John Cena Reveals Origin of Attitude Adjustment, Talks American Grit, Underdog Mentality, More

John Cena

– As noted, John Cena’s appearance on The YES Network’s “Centerstage” will air on Tuesday night at 11pm EST. They sent the following highlights from the interview:


11:00 pm ET – Immediately Following YES’ Yankees-Toronto coverage

How Cena got his start in the business: “It (Ultimate Pro Wrestling’s Ultimate University) was…in Orange County, in Southern California. At the time, sports entertainment was truly at its zenith. It was the Monday Night Wars. There were two companies competing against each other, so it was really, really shock television every week. Like, “Wow, what are these guys gonna do next?”, so the eyes of the world really focused in on these two companies battling it out, and in turn it spawned imitation. There were a lot of companies that were trying to do the same thing, and this (Ultimate Pro Wrestling) was a company in Southern California, trying to put together a name for itself and, it was a company that offered training, and through training is the way that I got started, and you can’t have a finish if you don’t have a start, so I’m forever thankful to Ultimate Pro Wrestling.”

Cena’s underdog mentality has served him well: “Even from the second I walked into the Ohio Valley Training Center (for his debut), which was a very dingy small armory in the heart of Kentuckiana, I thought that I wouldn’t make it. I kinda always thought that I was on borrowed time, because I would walk in and I would see 300-pound Brock Lesnar, who has amateur Olympic credentials, and 330-pound-at-the-time Dave Bautista, and Randy Orton, who just made any movement look as effortless as it could be. I remember seeing Shelton Benjamin walk in and then seeing, without any hands, him leap up to the apron of the ring. I’m like, “Okay, pretty impressive,” and then (seeing) him leap up to the top rope and just walk the top rope and I felt like Keanu Reeves when he goes in to see the Oracle in The Matrix and the kid’s bending the spoon and he’s like… “This is out of my league, man.” I always thought that I would never make it. But it was cool because even though I felt out-gunned, it gave me that sense of, well, I have nothing to lose. I’m just gonna go for it, and I really have kind of lived by that my entire life. It’s let me take chances that a lot of the other Superstars are afraid to take.”

After Cena’s WWF Superstars debut against Mike Richardson in 2000, he bought 86 pair of boots and 128 pair of tights so he could look the part: “William Regal is a wrestler from the U.K. and a very certifiable technician. He has a certain style that only few can be fluent in, and he just makes things look effortless. So, I have this debut match, and then I come back, I say, “Mr. Regal, how was it?” And he has a very dry, British sense of humor. And his response was, “Well, lad, if you just get a set of boots and tights, at least you’ll look like a wrestler.” So, here I am, thinking, “Well, (all) I need is boots and tights and I’m good.” When he was really saying, “Jesus, at least look the part.” He was honest, but in the same token, I didn’t take his advice. I just thought, like, “I just need boots and tights and I’m good.” So, I went out and bought 86 pairs of boots and like 128 pairs of tights. And I vowed to never wear the same thing twice.”

Vince McMahon’s first words about Cena were “Cut his hair”: “I got to meet Vince McMahon in Chicago in 2002, which is where I made my (mainstage, WWE television) debut, and it was the night of my debut, and my debut shouldn’t have even happened. Kurt Angle was supposed to wrestle a fellow named The Undertaker that night, and The Undertaker actually could not make the show. He was extremely ill and didn’t show up, and they needed a replacement, and somebody threw my name out there because it would just be like a single match and it would do more for Kurt Angle than anybody else and Vince said “Okay,” so they brought me in to see Vince, and I had a long, horrible, badly-dyed mop haircut at the time. And my first meeting with Vince McMahon went something like this: I was shoved into a room and someone over my shoulder said, “What do you think?” And he (McMahon) turns around and goes, “Cut his hair.” That was my first meeting with my boss. I love him. I admire him as a human being. I think he’s … just a wonderful example of hard work paying off. To this day he does not need to show up. He is always hands on. He always shows up. His drive is incomparable.”

Cena explains the origin of his finisher, the “Attitude Adjustment”: “I actually got a signature move from a guy named Tommy Dreamer. A local guy. A New York guy. And he was using a move, that is a fireman’s carry, and you basically pick somebody on your shoulders and drop them down to the mat, and he gave it to me and I gave it a name and then changed the name and now it’s the Attitude Adjustment.”

Another Cena trademark, kissing his dog tags, is a tribute to his family: “The names of all my brothers (are on the dog tags). The names of my father, my mother, and Nicole’s (his partner’s) first name as well. And it’s just a reminder to them that like, “Hey, you guys are always with me through this whole crazy ride.”

Cena’s signature “You can’t see me” hand gesture came about as a dare and as a joke with his brother “The whole thing came about as a dare and a joke. We were playing (music) tracks that were supposed to be on the rap album that I cut a while back, and I would always use my younger brother as, like, the litmus test. And I would play a track for him and if he kinda grooved to it, like, “Okay, we got something here,” and there was a dance with the video “In the Club.” That’s 50 Cent and the G-Unit crew, and Tony Yayo, one of 50’s (Cent’s) guys is doing this [gestures], and that was his dance and, like, we played something that my brother really liked and he was doing this, and I’m like, “Man, that is the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen. I’m gonna do that on TV,” and he said, “No you won’t,” and I said, “Okay. Watch this.” And back then, nobody was watching me or cared about me. And I kinda had liberty to do what I want. So, I did it, but I wanted to do it different, and when I got my opponent down, I could do this, like, “You can’t see me,” and I’m like, wow, that is such an easy way to be like, “I’m over here and you’re not even close.”

Cena has some very unique superstitions: “If I see a penny on the ground heads up, I have to pick it up, no matter what. I always knock on wood before the match. I always shake my opponent’s hand, say “Good luck. Be safe. Have fun.” Even when they wanna kill me, and that’s most of the time that they wanna kill me. I always eat Tic Tacs before the match, starting about three hours (prior to the match). I consume probably five boxes of Tic Tacs on a daily basis before a performance.”

Cena wanted to get involved with FOX’s new show American Grit because he thinks it’s aspirational and attainable entertainment, just like the WWE: “Here’s the thing about American Grit that’s unique…all the competitors, they come from different walks of life, and I wanted to be involved with a show that was aspirational and attainable, same thing as the WWE. You say you wanna be a WWE Superstar, there’s a chance (you) can be, and always hold onto that dream if you have it. When you watch American Grit on FOX, you’ll be able to watch these people go through these evolutions and it’s not something you feel as if you’ll be alienated from. I think everyone in this room will get the sense of, “I could probably do that,” and that’s what I want America to feel, because I want you to have that experience. I want you to be able to come back for American Grit 2 and compete and be able to get the knowledge of these military leaders and really live this experience. It is a special show. It’ll be entertaining, but it’s just a really, really cool message, and some really awesome people are a part of it, so I hope they watch it.”

Cena’s first character storyline, “The Prototype,” developed due his dedication to working out: “I was half-man, half-machine, a hundred percent mayhem. And they called me The Prototype, and that was the same friend that was like, “Hey, man, why don’t you come on down and train.” (He) just couldn’t believe the things that I was doing in the gym for my age and the dedication. And it just stuck.”

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