In sports, their are names that are synonymous with a particular genre. For basketball, it is Michael Jordan. For hockey, it is Wayne Gretzky. For baseball, it is Babe Ruth. Apparently, for Vince McMahon, 16-time WWE world champion John Cena is also on that legendary list. Earlier this week, Cena celebrated his 40th birthday. McMahon tweeted, “‘Hustle Loyalty Respect’ is not just an expression, it’s the measure of the man. Happy birthday to the Babe Ruth of WWE, [John Cena].”
Cena made his WWE television debut in 2002, during the “Ruthless Aggression” era. In an open challenge issued by Kurt Angle, Cena boldly stood face-to-face with Angle and took him to the limit on that episode of SmackDown. Although he came up short against Angle, the pro wrestling world saw the beginning of a storied career for Cena.
Over the years, Cena has been a recipient of much scrutiny, as fans have been very vocal with their disdain of him winning so many of his matches, while refusing to push upcoming talent along the way. During these 16 title reigns, names such as Bobby Lashley, the late Umaga, Wade Barrett, Ryback, and Mark Henry all competed against Cena for the world title, but failed to dethrone him and solidify themselves as a top names in the company. Instead, established names such as Edge, Randy Orton, Triple H, and Batista were the bulk of Cena’s title defeats. In fairness, though, Sheamus, CM Punk, and Rob Van Dam did win the WWE Championship from Cena, although only one of them is still a WWE employee.
The era of John Cena is quite interesting. Since Cena won his first world championship in 2005, he has consistently been a top name for the past 12 years, including winning his 16th world championship by defeating AJ Styles at the Royal Rumble. Although he has been one of the most jeered names in WWE history, Cena never officially turned heel throughout his entire tenure as the top guy of the company. There was one point, though, that Cena was highly considering a heel turn, even admitting a getting new ring gear and recording new music.
Fox Sports went into further detail about this near-turn around 2012.
“In 2015, Cena appeared on Chris Jericho’s WWE Network podcast and said, a heel turn had been considered during his feud with the Rock. A new theme and ring gear had been on the way for him, but the decision was made to not go through with the drastic character change. Cena and the Rock feuded for WrestleMania 28, setting up their match one year in advance. They also had a rematch at WrestleMania 29. So, this may have been developed for the show in 2012.”
Paul Heyman has also been very vocal of Cena being the greatest wrestler of all time, and he publicly voiced it on the Bring It to the Table show on the WWE Network, stating, “None of them had his longevity. Go back to [Bruno] Sammartino, 85,000 days as WWE Champion. The top of the line is Boston, and the bottom of the map is Washington, D.C.”
Regardless of the criticisms, John Cena has used his 15 years on WWE television to his fullest potential. Not only has he created a shoo-in WWE Hall of Fame career, but he has used this platform to land opportunities away from the company, such as the Kid’s Choice Awards, Teen Choice Awards, ESPYs, American Grit, and Saturday Night Live. Moreover, he has appeared in numerous films, including more scheduled for 2017. At only 40, he has already achieved an enviable career, and as far as his career outside of the ring is concerned, it is just getting started.
[Featured Image By WWE]