John Cena has admitted that he was surprised by the fan reaction to his latest WWE comeback, although he’s now probably seen as a nostalgia act.
At Money In The Bank in July 2021, John Cena returned to WWE for the first time in more than a year. His appearance set up a SummerSlam clash with Universal Champion Roman Reigns and a tour titled the ‘Summer of Cena.’
The run came to an end on September 10th at Madison Square Garden, where Cena teamed with The Mysterios to take on The Bloodline.
During an appearance on the Pat McAfee Show, Cena reflected on his comeback, admitting that he could probably now be seen as a nostalgia act.
“I’m probably at the point where I could be deemed a nostalgia act, and you got to see it first-hand,”
Continuing on, Cena explained that he was pleasantly surprised by the crowd reaction to his comeback, especially as he had got so used to receiving a mixed reaction.
“Not to say that I didn’t treat it very seriously and I love every single time I step on the canvas, but man, had you showed up a little before that, it wasn’t the same reaction as it was for Summer Cena. Summer Cena, for me, I was caught by surprise every single arena I went to. It’s usually a lot more, as Michael Cole would say, ‘polarizing’ than that.
That was my first experience where the majority of the audience appreciate my presence there because normally, it’s weird, you go out and try and play a character of virtue and people tell you to ‘fuck off’ and they’d really tell me that.
That’s an interesting combination and that’s what makes WWE beautiful and the live audience so special. They decide how they feel about characters. You can be a virtuous character and built on hard work, loyalty, and respect and embody perseverance and the audience can choose, as a collective, ‘this isn’t what we’re into right now, we prefer someone in grey or more flawed.’ I’m glad you got to see the reaction, but it wasn’t always like that.”
While the mixed reactions may have worn down other Superstars, Cena detailed how they actually drove him to be better, adding that the audience made sure he was always at his best.
“I’m grateful that it wasn’t because it challenged me every night, if I’m going to play this virtuous character, I better do a damn good job because not only did they want to tell me to ‘eff off,’ they were waiting for me to slip up. The audience always kept me at my best and I’m thankful for that. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to get eaten alive. I’m as passionate as the people on the other side of the barrier. WWE is that weird zone where it isn’t pure sport, it’s not ‘he who runs fastest wins,’ It’s a participation even with every person involved.
If you’re in section 313, you’re still in the act and you know when the red light is on, all of us are on TV collectively and all of our voices are heard. I don’t cater to (the television audience) a lot. My ethos has been, ‘if everyone in the arena is having a good time, the audience at home is having a good time.’ I always want the arena to be rocking. Everyone shows up with high energy.”
As a result of the crowd reactions, many fans spent years clamouring for John Cena to turn heel. Despite the pressure, WWE resisted temptation switch Cena’s persona, but elsewhere during the conversation, he revealed that Vince McMahon did almost do the unthinkable.
Cena recalled that McMahon actually contemplated turning him heel during his feud with The Rock, but eventually decided against it.
H/t to Fightful for the transcription.