John Cena takes a deep breath and laughs when he is asked what he plans to do as the host of the ESPYS in July.
“I’m still trying to conceptualize it,” he said. “This all just happened a couple days ago. I really don’t know yet.”
Cena has some time to figure it out before he hosts the 24th annual ESPYS, which will air live on ABC on July 13 (8 p.m. ET) from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.
The 15-time WWE World Heavyweight Champion will be the first professional wrestler to host the annual sports awards show and just the third athlete, joining LeBron James, who co-hosted in 2007 with Jimmy Kimmel, and Lance Armstrong in 2006.
While Cena has never attended the ESPYS or hosted an awards show, it didn’t stop him from jumping at the chance when he was contacted last week.
“They asked, and of course I said yes,” Cena said. “It goes without saying it’s a tremendous honor. The prestige of the show grows every year. It’s unbelievable. I obviously accepted, but it doesn’t go without its share of nerves. I just want to do the show justice. I’m going to do my due diligence and hopefully we can have a great show.”
Few professional wrestlers outside of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson have enjoyed the kind of recent crossover fame as Cena. He is currently hosting “American Grit” on Fox, has a featured role on E!’s reality show “Total Divas” (and the upcoming spinoff “Total Bellas”), and has shown his comedic chops in films like “Trainwreck” and “Sisters.” Cena, who is recovering from shoulder surgery performed in January, will return to WWE’s “Monday Night Raw” on May 30 after co-hosting NBC’s “Today Show” that morning, and he has no plans of hanging up his iconic shorts and sneakers anytime soon.
“I’m going to be wrestling for as long as I can,” Cena said. “It’s something I’m very passionate about and something that I love.”
Cena took time to chat with ESPN.com about hosting the ESPYS, being at a crossroads in his career, and the newfound acceptance of pro wrestling by mainstream media outlets.