Welcome to Devil's Advocate, an occasional series from the Bird where I take prevailing wisdom and try to make a case against it. I hope to mostly address major issues here, though I might occasionally tackle smaller issues purely for the sake of comedy, because I am a hipster. (Note: I am not really a hipster, but I do appreciate true irony.) For this first edition, though, we're going to roll hard and tackle a question that's been batted back and forth for so long, it's turned the IWC into the Championships at Wimbledon.
WWE is hurting for main event faces. At the time of this writing, we have John Cena, Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio, Randy Orton, and...uhh...arguably Ryback? (And no, I'm not counting part-timers here.) Meanwhile, for heels we have CM Punk, Mark Henry, Jack Swagger, the Big Show, and (again arguably) the entirety of the Shield. No matter how you slice it (and even factoring in people I may have forgotten), we're really heel-heavy at the top of the card. This is a problem to be sure.
And yet, Randy Orton is on deck for a likely heel turn, and the smarks desperately want Cena to turn to the Dark Side, too. Prevailing wisdom would suggest that this is a Very Bad Idea, as losing two top faces would further unbalance the scales to the side of evil. It would seem that turning both (or maybe even only turning one) of them would exacerbate the situation in the main-event scene.
To which I say, "Aren't we forgetting something?"
The upper-card is fairly sparse, but the mid-card right now is overloaded. In fact, there are so many people in the mid-card that there are going to be people sitting around doing nothing on Wrestle-Easter. And whenever WWE brings in new talent, that only adds to the mid- and low-card ranks, and it is that unbalance that is the real issue.
It also affects the booking overall. When you're low on main-eventers, you tend to rebook the same feuds for longer periods of time. This can be both a good or a bad thing depending on what storyline you're trying to tell for which wrestlers. Some wrestlers have great chemistry with each other and can keep a feud new and exciting for months at a time, while others struggle with just one month's-worth of feud. In order to balance well between compelling long-term feuds and solid month-to-month runs, there needs to be a bigger and more diverse pool of people to draw from. Bringing in part-timers helps, but it's just a new patch on an old wineskin: it's not going to work long-term. Eventually, you will spring a leak again.
Turning both Cena and Orton heel would create a big blank spot in the face portion of the upper-card, but to be honest, I think that's exactly what WWE needs right now. Why, you may ask? My answer: it forces them to book from within. There are only so many part-timers who can come back to fill holes in the main event, and two of them are on their last legs as wrestlers (Triple H and Undertaker). If WWE creates a vacuum among top faces by turning both Cena and Orton, in order to fill the hole permanently, they will have to change the way they book some of the people stuck in the mid-card in order to promote them to the top. Shift the weight towards the top some, and make the overall card more balanced as well as the upper- and mid-cards.
And it's not like we don't have people who can be shifted up the card, either. Some of them have just been the victims of questionable booking and ponderous gimmicks. With the break-up of Team Hell No coming, Daniel Bryan can and should be drawn back up into the upper card, even if it takes a while before he challenges for a title again. Ziggler is a popular quasi-tweener and he still has the MitB contract. CHRISTIAN IS RETURNING. And all Wade Barrett needs is a better gimmick and for Creative to actually give a shit about him. There's four people right there who if booked correctly could be easily brought up into the thick of the main event, and I have little doubt that y'all will come up with more in the comments (HINT, HINT).
Additionally, the Big Show could well be in the running for his biannual face-turn down the road this year, especially if he proves himself reliable as a part of Team Enemy Mine. (Don't laugh at me. I swear, Show flips back and forth from one side to the other more often than the pancakes at IHOP.) Granted, turning main-event heels face isn't much of an option, since most of them with their current characters wouldn't work as face (*cough*Henry*cough*), but it'd help somewhat. The primary fix will have to come from WWE forcing themselves to give the younger generation more faith and more time.
Whether or not John Cena needs to turn heel or whether WWE can afford to turn both him and Orton, the problem still exists: the mid- and lower-cards have too many people, and the upper-card has not enough. Promoting from within allows for more and better stories to be told up and down the card, which helps everyone. It shows that WWE is thinking forward, too, as they're shoring up their card for the inevitable time when Cena, Orton, Punk, Show, and Henry all take their final bows. It provides a more permanent solution than simply bringing in part-time established names from the recent past.
Can WWE afford to turn Cena? I believe so. But they're going to have to commit to filling the void from within. WWE can do it...as long as they're willing to try.