|JOHN CENA FEATURES|
Growing up in West Newbury, Massachusetts, seven-year-old John Cena became an instant wrestling fan. Hulk
Hogan, The Iron Sheik and "Rowdy" Roddy Piper captured his imagination and ignited the spark that would set him on a course
to WWE stardom. As a child, he and his buddies would wrestle in his basement, emulating their WWE heroes. They put on shows
and even made title belts out of computer paper.
At Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Massachusetts, Cena continued to follow the professional wrestling industry, but turned
his athletic pursuits to the football field. All his peers played football, and even though he didn't love the sport at
first, he played because his friends did. A bit undersized at just over 200 pounds, Cena nevertheless excelled playing
Upon graduating from high school, Cena enrolled at Springfield College in Ashburnham, Massachusetts. He considered
entering the military, but didn't want to lose any of the size and strength that he had worked so hard to build during his
high school days - the very same reason why he didn't wrestle in high school. At Springfield, he bulked up to 240 pounds -
large by normal standards, but still small as far as football centers go. His size didn't prove to be a detriment, though,
as he played standout football for one of the better Division III schools in the United States.
After graduating from Springfield in 1998 with a degree in exercise physiology, Cena moved to Southern California. Tired
of the long, cold New England winters, he moved to sunny California. He took a job moving exercise equipment and worked 75
hours per week.
"Basically, my job sucked," Cena recalled in a 2002 interview. "It was the worst job ever."
While working this thankless job, Cena took his first active steps towards becoming a WWE Superstar. One of his friends
was a wrestler for the Rick Bassman-operated Ultimate Pro Wrestling (UPW), which at the time was associated with WWE. Cena
enrolled at UPW to learn how to wrestle. "It was a great opportunity for me to be seen," says Cena. "I wasn't any good, and
I bless the WWE Talent Relations Department for seeing something in me. They gave me a chance."
Cena wrestled for UPW from November 1999 through early 2001, when he was signed to a developmental contract by WWE and
sent to Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) in Louisville, Kentucky for further seasoning. There, Cena's athletic background and
physique, along with his tireless work ethic both in the ring and in the gym, had people calling him the prototypical
wrestler. Thus was born "The Prototype," Cena's persona in Ohio Valley Wrestling.
Following his arrival in the minor league outfit, Cena formed a relationship with Rico Constantino, who was attempting to
be a role model for the fans. Constantino dubbed the chiseled upstart "The Perfect Man." While the people of Kentucky didn't
take to Rico and Cena's condescending attitude there was no doubting their success. The charismatic duo captured the OVW
Southern Tag Team Championship and ruled the division for much of 2001.
Cena's knowledge and ability grew by leaps and bounds in Louisville. The atmosphere for learning was perfect, and for
someone with a passion for the professional wrestling industry.
"John came from California, we got him really early on in his career, but you could tell he was a natural," says Jim Cornette,
who partially owned Ohio Valley Wrestling during Cena's time in the promotion. "I thought he would actually be this
generation's version of a Ric Flair. He was a heel then, and he was so cocky, arrogant and good looking - he had the
physique and the genetics, he could talk, but they decided to go a different direction with him and he got over just as big
on the other side."
Following Constantino's promotion to the main WWE roster to become the personal stylist to Billy and Chuck, Cena blossomed
on his own. "The Perfect Man" became the perfect champion, winning the OVW Heavyweight Championship from Batista, who was
then known as Leviathan, on February 20, 2002. His reign would be short-lived, as he was promoted to WWE's main roster on
the June 27, 2002 edition of SmackDown!.
Few WWE Superstars have had as impressive a debut match as Cena. Selected to wrestle Kurt Angle the very day he was
promoted from Ohio Valley Wrestling, the rookie nearly pulled off the impossible by dethroning the Olympic Gold Medalist. In
the end, Angle's ability and experience proved too much, and the West Newbury, Massachusetts native ended up on the short
end of the stick. But Cena's performance turned heads; he had made his mark and proved that he was no ordinary rookie.
Before Cena's SmackDown debut in Chicago, Illinois, Cena was told two things: He had a match that night, and he
needed to get a haircut. It all happened so fast that Cena didn't have time to get nervous. He rushed out to get his
haircut and by the time he returned, he had to prepare for his match. The match itself was so fast-paced that he didn't have
time to think, and the fans were so loud that he moved into that zone where nervousness cannot enter. His debut turned out
to be much easier than he ever thought it could be.
"I'd like to take my hat off to Kurt Angle," remarked Cena in an interview shortly after the match. "He's a tremendous
athlete and one of the most professional guys I've ever met. It's incredible being in the ring with such a talent."
Following the event, Cena appeared as a babyface and began feuding with Chris Jericho, defeating the former Undisputed
Champion at Vengeance on July 21, 2002. In October, Cena aligned himself with Billy Kidman and participated in a tag team
tournament to crown SmackDown's first WWE Tag Team Champions - they lost to the team of Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle. On the
following week's episode of SmackDown!, Cena blamed Kidman for the loss since the former WWE and WCW Cruiserweight
Champion had tapped out to Benoit's Crippler Crossface. Cena effectively turned heel in his subsequent match with Kidman by
cheating to win with his feet on the ropes.
Cena was already growing by leaps and bounds in the ring by that time, and was given television exposure with the likes of
Angle and Undertaker, but he still needed that extra something to make his appearances memorable. On the way home from an
overseas tour of the United Kingdom, Cena was sitting in the back of the plane, getting back to his second nature -
freestyle rapping. Little did Cena or anyone else know that with a little time-killing rapping on a long flight home, all
the pieces were about to come together for the youngster.
"I was just freestyling on the plane and I just kept going and going - I was in a zone," Cena said. "Someone heard it and
passed it on. Soon I was asked to do it again for the creative team, and then it all started on the Halloween party on
SmackDown! [in which Cena was dressed as Vanilla Ice and first broke out his rhymes for television]. It's just grown from
With a thick steel chain around his neck and baggy jean shorts hanging low from his waist, the WWE newcomer projected
a thug-like identity that was impossible to overlook. Cena complimented his street-tough appearance with never-before-heard
freestyle rapping skills. It wasn't long before WWE's newest bad boy earned the nickname "Doctor of Thuganomics."
Rhyming and rapping wasn't new to WWE, as anyone who recalls Men on a Mission or Road Dogg's intros will tell you. Cena
was given free rein to create his own rap promos denigrating the most popular WWE Superstars on SmackDown and, combined
with the "old-school" pro sports gear he donned to the ring, he quickly found himself with one of the most overbearing - and
entertaining - personae in WWE.
The rhymes are all original. Once Cena finds out who he will be competing against, he retreats to the upper levels of
whatever arena SmackDown is in that night and creates. The cheap seats are what Cena calls "The Lab," and it's where his
years of freestyling are put to good use.
And, although his rhymes and obnoxious TV demeanor earn him a cascade of jeers from fans, Cena believed he was delivering an
important message through his persona.
"It's entertaining, but it's not something corny like Men on a Mission," Cena remarked. "You can get with it if you really
like hip-hop. I put forth a lot of effort into my lyrics and make them funny and entertaining at the same time, but they're
also creative. The younger generation can get into it. Hip-hop is mainstream now, whether people like it nor not. As much
as some want to make it thug, it's mainstream. There are a lot of non-street-raised kids out there now listening to hip-hop.
Although people take the gimmick for a joke, it's just a good image to show those kids that you don't have to be a gangsta
or a thug. You can come out, and if you've got skills, show your skills. You've just got to back up what you stand for and
get behind it.
"I grew up in a small town, I went to a $30,000 prep school, I have a college degree," Cena added. "I don't drink or do
drugs. I've never hustled for anybody or stolen anything from anybody. But I've got skills. I have a degree in exercise
physiology from Springfield College. And I don't care who knows that."
"If people want to say that I'm not down and I'm not a thug, no, I didn't have to rob and shoot people to get where I am.
But I can rock the mic, so give me the opportunity to rock the mic. Respect the art form rather than [say], 'You have to have
a thug background to be in the rap game.' That's just what I'm showing the kids, which is something different."
Over the course of the next year, Cena proved his worth by toppling many of WWE's top names, including Kurt Angle, Undertaker
and Eddie Guerrero. With such an impressive won-loss record to his credit, Cena was in line for the biggest opportunity of his
career to date: A United States Championship Match against Big Show at WrestleMania XX.
With the help of his brass knuckles, Cena chopped the giant Big Show down to size on his way to capturing the United States
Championship. The victory proved to be the first of many WrestleMania moments for John Cena.
In 2005, there was no denying Cena his time to shine as WWE's premiere Superstar. Early in the year, he defeated Orlando
Jordan, Booker T and Kurt Angle in a No. 1 Contender's tournament. The victory earned Cena an opportunity at John "Bradshaw"
Layfield's WWE Championship on the grandest stage of them all, WrestleMania 21.
With a sold-out STAPLES Center in his corner, Cena permanently etched his name in the annals of professional wrestling when
he dropped JBL with an Attitude Adjustment to claim the WWE Championship. To prove his reign was no fluke, the new champ
followed his WrestleMania victory with another win over JBL at Judgment Day. This time, Cena did it in
one of wrestling history's most gruesome "I Quit" Matches.
With the WWE Championship strapped firmly around his waist, Cena's star began to shoot higher and faster than any other
Superstar in recent times. Before long, the champ's time was in high demand. When he wasn't competing in the ring, he was
making personal appearances; and when he wasn't making personal appearances, he was training or traveling or in the recording
studio making his debut album, You Can't See Me, which debuted at No. 15 on the Billboard charts.
Through it all, Cena also managed to find time to redesign the WWE Championship from its traditional look into what is
regularly referred to as the "spinner belt." Wrestling traditionalists gasped at the idea OF altering the most elite championship,
but Cena simply shrugs off the naysayers, claiming his business is evolutionary and must move forward to survive. His defense:
Go back and watch an old match from the 1950s and compare it today's action. It's evolved; so should the title.
Cena proudly carried the WWE Championship into 2006. His first big test came at January's New Year's Revolution
when he defended the gold against Kurt Angle, Shawn Michaels, Kane, Carlito and Chris Masters in an unforgiving Elimination
Chamber. Despite having the odds stacked firmly against him, Cena never backed down and walked away from the grueling half-hour
affair with the win.
Shortly after the match, however, a beaten and battered Cena was forced to defend the title yet again when Edge emerged to
cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase. The exhausted champ was no match for the well-rested Rated-R Superstar. Less than
two minutes into the contest, Cena and his title reign fell victim to Edge's lethal spear.
For Cena, the loss marked the end of his amazing nine-month reign atop WWE. Luckily for him, however, he only had to wait
three weeks before gaining revenge on Edge and reclaiming the title at Royal Rumble.
Around the same time, the movement that has become known as the "Cena divide" began to gain steam. Some of the Cena
cheers transformed into boos. But the more anti-Cena fans booed, the more Cena supporters cheered. It eventually turned
into a giant circle of deafening sentiment, both for and against, showering down on the champ.
In June 2006, however, there was no circle of sentiment. When Cena defended the WWE Championship against Rob Van Dam
at One Night Stand in front of a venomous ECW crowd, there was only one reaction Cena elicited: "Cena sucks!" The
ECW faithful were so anti-Cena that they even rejected the champ's merchandise when he threw it into the crowd as a souvenir.
Cena suffered a discouraging loss at One Night Stand but it failed to derail him. By year's end, he reclaimed
the WWE Championship for a third time. He went onto to hold the gold longer than anybody in many years. In the past three
decades, only Hulk Hogan's WWF Championship reign in the 1980s exceeded Cena's 380 days.
Unfortunately for Cena, a torn right pectoral tendon put a premature end to his epic title reign. The injury required
surgery and a six-month rehabilitation period. But after only three months, a determined Cena made a shocking return to
win the 2008 Royal Rumble. The win not only added "Royal Rumble winner" to his accomplishments, but also led to a WWE
Championship Match at WrestleMania XXIV against Triple H and belt holder Randy Orton.
Cena was unable to regain the gold at WrestleMania XXIV and later that same year, a herniated disc delayed his
continued pursuit to return to the top. When Cena finally returned in November 2008, he made a huge splash by doing something
he had never done before: He won the World Heavyweight Championship by defeating Chris Jericho at Survivor Series.
Cena topped Edge and Big Show at WrestleMania XXV to tack a second World Heavyweight Championship reign to his credit
before turning his attention back to the WWE Championship. In September 2009--three years after last losing the WWE Championship--
Cena turned back Orton in a thrilling "I Quit" Match to finally regain the title.
The victory gave Cena his fourth reign with the WWE Championship. Reign No. 5 also came at Orton's expense, while a victory
over Sheamus awarded Cena his sixth run at the top. WrestleMania XXVI was the historic backdrop for Cena's thrilling
victory over Batista and his seventh WWE Championship reign.
With plans of tying Triple H's then-record of eight WWE Championship reigns, Cena challenged The Miz for the gold at WrestleMania XXVIII.
But the event's host, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, had other plans for Cena. Toward the end of the match, Rock flattened
Cena with a Rock Bottom, allowing The Miz to pick up the win. The controversial conclusion to the match set the wheels in
motion for the epic year-long rivalry with The Rock, which culminated with a victory at WrestleMania XXVIII.
Despite all the championship success, Cena wanted nothing more than to defeat The Rock in a "Once in a Lifetime" encounter
at WrestleMania XXVIII. In the months leading up to the epic matchup, each Superstar tossed psyche-crushing barbs
at the other but neither man backed down. As WrestleMania approached, it became clear that neither man would be broken
by mere words. Their score was to be settled in the ring.
Unfortunately for Cena, The Rock got the best of him at WrestleMania. Like a man, however, Cena dusted himself
and accepted defeat the next night on Raw. Members of Cenation applauded their leader's humility and recognize that
regardless of the outcome of any one match, John Cena is, and always will be, one of the greatest WWE Superstars of
John Cena is the unquestionable face of the "PG Era"
When WWE's weekly television content shifted to TV-PG in 2008, the company sent a strong message to parents that it was
committed to delivering entertainment to fans of all ages. The philosophy change eliminated much of the Attitude Era's
excess. Leading the charge both behind and in front of the camera is John Cena, who has become recognized as the face of
what many fans refer to as the "PG Era." For WWE, tapping Cena as the company's ultimate babyface was an obvious choice,
considering his charisma, reliability, and unmatched work ethic. For the fans, however, Cena's years of unrivalled success
have made him the most polarizing wrestler in company history. Breaking his silence on the subject, WWE CEO Vince McMahon
spoke out on those who boo the Cenation leader.
"The vast majority of the audience obviously loves John Cena," says McMahon in WWE's recently released WWE 50 book. "But there is that minority, a vocal minority,
and I think they're just messing with John, and that's fine. John likes that, and personally, I do too. That's what makes
the WWE what it is. You can cheer for anyone you wish, you can boo for anyone you wish."
He continues, "Quite frankly, when you have someone like Cena, who, as we say in the business, is 'over' so much, it's going to make some people say, 'Eh, you know
what? I'm not going to cheer for this guy. I'm going to try to boo him out of the building.' And that's okay. You paid your
money, you're watching on television, you're not dictated to under any sort of circumstances. Boo who you choose, John Cena
thrives on that. He's always been a bit controversial, and he always will be only because he's John Cena."
With Cena as its top star and a reputation response to programmers, WWE soon found itself as an in-demand brand with
which other companies were eager to form partnerships.
"Our PG rating has been extremely important to changing perceptions," says Michelle Wilson, WWE's Chief Marketing Officer.
"The biggest thing that we're up against is perception of who we were years ago when the content was edgier. At the time,
the content was very relevant, but not necessarily what we want our content to be today."
WWE was in Richmond
Find out which WWE stars are traveling partners on the road with these photos!
Here are photos of various WWE stars arriving to The Richmond Coliseum on Monday for Raw in Richmond, Virginia.
As you can see, Dean Ambrose and Renee Young are together, while Paul Heyman travels with Cesaro and
Seth Rollins. Also check out photos of John Cena leaving the arena in his gear with Nikki Bella.
(See More Photos)