Things You Might Not Know About John CenaPublished on May 3, 2018. Updated April 14, 2020
Since so much of wrestling is a performance, many would expect more WWE superstars to be better at acting, and after Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson made the transition from one of the most popular wrestlers to one of the most sought after actors in the world, it seems John Cena isn’t far behind him. While he is still dominating in the ring, Cena has made an even bigger impact on the entertainment industry as a whole and has gained millions of fans all over the world. From his journey in wrestling to acting and reality TV, it seems the star has shared a lot of his life, but there is always more to know! Here are 12 things you didn’t know about John Cena:
12. Learning Languages
There is no doubt that John Cena is one of the WWE’s most dedicated stars but he took it to another level when he took on the difficult task of learning Mandarin in ordered to help the WWE’s global brand. “I started wanting to learn Mandarin to get our global company to be a true global company,” he said in an interview, adding, “[I’m] fascinated with the language and have become obsessed with trying to learn it. … I don’t have a lot of free time, but when I do, for an hour or two of my day, a tutor comes over and we just talk.” He found that the best way for him to learn the language was using stacks of flashcards with Mandarin words and phrases. Cena put what he learned to good use when he was able to speak in the language for two minutes during a WWE press conference in China.
11. Early Life
John Felix Anthony Cena Jr. was born on April 23, 1977, in West Newbury, Massachusetts to Carol and John Felix Anthony Cena. Cena was the second eldest of four boys with an older brother, Dan, and three younger brothers, Matt, Steve, and Sean. All of the boys grew up loving wrestling because their father was a fan. “My dad is the reason I actually started watching wrestling. My dad was never big into sports; we were all big into sports as kids, and he’d go to our Little League games or whatever and not really know what was going on, because he didn’t know about sports, but he knew about wrestling,” Cena explained. He has also opened up about how he never really “fit in” growing up. “I really never socially matched that well with kids as an adolescent or early teenager. Never once did I waver or try to conform like a group philosophy. I was always pretty much an oddball.”
10. College and Football
After attending Central Catholic High School in Lawrence, Massachusetts, Cena transferred to a private prep boarding school called Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Massachusetts. After graduation, he attended Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts where his focus was on anything but wrestling; in fact, he was a football player. While playing for the NCAA Division III school, Cena became a team captain and was an All-American as a center for the team. He graduated in 1998 with a degree in exercise physiology and body movement.
Although John Cena has become one of the toughest guys in the entertainment industry, things weren’t always that way. The star has opened up about how he was aggressively bullied when he was younger, saying, “I got my a** kicked every day.” He added that he used to dress like “MC Hammer and Kid ‘n Play on a collision course.” “[I had my] hair stuck straight up, dyed at the top…I had the rayon pants — mustard polka dot — and the airbrushed overalls.” He added, “I remember the walk to the school bus. At the very least, five times shoved down, toppled down,” and it kept happening until finally he had enough and asked his dad if he could get some equipment to start working out. He continued, “By the time I was showing up at high school, I was big. The guys who were pushing me down were kind of like, ‘We cool?’ Never once did I ever get back at any of those guys. As horrible as a time that it was for me, it was a catalyst for me to find a passion of my life.”
7. Law Enforcement and The Marines
After graduating from college, it wasn’t necessarily an easy road from there to stardom for Cena. With dreams of becoming a bodybuilder he packed up and left home to move to Santa Monica even though his father said he would never make it, and without any job prospects, tried to become a cop. “I wish I had four hands to hold up four middle fingers to my dad [at the time],” Cena said. “‘You don’t know nothing, old man.’ So, I left with 500 bucks and an Army duffle bag, and hit the ground in Santa Monica and just started working. No career, just working a job to make money to stay out there to spite my father and the jobs were taking me nowhere. I took the California Highway Patrol exam and didn’t pass, so I tried to be a cop and failed.” After his rejection from the California Highway Patrol, he considered joining the Marines. “I just thought because, of all the service branches, it kind of exemplified who I was as a 22-year-old,” he told Task and Purpose. “You think you’re bulletproof, and you can handle any sort of resistance put in front of you, and you’re gungho to the hilt.”
6. Odd Jobs
When law enforcement didn’t work out as he hoped, Cena was struggling to just get by so he took any odd job he could which included being a limo driver. Unfortunately, coming from a small town, being a limo driver in California was far from his calling. “I worked as a limo driver for a while, and it was before GPS was commonplace, like you still had to go off a map,” he once told AskMen. “And I was not good. At all. I grew up in a small town that’s got one street. One main street, so I knew how to get around that town. I was doing pickups to and from Logan Airport, and I was just rotten. I wasn’t meant to be a limo driver.” Things got so bad when Cena was broke that he discovered an interesting way to score free food: become a 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.”
5. Family Struggle
Although the star rarely opens up about his family, during his efforts to raise awareness and money for breast cancer, he revealed when they were younger, his youngest brother Sean battled cancer. “I had a personal run-in with cancer. My youngest brother, Sean, had an inoperable brain tumor. He’s the last of five boys, so he’s the most reserved out of all of us. I saw what he went through though, and the treatment he had to rely upon. I saw him going through being a boy to becoming a man. What he went through keeps us so motivated. Around the family, we call him our ‘silent champion,’” Cena explained.
4. The Prototype
So, how did Cena go from a broke Venice Beach pizza-eating champion to a wrestler? According to him, it all came down to one fateful conversation. Cena eventually scored a job at Gold’s Gym where he worked the front desk, cleaned toilets, and even starred in a commercial for them all while living out of his car, and was just about to enlist in the Marines until one day a gym member asked him if he would be interested in wrestling. “I used to work at Gold’s Fitness. I would work the front desk,” he told ABC News. “I was the mayor. I knew everybody… That was a time when like attitude was at zenith like 1999, 2000. So I mean everybody watched [wrestling], but so did I. And we would just talk about ‘Raw.’ And this kid was like, ‘You know I’m training to be a wrestler? Would you want to do that?” Cena continued, “I was already up to my eyeballs in debt, but I leveraged every credit card I had… paid a promoter out in southern California, and learned the trade.” He began wrestling under the character The Prototype when he was discovered by the then WWF and in 2001 signed a development deal which landed him on the Ohio Valley Wrestling circuit for “further seasoning’ before his big official WWE debut.
As fans are well aware, John Cena is extremely busy, but no matter how hectic his schedule is, he has always made time to raise money and awareness for various philanthropic efforts. Among his many efforts, Cena is recognized as the only celebrity to have granted over 500 Make-A-Wish Foundation wishes. “The excitement, it’s indescribable,” he shared of fulfilling kids’ dreams to Parade. “That I’m at the very end of the story, as the wish? That’s absurd to think about.”
2. Personal Life
As his fame in the ring grew and the WWE launched him into movies, Cena kept his personal life very quiet and it wasn’t until he was doing press for the 2009 film 12 Rounds that he happened to mention, “I’m gonna get married this year.” On July 11, 2009, Cena married his longtime girlfriend Elizabeth Huberdeau, but only three years later on May 1, 2012, Cena filed for divorce which apparently “blindsided” Huberdeau. That same year, Cena began dating fellow WWE star Nikki Bella, and much of their relationship was played out on Bella’s reality series with her twin sister Brie called Total Divas. After becoming engaged in 2017, Bella and Cena called things off in April 2018, only weeks ahead of their planned wedding.
1. Becoming an Actor
John Cena’s film career began back in 2000 when he was given an uncredited role in the film Ready to Rumble, but after his success in the WWE reached its peak, the entertainment mega-company decided to put him as a leading man in movies such as The Marine and 12 Rounds. As it turns out, Cena wasn’t fond of their decision and as he has become quite the scene stealer in films like Trainwreck, Sisters, Daddy’s Home and Blockers. More recently, he has admitted he is only really comfortable with acting now. “Originally my film career was a direction from upper management in WWE—like, ‘Hey, go do movies.’ Originally what I wanted my film career to be was an extension of the WWE business model. I understood,” he said. “WWE studios opened in 2003/2004, they began to film movies, and the model of the business was, ‘If we can make our stars bigger stars, they will come to see WWE.’ Well, that’s what I wanted, but I didn’t want to go do movies,” Cena said of not being a fan of acting back then. “The process of making a movie is so different. It takes a long time, it takes a lot of people, and there’s nobody cheering you on. As a younger man I really was drawn, and still am, to the dynamic of a live audience, and the live experience of ‘Just out there and see what happens.'” Now, he said he loves doing “morning shows and tonight show bits,” as well as hosting and the multiple movies he has been a part of and is finally ready for acting to take on a bigger part in his life. “I think I’m just drawn to the creative process. Now with more experience and a more comfortable feeling in my own right in WWE, I’m confident enough to use those skills elsewhere,” he explained.