John Cena has reflected on his impeccable WWE debut but in hindsight, he wishes he’d embodied the ruthless aggression mantra a little differently – by targeting The Undertaker!
The Ruthless Aggression Era saw what was effectively a passing of the torch as The Rock, ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, and other Attitude Era stalwarts moved out of the WWE spotlight. Several new WWE Superstars took this as the prime opportunity, with Batista, Randy Orton, and Brock Lesnar all becoming megastars during this period.
John Cena, however, had the best debut of the famed OVW quartet. Answering a challenge laid down by Kurt Angle on the 27 June 2002, the then-unknown ‘Doctor of Thuganomics’ took Angle to the limit. It remains one of the company’s most well-executed debuts.
“I just did what I was told, instead of being ruthlessly aggressive. Here I am, in fact, shaking hands and everybody and all that and this is awesome. This is an awesome moment. Certainly, it was pretty genuine. Everyone’s like, ‘Hey, maybe you did really good. Let’s put it on tape.’ But here I am, intimidated by The Undertaker, John Cena.
If I am aggressive and ruthless, I wouldn’t really be intimidated by anybody, right? I might not ask to shake Kurt’s hand or any of that. You know, here I am, marvelling at my own hand because The Undertaker shook my hand. If I really embodied ruthless aggression and kicked him in the nuts, you know, or bowed up to him and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to take that championship in a week or so.’
It’s such a – man, it is not a shame because it was a good learning experience. The story turned out okay, but especially now after I see the match, I see the audience and where they lose interest. You have to slow down, you have to tell a story. Just doing what I was told in performances like that almost got me fired, and I can see why because you look at the audience, nobody cares.”
John Cena ended up facing The Undertaker early into his main roster run, defeating ‘The Deadman’ on an April 2003 SmackDown broadcast. The Undertaker emerged victorious in the duo’s latest encounter, which saw the pair produce a shocking squash match at WrestleMania 34.
The multi-time World Champion has been announced to be returning to WWE on the 27 June episode of Monday Night Raw, exactly twenty years on from Cena’s aforementioned encounter with Kurt Angle. He’s expected to set up a United States Championship contest with Theory for SummerSlam.
John Cena last wrestled for WWE at last year’s SummerSlam, as he failed to dethrone Roman Reigns of the WWE Universal Championship in the summer spectacular’s main event.