John Cena has been a member of the WWE Universe for over 20 years, infamously making his main roster debut in 2002 when he told Kurt Angle he had “ruthless aggression” before taking an L to the “Olympic Hero.”
Since that fateful day, Cena has worked more than 2,000 matches for The Fed, won 25 championships, including 13 reigns with the WWE Championship, and has become a true force when it comes to making wishes for Make A Wish, where he's helped out 650 kids and counting. He's also, funnily enough, become one of the most in-demand actors in the world today, playing superheroes, wedding crashers, blockers, and even the half-brother of Dominic Toretto, the protagonist of the Fast and Furious franchise.
Sitting down for an interview with Megan Ryte of Extra to promote Fast X alongside his co-worker Jordana Brewster, Cena noted that any fans who questioned why the world would need another Fast movie are likely the same people who don't understand what makes WWE so compelling.
“Having just performed at the 39th installment of WrestleMania, my philosophy is, ‘as long as it’s good, that’s all that matters.’ ‘Fast', continuously, and box office backs data it up, continuously entertains the world installation after installation,” Cena said via Fightful. “Anyone who says, ‘Do we really need another one?’ I compare it to a fan who says, ‘Isn’t wrestling fake?’ They just don’t understand what we do and they just don’t understand what this is about. As long as the movies are exceptional, which this one might be my favorite of all-time, and I go deep into the ‘Fast' library. This is a great ride and I think people are going to get out of the theater and want to see another one. If someone makes that comment, which they’re entitled to, I just don’t think they understand what we do.”
In a weird way, comparing the Fast and Furious franchise to WWE is actually incredibly apt, with both relying on spectacle and the suspension of disbelief over realism or gritty, emotionally resonant melodrama. After spending two decades working the “Sports Entertainment” circuit, Cena has a chance to cement a similar legacy in Hollywood, with each billion-dollar film helping to solidify it like a WrestleMania match. Jakob Toretto spin-off series a la the Peacemaker show for HBO Max, anyone?
Bruce Prichard recalls when he knew John Cena was “The Guy.”
Discussing John Cena, the wrestler, in a recent edition of his Something to Wrestle show, Bruce Prichard recalled when he knew Mr. “You Can't See Me” was going to not only be a star but “The Guy” in WWE, which, coincidentally, was the first time he saw him on television, presumably in his “Ruthless Aggression” match with Kurt Angle.
“John Cena. The first time he saw John Cena, he said, ‘he's a star. He's the guy.' You know, it was very early on,” Prichard said via Fightful. “When John had just started, we were scratching our heads, trying to figure out what to do with John. He had something, you know, he had it, but not knowing what to do. Jim was like, ‘That's your next guy. He will be the guy.' I'm like, ‘Ah, yeah, you know, Jim, I get it, man. He's got all the tools and everything. But right now, I think he's a little green.' He said, ‘Get behind him. He's the guy.' He was right. He saw it before any of us saw it.”
Though Cena gets some hate for his first WWE appearance, with the segment admittedly being one of the more awkward you will see on weekly wrestling programming, it's hard to argue with Prichard's point, as the future WWE Hall of Famer looked like a darn Terminator in the ring physically, and moved around very well for a performer who clearly wasn't as polished as he would eventually become. After a few months off to re-tool his game, Cena returned in a big way, became the “Doctor of Thuganomics,” and eventually transitioned into the jean shorts-wearing, “Honor, Loyalty, and Respect” shirt-wearing, second coming of Hulk Hogan that defined a generation of professional wrestling in American and split fans between “Sports Entertainment” and “Indie Wrestling,” leading to the growing popularity of promotions like New Japan Pro Wrestling Stateside.
For a time, “Let's Go Cena” chants were immediately echoed by even louder “Cena Sucks” responses. With his career in WWE rapidly winding down, as the 46-year-old has plenty of other things going on at the moment, his legacy as one of the most important performers in the promotion's history will only become more and more obvious.