John Cena, the popular WWE superstar, told an interviewer this week that the World Wrestling Entertainment product is something that he, himself, would never watch on television, because the company has geared its product toward children ages six through 10. At the same time, Cena added, he changed his own wrestling persona early in his career specifically to appeal to little kids.
Cena spoke to USA Today on Tuesday, as part of his promotional campaign for the latest WWE merchandising effort of which he is a part, a collaboration between top WWE wrestlers and the classic, 55-year-old cartoon franchise, The Flintstones.
The full-length animated film, The Flintstones and WWE: Stone Age Smackdown, was released on Blu-Ray and DVD disc March 10. The film features the now-iconic Flintstones characters, as well as WWE-inspired characters such as “John Cenastone,” voiced by the real-life pro wrestlers themselves.
One of the film’s villains is “CM Punkrock,” voiced by former WWE star CM Punk, whose real name is Phil Brooks.
In the interview, Cena was asked, as he often is, about whether the fading WWE popularity with an adult audience.
“I don’t necessarily spend my time watching programs that six-to-10-year-old kids enjoy, so I get the need for different racy comedy and story lines. But at the same time I don’t want to offend anyone in our audience so I do what I do to the best of my ability, and I actually really enjoy being able to be a real-life superhero and an aspirational character both in live entertainment and animation films like Flintstones.”
“It gives you a feeling of self-worth at the end of the day,” he added. “It becomes more than just a job — you feel as if you’re affecting lives and that truly is pretty important.”
Cena also said that, though earlier in his career he was known for playing an edgier wrestling character, he made a conscious decision to adopt a persona more appealing to young children, because they, he believed, were the main audience for WWE events.
“I looked around and saw who was sitting in the audience and said, ‘You know what, I proactively need to change.’ ” Cena, who turns 38 in April, recalled. “And it was for the greater good.”
Though John Cena may recognize that the WWE mainly appeals to young children, The Flintstones wasn’t always just for kids. The cartoon, inspired by the 1950s-era Jackie Gleason sitcom The Honeymooners, aired in network prime time for all six years of its original run on the ABC network, from 1960 to 1966.
[Image: Ethan Miller/Getty Images]