In early 2002, WWE had to undergo a massive change in their roster after The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin took extended leaves of absense. This saw the emergence of up and coming new Superstars such as Randy Orton, John Cena, Brock Lesnar, and Batista, who made their WWE debuts after completing their training in the developmental facility of that era, Ohio Valley Wrestling.
One such Superstar, as we mentioned above, was John Cena. He burst into the scene in 2002, answering an open challenge for a match against Kurt Angle on the June 27th, 2002 episode of SmackDown. Even though he lost, Cena garnered the respect of the locker room, even The Undertaker, who shook his hand when he made his way to the back.
A few months later, after a period of time with no direction or storylines, the man who would later becom the face of the company adopted the persona of a trash-talking rapper, being dubbed the 'Doctor of Thuganomics'. This made him stand out from the rest of the Superstars on the show and helped him to get over with the WWE Universe. The change in attitude quickly propelled him to superstardom, earned him the WWE Championship, and helped him eventually become the "franchise" of the company.
WWE has released a documentary series on called 'Ruthless Aggression' which contains interviews from Superstars of that era. The 2nd episode of the series focuses on Cena, and within his interview, he revealed how he came up with the popular character.
Cena said that while traveling on a bus during a European tour, he along with some other Superstars such as Rikishi and Rey Mysterio, started freestyle rapping to pass the time. He added that Stephanie McMahon, who happened to be in the front of the bus, overheard what was going on behind her and was impressed with Cena's rhymes. She didn't necessarily belive that he hadn't written his words ahead of time, so she asked him to prove it by coming up with rap about a can of tuna on the spot.
"She had a can of tuna fish and said, ‘okay rhyme about this’. And in two seconds I made a small rap about the tuna fish, the jetway, the plane we were about to go on, the destination. And then kinda closed it with a comment about Stephanie. She was like 'would you like to do this on television', I said 'absolutely'."
Cena was later given an opportunity to prove himself on TV, and his rapper persona first appeared on a Halloween themed episode of SmackDown, which saw him rap whilst dressed in a costume reminiscent of Vanilla Ice. It was an instant hit with the WWE Universe as well as the higher-ups, and the character which defined his early years in the company was born. The 16-time World Champion will be facing 'The Fiend' Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania 36 this year, which will stream live on April 4 and 5 on the WWE Network.
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