John Cena has voiced a video for WWE as he and the company reflect on two decades of performing for the brave men and women of the US military at Tribute To The Troops.
The latest installment of Tribute To The Troops aired on Fox on December 17th having been taped back in November in Indianapolis. But WWE’s annual tribute to the US servicemen and women stretches back twenty years with the first event of its kind taking place on Christmas Day 2003, in a very different setting, war-torn Baghdad, Iraq.
John Cena On First Tribute To The Troops – “Tensions Were High”
The idea of Tribute To The Troops has long been credited to WWE Hall of Famer John ‘Bradshaw’ Layfield. JBL previously described how he set the wheels in motion for the show:
“I grew up watching the Bob Hope U.S.O specials, that Bob Hope used to do from South Korea or wherever the troops were. I always thought that would be really cool to do something like that. And so just on this long bus ride with Ron [Simmons] I came up with the idea of ‘Wouldnt it be great to come over and do something for the soldiers’ and actually put on an entire event in one of these places, Afghanistan, Iraq or wherever our troops were.”
“I don’t know if I emailed or called Vince, whatever it was, told him about it and immediately he’s coming up with this idea of Tribute To The Troops. He said ‘We’re going to take over a plane, we’ll get a military plane. We’ll take over tonnes of video games, tonnes of DVD’s, give them to the soldiers, make it a big Christmas event.
We’re not going to stay in the green zone, we’re going to go to the forward operating bases, the “fobs”. Actually stay with the soldiers, eat with the soldiers, live with the soldiers. Split up in groups of 3 and 4 and go all over the country. Go places that civilians have never been before and see soldiers that never got to see somebody that’s not in uniform, or somebody that could be an enemy if they’re seeing somebody.’
Vince right away came up kind of with this whole idea, he and Kevin Dunn together, when I kind of gave the spark to it. I get a lot of credit, especially in the media because Vince is a very giving person and he wants his talent to get the recognition for stuff like this, but this was an idea that WWE formulated and made. I was the spark, that part is true but what they put together was unbelievable.”
In the video released on WWE.com, John Cena describes how the idea was put into action by those in the company:
“Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida 2003. A devoted team of WWE Superstars and staffers volunteer their services in support of the men and women who risk all defending our freedom. No one could have imagined that this would be the first leg of an ongoing 20-year journey.”
“As we boarded the massive military plane, tensions were high. We were headed into a warzone. Final destination, Baghdad, Iraq.”
The 2022 edition of Tribute To The Troops saw Braun Strowman defeat LA Knight, Ronda Rousey & Shayna Baszler defeat Tamina & Emma, and Sheamus, Drew McIntyre & Ricochet defeat Imperium.