John Cena is one of the most beloved superstars in WWE history. Even his haters can appreciate how important he was, and still is, to the WWE. He is one of the most dedicated in the industry. Unlike the Rock, once Cena made movies, he still remained in WWE. He has been the face of the WWE for over a decade. And he has been a face since 2003. Let that sink in. It has been 14 years since he was a heel.
That is a long time for a face/heel run in today’s industry, so is it too late for a heel turn? The simple answer is no. John is routinely compared to Hulk Hogan for many good reasons. Exactly why can be explained another time, but this comparison is pertinent to the conversation. Hulk was a face for ages before making his historic heel turn in WCW with the formation of the New World Order, and he was older than Cena by that time. That said, the nuanced answer to the question is it may be too late for a Cena heel turn, however annoying that may be for you to read.
The enemy of a Cena heel turn is time. John Cena, at his age, needs to stay as far away from the Doctor of Thuganomics gimmick as humanly possible. That isn’t to say he can’t redevelop his character and embrace the Authority in a general manager role. But the heel general manager/Authority gimmick has gotten old between HHH and the younger Vince McMahon, so John Cena would have to put a spin on it for it to be received well. Even then, I don’t know if the venture is worth it. Cena has put in enough work and dedication. He deserves to enjoy his retirement.
The way I see it, if he were to turn heel, he has only one option for his character, if the heel turn is to work. During his Doctor of Thuganomics days, he was a rapper. Drawing on this, I shall use some popular rappers as examples of what I am thinking. The heel Cena that would work best would have to be closer to Ice-T or Ice Cube. Basically, what I mean by this is that he can be the asshole badass, but he can’t act like a hoodlum reliving past glories. Nothing wrong with doing this subtly like he does now, but a return to the old Cena, the over-the-top rapper gimmick, would be received about as well as Flava Flav attempting to be a heel.