FanPost

Life After Cena - A Surprising Replacement Option

As has we've already discussed here at CSS, the WWE is trying to prepare for the inevitable day when John Cena can no longer be the face of the company.

While the booking for Cena tends to draw the ire of the Internet Wrestling Community (IWC,) there is no denying that he is the company's top draw for average fans and replacing him will be no easy task. Here, I will discuss exactly what the role Cena occupies means to the WWE and I will name a darkhorse replacement candidate that I think most will find a bit surprising.



As discussed in the linked article, the current #2 option is Sheamus, who has the support of Mr. McMahon and Triple H to be that "next face of the WWE."

But, like the article mentions, Sheamus is less than ideal for a number of reasons. While he looks the part, he's not much younger than Cena and has, thus far in his WWE career at least, not proven to be particularly skillful on the mic. His speaking segments tend to be mediocre at best and painfully awkward at worst. Cena doesn't exactly drop Punk-style "pipe bombs" every time he has a mic in his hands, but he knows how to pander to his fans and can trade barbs with any given opposing wrestler well enough to stand out.

But to dig even deeper, why is Cena's "face of the WWE" role even necessary? If the smarky IWC had our way, there wouldn't be any single wrestler constantly booked at the top the way Cena is. Unfortunately, the WWE needs a guy in that role to attract the "masses" aka, those who regularly turn over their hard earned cash to the WWE. The WWE needs that one charismatic, "good guy" face wrestler at the top of the company to handle things outside of the arena.

It's no secret that the WWE is popular with children. That is the entire reasoning behind the PG era that we're currently in. And a top face like John Cena does a lot of charitable work in that regard, granting more Make-A-Wish wishes than just about anyone else in the history of the organization.

And this role isn't a new one either. During the 80s pro wrestling boom, "Hulkamania" era Hulk Hogan filled this exact same role in pretty much the exact same way: a muscular guy with a borderline "superhero" gimmick who could really pander to the younger members of the audience and reinforced it by doing a lot of work outside the ring. In fact, the only point in time where the WWE didn't have a babyface "good guy" main star was during the Attitude era when they were trying to appeal to a more adult audience. During that period of time, they adjusted the role to give this new target audience what they wanted: a more realistic anti-hero in Stone Cold Steve Austin.

From Hogan to Austin to Cena as the "faces of the WWE" during their respective eras with only very slight gaps in between. (The period between Hogan and Austin was the longest, and also occupied a major slump that nearly bankrupted the WWE until they launched the Attitude Era.) So what do these guys have in common that launched them into their positions as the WWE's top star? Quite a few things actually.

First, as previously discussed, each of those three appealed to the WWE's target audience during the era in which they wrestled. (Hogan and Cena to children, Stone Cold to young adults.)

Second, they each looked the part. They each seemed to fall right around the median height/weight/bulk of the wrestlers at their time. Big enough to look heroic to the audience while being small enough (compared the monstrous giants on the roster) to play the heroic "David" in "David vs. Goliath" scenarios. Austin and Cena embodied this especially well, though Hulk had his moments as well. (His feud with the much larger Andre the Giant might be his most memorable.)

Third, they each were able to act the part the WWE wanted them to play. Each was a capable speaker on the mic, able to trade barbs with whatever heel they were up against well enough to keep the audience engaged.

Finally, each fit the "All American Face" trope perfectly. Hogan was the most obvious about it, but Austin as the beer-swilling, foul-mouthed "Texas Rattlesnake" and Cena as the kid-friendly Bostonian played it up as well. (There is a reason All American Face and Foreign Wrestling Heel<!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--> are pro wrestling tropes afterall.) It may seem strange that this is still the case in 2012, but the WWE does most of their work in America, in front of American audiences. And American's like to see other Americans succeed. (As the Olympics or any other international competition generally shows.) Maybe this is a criteria that will die with Vince, but is notable for persisting this long.

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So how does Sheamus, Cena's current replacement plan, stand up to these criteria?

Well, as a face, he can still appeal to the target audience of younger viewers. He also looks the part being big and strong, but still would be visually at a disadvantage against the various giants on the roster. (Seeing how he handles a match with the Big Show at Hell in a Cell could go a long way towards cementing this.) The third part is where he hit our first big snag however. As I noted in the intro, Sheamus' mic skills leave a lot to be desired and he really fails to suck in the audience when doing anything other than actively engaging in a wrestling match. Finally, he fails the "American" criteria. While an Irishman wouldn't be a drastic change for the mostly American audience, it could still potentially be a road block to the main stream success guys like Hogan, Austin and Cena all enjoyed.

At the end of the day, Sheamus might make a good stop-gap if no other viable replacement appears when Cena's time is up, but he is not an ideal long-term solution.

So who does that leave us with? As I (and many others) have been suggesting for a long time now, the WWE faces a looming crisis with how shallow their roster is. Old timers like Triple H, the Undertaker, Lesnar and the Rock are only good for one or two PPV showings a year, and as we're seeing now with Cena's recent string of injuries, the next group of guys (in terms of age) aren't going to hold up much longer with full time schedules.

The WWE has a nice stable of developing heels (and guys who lean heel) for the future with the likes of Punk, Bryan, Sandow, Cesaro, etc. but very few long term answers for faces.

Randy Orton is the next most prominent face after Cena and Sheamus, but has two Wellness Policy strikes against him and may be more interested in an acting career headed forward. Rey Mysterio is another guy who is eternally over as a face, but is 37 and also has two Wellness strikes against him. Ryback is in the middle of a massive Goldberg-push as a monster face, but has a vocabulary that consists of "FEED. ME. MORE." and, apparently, "STUPID!" Definitely not Cena-style "face of the WWE" material.

What about past stars who can be brought back? Both MVP and Batista have shown interest, but at 38 and 43 years of age respectively, they wouldn't be long term answers either. Jeff Hardy's contract is about to be up with TNA and he's a definite fan favorite, but his past experiences in the WWE have ended badly, plus he has multiple Wellness strikes hanging over him as well.

So what can the WWE do? They seem to be in a very difficult spot. Now, I've made it a habit in my life to not bring up problems unless I have some potential solutions to present. Well, I've got one that may seem wild, but bear with me:

Dolph Ziggler.

Yes, Mr. #Heel himself. You're probably having trouble picturing him as A face, much less THE face of the WWE. How could I possibly suggest him for such a role? It's simple really: he fits the criteria.

First and foremost, he looks the part. He is less bulky than the past faces mentioned above at 6'0 213, but he has a very chiseled physique. Add in the long blonde hair and Aaron Eckhart jawline, and he can certainly appeal to the female demographic. His ability and willingness to sell his opponents attacks would also be a valuable tool in his arsenal. He can get beat to a pulp and get thrown around the ring in an entertaining fashion, only to have a heroic second wind at the end to pull off a victory.

Secondly, I think he can play the part of a crowd favorite that appeals to a younger demographic if he tries. Right now, he's pretty well established as an arrogant, selfish heel, but he wouldn't be the first guy to make a turn only to become a mega-face. Hell, Cena himself was a heelish white boy rapper early in his career. Stone Cold was a heel early in his WWE career (Austin 3:16) before turning face by refusing to submit to Bret Hart.

Plus, Ziggler seems like he "gets it" about the wrestling business. He has been a lifelong fan of wrestling and genuinely seems like he wants to be the best. He even said so himself. And what better way is there to launch yourself to that level than to be THE guy in the company?

Finally, he's a perfect example of home-grown American talent. Born and raised in the US, he is also a home-grown WWE product having gone from a championship caliber amateur wrestler, through development in the WWE developmental territories, and finally to the big stage itself. That really seems like the type of guy the WWE would love to showcase.

He does have a few things working against him however. I'd love to see him get away from having Vickie as a manager so we can hear him speak for himself a little more. He doesn't seem so bad on the mic that he can turn the viewers off like Sheamus, but I'd like to hear him speak more frequently to be sure. (Plus, breaking away from Vickie could be a great start to a face turn.)

He's also 32, which isn't that much younger than Cena. However, Cena seems older than he is because he's basically been worked to death at show after show after show...the injuries from a career like that are piling up. Dolph, meanwhile, has been free of major injuries so far in his career. Additionally, he does have one Wellness Policy strike from 2008 against him, but he has otherwise stayed fairly clean.

And lastly, that name. Dolph Ziggler. He's too established with it now for a complete change, but adding an extra nickname could help. Similar to how Randy Orton has "The Viper" and Triple H has "The Cerebral Assassin," something like that could be found for Dolph to spice up his otherwise goofy name.

At the end of the day, Ziggler is a long-shot for the position, but one well worth considering for the WWE. I even have an outline of an idea on how to get him to that level as an example:

Once this current angle as Mr. Money in the Bank runs it's course, have him get into a feud with Cena. After some time doing that, Cena gets through to Dolph and convinces him he no longer needs Vickie. Dolph dumps Vickie and becomes Cena's protege as part of a face-turn. This will get Dolph exposure along side Cena and represent a sort-of "changing of the guard" for the fans of Cena. Maybe they can even have a run as a tag team to build up steam or something like that. At some point, an opportunity to become WWE champion gets between them. Dolph stays the course as a face while Cena, sensing his career is nearing the end, wants one more run as champion and turns heel, jealous of Dolph. They feud over the title, Dolph wins in the end, and Cena realizes the error of his ways and tells his fans to follow Dolph now. Or something like that anyway....

So what are your thoughts fellow Cagesiders? Have a different wrestler in mind for the "face of the WWE" role headed forward? Let me know in the comments.

The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Cageside Seats readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cageside Seats editors or staff.

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