John Cena Comments on Advice for Younger Wrestlers, Learning from Eddie Guerrero, Praise for Rock/Hogan Match, More

John Cena is set to wrestle his first match in a WWE ring in over a year this weekend at WrestleMania 36 when he faces “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt in a Firefly Fun House match. Cena sat down with Corey Graves on WWE’s After the Bell and discussed his philosophy when performing for a crowd.

“When you talk with anybody that’s worked with me, it’s like, alright we’ve got 26 minutes, and the kid is gonna go over, ‘OK thanks.’ “Hey John what do you want to do?” We’ll just figure it out, and so many people that perform with me for the first time take that as apathy that I don’t care, but then when I’m out there, I’m notoriously the loudest talker in the business. I’m calling matches for you at the table in the ring. That’s only because I’m super hyper present because I’m there to entertain everybody who paid money, and if I prepare an elaborate execution with you in the back and we come out to crickets, we gotta be able to switch.”

“So I gotta know myself and I have to know the skills of the performer I’m working with. I think the absolute, finite definition of a sports entertainer is the ability to ‘play jazz.’ Go out and absolutely improvise and ride the wave of the crowd that is in front of you. They will tell you what they want, and you just have to give it to them in a timely fashion. You can’t miss those moments. You have to be razor sharp which is why I’d rather be heard saying, ‘hit me —–‘, than saying nothing and have crickets.”

Cena credits the wrestlers he competed against from the prior generation such as Eddie Guerrero for instilling these philosophies in him.

“I remember the first time Eddie was like it’s me and you tonight. I’ll see you out there. It was an outdoor tennis court in South Africa, and we went 25 minutes. And it was awesome. He was kind enough, after the match [I went], ‘Why did you tell me to do that?’ And that’s when his face lights up like, ‘OK, now I can tell you some of the secrets. This is what you do. This is what you don’t do. This is why I did this. Did you hear when they were like this, and I said this then I said shut up, don’t do anything. That’s because we missed it. It was too late.”

Cena went on to share some advice that he has for the current generation of WWE Superstars.

“Here’s a message to all the talent out there, be brave enough to fail, go out there with an open mind and open ears and entertain your audience. I think that’s one way to bring that sort of performance back. Here’s the drawback, it’s not going to be as surgical. It’s not going to be as precise. It’s not going to be as intricate, and the audience has shown that they enjoy that stuff. So once again, I’m speaking as a dinosaur, but I do have that perception of the current landscape.”

“Social media keeps us at a low attention span. We want the best. We want it now. We don’t want anything to be off one step like we want it to look perfect, so I understand that the demand for the product is out there, but if you have the other skill in your back pocket, it wouldn’t hurt. Roman [Reigns] is completely capable of doing something like that. Seth Rollins, I believe, is capable of doing something like that, and I’ve wrestled with a lot of the guys today by that method, so I know that they can do it.”

Finally, Cena named Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock at WrestleMania X-8 as his favorite match of all time, and explained how the crowd played such a pivotal part of that match.

“My thing is this. One of my favorite matches of all time is Hogan vs. Rock, they’re just looking at each other, but it’s awesome. Your heart’s pumping. You’re shaking the other guy next to you. ‘You don’t understand how awesome this is,’ and the other guy next to you is going, ‘no I don’t because it’s just two dudes looking at each other, and two dudes looking around.’ But what makes it magic is the noise and the audience. The audience makes the excitement.”

“For any sporting event, if I’m clicking through and I see a football game and it’s just a football game but they cut to the crowd and it’s bananas, what happened? Think of when you’re just strolling down the street. If there’s a crowd of people, maybe just 30 people and they’re all making noise, you don’t just walk by and not address it. You look to see what’s going on. I can’t believe what’s going on there.

“So if the audience is going nuts, whatever you’re doing in the ring, if you’re just looking at each other, it’s being a good wrestler. It’s being a good sports entertainer because you told them a story that they’re interested in, and they’re giving you so much of their emotions that they’re crazy. They feel, and when they feel, every small thing you do, every nuance is powerful.”

Thank you to WrestlingInc for transcribing the interview.

Matt’s Musings: Sound advice by Cena to listen to the audience, when there is one again of course.