When John Cena “returned” to call out Roman Reigns and initiate a feud, smart fans quickly picked up on this being a “face of the company” passing-of-the-torch sort of feud. This was further confirmed by the worked-shoot promos cut by both Cena and Reigns in recent weeks on Raw. It was referenced several times during said promos that Reigns was being groomed to be the face of the wWE, even as Reigns spread “fake news” when mentioning that live event attendance was up thanks to him.
However, one must assume that the feud between Cena and Reigns was meant to mirror that of Cena and The Rock. In the Cena/Rock storyline, both characters were babyfaces with long-standing histories, although the divide was in one of the two performers being a part-timer due to his Hollywood status. Even though The Rock seems to be loved by one and all, that feud made him look like somewhat of a heel based on him leaving the WWE for greener pastures. The tables have turned with Cena becoming more of a mainstream star over the last few years because of his television, film and commercial projects, which Reigns referenced in the last Raw before No Mercy.
But was this feud effective in making Roman Reigns more accepted by the WWE Universe as the company’s top babyface? I can’t see how it did. For all the boos that Cena draws in major cities, Reigns’ appearance alone draws more boos. Cena was definitely cheered more than Reigns in this match, just as he had been in prior weeks’ Raw segments. In fact, after Cena took his post-match bow during No Mercy, the crowd gave him a “Thank you, Cena” chant, implying that he will be missed until he returns for another storyline. If anything, this feud seems to reinforce how popular John Cena is and how unpopular Roman Reigns is. The Cena/Rock comparison seemed to be echoed further when Cena raised Reigns’ arm post-match, in an attempt of getting Reigns over with the crowd, and it still drew boos; as a refresher, similar results occurred when The Rock did the same thing a few years back at the Royal Rumble.
If the plan is still to push Roman Reigns to the top of the WWE roster — keeping in mind that Brock Lesnar, Sheamus and several other active wrestlers have had longer runs as champion than Reigns — isn’t it clear that Reigns still needs to turn heel first? What happened to the post-Wrestlemania edition of Raw where he got booed for more than 10 minutes straight for beating The Undertaker and embraced it with a smile? Almost anyone who goes against Reigns in his current state is going to get cheers. But the temporary heel turn still looks to be the only thing that will turn Roman Reigns into the right direction. Or perhaps a reunion of The Shield, as backed by some strong creative?
But the bottom line is that tonight’s match solidified John Cena as the face of the WWE, no matter how infrequently he comes around. He has been on top longer than any WWE Superstar I can think of, and seems to be one of the few people who non-WWE fans recognize. His inevitable return should draw attention from both WWE die-hards and casual wrestling fans, much like The Rock did when returning in recent years.