John Cena has revealed that their much-replayed debut in the company wasn’t meant to happen and only did take place because WWE “had no other options.”
Cena debuted in June 2002 on an episode of SmackDown to answer an open challenge from Kurt Angle. Angle asked Cena what made him think he could take on an Olympic gold medallist and Cena famously responded “ruthless aggression.”
A match between the two then took place with the rookie Cena taking Angle closer to the edge of defeat than Angle would have expected. In the end though, the veteran was able to pull out the victory. Afterward, John Cena was seen backstage where he was offered a handshake of respect by WWE legend The Undertaker.
Speaking at a Q&A at Florida Supercon, the sixteen-time champion of the world discussed his debut and says it only happened by fluke, much like some other successes in his career:
“It’s surreal and it all happened so fast [match with Kurt Angle and shaking hands with The Undertaker]. It wasn’t even supposed to happen. I was thrown in there last minute because they had no other options.”
“That’s like the story of my life by the way. I was just — all my opportunities came when either James Gunn was sick or nobody showed up to wrestle or they didn’t have anybody else to bet on. I’ve never been — even for Peacemaker, I know James had Batista in mind for it. That’s okay. I think yet another lesson here is don’t ever be ashamed with how opportunity finds you. Be ready and knock it out of the park.”
“So it was all surreal, it was all like a blur but I remember I was ready to wrestle Kurt and he brought, technically the best out of me and forced me — he tried to run me ragged but I hung in there with him and yes, they filmed backstage moments of other superstars shaking hands there because it was genuine. Everybody was like, ‘Yo, good job’ because when you see a new guy in the locker room, the jury is still out and it worked. So even Kurt himself came up and thanked me and everybody was great and after that I sucked but for that one moment… but it was all such a [whirlwind]. It was crazy.”