Former WWE writer Matt McCarthy has discussed why the company never fully committed to turning John Cena heel.
McCarthy said a Cena turn to the dark-side was discussed often behind the scenes in WWE but Chairman Vince McMahon kept merchandise sales in his mind, and therefore wanted to formulate an 'in-between scenario' in which Cena was heel in some places but a babyface in others, similar to how Bret Hart used to be received.
However, the 16-time WWE champion wanted to fully commit to the heel turn, even going so far as to have new ring gear designed and made.
Ultimately, the decision was made to keep Cena a babyface, with McCarthy reasoning that the creative team determined, with so many people already booing Cena, him staying the same was 'the most heelish thing he can do'.
Speaking on the We Watch Wrestling Podcast, McCarthy said: "Vince kept trying to figure out how do we do like a Bret Hart thing, where he’s a heel in some places, but he’s a babyface in the rest of the places.
"But Cena wasn’t down for any middle ground. Cena was like, ‘If I’m going heel, I want to go full heel,’ and it did get close enough to the point where, and I’m sure he still has this gear, like Cena had gear made for the heel turn, you know? No longer the jorts. I don’t know what the gear was, but he had specific gear made ready and waiting and then obviously we know it never happened.
"There was a point in the discussions where it was like, ‘Well, the people who are gonna cheer him are going to continue to cheer him,’ (as he is now, as he is, you know, “Never Give Up,”) ‘and the people who are gonna boo him, are just gonna keep booing him.’
"So the thinking was, that the most heelish thing he can do is to stay that white meat, smiling, pure babyface. Cena obviously never had a problem getting booed by a large percentage of the audience and it is that, ‘I’m the most patriotic, I’m the most “do-gooder” guy there ever was,’ and for some reason that makes some people mad.
“And he was so great at cutting promos and just like sticking it to the people who couldn’t stand him. He was incredible at it."