When John Cena made his SmackDown debut in 2002 by answering an open challenge from Kurt Angle, few could predict that he would go on to reign atop the company for more than a decade.
On the June 27th episode of SmackDown in 2002, Vince McMahon personally introduced Angle, who’d defeated Hulk Hogan the previous weekend on pay-per-view. Angle declared that he was the “poster boy for ruthless aggression,” referencing a phrase McMahon had been using. After insulting the fans in attendance and removing his wig to reveal his bald head, Angle issued an open challenge to anyone in the locker room.
John Cena, who had been training at OVW, made his way to the ring and answered the challenge, saying he also had ruthless aggression. While Cena was praised for his debut and even received accolades from The Undertaker backstage, Cena seemed far away from rising to main event status atop the company.
“He Was Ready” – Kurt Angle On John Cena
However, speaking on a recent episode of The Kurt Angle Show, Angle praised Cena and said he was prepared for the big time from the moment he started in WWE.
“Yeah, he was ready. You know, he was ready when he started. He was a little green. You know, he had to have a few touch ups. But other than that, I mean, the kid was prepared. He was prepared before he even got here. I mean, the stuff that he was able to do in the company, especially with merchandising, he came in fully prepared man, and he acted and really played it out like a main eventer, he really did.”
In the past, Angle has called Cena the “greatest WWE Superstar of all time.”
If you use any quotes from this transcription, please credit The Kurt Angle Show and link back to this article with a h/t to Inside the Ropes.