It was entertaining. It was electrifying. It was probably the best segment on RAW in recent memory.
It was The Rock, returning to WWE after a seven year absence to cut one of the best promos on the show in the past few years. As the esteemed David Bixenspan pointed out, it may have been too good.
He didn't just come back for a cheap pop in a comedy segment that everyone would forget a month later. He didn't just return for a one-night appearance in a pre-determined city to help promote a movie (although, conveniently he does have one coming out around mid April). He returned to say he's going to be the host of WrestleMania 27 and he will not ever be leaving again.
Is he actually coming back to WWE in any sort of full-time capacity? Not likely. In even a part-time capacity? Also unlikely. But, based on his words, it does sound like we can expect much more than a sporadic appearance every few years.
That said, let's get into what he did on RAW. To be blunt, he killed it. He did what he's always done, and cut one of the most amazing promos in quite some time. I think a lot of that comes from his status as an all-time great. But he was also seemingly allowed to say what no other superstar on the roster would be.
He was allowed to utterly and completely bury John Cena. The promo:
"There is one man who the Rock has to see face-to-face. A guy who I met. A guy who I thought was a cool guy. Wished him well, happy for his success. When the Rock leaves, he comes in and out of the blue, eventually, he starts talking trash about the Rock. I don't know why and I don't care but I'm back now. You might have heard of him; his name is John Cena. So let me get this straight: the WWE has gone from the powerful "Austin 3:16" to the dominant and iconic "Can you smell what the Rock is cooking?" all the way to... (cue baby voice) "You can't see me." Oh, believe me, we all can see you. A blind-folded, sleeping, stuck in the basement, Stevie Wonder can see your monkey ass. How in the hell do you think we can miss? You come out here with your bright ass purple shirts. And before that, your bright green shirt, before that your bright orange shirt; your running around here looking like a big fat bowl of fruity pebbles. John Cena -- the Rock will see you at WrestleMania."
Uh, Vince McMahon? Paging Vince McMahon to Creative... we have a bit of a problem.
That was more than just a promo Rock cut on Cena. That was one of the greatest of all time taking a gigantic dump on the companies current number one babyface. Actually, if there was one guy you would say the WWE has tried their best to use to replace Rock in the past five or so years, it would be Cena.
The problem, as Bix pointed out, is that Cena simply doesn't measure up. He never has and he probably never will. That's not to say he's not extremely talented; no one can question that he is. It's just that he's nowhere near as talented as Rock.
And that's why they shouldn't have allowed Monday night's promo to happen.
Think of this -- if anyone on the current roster came out with what Rock did, how would it have been received? Rather well at first, I'm sure, but then Cena gets booked to win in a squash match or two, before coming back with a better, more charismatic promo, and alas, he's the top guy again.
That's not going to happen here. Because it can't. He can't go over Rock the way he can with guys like Randy Orton or Wade Barrett or even Triple H.
So how does WWE recover their top babyface?
There are a few ways to do this. Obviously, the booking will have to be on point. It's not going to be easy to have Cena look like anything but the bad guy if you stand him across from Rock. A few ways to pull this off:
- Rock turns heel. This is doable and actually a good option if they continue the refusal to turn Cena. Plenty of ways to make this work without actually having a match between the two. Rock could screw Cena out of the title and cut a promo on the fans afterward and make the crowd switch at the right moment. He's the best at it.
- They book Cena as superior to Rock for actually sticking around WWE throughout his time with the company. When Rock left, he became Dwayne Johnson and more or less severed all ties with the organization that made him what he is, whereas Cena has done a few movies while maintaining a rigorous schedule and carrying the promotion on his shoulders. As much as everyone loves "The Great One," there are quite a few people that are still upset with him for bailing. And no one believes he's back to stay. Cena can exploit that if he gets back to actually putting some edge on his promos as opposed to the PG image he's currently crafted for himself. It's worked for years but with Rock around, it looks like the minor league. He can't compete with that persona. So get rid of it.
- Don't acknowledge anything. This isn't going to happen because they've already set this up for some sort of payoff but a good way to avoid any real damage is to have Cena break kayfabe for a minute and say -- "I'm not going to pay him any mind. He has nothing to do with this company other than an appearance at Mania. My goal is the title." He'll catch heat for it at first but once Rock is gone what is everyone left with? There are only so many choices at the moment and the sad fact is, Cena is best of the bunch.
The way things are looking now, it appears as if Cena will go on to Elimination Chamber where he will come out victorious to set up a match against Miz for the WWE title at WrestleMania. At some point within the next couple months, Rock will insert himself to set up some sort of angle at Mania.
So what to do?
It's time. There is no better time than right now to turn John Cena heel. Screw the merchandise sales, screw the fact they don't currently have a proper top babyface to replace him, screw the man-crush Vinny Mac has always had on him. Pull the trigger on a John Cena heel turn.
The set-up is there. Rock came back and completely took a dump on everything Cena represents. The crowd ate it up. They loved every second of it. They wanted more.
So give them more.
And give them Cena, asking the question he should be asking -- why? Why turn their backs on him after he stuck around and broke his neck and back for them? Some Hollywood wannabe comes back for a night and suddenly they forget about all the years of hard work he has put in?
Now let me ask you this. If there was ever a guy who could help get Cena over as a mega-heel who would it be?
So, to answer the headline question, yes; WWE CAN recover their top babyface. But it's not the right thing to do. The right thing to do is what so many fans in the WWE Universe have been waiting for -- turn John Cena heel.