John Cena on YES Network Talking WWE Beginnings, Football, American Grit, Rap, Pizza And Plenty More!

We were sent the following from YES Network, who recently conducted a lengthy interview with John Cena.

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11:00 pm ET – Immediately Following YES’ Yankees-Toronto coverage

How Cena got his start in the business:

It (Ultimate Pro Wrestling’s Ultimate University) was…in Orange County, in Southern California. At the time, sports entertainment was truly at its zenith. It was the Monday Night Wars. There were two companies competing against each other, so it was really, really shock television every week. Like, “Wow, what are these guys gonna do next?”, so the eyes of the world really focused in on these two companies battling it out, and in turn it spawned imitation. There were a lot of companies that were trying to do the same thing, and this (Ultimate Pro Wrestling) was a company in Southern California, trying to put together a name for itself and, it was a company that offered training, and through training is the way that I got started, and you can’t have a finish if you don’t have a start, so I’m forever thankful to Ultimate Pro Wrestling.

Cena’s underdog mentality has served him well:

Even from the second I walked into the Ohio Valley Training Center (for his debut), which was a very dingy small armory in the heart of Kentuckiana, I thought that I wouldn’t make it. I kinda always thought that I was on borrowed time, because I would walk in and I would see 300-pound Brock Lesnar, who has amateur Olympic credentials, and 330-pound-at-the-time Dave Bautista, and Randy Orton, who just made any movement look as effortless as it could be. I remember seeing Shelton Benjamin walk in and then seeing, without any hands, him leap up to the apron of the ring. I’m like, “Okay, pretty impressive,” and then (seeing) him leap up to the top rope and just walk the top rope and I felt like Keanu Reeves when he goes in to see the Oracle in The Matrix and the kid’s bending the spoon and he’s like… “This is out of my league, man.” I always thought that I would never make it. But it was cool because even though I felt out-gunned, it gave me that sense of, well, I have nothing to lose. I’m just gonna go for it, and I really have kind of lived by that my entire life. It’s let me take chances that a lot of the other Superstars are afraid to take.

After Cena’s WWFSuperstars debut against Mike Richardson in 2000, he bought 86 pair of boots and 128 pair of tights so he could look the part:

William Regal is a wrestler from the U.K. and a very certifiable technician. He has a certain style that only few can be fluent in, and he just makes things look effortless. So, I have this debut match, and then I come back, I say, “Mr. Regal, how was it?” And he has a very dry, British sense of humor. And his response was, “Well, lad, if you just get a set of boots and tights, at least you’ll look like a wrestler.” So, here I am, thinking, “Well, (all) I need is boots and tights and I’m good.” When he was really saying, “Jesus, at least look the part.” He was honest, but in the same token, I didn’t take his advice. I just thought, like, “I just need boots and tights and I’m good.” So, I went out and bought 86 pairs of boots and like 128 pairs of tights. And I vowed to never wear the same thing twice.

Vince McMahon’s first words about Cena were “Cut his hair”:

I got to meet Vince McMahon in Chicago in 2002, which is where I made my (mainstage, WWE television) debut, and it was the night of my debut, and my debut shouldn’t have even happened. Kurt Angle was supposed to wrestle a fellow named The Undertaker that night, and The Undertaker actually could not make the show. He was extremely ill and didn’t show up, and they needed a replacement, and somebody threw my name out there because it would just be like a single match and it would do more for Kurt Angle than anybody else and Vince said “Okay,” so they brought me in to see Vince, and I had a long, horrible, badly-dyed mop haircut at the time. And my first meeting with Vince McMahon went something like this: I was shoved into a room and someone over my shoulder said, “What do you think?” And he (McMahon) turns around and goes, “Cut his hair.” That was my first meeting with my boss. I love him. I admire him as a human being. I think he’s … just a wonderful example of hard work paying off. To this day he does not need to show up. He is always hands on. He always shows up. His drive is incomparable.

Cena explains the origin of his finisher, the “Attitude Adjustment”:

I actually got a signature move from a guy named Tommy Dreamer. A local guy. A New York guy. And he was using a move, that is a fireman’s carry, and you basically pick somebody on your shoulders and drop them down to the mat, and he gave it to me and I gave it a name and then changed the name and now it’s the Attitude Adjustment.

Another Cena trademark, kissing his dog tags, is a tribute to his family:

The names of all my brothers (are on the dog tags). The names of my father, my mother, and Nicole’s (his partner’s) first name as well. And it’s just a reminder to them that like, “Hey, you guys are always with me through this whole crazy ride.”

Cena’s signature “You can’t see me” hand gesture came about as a dare and as a joke with his brother:

The whole thing came about as a dare and a joke. We were playing (music) tracks that were supposed to be on the rap album that I cut a while back, and I would always use my younger brother as, like, the litmus test. And I would play a track for him and if he kinda grooved to it, like, “Okay, we got something here,” and there was a dance with the video “In the Club.” That’s 50 Cent and the G-Unit crew, and Tony Yayo, one of 50’s (Cent’s) guys is doing this [gestures], and that was his dance and, like, we played something that my brother really liked and he was doing this, and I’m like, “Man, that is the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen. I’m gonna do that on TV,” and he said, “No you won’t,” and I said, “Okay. Watch this.” And back then, nobody was watching me or cared about me. And I kinda had liberty to do what I want. So, I did it, but I wanted to do it different, and when I got my opponent down, I could do this, like, “You can’t see me,” and I’m like, wow, that is such an easy way to be like, “I’m over here and you’re not even close.”

Cena has some very unique superstitions:

If I see a penny on the ground heads up, I have to pick it up, no matter what. I always knock on wood before the match. I always shake my opponent’s hand, say “Good luck. Be safe. Have fun.” Even when they wanna kill me, and that’s most of the time that they wanna kill me. I always eat Tic Tacs before the match, starting about three hours (prior to the match). I consume probably five boxes of Tic Tacs on a daily basis before a performance.

Cena wanted to get involved with FOX’s new show American Grit because he thinks it’s aspirational and attainable entertainment, just like the WWE:

Here’s the thing about American Grit that’s unique…all the competitors, they come from different walks of life, and I wanted to be involved with a show that was aspirational and attainable, same thing as the WWE. You say you wanna be a WWE Superstar, there’s a chance (you) can be, and always hold onto that dream if you have it. When you watch American Grit on FOX, you’ll be able to watch these people go through these evolutions and it’s not something you feel as if you’ll be alienated from. I think everyone in this room will get the sense of, “I could probably do that,” and that’s what I want America to feel, because I want you to have that experience. I want you to be able to come back for American Grit 2 and compete and be able to get the knowledge of these military leaders and really live this experience. It is a special show. It’ll be entertaining, but it’s just a really, really cool message, and some really awesome people are a part of it, so I hope they watch it.

Cena’s first character storyline, “The Prototype,” developed due his dedication to working out:

I was half-man, half-machine, a hundred percent mayhem. And they called me The Prototype, and that was the same friend that was like, “Hey, man, why don’t you come on down and train.” (He) just couldn’t believe the things that I was doing in the gym for my age and the dedication. And it just stuck.

Cena is a pizza-eating champion:

I’m a Zeppy’s pizza-eating champion. That was a place that closed down on Hermosa Beach (Californa) and I was broke and didn’t have any food, and they had a promotion, they had really thick dish pizza, if you ate a whole pizza, you’d get the pizza free. So, I went in there on a lunch break and crushed a pizza in about 20 minutes and the (pizza parlor) guy’s face dropped. He didn’t realize that I was broke and hungry, so I went back the next day and did the same thing. Finally, he pulled me over and he’s like, “Man, I kind of know what you’re doing. Just stop by for a free slice any time you want.” So, he saved me from eating pizza.

Cena was a member of the “Roach Patrol” as an All-American offensive lineman on the Springfield College football team:

That (Roach Patrol) is basically a title given to the offensive linemen at Springfield, which are like the forgotten heroes. You don’t… play offensive line for any other reason than you love football. They named the offensive line the Roach Patrol because what they came up with was when a person is on their back (after being blocked) and struggling to get up, they look like a cockroach. So, if you roach-blocked someone, it means you… Not only carried out your assignment, but to the point of putting (them) on their back.

Cena tipped off opposing players as an offensive lineman at Springfield:

You kind of know what’s in front of you the first snap of the game. I would get down in my stance and I would look at my brethren (his fellow offensive linemen) to the left, my brethren to the right, and they’d kind of give me the nod and if somebody like 72 was in front of me, I’d say, “Hey, 72, we’re passing. Let’s see what you got.” And I would let him know the play and it only backfired on me once.

Cena was so invested in his hip-hop character that he released an album which reached No. 3 on Billboard’s “Top Rap Albums” chart:

I was more, much more in tune to hip-hop style than I am now, so I would just wear all the latest fashions, and then I was like, man, you know, the music they have for me is just so rotten. I could create my own and it wouldn’t be this bad. So, I was like, “All right, book some studio time” and then I presented my boss with an album. I said, “Is there anything you can do with this?” He said, “Yeah. We’ll just put it out.”

Cena’s favorite player was Don Mattingly:

My favorite ball player of all time was Don Mattingly. I think it was just the way he carried himself. There was always something about Donnie Baseball. I think it might’ve been the nickname. Like, the guy’s named after the game. Fast forward to the chance where I got to throw the first pitch out for the Dodgers (August 20, 2009), when Donnie Baseball was the skip (coach) over there, and I thought I was just throwing to the bullpen catcher, like you normally do. So, I’m warming up and I’m feeling good on the side and then this idiot right there brings over Donnie Baseball to catch my first pitch. So, like my entire youth is like swinging on this one fastball that I very accurately threw 45 feet and then hopped twice to the plate. But just like a good first baseman, without even flinching, (Mattingly) just scooped it up, like, “Hey, kid, good job.” That’s a long story, but my favorite player was Don Mattingly.