To say that WWE Superstar John Cena has accomplished more than most in sports entertainment would be a dramatic understatement. As one of the most popular and decorated performers of all time, he's reached iconic status.
The former 16-time WWE Champion was undoubtedly the flag-bearer for the promotion as it evolved from the Attitude Era and started displaying Ruthless Aggression. While wrestling fans sometimes malign this period, there's no denying the success that The Doctor of Thuganomics has had - both in and out of the ring.
Cena, now 45, eventually made his way to Hollywood, finding success on the big screen. With The Rock now a massive movie star, The Leader of Cenation would likely be the next former WWE Superstar to pin down the motion picture industry.
In the meantime, he has appeared in magazines, has been a TV star, and is a top-notch philanthropist. He is, quite frankly, one of the most recognizable celebrities in the world today.
But it all started with Ruthless Aggression. Here's a look at a few reasons why John Cena was the perfect poster boy for this millennial mat movement.
#5 - John Cena was much better in the ring than he is often given credit for
Let's get the elephant in the room herded away: John Cena was never a 'five-star' performer between the ropes. He often worked a very formulaic match, which prompted some in the WWE Universe to chant, "YOU CAN'T WRESTLE' at The Champ.
The audience often booed him like a heel, even though he was supposed to be a mega babyface. Of course, these same fans grew tired of him being on top for so long. That all boiled over when he faced Rob Van Dam at the ECW One Night Stand 2006 when he headed into very hostile territory.
Cena, himself, has admitted that he was never a technical wizard, but he didn't have to be. Like Hulk Hogan, he was more valued as a character than a grappler.
Overall, his in-ring work wasn't sloppy or plodding. He didn't bust out moonsaults and a lot of amateur mat work. But he did enough in the ring to tell a compelling story, and in professional wrestling... that's all that matters.
#4 - He came along at a time when WWE needed a new Franchise Player
Just as John Cena was debuting with the promotion in 2002, two of WWE's greatest performers were departing.
Stone Cold Steve Austin, beset by a myriad of injuries, was forced to retire. On the flip side, The Rock had to pull back from the squared circle to spend more time in front of the camera.
When he fired The Shot Heard 'Round World Entertainment by slapping Kurt Angle, Cena essentially fired the first salvo of the new era. Ruthless Aggression was officially put on the map.
#3 - John Cena has never had legal problems or any signs of addiction
In an era when some of wrestling's most beloved superstars have been arrested for several outside-the-ring activities, Cena's record remains clean.
As the main man in WWE, he had to watch everything he did in the public eye and conduct himself accordingly. He embraced it, all with class and elegance.
It may sound like no big deal, but fame has destroyed many talented athletes and entertainers. WWE never had to worry about that when it came to the Cenation Leader.
Cena carried himself professionally and as a gentleman, all while serving as the face of his generation.
#2 - His work with Make-A-Wish and other charities has been unmatched
Cena has made more visits to sick children than any other celebrity in the Make-A-Wish Foundation. That says a lot about his character.
Cynics may call it a public relations move or photo opportunity, but those in the know will tell you that John Cena's dedication to the organization is genuine. At times, there have been moments where it's clear that he's emotionally moved by meeting these tiny warriors.
Despite what anyone might think, those visits mattered to the hundreds and hundreds of sick children more than anything. It's often overlooked in the grand scheme of things.
As an ambassador for the world's largest sports entertainment company on the planet, John Cena put his heart and soul into this important cause.
#1 - 'Hustle, Loyalty & Respect' wasn't just a catchphrase
John Cena's work ethic is legendary, whether in the gym, on the road, or in promotions. To keep up with his intense schedule for over a decade, he had to keep his nose to the grindstone. It wasn't a problem for The Champ, and he faced it all head-on, typically thriving.
Of course, he reaped the fruits of his labor. Fame and fortune are great motivating factors for anyone - especially a young athlete. But this future WWE Hall of Famer took it to a new level.
Along with that, he remained fiercely loyal; to Vince McMahon and WWE over the years. When a tragic or serious event happened, Cena would often be out front with the media. He acted as the ultimate spokesman and staunch defender of his profession but remained measured and reasonable.
The combination of all these factors not only made John Cena a legend, but the timing of his rise to fame was what was so important.
In 2002, the promotion was waiting on its next big thing, and they found one—a perfect package that was the perfect blueprint for the future.
Kind of like... A 'Prototype' or something.
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