As the face of WWE since at least 2005, John Cena has created dozens of catchphrases. One of his many maxims best suited for a t-shirt was “Live Fast. Fight Hard. No Regrets!” Despite how marketable it looks, the phrase actually didn’t make its way to any popular apparel, perhaps because the truth is John Cena, like just about anybody, has done plenty of things he regrets, both in his pro wrestling career and his everyday life.
He may be presented as a superhero on WWE television, but John Cena is merely human, and all humans can make mistakes. Humans in the entertainment industry, sports or otherwise, tend to make especially spectacular mistakes, which almost always get caught on camera. Cena’s career has been filled with bizarre sidetracks and questionable decisions, and perhaps even the biggest star in wrestling today could be bigger still had he taken a more logical path to fame.
Cena’s biggest missteps unsurprisingly come earlier in his career, when he didn’t have the entire WWE Universe backing his every decision and helping him make the right choices along the way. That doesn’t mean things turned around for him instantly upon signing with WWE, as he made a good number of mistakes during his first few years with the company he’d come to define, as well.
The thing fans will always remember is that no matter what Cena did in his past, he made up for it, kept fighting, and never gave up in his mission to be the best WWE superstar of the modern era. If you want to know the other side of the equation, though, keep reading to learn 15 things John Cena did throughout his career he probably regrets today.
15. Starring In A Controversial Reality Show
Around the same time Cena was training to become a wrestler, he was also paying the bills with side jobs in bodybuilding and acting, showing his roots and predicting where he may go once his time in wrestling is over. Cena’s only high profile acting job pre-fame was working on a controversial UPN “reality” show called Manhunt. The show’s concept saw contestants pinned “fugitives” trying to escape bounty hunters, with whoever could escape capture the longest becoming the winner. Cena portrayed the lead bounty hunter, Big Tim Kingman, with former American Gladiator “Zap” as one of his underlings. There was nothing wrong with Cena and the Gladiator playing characters, but the implication scenes were re-shot so choice contestants could perform better instantly killed the show. Conspiracy theorists also found evidence it was taped in Los Angeles, and not Hawaii as producers advertised. Cena probably wouldn’t want people to remember the show even if it was a hit, so the fact it was an embarrassing failure only ensures it was one of his first Hollywood regrets.
14. His Time As The Prototype
Few WWE superstars go by the exact same name their entire career, and a good part of the reason behind that is rookie wrestlers tend to make questionable choices in that department. Cena, for example, entered the wrestling spotlight as a character called The Prototype. Plainly stating his mission statement in his catchphrase, The Prototype boasted he was “50% man, 50% machine, and 100% mayhem.” Try picturing that one on a million t-shirts. The Prototype’s biggest problem was taking his robotic gimmick completely seriously, creating an intentionally wooden persona that couldn’t connect with fans, almost by design. His reliance on his wordy, nonspecific, and frankly just not that good catchphrase also made most of his promos especially weak, which coupled with inexperience in the ring made The Prototype a pretty bad wrestler at the time. Cena wasn’t entirely without success at this time, once becoming OVW Heavyweight Champion and winning the OVW Tag Team Championships with Rico. More importantly, Cena rapidly improved once he started using his own name, and lucky for him, the company hasn’t seen fit to plaster his mistakes all over the WWE Network.
13. His Early Career Hair Choices
We don’t usually make it practice to rag on wrestlers’ hairstyles, especially if it somehow fits their gimmick. However, take one look at John Cena’s frosted tips as The Prototype and you’ll be amazed that kid became a main eventer. Even when he stopped dying the tips and simply wore a tiny spiked crew cut, he looked more like a scrappy youngster out of his league than a man who could revolutionize the business. It might be fair to theorize the only reason Cena wears as many hats as he does today is to hide the ghosts of bad hair days past. The nicest thing we can say about Cena’s early hairdos is that they aren’t quite as stupid looking as Sheamus at his worst, but suffice to say, it certainly wasn’t the hair of a superstar. Tellingly, it didn’t take long before Cena shaved off the tips altogether, and he’s been wearing a more traditional haircut ever since.
12. Rapping His Support For The Yankees
Born and raised in West Newbury, Massachusetts, John Cena has always supported nearby Boston’s many famous sports teams, most fervidly the MLB’s Boston Red Sox. Cena’s love of the Sox has even become part of his character, with one of the most heated moments in his feud against CM Punk coming when Punk compared Cena to the New York Yankees. Despite the rage Cena presented in the moment, some 10 years earlier, he actually wore a Yankees jersey in Worcester, Massachusetts at Backlash 2003, where he unsuccessfully challenged Brock Lesnar in one of his first shots at the WWE Championship. Cena referred to the jersey as he rapped his way to the ring, ending his rhymes, “I’m wearing this Yankees jersey cause Massachusetts makes me sick/if you don’t like what I’m saying, you can suck my…” Cena later explained he wore the jersey and wrote that rap out of fear he would be cheered, something he definitely managed to avoid. In fact, he went on to say it generated the most heat he ever received up to that point in his career.
11. Teaming With B-2 And Red Dogg
Wrestling is a tough industry to crack on your own, even for a future lock for the Hall of Fame like John Cena. He made his WWE debut as a solo act, but soon enforcers when he started his hip-hop gimmick, the first of whom was B2/B-Squared/B-2, previously known as Bull Buchanan. Once it became clear B-2 couldn’t keep up with Cena’s rise to the top, he was replaced by Red Dogg, better remembered as white boy challenger Rodney Mack. Ironically, despite neither of these names coming anywhere near Cena’s stature, not to mention their inability to win any gold with Cena when they were together, both Mack and B-2 could be argued as integral to Cena’s eventually ascent up the card. Somehow, Buchanan and Mack started to add an edge that Cena’s rookie character hadn’t seen before, and coupled with the raps and newfound attitude, he was able to break through the midcard and start engaging in actual feuds. Prior to meeting Buchanan, Cena was feuding Billy Kidman; by the time his association with the enforcers was over, he had made his way up to Brock Lesnar.
10. His Album You Can’t See Me
When the hip-hop gimmick started making Cena popular, WWE made a logical move in turning him face and having him release a full-length rap album. Released in May of 2005, You Can’t See Me was released to a lukewarm critical response at best. On the plus side, many of the songs have popped up all throughout popular culture, specifically the opening track “My Time Is Now,” which Cena has long used as his entrance music. The album was largely co-written by Cena’s cousin Tha Trademark, who also had a short run in TNA after re-writing Kurt Angle’s theme several years later. While Cena could well be proud of portions of the album (like his theme music), he’s probably overall a little embarrassed by the poor reception it received. After all, there must be a reason he never bothered making a follow up album, especially considering his increased fame would almost promise it would be a successful seller regardless of quality. He can at least take some solace in the fact the record he did release also did pretty well in stores, getting certified platinum five years after it was released.
9. Getting Stabbed By Jesús
Every top level wrestler experienced an early feud or two with someone way beneath their level. Steve Austin waged war with P.N. News, Triple H’s troubles with Henry Godwin seemed to last forever, and John Cena was stabbed by Jesús. His main program at the time was actually with Carlito Caribbean Cool, with Jesús introduced as Carlito’s corner man. The stabbing itself was actually his debut, and it happened off screen, reported on SmackDown to write Cena out of action while he filmed The Marine. Cena returned slightly over one month later, ending the feud by defeating Jesús in a Street Fight at Armageddon 2004. Jesús was portrayed by Aaron Aguilera, who actually trained with Cena in UPW, becoming minor friends in the process, so the regret isn’t working with someone beneath his level. However, the sheer controversy involved with a stabbing angle, plus the questionable choice in naming the character Jesús, likely combines to a memory Cena would prefer to forget. It’s also probably why Aguilera was released almost immediately after the storyline ended, and why the Jesús character has never again been mentioned by WWE.
8. The CNN Interview
Through no fault of his own, John Cena’s most embarrassing interview took place in 2007. CNN was filming a documentary called Death Grip: Inside Pro Wrestling, with Cena as one of the star subjects, allegedly speaking candidly about steroids and wrestlers dying young. When asked if he had ever taken steroids, Cena plainly answered, “Absolutely not.” For whatever reason, CNN cut that part of his answer out, skipping ahead to him saying “I can’t tell you that I haven’t but you will never prove that I have.” That part of Cena’s answer actually was a reference to a belief he worried was held by other wrestlers, the point being that he himself didn’t feel that way, hence his firm response in the negative. WWE cameras were filming the same interview from a different angle, and posted the truth on their web site shortly after the edited version appeared on CNN. Cena doesn’t really have anything to be ashamed of since his words were manipulated, but he probably regrets having ever agreed to the interview in the first place.
7. Lying About Being Injured In 2007
Super-Cena or not, in October of 2007, John Cena legitimately tore his pectoral muscle during a match against Mr. Kennedy and was poised to need somewhere between seven months on the injured list. Cena was the WWE Champion at the time of his injury, forced to vacate the title after a landmark full year with the title. His surgery was performed by Dr. James Andrews almost immediately, and less than two weeks later WWE released a video promising he was already in his rehabilitation and on the way to recovery. Cena kept updating fans on Twitter and implying things were going faster than expected, nonetheless implying there was quite some time to go up to the moment he made his return at the 2008 Royal Rumble. It makes sense why Cena lied about his recovery efforts, considering his surprise appearance was one of the last true shocks the WWE Universe has offered fans in the Internet age. However, given wrestling’s problem with injuries and the importance of separating real life from kayfabe, Cena and all other superstars should think again before lying to fans in this manner.
6. Calling The Attitude Adjustment The F U
Members of the Cenation know Big Match John has countless devastating moves in his arsenal, but his main finishing maneuver has been the Attitude Adjustment almost since day one. The only difference was at first, he called it the FU. Cena debuted his emphatic fireman’s carry buster during his WWE Championship feud against Brock Lesnar in 2003, a reaction to Lesnar’s arguably more impressive F5. It was changed to the Attitude Adjustment when Cena started to become a household name, and a move with such a PG-13 name was considered too adult for his character. Cena has also long utilized the STF as his main submission move, and he gave that one a likewise offensive name in the STFU when he first started using it. Regardless of the name, Cena probably regrets using the STF as a finishing move in more ways than one, as it has always been criticized for looking basic and unimpressive in comparison to the rest of his moves.
5. Most Of His Film Roles
In 2015, John Cena appeared as Amy Schumer’s jock boyfriend in the film Trainwreck, his first R-Rated comedy and perhaps the project that turned his film career around. The film was a big hit and Cena’s performance earned him a decent amount of praise, but the eight films he made before that one are an entirely different story. Starting with The Marine in 2005, followed by 12 Rounds, Legendary, The Reunion, plus three Nickelodeon movies in the Fred series, Cena’s prior film roles were all critical bombs, and rarely did particularly well at the box office, either. He also appeared in the much-maligned wrestling movie Ready To Rumble before he became a famous wrestler himself. To be fair to Cena, most actors appear in a few bombs before they make it big. At the same time, though, most of these actors admit to regretting having done so. Cena may never say anything bad about WWE, but maybe one day he’ll at least acknowledge his first few movies were flawed, to say the least.
4. Instantly Killing The Nexus
Thanks to the ways NXT has morphed since its inception, it could be argued the brand is no longer capable of creating a moment quite like the one that capped its first season. On the July 7, 2010 episode of Raw, one week after Wade Barrett was declared the winner, he and his fellow NXT contestants made their debut as a group to attack John Cena after he wrestled CM Punk in the main event. Calling themselves The Nexus, Barrett and company fast became the hottest heels WWE had seen in years, and their feud with Cena instantly created no less than seven potential stars. Unfortunately, all of that potential went out the window barely over two months later, when John Cena created Team WWE and defeated Nexus in an elimination match at SummerSlam. Worst of all, Cena singlehanded eliminated the last three members of the Nexus team, ending with Barrett. Most wrestling insiders agree this nearly killed all seven NXT wrestlers’ careers, with only a few able to survive after reinventing themselves years later.
3. His First Marriage
It would be reasonable to assume that most divorced people regret their marriage on some level, and John Cena is no different than others in this regard. He married Elizabeth Huberdeau on July 11, 2009, only to file for divorce just under three years later, on May 1, 2012. The divorce was finalized by July 18th of that year. Cena and Huberdeau signed a prenuptial agreement, but still underwent a difficult legal situation during their split due to Huberdeau alleging Cena had been unfaithful in the dying days of their marriage. Cena, on the other hand, argued things started to fall apart when they were attempting to remodel their house. Around this same time, WWE superstar Kenny Dykstra was making claims Cena had been dating his girlfriend Mickie James, which could have been related to Huberdeau’s claims. Whether or not he was actually cheating on her remains up for debate, but either way Cena definitely didn’t wait long before moving on, starting a long term relationship with Nikki Bella by November, and the couple remain together to this day.
2. John Cena: This Is Your Life
On September 27, 1999, Mankind presented The Rock with a legendary Raw Is War segment called Rock: This Is Your Life. Based on the 1950s game show, Mankind reintroduced Rock to his high school girlfriend, home economics teacher, and gym coach, and The Rock one by one cut them off and insulted them to increasing comic effect. The nearly half hour long segment was the highest rated non-wrestling angle in Raw history, so it made sense that WWE would try to relive the concept some 12 years later when ratings weren’t what they used to be. During the build to Cena’s first match with The Rock at WrestleMania XXVIII, the duo was poised to team at Survivor Series 2011. In order to give them something in common to talk about, Mick Foley decided to present John Cena with a This Is Your Life segment of his own. Cena himself immediately acknowledged the idea was horrible, calling it “the worst idea since the Gobbledy Gooker” live on television. Foley also admitted it was a huge bomb, calling it one of only three regrets in his entire career.
1. Mocking Part-Timers
Because John Cena more-or-less refuses to speak ill of WWE in any way, we have to admit that most of this list is guesswork, based on what the average person would regret if they found themselves in his shoes. However, the one thing he has openly admitted to regretting is calling out The Rock for being a part-timer during their Once/Twice in a Lifetime WrestleMania feud. That was less than four years ago, and nowadays, John Cena himself is co-starring in hit movies and doing guest stints on Saturday Night Live. Cena has since called his statements back then “the stupidest things [he] ever said,” acknowledging that when The Rock raised his own profile, he was in turn raising WWE’s profile and helping the industry for everyone. Turning his mind around in this way could be a sign that he’s getting ready to leave wrestling himself and follow in The Rock’s footsteps. Of course, if he isn’t leaving, he might wind up regretting putting it in people’s heads that he might.