Like Bruno Sammartino, Hulk Hogan and Steve Austin before him, John Cena has become the face of an entire era of professional wrestling. While this means the 15-time WWE World Champion gets a lot of credit when things are going well, he also takes a lot of the blame when things are going poorly. On screen, the commentary resorts to calling him “controversial,” lacking a more succinct way to explain the mixed reaction Cena usually gets from WWE live crowds.
Fans aren’t the only ones who have problems with Cena. Other pro wrestlers, most of whom have since left WWE, have taken to interviews and social media to express their real life problems with John Cena. In today’s professional wrestling landscape, it can get a little confusing trying to explain how a real person can be paid to dislike a character, and then actually dislike the person playing the other character, or other permutations of that thought, but we’ll do our best to explain what these pro wrestlers meant when, out of character, they laid the smack down on John Cena.
12. The Rock
The Rock and John Cena headlined WrestleMania XXVIII and XXIX, drawing massive crowds to the Sun Life Stadium and Metlife Stadium respectively. The matches were billed as “Once in a Lifetime” encounters between two sports entertainment icons, and according to the Rock, things started getting pretty heated behind the scenes as well. In an interview with Muscle and Fitness magazine, The Rock says some of Cena’s comments regarding the Rock abandoning WWE for Hollywood went too far, and left the Rock feeling “salty.”
The Rock further explained of his mindset while working with Cena, “We don’t have to hang out, we don’t have to be best friends, we won’t be friends at all.” Interestingly, the Rock went on to explain his actions as almost pro wrestling’s equivalent to method acting, trying to make the feud with Cena hotter by bringing it backstage and keeping it going even when the cameras are off. Apparently Cena was right when he said the Rock was affected by Hollywood. Since the on screen feud has ended, the Rock has broken the method, and says he and Cena are now good friends.
11. Kenny Dykstra
Most of the superstars on this list have professional problems with the John Cena character, but with former Spirit Squad member Kenny “Dykstra” Doane, things are far more personal. In a series of angry tweets, Dykstra, who once dated former WWE Women’s Champion Mickie James, ended that relationship once he became convinced James was cheating on him with Cena. Doane explained his choice to reveal their personal issues on Twitter, writing, “I say things others are afraid they will get ‘heat’ for. I don’t care. Truth is truth.” While the accusations are harsh, especially considering Cena was engaged to be married to a different woman at the time, Dykstra saved the real vitriol for his ex-girlfriend, calling her a “rat,” a professional wrestling term for a groupie.
10. Mickie James
The world of professional wrestling can often be dark, seedy, and swirling with rumors, and it isn’t always easy to tell what the real story is when the goal is to trick the fans. Kenny Doane took to Twitter and explained his version of the John Cena-Mickie James relationship, which by his account saw Mickie successful while actually dating Cena in real life, only to be mocked on television as soon as the relationship ended. Professional wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter echoed Dykstra’s tweets, reporting that Mickie said or did something implying she wasn’t handling the breakup well, which lead to her being taken off Monday Night Raw and having her character insulted. It isn’t clear exactly what she said or did, but if the rumors are true, it must have been pretty damning for Cena to want it to stop.
9. Tyler Reks
Tyler Reks was never a particularly big deal in WWE, signing a contract in 2008 and leaving in 2011 after a lackluster career. He had quite a few matches on SmackDown and appeared on a few Pay-Per-Views, but was mostly relegated to minor programs such as ECW on Sci-Fi and NXT. That hasn’t stopped him from calling out some of the most important names in WWE, including Sheamus, John Laurinaitis, and of course, John Cena. Though Reks admires Cena’s work ethic, during an appearance on the podcast “Pancakes and Powerslams,” Reks said of Cena, “He’s not a nice guy, he holds talent down. He steals ideas. He’s a prick.” Reks also had issues with Cena over his finishing move, which Cena apparently thought looked too similar to his Attitude Adjustment.
MVP actually has no problem with John Cena the man, and went so far as to defend him in the same breath he insulted his character. According to the Miami Herald, MVP first said it bothers him when people talk about Cena in a negative way, but continued “John Cena draws so much ire from people because WWE has literally shoved him down people’s throats as the All American good guy face. People get sick of it.” The former WWE Tag Team and United States Champion went on to praise Cena’s rapping ability, but the negative sentiment of that point rings loud and true. Many fans admit Cena is a strong performer with a great deal of wrestling ability, but the smiling babyface routine has only ever appealed to young demographics.
For a short while in 2005, Dave Batista stood neck and neck with Cena as the potential top superstar in WWE, but Batista started to sour on the wrestling industry as Cena took over as the clear winner. Batista left WWE of his own volition in 2010 because he no longer liked the direction the business was headed. During an interview with “The Chad Dukes Wrestling Show,” Batista said he understands children like Cena, but went on to say, “the hardcore fans can’t stand him. He is Mr. Hokey, Mr. PG…to me; he killed hardcore, edgy wrestling.” It’s true Cena obviously benefits from the PG environment, but clearly Batista has deeper issues with him, or at least did at the time of his comments.
6. Mr. Kennedy
Ken Anderson now performs for TNA under the name Mr. Anderson, but it was from 2006-2009 while he competed for WWE as Mr. Kennedy that his paths crossed with Cena. Mr. Kennedy’s final match in WWE was against Cena, and he believes statements Cena made to WWE owner Vince McMahon after the match lead to his firing. According to Anderson, “Cena went and complained to Vince and said that they didn’t want to work with me anymore because I was dangerous and that is what ended up being the final straw.” Of course, Anderson also claims he wasn’t being dangerous with Cena, and that Cena was conspiring with Randy Orton to intentionally get him fired. A few years later in an interview with The Void, Kennedy echoed his own statements, saying of Cena “besides some personal burials that have taken place…I’m just not a huge fan.”
5. Chris Wellman
Most of the people on this list are true WWE Superstars, but that isn’t quite the case with Chris Wellman. Wellman, whose real name is Kris Katera, only wrestled for WWE in a handful of losing efforts, appearing on a few episodes of Velocity either under the Wellman name or as Journeyman. His near anonymity hasn’t stopped him from lashing out at Cena, coming to Kenny Doane’s aide when he went on his initial twitter rant against Cena. Tweeting at Doane, Katera wrote “I worked with WWE on and off from 2006-2010 and can back up most everything you say about Cena and his cheating ways man!” Katera also called Cena’s cheating “not cool,” accusing Cena of “constantly” talking with former WWE announcer and current ESPN host Jonathan Coachman about hooking up with random girls.
4. Wade Barrett
King Bad News Wade Barrett debuted in WWE as the leader of Nexus, attacking John Cena and CM Punk during a WWE Championship match in 2010. He has maintained a position near the top of WWE since, despite the fact he and Cena have never gotten along, on or off-screen. In an interview with DNA India, Barrett claimed the two don’t even bother keeping it a secret, saying “Everyone knows that I don’t like John Cena, and he doesn’t like me either…personally I don’t like him and he doesn’t like me, we are not friends.” Despite not getting along with Cena, in the same interview Barrett noted the peak of his career was when the two feuded, but opined he felt the feud should have lasted longer and ended differently, hinting the fact it ending the way it did is the cause of his anger towards Cena.
3. Chavo Guerrero, Jr.
Chavo Guerrero, Jr. is a regular luchador on Lucha Underground and the nephew of WWE Hall of Famer Eddie Guerrero, and he takes the legacy and heritage of both his family and professional wrestling very seriously. Chavo left WWE in 2011 upon his own request, feeling WWE wasn’t focusing on in-ring talent and ability. This has been a common complaint lobbied against WWE for years, but Guerrero singled out Cena as the problem, telling Fox News Latino, “If he can’t wrestle, he can’t wrestle,” going on to elaborate, “you can tell who’s making John Cena look good.” Less than a year later, Chavo considerably cooled off on Cena, calling him a good guy and a hard worker.
2. Michael Tarver
Michael Tarver didn’t last long in WWE, but if his story is to be believed, he did have one memorable but understated moment with John Cena. As a part of Nexus, Tarver feuded with Cena during his brief time in the company, and in a series of confusing tweets Tarver implied he believes Cena intentionally broke his arm. Via his handle @tyroneevansB20, Tarver wrote a series of grammatically lackadaisical tweets, which said, “a certain stop superstar takes notice of this guy building steam with his promos back stage and begins to feel threatened so one night on a ppv the champ purposely fractures this persons arm with a chair and after match backstage laughs in his face about it and walks off.” Fans read between the lines and deduced Tarver accused Cena of intentionally breaking his arm, but Tarver would later clarify that he doesn’t hate Cena. Though he felt the injury was preventable, he knew it wasn’t intentional on Cena’s part, and Tarver was going through personal issues with his ex-wife at the time of the tweets.
1. Brock Lesnar
The only person in WWE over the past decade to truly compete with John Cena over superstar status has been Brock Lesnar, but the difference is Lesnar’s successes extend far beyond the WWE. The former UFC Champion started in WWE in 2002, but left in 2004 to take over the world of MMA. When he decided to return to pro wrestling, his first opponent was John Cena at Extreme Rules 2012. While the others on this list use their words, Brock let his actions speak louder.
In the match, Brock lost to Cena, and the script said after the match Cena would be stretchered out of the ring giving Brock a technical loss, but making it look like a victory. Cena apparently broke the script, eschewing the stretcher and instead getting a microphone and calmly telling the fans he was going to take time off. Brock was reportedly furious with Cena, throwing things in a rage while yelling at WWE executives and claiming Cena was trying to hurt his image. The whole ordeal sounds like a wrestling angle, but the fact it mostly took place backstage when the cameras were off, in reaction to a coworker breaking script, makes it sound a lot more real.