John Cena has been known as the quintessential company guy for the WWE for over a decade. He was recently a guest on ID10T with Chris Hardwick and had some interesting thoughts on the wrestling business.
Cena explained a unique correlation between wrestlers and comic book characters. Cena said wrestlers can be considered nerds in a sense because of how they create their characters and present themselves as superheros or villains.
"We are in the business of imagination, and a lot of that creativity rests on your own shoulders. When you say 'nerdy,' and the things that nerds are drawn to, the creativity to video games or comic books, if that is what defines a nerd then we are all nerds because our job is to go out there and be a superhero and a super villain. It's not like, I want to run a 40-yard dash as fast as I can. Now, creating a superhero character, if your character can look muscular or big, then you have the advantage of having your character look like a superhero. So, it's only in your best interest to be in superhero shape, so that comes with the territory. We are not in a pure sport environment," Cena said. "It's a comic book existence, so that is why we share on certain views on culture and that is why we are so nice about everything because we shouldn't be doing it as a job. It's not an occupation that should exist. I think all of us should earn a living because we are never home, and our body certainly takes a beating, but I wouldn't want to be doing anything else. I think any of my colleagues would be saying the same thing. It's like, the joke is on them for paying us to do it. I know personally that i wouldn't want to be doing anything else. I know that it is a time-dependent thing, so I am going to enjoy as long as I am on it."
Cena was asked about wrestlers who get into the industry with the sole intent of becoming famous. Cena chided people who think that way because he believes the essence of the wrestling industry is about learning and performing. Being a professional wrestler is not easy, and he believes it takes a true commitment to the business to be successful.
"If your goal is, 'I want to be famous', what the f**k is the tangible of that? I don't understand that. When I see a ring and I get in, and I say that I just want to learn, and I just want to sustainably do this for my entire life, for as long as I physically can, then the ups and downs will come. When it is up, you can keep the perspective of saying to yourself that you shouldn't be here anyway, it's a great perspective to have because it keeps you working hard," he said. "Sometimes you see complacency in our workplace, and I don't understand that, because if you really wanted to be here, and when put a microphone in front of them, and when they say that they have wanted to do this since they were a kid, then you have to take the bad s**t with the good stuff because it's not all good, and it's tough work, but you should enjoy all of it. You really get to test a person's mental when things aren't going their way. Oftentimes that is the case, but at the end of the day, you are a freaking pro wrestler. You may not have been paired with the person you wanted to work with, but at the end of the day, you are getting paid to perform in front of people, which is a good thing."
Cena also discussed his status as a company guy. He gave a lengthy explanation about his love for the WWE and how he has grown over the course of his storied career.
"For the longest, my goal, I'm a weird case because I love the company I work for. I am a company man. I know that I will not perform anywhere else in Pro Wrestling outside of the WWE because I love the company I work for. You have this life ark of I would like to become a Professional Wrestler. I would like to earn a WWE contract. I would like to become a champion. Then, when you ask yourself why you would like to become a WWE Champion and when you broke that down, it was so more people could enjoy WWE," he said. "I hate the fact that Pro Wrestlers are judged a certain way. I hate the fact that when you walk into a room and people scour and say, 'Oh, it's those guys.' That is fact. That is the way it is. We run episodic television, with no reruns, no off season. We have an incredible global reach. We have a streaming model that is off the charts. Just now, after 40 years of doing this, people are like, oh, wow, okay, this kind of works. The acceptance is due to the fact that YouTubers can be successful. I guarantee YouTubers face the same stigma of only being popular because of YouTube. That just hit me the wrong way early on in my career and it made it a goal of mine early on that I would like to leave this place better than I found it, which is why I did The Marine early on. I didn't want to do movies. I enjoyed living the life, and going town to town feeling the heartbeat of the excitement of that animal. You guys know that if you are out there and telling a joke, or if they are buying the bit, you get immediate satisfaction; or, if you are bombing, it's also immediate notice, like, I'm going to change this.
"It is always another town, and it's always another chance," he continued. "It's the passion of the live animal that is unlike any other thing in this world, but the business model made sense. If I take a WWE performer and make him a movie star, then that is more eyes on WWE. Got it! That works with my mission statement, I am going to do this. I did a string a movies that were unsuccessful, and I gave it everything that I had, but my heart wasn't into it. My heart was in the ring, and now after 15 years of being in the ring, I have to strip it down to the bear minimal of why I keep coming back to this thing? I don't need to. I have been well taken care of by the WWE, so what it is? Why am I not able to have myself drift away? I love the storytelling aspect of it. It's not the physical bumps, it's not like I'm going to do a stunt better than the next guy so that people can appreciate my athletic ability. I am in the twilight of my athletic ability, but I am drawn back because of the material. This guy hates you for this reason, or, if often than norm, when the Creative Writer comes to you and says that you are going to be working with this guy, you guys figure it out on what to do.
"A lot of our guys frown upon that, but I literally take the guy and go into a room and ask him why we are fighting. We can come up with anything. Did I look at your girl the wrong way? Are you jealous of me, am I jealous of you? That is the imagination aspect, which is what makes us nerds. We can take something out of nothing. That is what reintroduced me to film, and I have used my fortunate career in the WWE to not have to do movies. To be handed a script, to read a script, and be like, that was great. I can be whatever they want me to be in it because i just read the story. If the story is good, then you just tell me whatever piece I am and I will be that piece. It is a different thing because you don't have the heartbeat of the live audience, but I get to still be creative in my own way, but to answer your question, I never thought of crossing over other than the reason to change perception of what it means to be a WWE performer. Now, I can get the thing I am most passionate about, which is telling stories for the audience, but under a different format."
If any any these quotes are used, please be sure to credit ID10T with Chris Hardwick via Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Source: ID10T with Chris Hardwick
Peter Bahi contributed to this article.