Former WWE creative writer Kevin Eck recently appeared on The Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Podcast to give his insights from his years behind the scenes. Eck talked to Keller at length about Vince McMahon wanting to turn John Cena heel before eventually changing his mind.
"Vince had agreed to do it, but then he changed his mind and said that we can't do it," Eck said. "This was back around the time when McMahon was really looking at Sheamus to get his push. The question was if we turn John Cena heel then who is he going to work with, who will be the top babyface?"
Names like C.M. Punk were thrown around in the creative meeting, but McMahon settled on Sheamus because of how he connected with fans when he was out of character. But even though Cena warmed up to the idea, he had other ventures outside the ring that put an end to the ideas of him playing a bad guy.
"That was the feeling back then, then we came up with some scenarios, and believe it or not, Cena was on board with it, but right around that time there was a big clothing line for John Cena at K-Mart, and Vince McMahon was like, 'Oh Jesus Christ, he has a deal with KMart, and now we're going to turn him heel?' So, KMart is to blame for Cena not turning heel," Eck said. "During a meeting once Vince had a huge smile on his face, and he tells everyone that I know you've wanted John Cena as a heel for a long time, but we just can't turn him heel and that was the end of that."
Eck also praised Cena for being a locker room leader. He said Cena would constantly lend a helping hand to upcoming superstars from NXT and also female superstars as well.
"John Cena, in my experience was a locker room leader," Eck said. "He didn't just care about his segment or what he was doing, he was really invested in a lot of guys and the girls. I saw plenty of times of giving advice to the women on the roster; giving advice about how to give a promo. He was even looking at NXT, or FCW when I was there, about who is down there that we can bring up that has 'it' and was helpful to other guys."
Eck also commented on the difficulties of being a babyface in today's industry. He said wrestlers had it easier in the past because audiences were more willing to cheer the good guys. But today's superstars have an easier time making the audience hate them as opposed to convincing the audience to like them.
"In 2017, it's a tough time to be a babyface. It's not the Hulkamania era where you go out and talk about saying your prayers and taking your vitamins and get cheered. It's really tough. Anybody will always tell you that it's always easier to play a heel than a babyface, and in logic it's much easier to have people hate you than to like you. Roman Reigns is in a tough spot; he is not a white-meat babyface," Eck said. "In the Shield he was always the tough guy/Enforcer, so what got him over was being a man of few words, a man of action, and having that cool persona. When WWE tried to make him pander and entertaining. We always go back to the Sufferin Succotash promo; that's not who he is, that is never going to work in 2017 as a babyface, so Roman is in a tough spot. He has to go out there as a somewhat silent bada** and no-sell when Cena cuts a promo on him, because if he panders I think they would kill him more."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit The Wade Keller Wrestling Podcast with an H/T to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Peter Bahi contributed to this article.