Speaking in the second episode of the WWE Network documentary series Ruthless Aggression, John Cena admitted that he failed in his role as a babyface following his memorable debut against Kurt Angle on SmackDown in June 2002.
At the start of the episode, which focused on Cena’s OVW beginnings and his rise to stardom as one of WWE’s biggest names, he was asked in a sit-down interview what the words “ruthless aggression” mean to him.
The 16-time World Champion, who said the legendary phrase in Angle’s face after Vince McMahon had challenged Superstars to show “ruthless aggression”, gave a brutally honest assessment of his own performances during that time, revealing that he thought he was a “failure” in his first few months on WWE’s main roster.
“The takeaway from Ruthless Aggression for me… failure. I failed at that. It was a golden opportunity and one of the biggest misses in my WWE tenure. I failed, and although I didn’t know how to fix the failure, I sure as s*** knew that I failed.”
How did John Cena fail?
As the documentary went on to show, John Cena made a huge impression on his debut against Kurt Angle – so much so that he immediately earned the respect not only of his opponent, but also of The Undertaker and other Superstars in the locker room.
However, as the months went on, the crowd slowly started to turn against Cena, who failed to establish a character for himself as a babyface on SmackDown.
In October 2002, Cena debuted a new rapper gimmick – “The Doctor of Thuganomics” – and he was soon able to connect with the audience.