From his humble beginnings as "The Prototype" to his days as "The Doctor of Thuganomics," John Cena’s meteoric rise to the top of WWE is unprecedented. He arrived at the company in 2002 and even then, he showed just a hint of the dominance that has followed his 14-year career when he nearly toppled one of the most established Superstars on the roster at the time, Kurt Angle - in his debut match.
Cena is a real-life Superman to millions of young children all over the world who tune into WWE programming each and every week. Just like Superman, Cena recovers from injuries faster than you can say "kryptonite," and rarely takes much time off TV (excluding his most recent absence). His philanthropic work for organizations like the Make-A-Wish Foundation only further cements his standing.
However, it’s not all dollar signs and championship gold for the leader of the "Cenation." In fact, we’re sure Vince McMahon would rather you forget these career blemishes:
10 He Once Crapped Himself During A Match
What is the most embarrassing thing a wrestler can do in the ring? Botch a move? Slip and fall off the top rope? Get no reaction when they try to cater to the crowd?
While all of those things are humiliating, they’re not quite as pooping your pants during a match. Just ask John Cena - after all, he’s the one that did the above-mentioned pooping.
Cena had food poisoning while wrestling in Saskatchewan, according to what he told girlfriend Nikki Bella on hit reality show Total Divas. Although Cena claims he doesn’t remember who he was facing, many think his foe was Scott Steiner. Despite being sick, "Mr. Hustle, Loyalty, Respect" pushed on and wrestled anyway. If it was during his khaki shorts phase, we’re sure the crowd would have gotten more than what they bargained for. Luckily, this happened at a house show and not a televised event.
9 The Prototype
For almost every legendary wrestling star you can think of, they surely had an embarrassing gimmick prior to their rise to fame. Triple H was a British aristocrat, The Rock wore fringes as Rocky Maivia, and Stone Cold had blonde hair and was called The Ringmaster. Just like those Attitude Era stars before him, Cena had quite a bad gimmick in his early days: The Prototype.
Cena had a Terminator-esque gimmick, which purported that The Prototype was half-robot, half-man. (Yeah, think about that one for a minute.) Fortunately, his gimmick switched from a half-human to a rapper, which became the predecessor to the Cena of today.
8 Kevin Federline 1, John Cena 0
For a long time in the mid-2000s, WWE would invite almost any B-list or C-list celebrity who had a book, album, or a movie to shill appear on Raw. Sometimes we got real stars like Rob Zombie or Seth Green, but those were few and far between. In 2006, WWE made the horrible, unforgivable decision to bring Kevin Federline on Raw to promote a rap album.
Who would save us from this inane segment? None other than John Cena. The confrontation turned into a mini feud of sorts - a feud big enough that Federline was on WWE programming more than once and even got the chance to have a legitimate match with Cena. Well, it was as legitimate as a bout could be with a non-wrestler like K-Fed. Somehow, he beat Cena and helped Raw achieve mega ratings. Hmm. Maybe we should bring Federline back one of these days?
7 He Made A Rap Album
Speaking of rap albums, of course John Cena has made one himself. This was way back in 2005 and Tha Trademarc, Cena’s cousin, also got in on the fun. At the time, Cena was the “ruck fules” hip-hop thug who spit rhymes in the ring, so it made sense for him to log some time in the studio. Forget the horrible album cover with the comic sans font, and forget the cheesy music videos that Cena’s team somehow had a budget for. The weirdest part was that the album actually did well.
It landed at the coveted number 10 spot on the US Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and number 15 on the US Billboard 200. Whether it was curiosity or not, the same level of "ingenious" lyricism that appeared on his theme song (“I got my soul straight/I brush your mouth like Colgate” is just one of many gems) was featured on this album, plus plenty of F-bombs. (You know, for the street cred.)
6 He Spanked Stephanie McMahon
In the mid-2000s, right in the midst of Cena’s rap gimmick, Stephanie McMahon was shifting into that respected businesswoman she is today on and off-screen. It could have been because she had married Triple H (for real) and would soon be a mother, but she was classy. That makes it all the more shocking that John Cena gave the boss’ daughter a good smack on the rear.
The SmackDown segment begins with Stephanie addressing the crowd and planning matches for an upcoming pay-per-view event. Cena jolts down to the ring, claiming he dreamt of Stephanie the night before. He awkwardly flirts through a rap, which Stephanie finds amusing. Then, all of a sudden, she bends over and lets him spank her. Huh. Maybe she’s a fan of rap music.
5 He Singlehandedly Killed The Nexus Push
In a short span of time, John Cena was thrust to the forefront of WWE and has stayed there ever since (although it finally seems like he’s getting ready to give up his throne). Some fans believe that over 10 years at the top means that Cena has more than overstayed his welcome, while others just can’t get enough of hustle, loyalty, and respect. With Cena occupying the top spot, that means others don’t get a chance. He’s been accused of burying plenty of members on the roster, but one burial that even some WWE superstars agree with is that of the Nexus.
Individually, they never achieved much, and that’s probably because of Cena’s behaviour upon their debut. In late 2013, Edge appeared on Chris Jericho’s podcast and the two discussed the moment they thought the burial occurred. We won’t transcribe it all here (it’s out there), but here’s some pertinent stuff:
Jericho: “Exactly. He [Cena] wanted to get DDT’d on the floor by [Wade] Barrett, then kick out and beat them both. And you and I were like, ‘that’s the dumbest thing. That’s just throwing it away for no reason.”
Edge: “They should have gone over because they were so hot.”
Jericho: “We were fighting for Barrett to go over. And, in all fairness, where’s Wade Barrett now? They should have listened to us.”
4 His Grittier Original Character
We may be pretty far removed from the Attitude Era (practically 20 years), but even in the mid-2000s, WWE was still pretty edgy at times. We already mentioned how Cena dropped F-bombs on his debut studio album. We also discussed how he spanked Stephanie McMahon while flirting with her via a euphemism-heavy rap. These were before the days when the sponsors would flip if someone bled. Things were still fun.
Cena used to wear a “Ruck Fules” T-shirt, as mentioned. We’ll let you guess what that’s supposed to mean. Speaking of euphemisms, did you know that the Five Knuckle Shuffle is a sexual slang for masturbation? That really kind of makes it funny that he still does that move to this day.
3 His Cheating
Listen, the women of the WWE are gorgeous, and who knows and understands a wrestler’s schedule better than a fellow wrestler? Look at Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, The Miz and Maryse. All of them started dating their co-workers. That said, no matter how rough a wrestler’s schedule is (and it is very rough), cheating is just no bueno. It’s especially no good when you’re the resident WWE superman like John Cena.
As we’ll delve into below, Cena had married his high school sweetheart. Aw, right? Until he cheated on her. (Not so aw.) He and former WWE star Mickie James were having an affair, but supposedly she’s not the only one he slept with. Although Cena never spoke of the cheating allegations himself, there’s enough dirt out there that you pretty much have to see to believe.
2 His Very Public Divorce
What, did you think Cena’s then-wife Elizabeth Huberdeau was just going to accept his cheating ways? Nah. After getting engaged in 2009 and marrying that same year, by 2012 he and Huberdeau were splitsville. That would have been one thing. Divorce happens literally all the time. But oh, no. This was a very public, ugly, drag-‘em-through-the-mud type of divorce. Whether Huberdeau wanted her 15 minutes of fame or she just hated Cena that much, it was a bad time to be a PR agent for WWE.
Cena was smart enough to ask for a pre-nup, but Huberdeau tried to find a legal loophole to get at his fortune. They battled over property and money before finally coming to an agreement many tumultuous months later. Luckily, there were no kids involved, or Cena would probably still be contesting in court today.
1 He’s Tapped Out, Despite That He Claims He Never Has
One of John Cena’s most enduring catchphrases is “never give up.” That attitude extends to his in-ring presence, where he makes it a point of claiming that he doesn’t tap out. The commentary team blabbers incorrect facts all the time, further complicating the myth. While it has only happened a select few times, if you pay attention, it turns out that Cena has indeed tapped out.
It appears that only two men have been able to get Cena to truly give up: Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle. In their prime, both were experienced submission wrestlers with painful finishers like the Crippler Crossface and the Angle Lock, respectively. No shame in tapping out to either, but Cena might want to revise his catchphrase just a bit so he doesn’t set excessively high expectations for the kids.