You Can’t See Him: The Life of John Cena

It’s hard to think about John Cena without automatically hearing, “IT’S JOHN CENA!!” The professional wrestler rose to fame around 2004 and has become Vince McMahon’s squeaky-clean, babyface poster boy. However, Cena isn’t as predictable as he seems during his WWE matches. He might pull out the same moves, but his journey to fame has been anything but conventional.

Dwayne Johnson and John Cena / John Cena / John Cena / John Cena and Shay Shariatzadeh
Source: Getty Images

While Cena is mostly known for his time in the ring, he has also made a name for himself in Hollywood. Starring in films like Trainwreck and The Suicide Squad, Cena is a jack of all trades. He even released a rap album. The happy-go-lucky star is Hollywood’s underappreciated gem.

Bulking Up for Protection

Born and raised in West Newbury, Massachusetts, John Cena was very different from the man we know today. Although he is known for his muscular physique, Cene was a scrawny kid who got bullied for his size, clothing, and choice of music. His classmates would beat him up, but Cena wanted to fight back.

A photo of a young John Cena showing off his muscles
Source: Twitter

So, Cena decided to learn karate, and he started getting bigger. He asked for a weightlifting bench for Christmas when he was 12, and his journey to becoming a muscle man began. When he got a little stronger, Cena ventured into his high school gym, showing everyone that he was stronger than they thought.

He Won “Best Body”

Cena went from being a scrawny pre-teen to a buffed-up high schooler in just a few years. He was named “Best Body” in his senior yearbook. However, Cena reflected, “To be the strongest person in West Newbury, that’s a very, very average accolade.” Still, his muscles took him out of the small town.

Teenage John Cena smiles for a photo at home.
Source: YouTube

After graduation, Cena attended Springfield College and joined the football team. He quickly became the team’s star offensive lineman, leading them to their first NCAA postseason game. Cena was named Division III First-Team All-American, but he thought he was “way too small” to have a football career.

Proving His Father Wrong

Although he was a skilled football player, Cena abandoned a potential NFL career to pursue bodybuilding. With $500 in his pocket, he drove out to California in his Lincoln Continental. Cena’s father said he wouldn’t last more than two weeks on his own, but he proved his father wrong.

A portrait of a bulky John Cena.
Source: Tumblr

Cena lived out of his car to save money while working at Gold’s Gym in Venice Beach and moving fitness equipment. He said, “If you wanted to know about nutrition, protein, or apparel, I was your guy.” Despite barely making ends meet and living out of his car, Cena was happy with his life.

A Unique Opportunity

He was in the place where fitness had become famous, and Cena loved what he did. One of the bodybuilders at Gold’s Gym noticed Cena’s physique and asked if he wanted to try wrestling at a flea market. The opportunity put Cena on the path to becoming a professional wrestler.

John Cena shows off his bodybuilder physic.
Source: YouTube

In 1999, Cena started training at Ultimate Pro Wrestling’s California-based Ultimate University. Initially, he created a semi-robotic character known as The Prototype. He wasn’t half bad, and he held the UPW heavyweight championship for 27 days until April 2000. A few months later, Cena made his WWF debut on Smackdown!

The Rocky Rivalry

In 2002, Cena made his WWE debut and went up against some of the biggest names in the industry. Most successful wrestlers need a rival. The industry is centered around pitting players against each other, and Cena’s was Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

The Rock and John Cena attend the WrestleMania 29 Press Conference.
Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Cena worked his way up in the WWE before he got a chance to face off against The Rock. The two famously went head-to-head at WrestleMania XXVII in 2012, when The Rock beat Cena. They had a rematch the following year, and Cena came out victorious.

Many Different Characters

Although wrestling is a sport, there is a lot of acting involved. During a 2002 Halloween-themed match, Cena dressed as Vanilla Ice and performed a freestyle rap. People loved it so much that he returned the following week as a rapper who cut promos while rhyming.

John Cena enters the ring at the WWE SummerSlam.
Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images

He took up the nickname The Doctor of Thuganomics and expanded the gimmick to include rapping before his matches. Cena started wearing flat brim hats and sports jerseys as part of his ring gear. He revealed that this new character saved his career.

Gaining Attention

After Cena turned into a villain, the WWE writers wanted him to gain more heat, so they paired him with The Enforcer. Cena’s first sidekick was B-2, previously known as Bull Buchanon. The name change was a gimmick to match Cena’s hip-hop persona.

John Cena and B-2 face each other in the ring.
Source: YouTube

Unfortunately, the writers decided to replace B-2 with Red Dogg because they thought it would be a better match. Red Dogg previously competed under the name Rodney Mack. It proved to be a successful time in Cena’s career. They worked together until Red Dogg was sent to Raw.

A US Champion

At the beginning of 2004, Cena started a rivalry with the then United States Heavyweight Champion, the Big Show. Their feud evolved throughout the year leading up to a title match at WrestleMania XX. Everyone anxiously waited to see Cena and the Big Show face off.

John Cena throws The Big Show over his shoulders.
Source: WWE

The big event took place in New York City, so Cena wore a Patrick Ewing jersey to the ring. As he entered the ring, Cena was met with roaring cheers. He used the crowd’s energy to come out of the ring with a win over the Big Show, capturing the US Heavyweight Championship.

Changing Up His Style Again

The key to a long career is staying relevant and adapting to what your fans want. The writers wanted Cena to have longevity, so they turned to the history books to take his career up a notch. They tried to recapture the excitement of the Best of Seven series.

Booker T and John Cena face off in the ring.
Source: WWE

The idea led to Cena going up against Booker T in a Best of Five series for the US Heavyweight Championship. Although it had already been done, the series brought more attention to Cena, and he defeated Booker in the fifth and final match.

A Clever Excuse

Cena was more than just a wrestler and booked his first film role in 2006. The WWE needed to give him time off to film the movie, so the writers had to develop a storyline to keep him out of the ring. They decided he would lose his championship title to Carlito Caribbean Cool.

John Cena is pinned under Carlito Caribbean Cool.
Source: WWE

After his “loss,” the writers scripted a storyline where Carlito’s bodyguard attacked Cena outside a nightclub. He was apparently “stabbed in the kidney” and needed several weeks to recover. After finishing the movie, Cena returned to continue his feud with Carlito.

Is John Cena a Marine?

Cena was never a marine in real life, but in 2006, he played John Triton in The Marine. Produced by Vince McMahon through the film production division of the WWE, The Marine received negative reviews and grossed only $22 million against its $15 million budget.

John Cena as John Triton in The Marine.
Source: WWE

Despite its lackluster debut, The Marine spawned five direct-to-video sequels. It might have been Cena’s first film role, but it wasn’t his best work. Luckily no one held that against him when he went out for future movie parts. He definitely improved his acting skills.

Taking It Up a Notch

Cena proved to be a success in the US Heavyweight Championship, and the writers felt it was time for him to step up to the main events at the WWE Championship. His rise to the top started with a match at the Royal Rumble, but he didn’t take home the win.

John Cena and Dave Batista celebrate the end of their fight.
Source: YouTube

He was the last to be eliminated by Dave Batista in the final round. Batista was challenging for the World Heavyweight Championship, so Smackdown needed a WrestleMania challenger. The writers set up a tournament where Cena beat Kurt Angle in the finals.

Pushing the Story

After defeating Angle, Cena was the top challenger for John Bradshaw Layfield’s WWE Championship. This caused a feud with JBL’s Cabinet, and the writers loved it. They pushed the storyline by having Cabinet member Orlando Jordan beat Cena.

John Cena stands over JBL in the ring.
Source: WWE

The loss helped him make it to WrestleMania, where he defeated JBL and won the WWE Heavyweight Championship. The title win came with a customized title belt. Cena was the name on everyone’s lips, and fans couldn’t get enough of him. He was the top man in the WWE.

Going Raw

By the end of the 2000s, Cena was the face of the WWE. The writers wanted to use his popularity to bring more viewers to Raw, using the WWE Draft Lottery to have Cena and Batista switch places. Cena’s time on Raw led to some exciting matches.

Mr. McMahon tries to pin John Cena during WWE’s Monday Night Raw.
Photo by Chris Ryan/Corbis/Getty Images

Cena only got more and more popular, but as his time on Raw came to a close, he was seriously injured. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a fake injury written into his storyline, but he actually made a mistake while executing a hip toss.

Taking Time Off

In 2007, Cena suffered a ligament torn pectoral muscle during a match. He finished the event, but he had to get surgery the following day because the muscle was torn completely from the bone. The surgery caused him to be out of the ring for several months.

John Cena cries in pain on the floor of the ring.
Source: YouTube

Cena needed to rest and rehabilitate, so he took some time away from the WWE to heal. He worked with a physical trainer for months until he could return to wrestling. Despite not being able to participate, Cena still attended the WWE’s Tribute to the Troops show.

Was John Cena in the Military?

Many have wondered if Cena ever served time in the army or military, but he did not. However, Cena has always been a big supporter of the troops. He flew to Iraq for the WWE’s Tribute to the Troops show even though he couldn’t participate due to his injury.

John Cena performs during the 10th anniversary of WWE Tribute to the Troops.
Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images

He uses his star power to support those who have served their country in any way he can. Cena has donated to multiple veteran foundations throughout the years, so it makes sense that people believe he was in the military.

Short-Lived Marriage

It’s hard for Cena to find the time to have a personal life due to his busy schedule. Still, he met someone who wanted to be along for the ride. In 2009, Cena announced his engagement to Elizabeth Huberdeau after dating for a little while.

John Cena and Elizabeth Huberdeau embrace for a photo.
Source: Facebook

The two got married on July 11, 2009, but their post-wedding bliss didn’t last long. By 2012, Cena and Huberdeau’s relationship was on the rocks, leading him to file for divorce. Surprisingly, it didn’t take Cena long to move on and date someone new.

Keeping It in the Business

Shortly after his divorce, Cena began dating fellow wrestler Nikki Bella of the Bella Twins. Cena thought it would be easier to date someone who understood his busy schedule and was just as focused on work as he was. He and Nikki were the perfect match.

John Cena and Nikki Bella arrive at a premiere
Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage/Getty Images

At the beginning, their relationship was seen as a PR move to bring more attention to the WWE, but the two were truly in love. They were seen on red carpets and at wrestling events together, looking as adorable as ever. It looked like the couple would be together forever.

They Disagreed

Cena and Nikki’s relationship played out on the Bella Twins’ reality show, Total Bellas. Viewers got an inside look at their romance, and everyone noticed how badly Nikki wanted to get married and have children. However, Cena was not keen on the idea.

Nicole Garcia-Colace, John Cena and Brianna Garcia-Colace pose backstage.
Photo by Mark Davis/KCA2014/Getty Images

He expressed that he never wanted to have children because he didn’t want to be an absentee parent while he focused on his career. This was upsetting for Nikki, but she thought she would be OK with not having children, and they stayed together.

So Close Yet So Far

Although he didn’t want children, Cena loved Nikki and wanted to spend his life with her. At WrestleMania in 2017, Cena got down on one knee in the middle of the ring and proposed to Nikki. She couldn’t have been happier, and she was excited to plan the wedding.

John Cena proposes to Nikki in the Ring.
Source: WWE

Sadly, the couple ended their relationship in April 2018, a month before their wedding. Nikki realized she wanted to be with someone who wanted children, and Cena didn’t want to hold her back from being a mom. It was sad to see this beloved couple go their separate ways.

Superstitious Cena

While many wrestling matches are scripted, Cena is still dedicated to his sport. He created some odd rituals before his matches to prepare him for the battle. They included knocking on wood, shaking his opponent’s hand, and saying, “Good luck. Be safe. Have fun.”

John Cena poses with a large box of Tic Tacs.
Source: Twitter

However, his most interesting tradition is eating Tic Tacs before the matches. Cena said, “Starting about three hours before the match, I consume probably five boxes of Tic Tacs.” He had to scale back to three boxes because he was eating too many.

You Can’t See Me

After releasing “Basic Thuganomics” on WWE’s 2004 album, Cena decided to create his own album titled You Can’t See Me. The rap album debuted at number 15 on the Billboard Top 200 and eventually went gold. It also spawned his “You can’t see me” tagline.

John Cena performs onstage.
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Cena loved making music, saying, “I love this business, and this is my thing. I live, eat, sleep, and breathe this. But whenever I have some time away from the ring, you’ll find me in the studio.” He loved having a unique, creative outlet in his spare time.

He’s an Author

Cena might not want children, but he still loves them. He set out to create a book series for kids to spread the message, “It’s OK to be different, and it’s OK to be you.” Cena thought up the idea of a monster truck named Elbow Grease, who isn’t the best in any competition.

John Cena attends a signing event for his new children’s book “Elbow Grease”.
Photo by Michael Tullberg/Getty Images

However, Elbow Grease stays true to himself and always finishes what he sets out to do. Publishers loved the idea and helped Cena bring his story to life. This idea was important to Cena when he grew up, and he wanted to pass that positive message to younger generations.

Dedicated to Giving Back

Cena is such a beloved celebrity because he has made it part of his mission to give back whenever he can. He has been successful in this by granting the most Make-a-Wish dreams of any other star. Cena has helped grant wishes for over 650 children between the ages of 2 and 18.

John Cena and a kid named Max, speaks at the WWE and Make-A-Wish event.
Photo by Nick Doan/WireImage/Getty Images

He loves working with the organization because it puts his life into perspective. Cena loves seeing the smiles on the children’s faces because they face new challenges every day, and he provides them with an escape. He said, “You don’t know the power of hope.”

Even He Gets Nervous

It’s hard to imagine a man like Cena being nervous, but he admitted how awkward his first on-screen kiss felt. While filming The Marine in 2006, he was excited about the opportunity to be in a movie, and he did all of his own stunts.

John Cena flashes his muscles from his car.
Photo by Gregory Bojorquez/Getty Images

However, his hardest stunt wasn’t action-related; it was kissing his co-star. Cena was so nervous before the scene. He said, “I was as nervous as a kid going to junior prom. I’m meeting this girl for the first time, and the next day we walk into work, and I’m making out with her.”

He Speaks Mandarin

Another surprising discovery about Cena is that he learned Mandarin. He wanted to expand wrestling’s reach into the Asian market, and he impressed fans worldwide with his ability to speak in a difficult dialect. Cena said he was fascinated by the language.

John Cena attends a photocall for
Photo by Mike Marsland/WireImage/Getty Images

Cena is a dedicated student and keeps up with his skills by carrying a pack of flashcards wherever he goes. He also listens to podcasts and immerses himself in the culture whenever possible. Cena wanted to make sure he could speak fluently and interact with his fans.

Living in China

Leaning Mandarin came in handy for Cena when he moved to China in 2018. He announced that he would be living there for five months while filming Project X-Traction with Jackie Chan. Cena documented his time there on the WWE’s YouTube channel.

Jackie Chan and John Cena attend a 'Project X' press conference.
Photo by Visual China Group/Getty Images

He made videos highlighting his trips to local stores and markets to show the world the local culture in China. It was a special experience to live in a country he admires greatly. Cena also loved working with Chan because he learned so much from the veteran actor.

Is John Cena Married?

While filming the 2019 movie Playing With Fire, Cena met Shay Shariatzadeh. The two instantly hit it off, and he fell for her at first sight. Nearly a year later, he and Shariatzadeh married in a secret ceremony on October 12, 2020. Everyone said Cena had never been happier.

John Cena and Shay Shariatzadeh attend the
Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images

Cena has kept quiet about their relationships because his former romance with Nikki Bella was so public, and it didn’t end well. Unlike his previous relationships, Shariatzadeh was not famous when she met Cena; she was an engineer in Canada.

Does John Cena Have Kids?

Cena does not have kids yet, but starting a family isn’t out of the question. Although he previously said he didn’t want children, Cena had a change of heart. In June 2021, he said, “I’m a little bit older, a bit wiser, and I think part of that is being a parent.”

Shay Shariatzadeh and John Cena photographed at the Premiere of 'Dolittle'
photo by P. Lehman/Future Publishing/Getty Images

Now that he is settled in a relationship, maybe there will be little Cenas running around in the future. Cena’s career has changed since he last thought about having children, so he has given things a second thought.

Legal Woes

Cena is known for being the clean-cut, good guy, but he has gotten into trouble before. In 2017, Ford Motors sued the wrestler for selling his 2017 Ford GT supercar to make a profit. This went against his purchase agreement, in which he promised to own it for two years.

John Cena poses with his Ford GT.
Source: Tumblr

He paid over $460,000 for the car, and Ford was angry when he decided to sell it shortly after. When confronted with the lawsuit, Cena said he completely understood and was willing to work with Ford to make things right. He also apologized.

He’s an Antihero

Since his first film in 2006, Cena has appeared in many huge films, including Trainwreck, Daddy’s Home, and Bumblebee. Cena has enjoyed branching out into the acting world, and he even got a role originally intended for another wrestler.

John Cena and the rest of the cast pose for Peacemaker.
Source: WarnerMedia Direct

In 2021, Cena took on the part of Christopher Smith, aka Peacemaker, in The Suicide Squad. The character was intended for Dave Batista, but the wrestler couldn’t take the role as he had an ongoing part in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Cena was happy to participate because the character aimed to achieve peace at any cost.

Does John Cena Still Wrestle?

Cena has had a busy schedule with his different side projects outside of the WWE, but he has not retired from wrestling. Cena returned to the WWE for a huge match at SummerSlam in August 2021. However, he was not at WrestleMania in 2022.

John Cena enters the ring to deal with The Miz during the WWE Raw event.
Photo by Chris Ryan/Corbis/Getty Images

He had several opportunities that he couldn’t pass on, so he couldn’t make it to the big WWE event. Instead, Cena was filming Cayote vs. Acme. Cena isn’t finished with his wrestling career, but it is not his top priority at the moment.

How Much Is John Cena Worth?

As of 2022, Cena has an estimated net worth of $60 million. Besides his impressive wrestling career, Cena has been a champion in the business world. He appeared on boxes of Fruity Pebbles after calling The Rock fruity pebbles during their feud.

John Cena poses for the press at an event.
Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Cena was also the face of Hefty trash bags and Subway for many years. He has raked in the big bucks for his endorsement deals. Cena has also made millions through his acting and hosting career. He has kept himself busy since he became a household name.

He Graduated College

Before Cena decided to move from Massachusetts to Los Angeles, he finished college. Cena had been interested in fitness since he was a teenager and wanted to pursue a degree in it. The wrestler graduated in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology and body movement.

John Cena is out in the woods.
Photo by FOX Image Collection/Getty Images

While many celebrities started their careers before college or dropped out before finishing a degree, Cena’s parents wanted him to have an education. His degree has come in handy because he knows how his body works and how to train properly.

He’s a Meme

At the height of meme culture, Cena became the subject of one. Known as “Unexpected Cena” or “IT’S JOHN CENA,” the meme went viral and spawned several other Cena-related memes. The clip with his name and theme song, “The Time Is Now,” garnered popularity on YouTube and Vine.

The surprised look on John Cena’s face that because a meme.
Source: YouTube

The meme was well received by journalists and Cena because he thinks it is just as hilarious as everyone else. The meme became so popular that publications like Sports Illustrated and Uproxx wrote about it. Cena embraced it and still plays into the hilarious clip.

Getting Himself Into Hot Water

Despite criticism, Cena has love and respect for China after living there in 2018. He got himself into hot water with China when he called Taiwan a country while promoting Fast & Furious 9. Although Taiwan is a country, China considers it part of its territory.

John Cena talks to his YouTube Channel in China.
Source: YouTube

Cena apologized to China for his statements, but the apology caused him to receive backlash in America. Bill Maher called out Cena, stating that he needs to reeducate himself about the country, and he mentioned other celebrities who should do the same. Cena didn’t react to Maher’s comments.

He’s an Anime Fan

Cena is a man who never stops surprising us with his unique hobbies. While speaking with Men’s Journal, Cena revealed that he liked collecting and following the world of muscle cars. His favorite car is the 1970 Pontiac GTO or the Ram F4, but he has other interesting passions.

John Cena is playing mini golf.
Source: Tumblr

He added that he occasionally plays golf, and he is a big fan of NASCAR and Japanimation. Cena’s favorite anime is Fist of the North Star. He said, “I know the two don’t go together, but I’m just telling you what I enjoy.”

He Loves BTS

It’s hard to imagine Cena jamming out to the hit songs of Korean boy band BTS, but he is a big fan. While promoting Suicide Squad, Cena shared that he listened to BTS while filming the TV spin-off of the film. Cena knew everything about the band and their fandom.

John Cena poses with JHope from BTS.
Source: Twitter

His co-star, Joel Kinnaman, didn’t know BTS, so Cena said he filled him in after the interview. Cena told the interviewer, “I’ll fill Joel in later on the whole BTS army. The reason I wanted to fill him in offline is so he doesn’t get an enormous community agitated.”

Sports Car Enthusiast

When Cena got into trouble for selling his Ford supercar, the company pointed out that Cena portrayed himself as an enthusiast of high-end cars in his application. They might not have believed him, but Cena has an expensive collection of automobiles.

John Cena poses with the pace car prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Photo by Chris Trotman/NASCAR/Getty Images

His collection includes custom-made cars, along with a Lamborghini, Ferrari, Corvettes, and a few Chevrolets. Cena said, “I don’t just buy them to buy them. I buy them because I enjoy them, and every car has a story.” In 2020, Cena partnered with Honda, becoming the brand’s voice.

He Is a Self-Taught Musician

In a scene from Cena’s show, Peacemaker, he is seen playing a piano cover of Mötley Crüe’s “Home Sweet Home.” Many thought he was playing pre-recorded music, but the wrestler can actually play the piano. He is a self-taught musician and shows off his musical skills frequently.

John Cena plays the piano in a still from Peacemaker.
Source: YouTube

Cena loves to learn new things, so he started teaching himself how to play the piano in his free time. He said, “Playing the piano is very important to me because it keeps my mind sharp, and, also, music comes out, and that’s very soothing to the savage beast.”

Everyone Loves Him

Cena is one of the most beloved athletes and public figures. He has a huge fanbase of young fans who look up to him. Throughout the years, Cena has been nominated for several Kids’ Choice and Teen Choice awards for Choice Male Athlete and Choice Action Movie Actor.

John Cena and Victoria Justice speak onstage during Teen Choice Awards.
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

He has always tried to be a role model for younger generations and lives by the words, “Hustle, Loyalty, and Respect.” Cena has stayed on the straight and narrow and tries to stay away from controversy. He will always be someone to look up to in the world of celebrities.