Wrestling fans were mostly celebrating John Cena’s WWE Championship win over AJ Styles at Royal Rumble 2017 as he tied Ric Flair’s record of 16 titles. But WWE’s original “face that runs this place” chose to celebrate in a different way, granting yet another Make-a-Wish child’s wish, and leaving the boy with memories that will last a lifetime.
One of the highlights of Royal Rumble 2017 was AJ Styles’ defense of the WWE Championship against John Cena. In a pay-per-view where the main event came with mixed reviews, the title matches were a different story altogether, and Cena vs. Styles at the Rumble hardly disappointed anyone.
According to Bleacher Report‘s Aaron Bower, that match had greater importance beyond being another example of how Styles and Cena have always put on great matches on pay-per-view — for him, Cena’s win represented his potential to go down in history as one of WWE’s greatest of all time.
“Cena is notorious for bringing his best to the big matches and the big shows, and on Sunday night, he and Styles put on a match for the ages. Simply put, it was mat mastery… For Cena to secure a historic, record-tying 16th world title, it solidifies him as just about the most important star in WWE history.”
— WrestlingNewsSource (@WNSource) January 30, 2017
Somewhat lost in the hype and hysteria that followed John Cena’s WWE Championship win over AJ Styles was what he chose to do after the match. According to Cageside Seats, John had two great opportunities to celebrate backstage, one with his real-life girlfriend Nikki Bella, another with Ric Flair, the man whose world championship record he had just tied. Cageside Seats opined that those would have made great photo-ops for WWE. Cena decided instead to focus on a well-publicized extension of his WWE career – his tireless desire to make fans’ dreams come true via the Make-a-Wish program.
A report from Sports Illustrated detailed how John Cena approached a Make-a-Wish kid at the Alamodome, shortly after he defeated AJ Styles to become a 16-time WWE Champion at the Royal Rumble. Raising his title belt to celebrate, Cena went up to the young boy, going into the stands, giving him a high-five, and posing for photos, with both of them doing John’s trademark “you can’t see me” pose at one point. Apparently, the child’s Make-a-Wish t-shirt was filled with wrestler autographs, giving him another tangible reminder of what had been a very special evening.
As Cena exited the stands overcome with emotion, even heel commentator John Bradshaw Layfield took time to put over the new WWE Champion’s touching gesture.
“That’s a class act. And you couldn’t have a better representation of the WWE, or sports entertainment or anything, than John Cena. Well done, champ.”
As of now, John Cena has granted over 500 Make-a-Wish wishes, stepping up as always for young children battling illness and hoping to spend some time with their wrestling heroes. In August 2015, he became the first celebrity to hit the 500-wish mark, as ESPN reported on how eight-year-old leukemia patient Rocco Lanzer was presented with a championship belt and tickets to Monday Night RAW. This came 11 years after Cena, then a young up-and-comer in WWE, granted his first wish, and never looked back since that time.
“I just drop everything,” said Cena at that time. “If I can offer a fantastic experience, I’ll be first in line to do my part.”
According to Make-a-Wish CEO David Williams, young children fighting life-threatening illnesses relate to Cena because of his in-ring character as someone who lives up to his motto of “never give up.”
“He’s an entertainer, but he’s a fighter. Ultimately, these kids are fighting, just fighting a different kind of battle. That’s what resonates so much with these kids.”
With one more title win, John Cena will become the most decorated WWE Champion in history. But you can’t ignore how he inspires fans in and out of the ring, and goes out of his way in particular as part of his role as Make-a-Wish ambassador.
[Featured Image by WWE]