjoyed by keeping Cena a babyface.