John Cena recalled in the latest episode of WWE Network documentary series Ruthless Aggression that WWE originally planned to fire him in 2002, just five months after his SmackDown debut against Kurt Angle.
The 16-time World Champion admitted throughout the episode that he “failed” in the role that was given to him by Vince McMahon after his memorable debut match, and he was informed before WWE’s European tour in November 2002 that he would be given his release later that month.
“The WWE, they used to make a series of cuts around late November and around mid-May. I was told that I would be getting my release at Christmas cuts because it just wasn’t working, and there was no argument there, it wasn’t. They gave it to me on a silver platter – John Cena, Ruthless Aggression – and I failed, I messed it up.”
Cena went on to say that he thought he was being booked to have “one last time in the ring” when he teamed up with Dawn Marie against Billy Kidman and Torrie Wilson in mixed tag matches on the European tour.
He then joined in with a freestyle rap with Rey Mysterio and Rikishi at the back of a WWE tour bus, and Stephanie McMahon – one of WWE’s writers at the time – enjoyed it so much that she asked him to make it part of his on-screen character.
From that moment on, Cena became “The Doctor of Thuganomics” and WWE decided not to release him.