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HeadLocker — Jay Shannon
Wrestler of the Week: John Cena
Our resident philosopher profiles the new WWE champ, John Cena. Cena forced Randy Orton to tap out at the all-new Pay-per-view, Breaking Point..
John Cena has become one of the most successful men to ever step into a WWE ring. He’s held the WWE and World title on multiple occasions. He’s overcome injury to become a top star in wrestling. He’s also had moderate success in both music and acting. On Sunday, Cena forced Randy Orton to submit in a WWE title match at the inaugural Breaking Point Pay-per-view. He is this week’s Wrestler of the Week.

The Prototype

John Felix Anthony Cena was born in Massachusetts on April 23, 1977. He was the second son of John Cena, Sr. John was a All-American in football at Springfield College. In case you’ve ever wondered why all his merchandise sports the number 54, that was his number when he played football. John completed his education, graduating with a degree in Exercise Physiology. Like numerous other wrestlers, John actually began his career by becoming a bodybuilder.

John was working as a limo driver when he was introduced to an agent from the UPW wrestling organization. The agent felt John might be a good fit in their promotion and offered him the opportunity to attend Ultimate University, the training facility for UPW. Cena’s first character was loosely based on the Terminator character from the films of the same name. The Prototype was a semi-robotic wrestling machine that would dominate everyone in his path. John got his first taste of mainstream exposure during this time. The Discovery Channel did a documentary about pro wrestling and used UPW as one of their main focuses. John, as The Prototype, was heavily featured in the program. That appearance, along with numerous scouting reports, led the WWE to sign John away from the UPW. John was sent to OVW for training. While there, he continued with his Prototype character for a while. Eventually, the character morphed into Mr. P, which was a combination of Prototype and his current identity.

The rebirth of John Cena

John Cena made his WWE debut on June 27, 2002, accepting the open challenge from Kurt Angle. Earlier in the evening, Vince McMahon had conducted a motivational meeting with several of the young stars. McMahon touted the value of Ruthless Aggression as a means to get ahead. Cena took the speech to heart and came very close to pinning Angle. While Cena did not win, he was fully established in the hearts and minds of the fans as a serious star. Cena would have a brief heel run after turning on his partner, Billy Kidman, following a loss in the WWE Tag Team Tournament. That feud would come to an end and the next level of the Cena character would come to light during a Halloween episode of Smackdown.
John came out dressed as white rapper, Vanilla Ice. Cena cut an energetic rap that captivated and excited the crowd. Creative immediately saw the potential of Cena’s rapping ability. Cena’s new rapper character was an instant hit with fans and he received a huge push. He began to focus on the then-WWE champion, Brock Lesnar. As part of Cena’s mind games with Lesnar, Cena began to rechristened his Fireman’s Carry Powerslam as the F-U. This was both a take-off on Lesnar’s F-5 and as a veiled profane insult at Lesnar. The feud with Lesnar helped to turn Cena back into a face (good guy).

Looking for gold in a Big way

Cena was eliminated from the 2004 Royal Rumble by US champion, Big Show. Their feud came to a head at Wrestlemania XX, where Cena amazed everyone by lifting Big Show and hitting the F-U. Cena became the new US champion. Cena was stripped of the belt by Smackdown GM, Kurt Angle, in a bogus situation where Angle accused Cena of Attacking an Official (Angle). The attack was an accidental bump. Cena then went into a Best of Five battle with Booker T over the US title. Cena won the title at the final match at No Mercy.

Cena would only hold the belt for two days. At the Tuesday taping of Smackdown, Cena was defeated by Carlito, in the Puerto Rican’s debut match in the WWE. During their feud, Cena needed time off to film The Marine. Carlito’s bodyguard, Jesus, stabbed Cena at a Boston nightclub. This was completely made up to allow Cena to exit gracefully. A month later, Cena would return and reclaim his US title. He then modified the US title, installing a spinner center medallion. That spinner belt would also show up later in Cena’s career.

Top of the world, ma

At the 2005 Royal Rumble, Cena lost to Batista in a “Sudden Death” overtime. Batista and Cena had actually hit the floor at the same time. In the past, if the last two hit the floor at the same time, they would be considered co-winners. Vince McMahon didn’t want that to happen, so he forced the ref to restart the match. Cena would rebound from the loss to defeat Kurt Angle and become number one contender for the WWE title, then held by JBL. Prior to Wrestlemania, Cena lost the US title to Orlando Jordan (one of JBL’s Cabinet). Jordan, JBL and the rest of the Cabinet destroyed the Spinner US title. It was replaced by the currently used Flag Display Belt.

John Cena defeated JBL to win the WWE championship. He then had a custom spinner belt made for the WWE championship. That belt is still used to this day,though the spinner medallion no longer actually spins. JBL felt that he had unfairly lost the WWE title, so he brought back the original belt and continued to call himself the WWE champion. Cena would later defeat JBL and capture both belts. He would retire the classic belt in favor of his spinner belt.

During the 2005 WWE Draft, John Cena was the first person drafted. He brought his WWE title to Raw. Eric Bischoff, then RAW GM, decided that Cena needed to lose the title. He chose several people, including Chris Jericho, to go after the belt. Jericho, storyline-wise, lost his job in the WWE after failing to take the belt from Cena. Cena would then move on to feud with Kurt Angle. An odd thing began to happen during this time in Cena’s career. Despite being pushed hard as a face, the crowds began to actually boo Cena. The announce teams initially refused to acknowledge the negative reaction. As the boos became louder, they had no choice but to work it into the storylines. Cena suddenly became a “controversial champion”.

It was during his feud with Angle that Cena unveiled his submission move, the STFU. The move was created, in part, to allow Cena to compete in a Submission Match against Angle. The move is a Stepover Toehold with Facelock/Crossface . Creative toyed with the idea of calling the move the Face Up, a take on the slang term for coming to terms with your situation. The name would also be based on the fact the that opponents head would “Face Up” while locked in the move. They idea was scrapped in favor of the STFu name.


John Cena began 2006 with a brutal elimination bout at New Year’s Resolution. Oddly enough, he survived that bout but lost the title, immediately thereafter. Edge, who had won the previous year’s Money in the Bank match, cashed in his guaranteed title shot. Edge only kept the belt for three weeks, as Cena regained the strap at Royal Rumble.

Cena’s popularity continued to decline as Spring 2006 progressed. Cena’s negative fan reaction reach it’s peak at One Night Stand, where he faced Rob Van Dam for the title. One of the most visible signs during the PPV was If Cena Wins, We Riot. He didn’t win. Rob Van Dam took the strap off Cena in front of the ECW loyal fans at the Hammerstein Ballroom.

Pushing the Edge and beyond

After losing the belt to RVD, Cena got involved with Edge, again. Cena regained the title in a Tables, Ladders and Chairs Match at Unforgiven. As the Edge/Cena feud wound down, Cena was tapped for a Champion of Champions match at Cyber Sunday. The premise was that all three champions would put their belts up and the winner would get all three belts. That plan was quickly changed due to complaints from the wrestlers involved. The match was adjusted to a situation of the fans voting for which belt would be defended. The World title, held by King Booker (T) was the only belt put in jeopardy. The fans were irate when Booker won the match, thus keeping his belt.

The WW-KFed

During this time, Cena became embroiled in a silly feud with rapper-wanna-be, Kevin Federline. Federline was pushing his latest album and chose to go off on Cena’s former rap career and album. Federline utilized the help of Umaga to defeat Cena on the first Raw of 2007. Cena would return later in the evening to spoil K-Fed’s celebration, by way of an F-U.

The Federline feud led to a brutal set of battles with Umaga. Umaga, at the time, was undefeated and unstoppable. their first battle led to a created spleen injury to push the rematch with John seriously set in the Underdog role. The rematch at the Royal Rumble saw Cena keep the title in a vicious Last Man Standing match.

Double Up

The night after the Royal Rumble, Cena was placed into a makeshift team with Shawn Michaels. The duo battled Rated RKO (Edge and Randy Orton) for the World tag titles. Cena and Michaels won the belts but only held them for a few months. On the April 2nd episode of Raw, Shawn threw his own partner, Cena, over the top rope during a tag team elimination battle royal. By doing so, Shawn cost his own team their titles. The win would eventually go to Matt and Jeff Hardy.

Cena would then feud with Shawn, as well as both Edge and Randy Orton. The feuds with the three men would come to a screeching halt when The Great Khali made it clear that he wanted to challenge for Cena’s title. Cena would be the first person to defeat Khali by both submission (Judgment Day) and pinfall (One Night Stand).


After dispatching Khali, Cena returned to his feud with Randy Orton. Orton caught Cena with several sneak attacks leading up to their Summerslam battle. Cena won that battle by pinfall. Cena then lost the rematch by disqualification, when he refused to adhere to the ref’s instructions.

After that feud, Cena began a minor feud with Mr. Kennedy. During their first match, Cena tore his pectoral muscle. Cena had to surrender the title. That brought to an end the longest WWE/World title run since the days of Hulk Hogan (late 1980s). Cena underwent surgery and almost immediately went into physical rehab. He did make one important appearance, at that year’s Tribute to the Troops, held in Tikrit, Iraq. Cena showed up as Santa, hitting the F-U on Vince McMahon.

TIme to Rumble, again

John Cena’s return was predicted for Wrestlemania XXIV. Cena surprised everyone by showing up at the 30th entrant in January’s Royal Rumble. Cena won the Rumble and earned a title shot at Wrestlemania. He actually didn’t wait until the Spring Super-show to go after champion, Randy Orton. Cena faced Orton at No Way Out, winning by disqualification. Because Orton got himself DQ’d, Cena was placed into the title match at Wrestlemania XXIV. The match was made a Triple Threat Match, pitting Cena against Randy Orton and Triple H. Cena was pinned by Orton in the match. Cena would also fail in their rematch. Cena shifted his focus away from Orton for the next part of his career.

The Animal and the injury

John Cena had another brief feud with JBL during the summer of 2008. They both took wins from the other and the feud quickly fizzled. John Cena was then partnered with Batista for a battle against tag champs, Priceless (Cody Rhodes & Ted DiBiase, Jr.). Batista and Cena won the tag belts, but lost them back to the former champs a mere one week later.

Batista and John Cena squared off at Summerslam. While coming off the top rope, Cena was Powerbombed. The impact herniated a disc in Cena’s neck. The injury required surgery and Rey Mysterio stepped in to take Cena’s spot in the first Championship Scramble. Cena went into intense rehabilitation, while working on another film project.

Back on top

John Cena video promos began to appear for several weeks, leading up to Survivor Series. The World title, which was held by Chris Jericho, was Cena’s target. Batista did come in and take the World title from Jericho. Most fans were anticipating Cena v Batista II. That match didn’t happen, thanks to Jericho taking back his title in a Steel Cage match.

Cena’s return was a back and forth battle with numerous near-falls. Jericho focused on Cena’s neck during the battle. Jericho locked in two different versions of the Walls of Jericho, including one where Jericho dug his knee into Cena’s neck. In the end, Cena kicked out of the Code Breaker and finished off Jericho with his trademark, F-U. Cena walked out of his hometown, Boston, as the new World Champion.

Cena would drop the belt at No Way Out in an Elimination Chamber match, when Edge took out Kofi Kingston and entered the match. Cena took back his belt at Wrestlemania XXV in an amazing match which included Cena using a Fireman’s Carry on Big Show and Edge, at the same time. Cena would drop the belt at Backlash when Big Show threw Cena into what was called a 7,000 watt spotlight. The spotlight exploded and Cena was unable to continue in the Last Man Standing Match. The feud with Big Show would span several months and a couple of PPVs. Cena came out on top in most of the encounters.

By summer, Cena was back in the title picture. At Night of Champions, Cena battled both Randy Orton, the champion, and Triple H for the WWE title. He failed to capture the belt. Cena then got a rematch against Orton at Summerslam. Despite several restarts of the match, Orton managed to slip away with his title. At Breaking Point, Cena slapped on the STF and Orton screamed “I Quit” in short order. Cena walked out of the PPV with the WWE title.

In Conclusion:

John Cena has had numerous ups and downs during his career. His neck is a mess. His acting career has yet to equal that of other wrestlers, but there is still plenty of time. He carried the torch that was passed down from Bruno through Hulk and to Austin. Cena is an absolute to go into the Hall of Fame, down the road. He is also this week’s Wrestler of the Week.

— Jay Shannon
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