|Intro||American professional wrestler and actor|
|A.K.A.||John Felix Anthony Cena, John Felix Anthony Cena, Jr.|
|Is||Writer Wrestler Athlete Actor Voice actor Musician Rapper Film producer Filmmaker Television actor Film actor American football player|
|From||United States of America|
|Field||Film, TV, Stage & Radio Literature Music Sports|
|Birth||23 April 1977, West Newbury, Essex County, Massachusetts, USA|
|Residence||Tampa, Hillsborough County, Florida, USA|
John Felix Anthony Cena (/ˈsiːnə/; born April 23, 1977) is an American professional wrestler, actor, and former rapper currently signed to WWE. Widely regarded as one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time, he is tied with Ric Flair for the most world championship reigns in professional wrestling history.
Born and raised in West Newbury, Massachusetts, Cena moved to California in 1998 to pursue a career as a bodybuilder. He transitioned to professional wrestling in 1999 when he debuted for Ultimate Pro Wrestling (UPW). He signed with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now WWE) in 2001, where he was initially assigned to Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW). He gained fame in the WWE after adopting the persona of a trash-talking rapper. He won his first singles title, the United States Championship, in 2004. The next year, he won the WWE Championship for the first time, and his character subsequently transitioned into a clean-cut "Superman-like" hero. He then led the company as its franchise player and public face for the next decade.
A joint-record 16-time world champion, Cena has won the WWE Championship thirteen times, a record for the title. He is also a five-time United States Champion, a four-time world tag team champion, a two-time Royal Rumble match winner, a one-time Money in the Bank match winner, and has headlined several major WWE pay-per-view events, including their flagship event, WrestleMania, five times. His professional wrestling career has been met with mixed critical and audience reception, with praise for his character work and promotional skills, but criticism for his supposed over-representation and on-screen placement relative to other wrestlers.
Cena first starred in The Marine (2006), and gained praise for his performances in Trainwreck (2015), Ferdinand (2017), Blockers, and Bumblebee (both 2018). He starred in F9 and portrayed Peacemaker in The Suicide Squad (both 2021), and in an upcoming eponymous television series. His debut studio album, You Can't See Me (2005), was certified platinum. Outside his work in entertainment, Cena is known for his involvement in numerous charitable causes, namely with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, where he has granted the most wishes, at over 650.
John Felix Anthony Cena was born in West Newbury, Massachusetts, on April 23, 1977, to Carol (née Lupien) and John Cena Sr. His mother is of English and French-Canadian descent, while his father has Italian ancestry. His maternal grandfather was baseball player Tony Lupien. He has an older brother named Stephen, and three younger brothers named Dan, Matt and Sean. Cena is a cousin of computer scientist Natalie Enright Jerger. Raised Roman Catholic, he attended Central Catholic High School in Lawrence, Massachusetts, before transferring to Cushing Academy, a private prep boarding school in Ashburnham, Massachusetts. He then attended Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts, where he was an NCAA Division III All-American center on their college football team. He wore the number 54, which is still used on some of his WWE merchandise. Cena graduated from Springfield College in 1999 with a degree in exercise physiology and body movement, after which he pursued a career in bodybuilding and worked as a limousine driver.
Professional wrestling career
Ultimate Pro Wrestling (1999–2001)
Cena began training to become a professional wrestler in 1999 at Ultimate Pro Wrestling's (UPW) California-based Ultimate University operated by Rick Bassman. Once he was placed into an in-ring role, Cena began using a semi-robotic character known as The Prototype. Some of this period of his career was documented in the Discovery Channel program Inside Pro Wrestling School. He held the UPW Heavyweight Championship for 27 days in April 2000, and wrestled for the UPW until March 2001.
World Wrestling Entertainment / WWE
Early appearances (2000–2001)
On October 10, 2000, while billed as The Prototype, Cena made his unofficial debut for then World Wrestling Federation (WWF) on a SmackDown! taping in a dark match against Mikey Richardson, in which he lost. He received another tryout on January 9, 2001, at a SmackDown! taping in Oakland, California, this time defeating Aaron Aguilera wrestling again in a dark match at a SmackDown! taping on March 13.
Signing and Ohio Valley Wrestling (2001–2002)
In 2001, Cena signed a developmental contract with the WWF and was assigned to its developmental territory Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW). During his time there, Cena wrestled under the ring name The Prototype and held the OVW Heavyweight Championship for three months and the OVW Southern Tag Team Championship (with Rico Constantino) for two months. Throughout 2001, he received four tryouts for the main roster, as he wrestled multiple enhancement talent wrestlers on both WWF house shows and in dark matches before WWF televised events.
Throughout the early months of 2002, Cena constantly found himself competing on house shows for the WWF, where he wrestled against the likes of Shelton Benjamin and Tommy Dreamer. After his main call up in June 2002, he continued to appear on OVW programming until September 25, when he lost to Kenny Brolin in a Loser Leaves OVW match. He would later appear in a one-off appearance for the developmental farm in November under the ring name Mr. P in a six-man tag team match, where he teamed with Hall of Famer Big Boss Man and Charlie Haas, in a winning effort against Lance Cade, Trevor Murdoch and Sean O'Haire.
Cena's call-up to the main roster meant that he was part of OVW's now legendary Class of 2002, alongside Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton and Batista, a class which would eventually become known as the "OVW 4".
The Doctor of Thuganomics (2002–2004)
On the June 24 episode of Raw, Vince McMahon ordered the entire roster to the ring and declared he needed them to all find some "ruthless aggression" from within themselves and that he was looking for one of them to stand out from the rest. Cena made his WWE television debut on June 27 on an episode of SmackDown! by answering an open challenge by Kurt Angle. After declaring he possessed "ruthless aggression", he lost by a pinning combination, but managed to put on a good showing. After the match, he was congratulated by Billy Kidman, Faarooq, Rikishi, and The Undertaker. Following the near-win, Cena became a fan favorite and began feuding with Chris Jericho, defeating him at Vengeance. Then, Cena feuded with Los Guerreros (Chavo and Eddie Guerrero) and picked up a victory over Chavo Guerrero on the September 7 episode of Velocity. On the September 12 episode of SmackDown!, Cena teamed with Edge in a losing effort against Los Guerreros, thus ending the feud in the process. He later went on to defeat the likes of Albert and D-Von Dudley as he was restricted to appearances on Velocity for the rest of September.
In October, Cena and Billy Kidman took part in a tag team tournament to crown the first WWE Tag Team Champions of the SmackDown! brand, in which he lost to the first round of the match. The next week on SmackDown!, Cena turned on and attacked Kidman, blaming him for their loss, turning heel for the first and only time in his WWE career. On the October 17 episode of SmackDown!, Cena defeated Kidman in a singles contest, but was ultimately defeated by Kidman in a rematch on the October 24 episode of SmackDown!.
On the 2002 Halloween-themed episode of SmackDown!, Cena dressed as Vanilla Ice and performed a freestyle rap. The following week on SmackDown!, Cena received a new character: a rapper who cut promos while rhyming. Shortly after, he took on the nickname The Doctor of Thuganomics and expanded his gimmick to include rapping before his matches. He began wearing hats and sports jerseys as part of his ring gear. In a 2020 documentary on the WWE Network focusing on this period, Cena revealed that at the time, the gimmick change to The Doctor of Thuganomics saved his career. Before this, the WWE was planning to release Cena as the "ruthless aggression" gimmick wasn't impressive enough. On a bus journey with other WWE superstars, Cena got involved in a freestyle rap session with Rikishi and Rey Mysterio, impressing Stephanie McMahon, leading to the gimmick's adoption. As the character evolved, Cena began adopting a variant of the 1980s WWF logo—dropping the "F"—as his "signature symbol", along with the slogan "Word Life". At Rebellion, he teamed up with Dawn Marie in a losing effort against Kidman and Torrie Wilson in a mixed tag team match.
Cena was eventually joined by an enforcer, Bull Buchanan, who was rechristened to B-2 (also written B² and pronounced "B-Squared"). B-2 helped Cena kick off 2003 with a win over Rikishi on the January 2 episode of SmackDown! and a win over Chavo Guerrero on the January 9 episode of SmackDown!. Both Cena and B-2 participated in the Royal Rumble match, but were unsuccessful in their attempts. Cena and B-2 failed to capture the WWE Tag Team Championship from Los Guerreros, resulting in Cena replacing B-2 with Red Dogg until Red Dogg was sent to the Raw brand in February.
For the first half of 2003, Cena sought the WWE Championship and chased the reigning champion Brock Lesnar after WrestleMania XIX, gaining upset wins over Eddie Guerrero, The Undertaker and Chris Benoit, who mocked Cena by wearing a "Toothless Aggression" shirt. He later won a number one contender's tournament for the right to face off against Lesnar for the WWE Championship at Backlash but was unsuccessful in his attempts. After Backlash, Cena started to feud with Rhyno and Chris Benoit, leading to Cena, along with Chuck Palumbo and Johnny Stamboli, defeating the team of Spanky, Rhyno and Benoit at Judgment Day. Shortly after this, Cena began mocking The Undertaker, leading to a match between the two at Vengeance, where he lost a singles match.
In a rematch between the two, Cena defeated The Undertaker on the August 7 episode of SmackDown!, this time with assistance from A-Train. The feud between the two came to an end on the August 21 episode of SmackDown!, when Cena and A-Train defeated Undertaker and Orlando Jordan in a tag team match. Cena then pursued the United States Championship, but lost to then-champion Eddie Guerrero in a Latino Street Fight for the title on the September 11 episode of SmackDown!.
After losing to Kurt Angle at No Mercy, Cena became a fan-favorite when he joined Angle as a member of his team at the 2003 Survivor Series, where Cena and Chris Benoit were the survivors. Cena and Benoit joined forces as a makeshift tag team, but on the November 27 episode of SmackDown!, both men participated in a 20-man battle royal to earn a WWE Championship match. Cena and Benoit were the final two men remaining and eliminated each other at the same time, leading to the two being declared joint winners. However, Benoit defeated Cena the following week on SmackDown! to earn a WWE Championship match against Lesnar the same night.
United States champion (2004–2005)
In early 2004, Cena participated in the Royal Rumble match at the Royal Rumble, making it to the final six before being eliminated by Big Show. Chris Benoit was the eventual winner of the match. This led to a feud with Big Show. At No Way Out, Cena faced Big Show and Kurt Angle in a triple threat match for a WWE Championship match at WrestleMania XX, which Cena lost by submission to Angle. Cena won his first singles championship in WWE, the United States Championship from Big Show at WrestleMania. He held the title for four months with successful defenses against the likes of Rene Dupree, Rob Van Dam and Booker T, until he was stripped of the title on the July 8 episode of SmackDown! by Kurt Angle (who was the SmackDown! General Manager) after he accidentally attacked him in Angle's wheelchair. Cena won the championship back by defeating Booker T in a best of five series that culminated at No Mercy, only to drop it to the débuting Carlito Caribbean Cool the following week on SmackDown!. After the loss to Carlito, the duo began a feud, resulting in Cena allegedly being stabbed in the kidney while at a Boston-area nightclub by Carlito's bodyguard, Jesús, this worked "injury" was used to keep Cena out of action for a month while he was filming The Marine. Immediately after his return at Survivor Series, Cena won the United States Championship back from Carlito on the November 18 episode of SmackDown!. He later successfully defended the championship against Jesús at Armageddon in a street fight.
In 2005, Cena took part in the Royal Rumble match, making it to the final two along with Batista until both went over the top rope at the same time, at first ending the match, which was subsequently restarted and won by Batista. The next month, Cena participated in a number one contender's tournament for the WWE Championship and made it to the finals at No Way Out, where he defeated Kurt Angle to earn a spot in the SmackDown! brand's WrestleMania 21 main event match, beginning a feud with then WWE Champion John "Bradshaw" Layfield (JBL) and his Cabinet in the process. In the early stages of the feud, Cena lost the United States Championship to Cabinet member Orlando Jordan on the March 3 episode of SmackDown! after JBL interfered and hit Cena with his title belt.
WWE Champion (2005–2007)
Cena defeated JBL at WrestleMania to win the WWE Championship, giving him his first world championship. Cena then had a spinner WWE Championship belt made. JBL took the original title belt and claimed he was still the WWE Champion, until Cena defeated him in an "I Quit" match at Judgment Day to retain the championship.
Cena was drafted to the Raw brand on the June 6 episode of Raw, taking his title with him and became the first wrestler selected in the annual draft lottery. Cena immediately entered into a feud with Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff, after refusing to participate in the "war" against the Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) roster at the 2005 ECW One Night Stand. At Vengeance, Cena defeated Christian and Chris Jericho in a triple threat match to retain the title. With Bischoff vowing to make Cena's stint on Raw difficult, he hand-picked Jericho to take Cena's championship from him. During their feud, even though Cena was portrayed as the "face" (hero) and Jericho as the "heel" (villain), a vocal section of the live crowds, nonetheless, were cheering Jericho and booing Cena during their matches, most notably at SummerSlam, when Cena defeated Jericho to retain the title. Crowds booed Cena again during his next feud with Kurt Angle, who took over as Bischoff's hand-picked number-one contender after Cena defeated Jericho in a You're Fired match on the August 22 episode of Raw. Cena held on to the WWE Championship through his feud with Angle, losing to him by disqualification at Unforgiven, pinning Shawn Michaels in a triple threat match involving Angle at Taboo Tuesday, and pinning Angle at Survivor Series. The feud with Angle saw Cena add a secondary, submission based, finishing maneuver—the STFU (a stepover toehold sleeper, though named for a stepover toehold facelock)—when he was put into a triple threat submissions only match on the November 28 episode of Raw.
At New Year's Revolution, Cena participated in the Elimination Chamber match where he retained the WWE Championship when he last eliminated Carlito. Immediately after Cena won, Mr. McMahon announced Edge was cashing in his Money in the Bank contract—a "guaranteed title match against the WWE Champion at a time and place of the owner's choosing". Two quick spears allowed Edge to pin Cena and win the championship. Three weeks later, Cena won the championship back at the Royal Rumble. After that, Cena began feuding with Triple H. The crowd, which had mostly cheered Cena over the previous few months, started booing him again and cheering the intended villain, Triple H. Cena beat Triple H at WrestleMania 22 to retain the WWE Championship. The negative reaction towards him intensified when he faced Rob Van Dam at ECW One Night Stand which took place in front of a boisterous crowd of mostly original ECW fans at the Hammerstein Ballroom. Cena was met with raucous jeering and chants of "Fuck you, Cena", "You can't wrestle", and "Same old shit". When he began performing different moves as the match progressed, the fans started chanting "You still suck". Cena lost the WWE Championship to Van Dam at after interference from Edge.
On the July 3 episode of Raw, Edge won the championship from Van Dam in a triple threat match that also involved Cena, re-igniting the feud between them from earlier in the year. After Edge went about retaining the title by dubious means—getting himself disqualified (for which championships do not change hands)—and using brass knuckles he introduced his own version of Cena's "custom" title belt, this one with his logo placed on the spinner. Cena eventually regained the championship in a match and an arena of Edge's choice: a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match at Unforgiven at the Air Canada Centre in Edge's hometown of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, after performing the FU on Edge through two tables off a ladder. The match had a stipulation that had Cena lost, he would have joined the SmackDown! brand. Cena returned with his version of the spinner title belt on the next night's Raw.
On the heels of his feud with Edge, Cena was placed in an inter-brand angle to determine the "Champion of Champions"—or which was the most dominant champion in WWE's three brands. Cena, the World Heavyweight Champion King Booker, and the ECW World Champion Big Show engaged in a mini-feud leading to a triple threat match at Cyber Sunday, with the viewers voting on which of the three championships would be placed on the line. At the same time, Cena became involved in a storyline with non-wrestler Kevin Federline, when he began appearing on Raw with Johnny Nitro and Melina. After getting into a worked physical altercation with Federline on Raw, Federline appeared at Cyber Sunday to hit Cena with the World Heavyweight Championship during the match, helping King Booker retain his championship. 2006 ended with Cena beginning a feud with the undefeated Umaga over the WWE Championship.
2007 began with the end of his storyline with Kevin Federline. On the first Raw of the new year, Cena was pinned by Federline with an assist from Umaga, although later in the night he was able to get his hands on Federline performing an FU on him. At New Year's Revolution, Cena defeated Umaga to end his undefeated streak and retain the WWE Championship. At the Royal Rumble, Cena defeated Umaga in a Last Man Standing match to retain the title. One night after the Royal Rumble, an impromptu team of Cena and Shawn Michaels defeated Rated-RKO (Edge and Randy Orton) for the World Tag Team Championship, making Cena a double champion. At WrestleMania 23, Cena defeated Michaels to retain the WWE Championship after forcing him to submit to the STF.
The next night on Raw, Michaels turned on Cena, costing them the championship in the second of two 10-team battles royals, by throwing Cena over the top rope and eliminating the team. The Hardys (Matt and Jeff) eventually won the match and the championship. For the rest of the month, Cena feuded with Michaels, Orton, and Edge before retaining the championship against the three men in a fatal four-way match at Backlash. The Great Khali then declared his intentions to challenge for Cena's championship attacking and "laying out" all three of the top contenders before assaulting Cena himself and stealing the physical title belt. For the next two months, Cena feuded with Khali over the championship, eventually becoming the first person in WWE to defeat him by submission at Judgment Day and then by pinfall at One Night Stand in a Falls Count Anywhere match. Cena would go onto retain the WWE Championship in a five-pack challenge at Vengeance: Night of Champions and against Bobby Lashley at The Great American Bash. Later that summer, Randy Orton was named the number one contender for the WWE Championship, starting a feud between the two. This would start the iconic long-lasting Cena–Orton rivalry. Leading up to SummerSlam,Orton delivered a number of sneak-attacks, performing three RKOs to Cena, who in the actual match at SummerSlam, retained the championship. A rematch between the two took place at Unforgiven, with Orton winning by disqualification after Cena ignored the referee's instructions and continued to beat on him in the corner.
During a match with Mr. Kennedy on the October 1 episode of Raw, Cena suffered a legitimate torn pectoral muscle while executing a hip toss. Though finishing the match and taking part in the scripted attack by Orton after the match, surgery the following day found that his pectoralis major muscle was torn completely from the bone. At the time it was estimated this would require six months to a year of rehabilitation. As a result, Cena was stripped of the title by Mr. McMahon on the next night's episode of ECW, ending what was the longest WWE Championship reign in over 19 years. Cena's surgery was performed by orthopedic surgeon James Andrews at St. Vincent's Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama. Two weeks later in a video update on WWE.com, Dr. Andrews and Cena's physical trainer both said that he was several weeks ahead of where he was expected to be in his rehabilitation at that time. Despite his injury, Cena attended the annual WWE's Tribute to the Troops show filmed at Camp Speicher in Tikrit, Iraq, on December 7, which aired on December 24.
World Heavyweight champion (2008–2010)
Cena made a surprise return as the final participant of the Royal Rumble match, winning it, and the traditional WrestleMania XXIV title shot, by last eliminating Triple H. Instead of waiting until WrestleMania, the title shot was cashed in against then WWE Champion Randy Orton at 2008's No Way Out in a match Cena won by disqualification and, therefore, not being awarded the championship. The following night on Raw, Cena was placed back into WrestleMania's WWE Championship match defeating Orton in a non-title match with Triple H as special guest referee, making it a triple threat match between the three men, during which he was pinned by Orton. At Backlash, Cena failed to regain the title in a fatal four-way elimination match, in which he was eliminated by Orton. During that match, Cena eliminated JBL, renewing their feud from 2005. Cena defeated JBL at Judgment Day and then at One Night Stand in a First Blood match. Cena also failed to regain the WWE Championship from Triple H at Night of Champions. Later, JBL defeated Cena in a New York City Parking Lot Brawl at The Great American Bash in July to end the feud. On the August 4 episode of Raw, Cena became a World Tag Team Champion for a second time, teaming with Batista to defeat Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase but failed to retain the championship the following week against the former champions. Cena lost to Batista at SummerSlam. Shortly after, Cena was named one of four contenders for CM Punk's World Heavyweight Championship in the Championship Scramble match at Unforgiven, but he was replaced by Rey Mysterio after suffering a herniated disc in his neck in his match at SummerSlam, which required surgery. Cena underwent successful surgery to repair the injury.
Cena made his in-ring return at Survivor Series, defeating Chris Jericho to win his first World Heavyweight Championship. The two continued their rivalry until Armageddon, where Cena retained his championship. After defeating JBL at the Royal Rumble, Cena lost the championship at No Way Out to Edge, who attacked Kofi Kingston and took his place in the Elimination Chamber match. Cena received his rematch for the title at WrestleMania 25 in a triple threat match also involving Big Show, which he won.
He lost the championship back to Edge in a Last Man Standing match at Backlash after interference from Big Show, who chokeslammed Cena through a big spotlight. This led to Cena beginning a feud with Big Show who he defeated at Judgment Day and at Extreme Rules in a submission match by applying the STF. During Cena's feud with Big Show, The Miz challenged him to a match on the April 27 episode of Raw, but as Cena was out due to injury, Miz claimed an unofficial win via forfeit and continued to do this over the following weeks, until Cena defeated him in a singles match at The Bash.
At Night of Champions, Cena challenged for the WWE Championship in a triple threat match against Triple H and defending champion Randy Orton (a rematch from WrestleMania XXIV), but was pinned by Orton after interference from Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase. The next night on Raw, Cena won a beat the clock challenge to earn another shot at the WWE Championship at SummerSlam, where Orton would use several underhanded tactics to retain his title. A month later at Breaking Point, Cena defeated Orton in an "I Quit" match to win his fourth WWE Championship but lost the title back to Orton in a Hell in a Cell match at Hell in a Cell. Three weeks later at Bragging Rights, Cena defeated Orton in a 60-minute Anything Goes Iron Man match to regain the championship. Cena successfully defended the title against both Triple H and Shawn Michaels in a triple threat match at Survivor Series, but lost it to Sheamus at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs in a tables match. The next night on Raw, Cena competed in a tournament to crown the 2009 Superstar of the Year, defeating CM Punk in the first round and Orton in the finals later that night to win the honor. He would get his rematch for the WWE Championship against Sheamus on the December 28 episode of Raw, where he won by disqualification, but did not win the championship.
At the Royal Rumble, Cena competed in the Royal Rumble match and made it to the final two where he was eliminated by the returning Edge. While Cena regained the title at Elimination Chamber in an Elimination Chamber match, his reign was cut short after Mr. McMahon made him defend the title immediately against Batista, who won it. Cena defeated Batista at WrestleMania XXVI for the title and successfully defended it against Batista at Extreme Rules in a Last Man Standing match. Cena faced Batista once again winning an "I Quit" match at Over the Limit, thus ending their long-time feud.
Storyline with The Nexus (2010–2011)
On the June 7 episode of Raw, Cena was suddenly thrust into a new storyline when during his main event match against CM Punk, he was attacked by all eight former contestants of the first season of NXT, with Wade Barrett as their leader. This group later referred to itself as The Nexus. The stable's interferences made him lose the WWE Championship at Fatal 4-Way to Sheamus and a Steel Cage match against Sheamus at Money in the Bank. In retaliation to The Nexus, Cena formed an alliance with Edge, Chris Jericho, John Morrison, R-Truth, The Great Khali and Bret Hart. They defeated The Nexus at SummerSlam with help from the returning Daniel Bryan, a former member of Nexus, who replaced Khali.
Then, Cena faced Wade Barrett at Hell in a Cell with the stipulations that if he were to lose, he would join The Nexus, and if he were to win, The Nexus would disband. After Barrett defeated Cena, he reluctantly joined The Nexus. Cena and fellow Nexus member David Otunga defeated Cody Rhodes and Drew McIntyre to win the WWE Tag Team Championship at Bragging Rights. Later that night, he was forced to help Barrett defeat Orton in a WWE Championship match, giving Barrett the disqualification win, but not the title. The following night on Raw, Cena and Otunga lost the WWE Tag Team Championship to fellow Nexus members Heath Slater and Justin Gabriel, when Barrett ordered Otunga to lay down and lose the titles. At Survivor Series, Cena officiated a match for the WWE Championship between Wade Barrett and Randy Orton. Per stipulation, if Barrett didn't win the championship, Cena would be "fired" from the WWE.
Orton defeated Barrett at Survivor Series to retain the title, thus Cena was fired (kayfabe). The following night on Raw, Cena gave a farewell speech, before costing Barrett the WWE Championship by interfering in his rematch with Orton. A week later, Cena invaded Raw, first as a spectator, but then attacked members of Nexus, explaining that he would still take down Nexus one by one, despite not having a job in the WWE anymore. On the December 13 episode of Raw, Cena was rehired by Barrett in exchange that he would face him at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs in a chairs match, which Cena won.
On the December 27 episode of Raw, The Nexus, minus Barrett, announced they were under new management and offered to bury the hatchet with Cena, to which he refused. The Nexus attacked Cena, leaving a Nexus armband in the ring during the process. As the group retreated, CM Punk, who had attacked Cena with a steel chair twice the week before, came to the ring to apparently attack Cena, but instead put on the armband left behind to symbolically announce his allegiance with The Nexus, becoming the new leader the following week by manipulating Barrett's banishment from the group.
On the January 17 episode of Raw, Cena returned and faced Punk in a match, which ended in a no contest after Cena was attacked by the debuting Mason Ryan, who later joined The Nexus. Cena competed in the Royal Rumble match at the Royal Rumble, which saw Cena eliminate most of the Nexus members, ending his feud with the stable.
Feuds with The Rock and CM Punk (2011–2013)
During the same match, Cena made it to the final five before being eliminated by then-WWE Champion The Miz, who was not part of the match. Cena won the Elimination Chamber match at Elimination Chamber to face Miz at WrestleMania XXVII for the WWE Championship.
On the February 21 episode of Raw, Cena replied in rap form to comments made by The Rock the previous week, as he returned as the announced guest host of WrestleMania. That night, Cena was placed into a WWE Tag Team Championship match, teamed with The Miz. They defeated Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater to become WWE Tag Team Champions. However, their rematch clause was immediately invoked, and Gabriel and Slater won the titles back after The Miz attacked Cena, making their reign the shortest in the title’s history. After weeks of insults, Cena and The Rock finally met on the March 28 episode of Raw, where, after a verbal confrontation, and a brief attack by The Miz and Alex Riley, Cena attacked The Rock with the Attitude Adjustment. At WrestleMania, Cena and Miz fought to a double countout, but The Rock restarted the match and performed a Rock Bottom on Cena, allowing The Miz to retain the title. The next night on Raw, Cena, in response to The Rock "screwing" him out of the title, agreed to face him in the main event of WrestleMania XXVIII, the first WrestleMania match to be set up one year in advance. At Extreme Rules, Cena defeated The Miz and John Morrison in a Triple Threat Steel Cage match to become WWE Champion. Cena went on to successfully defend the title against The Miz at Over the Limit in an "I Quit" match and R-Truth at Capitol Punishment. Cena then began a feud with CM Punk, who was leaving the company due to Punk's contract expiring after Money in the Bank. Punk defeated Cena to win the WWE Championship at Money in the Bank and left the company with the title. On the July 25 episode of Raw, after Rey Mysterio won the WWE Championship in a tournament, Cena challenged and defeated Mysterio later that night to become WWE Champion for a record-breaking ninth time, only to be interrupted by CM Punk, who also claimed to be champion. Punk again defeated Cena at SummerSlam in a championship unification match after special guest referee Triple H missed Cena's foot on the rope. After Alberto Del Rio had become WWE Champion by cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase by defeating Punk, Cena became the number one contender and beat Del Rio at Night of Champions to win the WWE Championship for the tenth time. He lost it back to Del Rio at Hell in a Cell, in a triple threat Hell in a Cell match also involving CM Punk. Cena lost his rematch to Del Rio at Vengeance in a Last Man Standing match, due to interference by The Miz and R-Truth. After a few weeks of Miz and Truth attacking Cena and other employees, Cena was allowed to choose his partner to challenge Miz and Truth at Survivor Series. Cena chose The Rock as his partner. Despite exchanging insults in the following weeks, they defeated Miz and Truth at Survivor Series, though The Rock closed the show by giving Cena a Rock Bottom.
Cena then began a feud with Kane. He cited his disgust for Cena's "Rise Above Hate" slogan and claimed that Cena would need to embrace the hate to defeat The Rock at WrestleMania. Cena fought Kane to a double countout at the Royal Rumble, and then defeated Kane in an Ambulance match at Elimination Chamber. At WrestleMania XXVIII, Cena faced The Rock in the main event match which had been building for a year and was billed as "once in a lifetime". The match ended when Cena attempted the People's Elbow on The Rock, and he countered with a Rock Bottom for the pinfall. The following night on Raw, Cena accepted his loss and invited The Rock to the ring so that he could congratulate him. However, Cena's call was answered instead by the returning Brock Lesnar, who then attacked Cena with an F-5. This led to Cena feuding with Raw and SmackDown General Manager John Laurinaitis, who revealed that he signed Lesnar to bring "legitimacy" to the WWE and for Lesnar to become its "new face". At Extreme Rules, Cena defeated Lesnar in an Extreme Rules match. His feud with Laurinaitis escalated after Big Show cost Cena a match against Laurinaitis at Over the Limit, but Laurinaitis was fired at No Way Out after Cena defeated Big Show in a Steel Cage match with both of their jobs on the line. Cena won the WWE Championship Money in the Bank ladder match at Money in the Bank, earning a contract for a shot at the WWE Championship anytime within a year. On July 23, on Raw 1000, Cena cashed in his contract on CM Punk, and won the match by disqualification after Big Show interfered, becoming the first person to cash in a Money in the Bank contract and not win a title. Cena's feud with Punk continued into SummerSlam, where Punk defeated Cena and Big Show in a Triple Threat match to retain the title, and at Night of Champions, where they fought to a draw. After being sidelined with a legitimate arm injury, Cena returned at Survivor Series only to be pinned by Punk in a Triple Threat match which also featured Ryback. Cena then feuded with Dolph Ziggler over an alleged relationship with AJ Lee and at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs, lost to Ziggler in a ladder match for Ziggler's World Heavyweight Championship Money in the Bank contract, after AJ turned on Cena. The following night on Raw, Cena teamed with Vickie Guerrero to face Ziggler and AJ in a mixed tag team match which ended in a disqualification after Cena was attacked by the debuting Big E Langston. Cena then defeated Ziggler on the January 7 episode of Raw in a singles match, and again in a steel cage match the following week, despite interference from AJ and Langston in both matches to end the feud.
On January 27, Cena won his second Royal Rumble match, and later announced that he would pursue the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 29. Cena, along with Ryback and Sheamus, began feuding with The Shield, which culminated in a six-man tag team match at Elimination Chamber, where The Shield were victorious. On the February 25 episode of Raw, Cena defeated CM Punk to reaffirm his status as the number one contender for the Rock's WWE Championship. He then returned to his rivalry with The Rock. Cena blamed his personal and professional troubles on his loss to The Rock the previous year, going so far as admitting his own vanity had cost him the match. At WrestleMania, Cena defeated Rock in their rematch to win his eleventh WWE Championship and shook hands with Rock as a sign of respect. Cena then began a rivalry with Ryback, during which he suffered a legitimate achilles tendon injury, while also battling The Shield and facing them in losing efforts. Cena retained his championship against Ryback in a Last Man Standing match at Extreme Rules. The match ended in a no contest after both men were down for a 10 count. Cena then defeated Ryback in a Three Stages of Hell match at Payback. He defeated Mark Henry via submission at Money in the Bank. At SummerSlam, Cena lost the WWE Championship to Daniel Bryan, with Triple H as the special guest referee ending his reign at 133 days. The following night on Raw, Cena announced he would undergo surgery for a triceps tear and would be out for four to six months.
Multiple championship reigns (2013–2016)
Cena returned at Hell in a Cell and defeated Alberto Del Rio to win his third and final World Heavyweight Championship. He successfully defended his championship against Damien Sandow on the October 28 episode of Raw, and Alberto Del Rio in a rematch a Survivor Series. Cena next challenged then-WWE Champion Randy Orton to unify their respective championships, with The Authority agreeing and arranging for a Tables, Ladders and Chairs title unification match at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs which Cena lost. A rematch occurred at the Royal Rumble for the now unified WWE World Heavyweight Championship, where Cena lost after being distracted by The Wyatt Family. The Wyatts continued to interfere in Cena's matches, and at Elimination Chamber, caused Cena's elimination in the Elimination Chamber match.
I know how John Cena feuds tend to work. He loses one match, then wins the next two or three. Look at Rusev and Bray Wyatt as examples. These feuds don't really help talent. They're established... as definitively below Cena. This is a running theme in WWE booking. [Kevin] Owens is... worse off than he would have been if he had never had the second and third matches with Cena.
— Pro Wrestling Dot Net analyst Will Pruett in July 2015
After Elimination Chamber, Bray Wyatt accepted Cena's challenge for a WrestleMania XXX match. Wyatt wanted to prove that Cena's heroic act was a facade characteristic of "this era of lies" and to turn Cena into a "monster". At WrestleMania, Cena overcame interference from Luke Harper and Erick Rowan to defeat Wyatt. The feud continued after WrestleMania based on the story that Wyatt was capturing Cena's fanbase This was exemplified by Wyatt leading a children's choir to the ring on the April 28 episode of Raw, where later donned sheep masks. At Extreme Rules, Wyatt defeated Cena in a steel cage match, after repeated interference from the rest of the Wyatt Family members and a demonic child. Cena's feud with Wyatt continued with a Last Man Standing match being set up for Payback, where Cena buried Wyatt under multiple equipment cases to win the match.
On the June 16 episode of Raw, Cena defeated Kane in a stretcher match to qualify for the ladder match for the vacant WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Money in the Bank. There Cena won his 15th world championship. He retained the title at Battleground in a fatal four-way match against Roman Reigns, Randy Orton and Kane. At SummerSlam, Cena lost the championship to Brock Lesnar in a squash match, during which Lesnar hit Cena with sixteen suplexes and two F-5s, ending his reign at 49 days. Cena invoked his title rematch clause against Lesnar for Night of Champions, nearly winning before Seth Rollins attacked him to cause a disqualification. Despite this, he became the first wrestler to defeat Lesnar in two WWE pay-per-view events. Cena then began feuding with Dean Ambrose for the right to face Rollins at Hell in a Cell, but Ambrose won the right by defeating Cena in a No Holds Barred Contract on a Pole match. Cena faced Randy Orton instead in a Hell in a Cell match to determine the #1 contender for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, which Cena won.
On the October 27 episode of Raw, Cena rejected The Authority's offer to join forces, which resulted in a 5-on-5 Survivor Series elimination tag match between Team Cena and Team Authority at Survivor Series. Cena's team consisted of Dolph Ziggler, Big Show, Erick Rowan and Ryback. At Survivor Series, Big Show turned on Cena, resulting in his elimination, but Ziggler eventually won the match for Team Cena with the interfering Sting's help. Thus, as per the match stipulation, The Authority were stripped from power and only Cena could bring them back. At TLC: Tables, Ladders, Chairs & Stairs, Cena defeated Rollins in a tables match to retain his WWE World Heavyweight Championship No. 1 contender status. It was then announced that Cena would face Lesnar for the title at the Royal Rumble. On the December 29 episode of Raw, Rollins and Big Show held guest host Edge hostage, forcing Cena to reinstate The Authority.
On the January 5 episode of Raw, The Authority added Rollins to the title match at the Royal Rumble involving Cena and Lesnar. Ziggler, Ryback and Rowan were "fired" for joining Team Cena at Survivor Series. On the January 19 episode of Raw, Cena won a handicap match against Rollins, Big Show and Kane to retain his title shot at the Royal Rumble and win back the jobs of Ziggler, Ryback and Rowan. At the Royal Rumble, Cena was unsuccessful in capturing the title.
Following the Royal Rumble, Cena began feuding with then United States Champion Rusev and at Fastlane Rusev defeated him to retain his title after Cena passed out from his submission, the Accolade. Rusev had hit Cena with a low blow following a distraction by his manager Lana. In the following weeks, Cena challenged Rusev to a rematch, which was declined, and Stephanie McMahon decreed that Cena would not compete at WrestleMania 31 unless Rusev agreed to a rematch. On the March 9 episode of Raw, Cena attacked Rusev, refusing to release the STF submission hold, causing Lana to grant Cena the match. Cena defeated Rusev at WrestleMania to win the United States Championship for the fourth time. This marked Rusev's first pinfall loss in the main roster. The following night on Raw, Cena announced that he would issue an open challenge each week on the program with his United States Championship on the line. He successfully defended the title against the likes of Dean Ambrose, Stardust, Bad News Barrett, Kane, Sami Zayn, Neville, Zack Ryder and Cesaro. Cena also concluded his feud with Rusev and retained his title in a Russian Chain match at Extreme Rules and an "I Quit" match at Payback. The following night on Raw, Cena was attacked by then-NXT Champion Kevin Owens, setting up a Champion vs. Champion match at Elimination Chamber, where Owens defeated Cena. Cena defeated Owens in a rematch at Money in the Bank. Cena defeated Owens again at Battleground to retain the United States Championship and end the feud. Cena then resumed his feud with then WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins, with Rollins refusing Cena's challenges for the title. On the July 27 episode of Raw, The Authority forced Cena to defend the United States Championship against Rollins. Cena defeated Rollins despite suffering a legitimate broken nose during the match. Cena then faced Rollins in a "Winner Takes All" match at SummerSlam, for both the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and the United States Championship, which Cena lost after guest host Jon Stewart, appearing to side with Cena, instead attacked him with a steel chair, ending Cena's reign at 147 days.
Cena defeated Rollins to win the title for the fifth time at Night of Champions, a record in the WWE ownership era of the title. Cena then retained his title against Rollins the following night on Raw and then in a steel cage match at WWE Live from Madison Square Garden, while also restarting his open challenges and successfully defending the title against New Day members Xavier Woods, Big E and Dolph Ziggler. At Hell in a Cell, Cena lost the title to the returning Alberto Del Rio in an open challenge. After a hiatus, Cena returned on the December 28 episode of Raw, defeating Del Rio by disqualification in a rematch for the title. On the January 7 episode of SmackDown, Cena aided Kalisto at ringside to victory against Del Rio. That same day, he underwent surgery on a shoulder injury, which would keep him out of action for an undisclosed length of time.
Feud with AJ Styles (2016–2017)
Cena returned at WrestleMania 32, helping The Rock fend off The Wyatt Family. Cena then made his full return on the Memorial Day edition of Raw on May 30, four months earlier than had been expected for his type of injury. He was confronted by AJ Styles, only to be betrayed by Styles, who joined his former Club teammates Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson in attacking Cena. This set up a match between Cena and Styles at Money in the Bank, which Styles won with interference from Gallows and Anderson. On the July 4 episode of Raw, Cena was again attacked by the club, but was saved by Enzo Amore and Big Cass. Subsequently, a six-man tag team match was fought between the two teams for Battleground. On the July 19 episode of SmackDown at the 2016 WWE draft, Cena was drafted to the SmackDown brand, while also defeating Club member Luke Gallows using a pinfall in a singles contest. Cena, Amore and Cass defeated The Club at Battleground after Cena pinned Styles. Cena continued his feud with Styles, which resulted in him losing their match at SummerSlam on August 21, 2016. With Styles later winning the renamed WWE World Championship, Cena challenged him and Dean Ambrose in a triple threat match for the title at No Mercy. He lost the match after being pinned by Styles, which came after Ambrose and Cena simultaneously made Styles submit, therefore restarting the match. Cena took a sabbatical from WWE to film American Grit season 2.
On January 29, 2017, Cena defeated Styles at the Royal Rumble to win the WWE Championship and tie Ric Flair for the most recognized world title reigns at 16. However, Cena would lose the championship two weeks later in an Elimination Chamber match at Elimination Chamber to Bray Wyatt. Two nights later on SmackDown, Cena lost a triple threat match against Wyatt for the championship in a match also featuring Styles. Cena then began a feud with The Miz, with Miz accusing Cena of being a hypocrite because of his movie commitments, while Cena accused Miz of stealing other wrestlers' moves and personalities. Miz's wife Maryse then slapped Cena before Cena and his girlfriend Nikki Bella sent Miz and Maryse retreating. SmackDown General Manager Daniel Bryan then set up a mixed tag team match between the two pairs for WrestleMania 33, which Cena and Bella won. Cena proposed marriage to Bella after the match and she accepted. After WrestleMania, Cena then went on another hiatus.
Free agent and part-time appearances (2017–present)
In July 2017, WWE dubbed Cena a "free agent" during the Superstar Shake-up, meaning he could work for both the Raw and SmackDown brands. Following his return, Cena feuded and defeated Rusev in a flag match at Battleground, Baron Corbin at SummerSlam, and was defeated by Roman Reigns at No Mercy. During his feud with Reigns, the two cut various worked shoot promos on each other, going back and forth about what they perceive the other to be and why the crowds react the way they do. Despite sparking rumors of his retirement after the match by endorsing Reigns, taking a bow, thanking the crowd, and waving goodbye to them before leaving, Cena returned to SmackDown the next month after Commissioner Shane McMahon named him the final member of Team SmackDown for the men's 5-on-5 elimination match against Team Raw at Survivor Series; at the event, Cena was eliminated by Kurt Angle and Team SmackDown was later defeated.
From January until April 2018, Cena was involved in a storyline where he was trying to find his "path to WrestleMania". After he lost the Royal Rumble and the Elimination Chamber match to determine the next number one contender for the Universal Championship at Elimination Chamber, as well as a six-pack challenge at Fastlane for the WWE Championship, Cena issued a challenge to The Undertaker for a match at WrestleMania 34. He reiterated his challenge over the next several weeks, only to receive no answer from Undertaker. At WrestleMania, after Cena drove off Elias in a confrontation, Undertaker made an impromptu return and accepted Cena's challenge, leading to a shocked Cena losing to Undertaker in just two minutes. Three weeks later, at the Greatest Royal Rumble, Cena defeated Triple H. After the match, he thanked the crowd for sticking by him during a tough period, referencing his loss to Undertaker at WrestleMania and his recent breakup with Nikki Bella. He then went on hiatus to focus on his acting and television career. Cena returned in October, competing in a tag team match with Bobby Lashley against Elias and Kevin Owens at Super Show-Down in Melbourne, Australia, which he and Lashley won. During the event, he revealed a controversial new hairstyle, which led to several reactions from fans on the internet. He later said he grew his hair out for a movie he was filming in Yinchuan, China. He was also scheduled for a match at Crown Jewel in Saudi Arabia, but Cena refused to work the event following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. On November 29, it was announced Cena had been awarded the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award Winner by Sports Illustrated.
Cena returned to WWE television on the January 1 episode of SmackDown. He put out an open challenge to any man in the locker room, but Becky Lynch (who had begun referring to herself as "The Man" earlier) answered the call. This led to Andrade Cien Almas and Zelina Vega interrupting the pair with a mixed tag team bout set up, which Cena and Lynch won. After the match, Cena endorsed Lynch. On the January 14 episode of Raw, Cena competed against Finn Bálor and Drew McIntyre in a triple threat match to determine the number one contender for the Universal Championship at the Royal Rumble, but Bálor won. Cena was scheduled to compete in the Royal Rumble match at the event, but was taken out due to an in-storyline ankle injury supposedly suffered during the earlier triple threat match. He appeared at WrestleMania 35 in his "Doctor of Thuganomics" persona and interrupted Elias' concert, performing his finisher on Elias (calling it by its original name of the F-U) after insulting him. Cena returned on the July 22 special edition of Raw titled Raw Reunion, where he engaged in a rap battle with The Usos.
Following a seven-month hiatus, Cena returned to WWE during the February 28, 2020 episode of SmackDown. He seemingly announced his retirement before he was confronted by "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt, who challenged him to a match at WrestleMania 36—a sequel to their WrestleMania XXX match in 2014—which Cena accepted. At the event, rather than a traditional wrestling match, the two squared off in a surreal cinematic-style match called a Firefly Fun House match, taking the competitors on a trip through history as moments from Cena's and Wyatt's history were played out, including Cena's debut against Kurt Angle, a moment featuring his Doctor of Thuganomics character, and the pair's match at WrestleMania XXX. Wyatt ultimately defeated Cena at WrestleMania. Following Wyatt's victory, Cena's motionless body vanished from the middle of the ring.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cena was unable to appear at WrestleMania 37, marking the first time he missed a WrestleMania in nearly 20 years, as he had wrestled or at least appeared at the event every year since his first appearance at WrestleMania XIX in 2003. At the time, Cena was in Canada filming the HBO Max series Peacemaker, and the pandemic made it logistically impossible for him to travel to Tampa, Florida for WrestleMania 37, as upon his return to Canada, he would have had to quarantine for two weeks, which would have shut down production on the series. In this time, Cena did, however, appear in a WWE advertisement to help announce the location of WrestleMania 38. After 15 months, Cena finally made his return to WWE programming at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view on July 18, 2021, confronting Roman Reigns after the latter had retained his Universal Championship in the main event. Cena had a brief stare down with Reigns before giving his "You Can't See Me" gesture at Reigns to end the show. On the following night's Raw, Cena claimed Reigns, who had since become a heel, brought him back to WWE. He said he would put Reigns in his place and challenged him for the Universal Championship at SummerSlam and said he would see him on SmackDown. Following this, WWE announced the Summer of Cena tour, confirming Cena had signed a 25-appearance deal. On SmackDown, Reigns turned down Cena's challenge. Cena then competed in a dark match after SmackDown went off the air, teaming with Rey Mysterio and Dominik Mysterio to defeat The Bloodline (Roman Reigns and The Usos (Jey Uso and Jimmy Uso)), in which Reigns walked out of the match. Reigns had instead accepted a challenge from Finn Bálor for the title, however, during the contract signing the following week, an altercation occurred that ultimately led to Cena signing the contract, thus confirming that Cena would challenge Reigns for the Universal Championship at SummerSlam. At the SummerSlam main event, Reigns defeated Cena after a back-and-forth contest; after the event went off-air, a returning Brock Lesnar delivered multiple German suplexes and an F-5 to Cena.
Professional wrestling style and persona
Cena's original gimmick was portraying a white rapper who wore jerseys, backwards hats, and a chain with a padlock around his neck, was known as the "Doctor of Thuganomics". First as "The Prototype", and later under his real name, Cena sometimes used underhanded tactics to score victories, such as using his chain as a weapon behind the referee's back. Cena often rapped before his matches, insulting his opponents, events that happened in the media and even the crowd. Cena also regularly performed "rap battles", where he and his opponent took turns rapping on each other. Cena has reverted to this persona three times: during his feud with The Rock in 2012, at WrestleMania 35 in 2019 during a confrontation with Elias, and a brief appearance during his WrestleMania 36 match with Bray Wyatt. In 2006, shortly after his debut film, The Marine, his wrestling character shifted from that of a rapper to a young military upstart, wearing dog tags and cargo shorts to the ring and also performing a salute to the crowd. Cena said in a 2011 interview with WWE.com that "every night when I do that salute, it's also a sign of respect to the men and women that don the uniform of the Armed Forces."
During WWE's change from TV-14 to TV-PG in mid-2008, the name of Cena's finishing move, the FU, was changed to the Attitude Adjustment and his finishing submission move, the STFU, was renamed the STF to fit with the WWE's new policies. During his career, he has been known for ending his matches with a sequence of moves, dubbed the "Five Moves of Doom". The moves typically go in the following order: flying shoulder block, sit-out hip toss, protobomb, Five Knuckle Shuffle, and Attitude Adjustment. During the summer of 2018, Cena promoted a sixth move. On September 1, he finally executed the move, a high-impact left-handed jab known as the Lightning Fist.
Cena has portrayed a heroic character throughout his WWE career, except for a villainous run in 2002–2003. His signature ring gear includes jean shorts, sneakers, wristbands, and armbands. He also wears a variety of T-shirts and baseball caps, which commonly include one of his catchphrases: "Never Give Up", "You Can't See Me", "Hustle, Loyalty, Respect", and "Respect. Earn it". He has a history of returning from both real and scripted injuries much sooner than expected. ESPN reporter David Shoemaker said in April 2016, "Never underestimate Cena's recuperative abilities. He's somewhere on the recovery scale between German platelet-rich plasma therapy and Deadpool." Fellow wrestler Big Show said he felt most stable being lifted by Cena, despite Cena being over 200 lbs lighter and almost a foot shorter—a testament to Cena's functional strength.
During his WWE career, Cena's has used his attire in an attempt to reflect the most current fashions and styling within the hip hop culture that his character represents. Cena started out wearing "throwback jerseys" until WWE produced specific Cena merchandise which he began wearing. While Cena was a member of the SmackDown brand, one of his WWE-produced T-shirts bore the suggestive spoonerism "Ruck Fules". Whenever it appeared on television, the image was censored, not by the network, but by WWE to sell more shirts under the premise that it was "too hot for TV". He also wore a chain with a large padlock, occasionally using it as a weapon, until WrestleMania 21, when it was replaced with a chromed and diamond studded "Chain Gang" spinner medallion—reminiscent of the ones worn by members of G-Unit—matching his spinner title belt.
Around the time The Marine was released, Cena began wearing more military related attire, including camouflage shorts, dog tags, a Marine soldier cap, and a WWE produced shirt with the legend "Chain Gang Assault Battalion". Shortly after WrestleMania 23, when promotion for The Marine ended, the military attire diminished and was replaced with apparel bearing his new slogan "American Made Muscle" along with denim shorts, not seen since he was a member of the SmackDown roster. He then wore shirts that promoted Cenation and his trademark line "You Can't See Me".
Cena has been called the greatest professional wrestler of all time by his peers Kurt Angle and John "Bradshaw" Layfield, as well as by veteran industry personality Paul Heyman. When discussing Cena's legacy on his podcast, Jim Cornette (who was head booker of OVW while Cena was there) stated "I think [Cena is] the last big star in wrestling", praising his work ethic, athletic ability and microphone skills, while saying he believed at the time Cena was in OVW that he would turn out to be "The Ric Flair-level heel of the next 10 years."
On Cena's birthday, Vince McMahon said he regarded him as the WWE's Babe Ruth. This was later more defined at Cena's entrance at Wrestlemania 35 when he returned as the Dr. of Thuganomics in a segment with Elias. Before Cena's 2003–2005 theme song began, WWE showed a video of Babe Ruth playing.
Bleacher Report named Cena one of the 10 greatest WWE wrestlers of all time.
WWE Studios, a division of WWE which produces and finances motion pictures, produced Cena's first movie—The Marine, which was distributed theatrically by 20th Century Fox America beginning on October 13, 2006. In its first week, the film made approximately US$7 million at the United States box office. After ten weeks in theaters, the film grossed $18.7 million. Once the film was released on DVD, it fared better, making $30 million in rentals in the first twelve weeks.
His second film, also produced by WWE Studios, was 12 Rounds. Filming began on February 25, 2008, in New Orleans; the film was released on March 27, 2009.
Cena co-starred in his third film produced by WWE Studios, titled Legendary, which was played in selected theaters beginning on September 10, 2010 for a limited time. It was then released on DVD on September 28, 2010. That same year, Cena starred in the children's film Fred: The Movie, a film based on Lucas Cruikshank's YouTube videos of the same name, where he plays Fred's imaginary father. The movie was first aired on Nickelodeon in September 2010.
In 2015, Cena made appearances in the comedy films Trainwreck, Sisters and a cameo in Daddy's Home. In 2017, Cena starred in the war drama The Wall and lent his voice for the animated films Surf's Up 2: WaveMania and Ferdinand. He also appeared in Daddy's Home 2, reprising his role in a larger capacity than the 2015 film. In 2018, Cena starred in the comedy Blockers, and had a leading role in the Transformers spin-off prequel, Bumblebee. In 2019, he starred in Playing with Fire, playing the role of smokejumper superintendent Jake Carson. In 2020, he voiced Yoshi, a polar bear, in the adventure comedy film Dolittle.
In 2019, Cena was cast in Justin Lin's F9, playing the brother of Vin Diesel's character Dominic Toretto. During the film's promotional tour in 2021, Cena referred to Taiwan as "a country". He subsequently posted an apology on social media as China considers Taiwan a part of China.
Before his WWE debut, Cena made an appearance on the webcast Go Sick as Bruebaker, an angry, cursing wrestler in 2001.
During his WWE career, Cena has appeared on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live! three times. He has also appeared on morning radio shows including the CBS and XM versions of Opie and Anthony as part of their "walkover" on October 10, 2006. Other appearances have included NBC's Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Fuse's Celebrity Playlist, Fox Sports Net's The Best Damn Sports Show Period, FOX's MADtv, G4's Training Camp (with Shelton Benjamin), and two appearances on MTV's Punk'd (August 2006 and May 2007), as the victim of a practical joke. He also served as a co-presenter, with Hulk Hogan, at the 2005 Teen Choice Awards, as a guest judge during the third week of the 2006 season of Nashville Star, and appeared at the 2007 Nickelodeon UK Kids Choice Awards.
In January 2007, Cena, Batista, and Ashley Massaro appeared representing WWE on an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, giving the children of the family whose house was being renovated WWE merchandise and eight tickets to WrestleMania 23. Two months later, he and Bobby Lashley appeared on the NBC game show Deal or No Deal as "moral support" to longtime WWE fan and front row staple, Rick "Sign Guy" Achberger. Edge and Randy Orton also appeared, but as antagonists. On April 9, 2008, Cena, along with fellow wrestlers Triple H and Chris Jericho, appeared on the Idol Gives Back fund-raising special. In March 2009, Cena made an appearance on Saturday Night Live during the show's cold opening sequence. On March 7, 2009, he was a guest on NPR's quiz show Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! in a Not My Job sequence titled "Sure, pro wrestling is a good gig, but when you win, do they throw teddy bears into the ring?".
In 2020, he appeared in a video produced by Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on thetruetruetruth.com refuting coronavirus conspiracy theories. Clips from the video also appeared on the main show.
In 2001, between his training in Ultimate Pro Wrestling and Ohio Valley Wrestling, Cena was involved in the UPN produced reality show Manhunt, in which he portrayed Big Tim Kingman, leader of the group of bounty hunters who chased down the contestants who acted as fugitives. The show, however, was mired in controversy when it was alleged that the portions of the show were rigged to eliminate certain players, scenes were re-shot or staged to enhance drama and contestants read from scripts.
Cena was featured on the ABC reality series Fast Cars and Superstars: The Gillette Young Guns Celebrity Race, which aired in June 2007, making it to the final round before being eliminated on June 24, placing third in the competition overall.
In 2007, Cena was interviewed for the CNN Special Investigations Unit documentary Death Grip: Inside Pro Wrestling, which focused on steroid and drug use in professional wrestling. When asked if he had taken steroids he was heard to reply, "I can't tell you that I haven't, but you will never prove that I have". The day after the documentary aired, WWE accused CNN of taking Cena's comments out of context to present a biased point of view, backing up their claim by posting an unedited video of Cena answering the same question – filmed by WWE cameras from another angle – in which he is heard beginning the same statement with "absolutely not". A text interview on the website with Cena later had him saying the news outlet should apologize for misrepresenting him, which CNN refused, saying they felt the true answer to the question began with the phrase "my answer to that question". However, they did edit the documentary on subsequent airings to include the "absolutely not".
Cena hosted the Australian Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards with Natalie Bassingthwaighte on October 11, 2008 in Melbourne. Cena guest starred as Ewan O'Hara, brother of Juliet O'Hara, in an episode of the fourth season of the comedy drama Psych. He also guest starred as himself in the seventh episode of Disney Channel's Hannah Montana Forever.
On August 17, 2015, Cena guest co-hosted Today on NBC. He co-hosted the show again on December 28 and 29, 2015. Cena appeared on Late Night with Seth Meyers on August 21, 2015. Cena co-hosted Today again on March 28–30 and May 9, 10, 13 and 30, 2016.
Cena hosted two seasons of American Grit on Fox, a reality television series with 10 episodes. 16 men and women were split into four teams, where challenges were given. A US$1 million prize was given to the winning team. American Grit premiered on Fox on April 14, 2016. Cena has been retweeting motivational tweets from his followers on Twitter who used the hashtag #ShowYourGrit, in a way that the fan did something motivational to his/her friends in a real-life scenario. The finale of Season 1 aired on June 9, 2016. Cena hosted the ESPN ESPY Awards on July 13, 2016, in Los Angeles. On December 10, 2016, Cena was the guest host of Saturday Night Live (SNL) on NBC.
On January 24, 2017, Nickelodeon announced that Cena would host the 2017 Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards ceremony on March 11. On January 11, 2018, it was announced that he would be hosting the awards ceremony again on March 24, 2018, becoming the third host behind Whitney Houston, and Rosie O'Donnell to host the ceremony back to back years. Two days later, the game show Keep It Spotless premiered with him as an executive producer. In addition, he was cast on Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as the voice of the villain Baron Draxum. The series premiered in July 2018. On February 14, 2019, it was announced that Cena would host a revival of Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader on the network, which premiered June 10, 2019.
In 2021, Cena co-hosted the TV game show Wipeout.
In addition to his wrestling career, Cena is a rapper. He performed his fifth WWE theme song, "Basic Thuganomics", and it was featured on the WWE soundtrack album WWE Originals. He also recorded a song, "Untouchables", for the company's next soundtrack album WWE ThemeAddict: The Music, Vol. 6. He collaborated on a remix for the song "H-U-S-T-L-E" along with Murs, E-40, and Chingo Bling.
Cena's debut album, You Can't See Me, was recorded with his cousin Tha Trademarc. It features, among other songs, his entrance theme, "The Time is Now", and the single "Bad, Bad Man", for which a music video was made that parodied 1980s culture, including the television show The A-Team. A video was also made for the second single, "Right Now," that premiered on the August 8, 2005 episode of WWE Monday Night Raw. Cena and Tha Trademarc were later featured on a track by The Perceptionists called "Champion Scratch". Cena appeared on T-Boz's album, Still Cool.
In October 2014, Cena was featured on two songs with rapper Wiz Khalifa for his two singles "All Day" and "Breaks" for the soundtrack to the WWE 2K15 video game.
- You Can't See Me (2005)
Before his professional wrestling career, Cena appeared in an advertisement for Gold's Gym. As a wrestler, he has endorsed the energy drink YJ Stinger, appearing in commercials beginning in October 2003, and Subway, for whom he filmed advertisements with their spokesperson Jared Fogle in November 2006 that began airing the following January. For a time in 2007, he also endorsed two "signature collections" of energy drinks and energy bars sold by American Body Builders. In 2008, Cena filmed a commercial as part of Gillette's "Young Guns" NASCAR campaign.
In 2009, Cena expanded his relationship with Gillette by introducing a new online campaign called "Be A Superstar" featuring himself alongside fellow WWE wrestlers Chris Jericho and Cody Rhodes. The campaign features motivational videos. After Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson called Cena "Fruity Pebbles" during their feud (in reference to Cena's colorful merchandise) Cena appeared on the box of Fruity Pebbles cereal in 2013.
He was the pace car driver for the 58th annual Daytona 500. On October 13, 2016, Cena made his debut as the voice of Ernie the Elephant in a new commercial campaign launched by Wonderful Pistachios. He was named to Adweek's "Creative 100" and received praise for his performance. In 2020, Cena and Honda announced a partnership, with Cena becoming the new voice of Honda.
Cena has granted over 650 wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses through the Make-A-Wish Foundation — the most in Make-A-Wish history. In 2009, Cena received the Chris Greicius Celebrity Award.
From late 2011 until WrestleMania XXVIII, Cena wore a black "Rise Above Hate" T-shirt promoting WWE's "Be a Star" anti-bullying campaign. In September and October 2012, Cena wore pink and black with the phrase "Rise Above Cancer" in partnership with Susan G. Komen for the Cure as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
In November 2016, Cena appeared in a public service announcement, "We Are America", sponsored by the Ad Council as part of its "Love Has No Labels" campaign.
Cena made a $1 million donation to Black Lives Matter in June 2020 as part of the #MatchAMillion initiative made popular by k-pop band BTS.
In popular culture
In mid-2015, Cena was the subject of the Internet meme "Unexpected John Cena", also known as simply "Unexpected Cena" or "IT'S JOHN CENA".
In late 2021, Cena became the subject of several internet memes tied to China and the Social Credit System.
Cena resides in Land o' Lakes, Florida.
He has said numerous times that he does not want to have children because he does not want to be an absentee parent while he is focused on his career.
While promoting his 2009 film 12 Rounds, Cena announced his engagement to Elizabeth Huberdeau. They were married on July 11, 2009. On May 1, 2012, Cena filed for divorce, which was finalized on July 18. Later that year, he began dating fellow wrestler Nikki Bella. They became engaged when Cena proposed to her at WrestleMania 33 on April 2, 2017, but ended their relationship in April 2018; they had been scheduled to marry on May 5, 2018.
Cena is a fan of anime and has named Fist of the North Star as his favorite anime film. He also plays video games, citing the Command & Conquer series as his favorite. Cena supports numerous sports teams from his hometown area, such as the Boston Bruins, the Boston Celtics, the Boston Red Sox, and the New England Patriots, as well as English soccer team Tottenham Hotspur FC. He has over 20 muscle cars, some of which are one-of-a-kind.
Cena started learning Mandarin Chinese in 2016 to help the WWE expand its reach, and he spoke in Mandarin at a press conference in China. He also revealed in April 2018 that he learned to play the piano. In May 2021, he apologized to China in Mandarin Chinese for calling Taiwan “a country”. China sees Taiwan as a breakaway province.
In December 2017, the Ford Motor Company filed a lawsuit against Cena for selling his 2017 Ford GT, therefore violating his purchase agreement. According to Ford, he signed a contract to keep the car for at least two years but breached the agreement by selling it to make a net profit shortly after receiving it.
In July 2018, Cena briefly moved to China, where he settled in Yinchuan. He went on to create a YouTube show on WWE's channel, highlighting his trips to local stores and markets. He explained that he would be living there for five months while working on a film with Jackie Chan. The shoot concluded in November 2018.
On October 12, 2020, Cena married girlfriend Shay Shariatzadeh, whom he had been dating since early 2019, in a private ceremony in Tampa, Florida. The two met during the production of Cena's 2019 film Playing with Fire, which was filmed in Vancouver, where Shariatzadeh works.
Awards and nominations
|2017||CinemaCon||Action Star of the Year||N/A||Won|
|2017||Teen Choice Awards||Choice Male Athlete||N/A||Nominated|
|2018||People's Choice Awards||The Comedy Movie Star of 2018||Blockers||Nominated|
|2019||Teen Choice Awards||Choice Action Movie Actor||Bumblebee||Nominated|
|2020||Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards||Favorite TV Host||Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?||Nominated|
Championships and accomplishments
- The Baltimore Sun
- Ohio Valley Wrestling
- OVW Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- OVW Southern Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Rico Constantino
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- Feud of the Year (2006) vs. Edge
- Feud of the Year (2011) vs. CM Punk
- Match of the Year (2007) vs. Shawn Michaels on Raw
- Match of the Year (2011) vs. CM Punk at Money in the Bank
- Match of the Year (2013) vs. Daniel Bryan at SummerSlam
- Match of the Year (2014) vs. Bray Wyatt in a Last Man Standing match at Payback
- Match of the Year (2016) vs. AJ Styles at SummerSlam
- Most Improved Wrestler of the Year (2003)
- Most Popular Wrestler of the Decade (2000–2009)
- Most Popular Wrestler of the Year (2004, 2005, 2007, 2012)
- Wrestler of the Year (2006, 2007)
- Ranked No. 1 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2006, 2007 and 2013
- Rolling Stone
- Sports Illustrated
- Muhammad Ali Legacy Award (2018)
- Ultimate Pro Wrestling
- UPW Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- World Wrestling Entertainment/WWE
- WWE Championship (13 times)
- World Heavyweight Championship (3 times)
- WWE United States Championship (5 times)
- WWE Tag Team Championship (2 times) – with The Miz (1) and David Otunga (1)
- World Tag Team Championship (2 times) – with Batista (1) and Shawn Michaels (1)
- Money in the Bank (2012 – WWE Championship contract)
- Royal Rumble (2008, 2013)
- WWE Championship No. 1 Contender's Tournament (2003), 2005)
- Slammy Award (10 times)
- Game Changer of the Year (2011) – with The Rock
- Hero in All of Us (2015)
- Holy $#!+ Move of the Year (2010) – Sending Batista through the stage with an Attitude Adjustment
- Insult of the Year (2012) – To Dolph Ziggler and Vickie Guerrero: "You're the exact opposite. One enjoys eating a lot of nuts and the other is still trying to find his"
- Kiss of the Year (2012) – with AJ Lee
- Match of the Year (2013, 2014) – vs. The Rock for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 29, Team Cena vs. Team Authority at Survivor Series
- Superstar of the Year (2009, 2010, 2012)
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter
- Best Box Office Draw (2007)
- Best Gimmick (2003)
- Best on Interviews (2007)
- Feud of the Year (2011) vs. CM Punk
- Match of the Year (2011) vs. CM Punk at Money in the Bank on July 17
- Most Charismatic (2006–2010)
- Most Charismatic of the Decade (2000–2009)
- Wrestler of the Year (2007, 2010)
- Worst Feud of the Year (2012)
- Worst Worked Match of the Year (2012)
- Worst Worked Match of the Year (2014)
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame (Class of 2012)
Other awards and honors
- Springfield College Athletic Hall of Fame inductee (Class of 2015)
- Make-A-Wish Foundation Chris Greicius Celebrity Award
- Make-A-Wish Foundation Special Recognition Award (for being the first to grant 300 wishes)
- 2014 Sports Social TV Entertainer of the Year
- 2014 Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Grand Marshal
- 2016 USO Legacy of Achievement Award