John Cena might be one of the greatest of all time but success wasn’t always on the cards for Cena and he has recounted the time he nearly lost his dream job.
Cena’s rise to superstardom is a well-worn tale as he debuted as a rookie full of ‘ruthless aggression’ before embracing his hip-hop roots and becoming loved by fans. In 2005 he ascended to the top of WWE as he won his first WWE Title at WrestleMania 21 before going on to become a household name, a movie star, and an internet meme.
Cena sat down for BuzzFeed and explained his rise from a bullied kid to an internet sensation with everything else in between. During his retelling of much of his life story John Cena recalled being recruited to WWE after appearing on the independent scene as The Prototype:
“The toughest thing for anyone in entertainment is to somehow find a way to captivate an audience. You have to create a personality for yourself and invest in that personality and hope people get it. And my character was The Prototype – half man, half machine, and a hundred percent f*cking rotten.”
“It was so bad, but I was invested in it and it was enough to catch the eye of a scout to send me to Kentucky. So I got to be an understudy of one of their prominent performers and then I made it to WWE. The first thing they said was like, drop The Prototype, cut your hair, and be a good guy.”
John Cena then detailed how he felt as debuting as himself rather than as a character and why it almost didn’t work out for him:
“So I debuted as John Cena, the most stale, unentertaining character you can imagine, and was just about to be fired after a year and a half of me trying to connect with the audience. On what was supposed to be one of my last tours – when we go overseas we all travel together – and in the back of the bus, people were freestyling. I remember I just went back and joined in and in the front of the bus, the creative department was like ‘hey how did you remember all that?’ I’m like ‘well the concept behind freestyle rap is you just kind of think on your feet’ and they’re like ‘well would you want to do that on TV?’ Yes I do, and it really gave me a chance to invest in costuming, mannerisms, delivery, personality.”
“I’m not the most technically proficient guy, I’m not the biggest aerial performer but I really love the make believe aspect. I really genuinely do and the storytelling aspect and being the rap guy, I bought all in. […] Imagine this, the one thing that I got my ass kicked for as a teenager, dressing different and embracing hip hop culture was the catalyst to me connecting with a global WWE audience.”
With sixteen world championships to his name, countless WrestleManias headlined, and now the star of two major movie franchises in The Fast And The Furious and Marvel’s The Suicide Squad, it’s safe to say that what may have once been “stale and unentertaining” became anything but.