John Cena and his contemporaries have been on top of WWE for a good many years, but it seems like their time may finally be up. Roman Reigns got his definitive win at WrestleMania 32, and the following night’s Raw focused squarely on new talent. NXT stars Apollo Crews, Baron Corbin, and Enzo and Cass made their Raw debuts, and the main event No. 1 contender’s match featured up-and-comers AJ Styles, Kevin Owens and Cesaro. Other fresh faces like Finn Balor, Bayley and the American Alpha guys can’t be far behind.
It really feels like WWE is about to flip the page to a new chapter, which begs the question – what do you do with the guys from the previous generation? John Cena, Randy Orton, Chris Jericho and others of their era are still able-bodied and holding on to a lot of star power. How do you continue to take advantage of their talents without cutting the new crop of stars off at the knees? Here’s what WWE should do with Cena and other veterans now that the Young Turks are ready to take over…
Big Show – Commentary
Commentary may not seem like the best use of the World’s Largest Athlete, but Big Show kills it on guest commentary more consistently than anybody. Well, anybody not named Titus at least. Despite being the victim of 20 years of terrible, haphazard booking, Show knows how to tell a wrestling story better than anybody. He’s also easily one of the best actors in WWE, and good commentary is more about selling the emotion of the moment than calling moves. Jim Ross barely knew a moonsault from a government mule, but damn if he couldn’t make you care about the important stuff. Big Show, with his ability to go from raging monster to weeping sad sack on the turn of a dime could be Ross’ emotional commentary heir apparent.
The Dudleys – NXT Tag Team Champions
The NXT tag team division has had its ups and a lot of downs. It was a bit of a joke for a long stretch, got its act together, and has now suffered a big setback with the departure of The Vaudevillains and Enzo and Cass. The division will probably always struggle, as NXT just doesn’t have the roster depth to devote a ton of guys to tag teams and, ultimately, developmental should be about making each individual star as good as they can be.
WWE could bring some much-needed consistency to the NXT tag division by taking an established team and making them perennial champs, and nobody’s more established than the Dudleys. Upcoming tag teams would benefit from working with the most experienced tag team in the world, and NXT wouldn’t have to completely rebuild the tag division every time a couple teams get promoted.
Natalya – Women’s Division General Manager
If WWE is serious about pushing its female performers as an equal part of the show, Nattie would be an ideal pick for a general manager. There are multiple directions you could go with her – she could be the face GM who’s trained in the Hart Dungeon, been through it all and wants to push women’s wrestling to new heights, or she could be the insecure heel who saw the women’s wrestling revolution pass her by. Either way, if you piss her off, she can still get in the ring and tap you out. It would make for some extremely interesting dynamics.
Chris Jericho – Crazy Old-Timer
There’s already a good amount of Bob Backlund in Chris Jericho’s heel character, but Y2J is now at an age where he can really play the crazy old-timer to the hilt. For those who weren’t around, late ’70s WWF cornerstone Bob Backlund returned to the company in the mid-’90s, playing a crazed eccentric out to teach the company’s young whippersnappers a lesson. Jericho is already dabbling in this, but he could push it further, being the past-his-prime wild card in an otherwise youth-focused new era. He could even pick up one last surprise title reign like Backlund did when he beat Bret Hart in 1994. Just replace the scarves with bow ties and we’re set.
Mark Henry – Backstage Interviewer
WWE likes its backstage interviewers to be as physically unimposing as possible. But what if they went in the other direction? What if they had a guy unafraid to ask anything, and who wouldn’t take “no comment” as an answer? Mark Henry is one of the most personable guys on the roster, so the questions would be no problem, and if anybody tried any sneak attacks during his interviews, he’d deal with that sh*t. And yes, obviously he’d be required to wear the salmon blazer every night.
Randy Orton – Heel Stable Leader
Randy Orton is now three years older than Triple H was when he founded Evolution in 2002. Since then, Orton has never truly escaped the thrall of Triple H, but it’s time for him to step out of his shadow and mentor his own team of upcoming super studs. Sure, Orton did the Legacy thing, but he wasn’t ready. Now he’s the battle-scarred-and-tested old hand he needs to be.
Give Orton some promising physical specimens who perhaps need a little help in the credibility and/or direction department. Guys like Apollo Crews, Tye Dillinger or Big Cass (sorry, he’s going to have to dump Enzo eventually), and make ’em look like the raddest dudes around. Throw in Ric Flair and call it Evolution 3.0 or The Viper Club or whatever and let Orton pass on his learnings.
John Cena – Mentor to the Next John Cena
If Cena is going to start stepping back from the spotlight a bit, he should first pass on his NEVER GIVE UP superpowers to the next generation’s clean-cut sure thing, Jason Jordan. Have Cena introduce him, tag with him, train with him, manage him, the whole deal. Yes, I fully realize that would make a good portion of the audience hate Jason Jordan, but he would still benefit greatly from getting to bask in Cena’s superstar aura. And then, when the time is right, you have Jordan turn on Cena.
Technically it would be a heel turn, but it would instantly make him the hardcore fans’ favorite guy. Lead up to a big WrestleMania showdown, and give Jordan the big win. Then give Cena a new student and do it all again! You could have Cena make two or three major stars before he heads off to Hollywood for good.
Kane – Time Keeper
Soooo yeah, Kane could be the time keeper? FROM HELL? Ringing SATAN’S BELL? Okay, maybe not everyone will have a place in WWE’s new era.
A few possible roles for the last decade’s stars as they slide gracefully into their golden years. Got any ideas for stars I didn’t mention? Think the ideas I did come up with are crazy? Hit the comments and let’s hash it out.