John Cena found himself in hot water from all parties in late May 2021. While promoting Fast & Furious 9, Cena referred to Taiwan as the first country to experience the movie premiere.
While this should be a normal statement, it stirred up major controversy. China is a big market for all blockbuster Hollywood films and the popular Fast & Furious franchise was no different.
After pressure from outside parties, John Cena posted a video on his Weibo account (China's Twitter equivalent) apologizing for calling Taiwan a country. Speaking in Mandarin, Cena said:
“Hi China, I’m John Cena. I’m in the middle of Fast & Furious 9 promotions. I’m doing a lot of interviews. I made a mistake in one of my interviews. I made one mistake. I have to say something very, very, important now. I love and respect China and Chinese people. I’m very, very sorry about my mistake. I apologize, I’m very sorry. You must understand that I really love, really respect China and the Chinese people. My apologies. See you.” (h/t SCMP)
The move was made to save face and ensure that the Fast & Furious 9 premiere went smoothly in China. Unfortunately for John Cena, his comments stirred up an incredibly negative reaction worldwide.
The backlash towards John Cena's apology
John Cena's apology for calling Taiwan a country was met with severe backlash and not just within WWE. While Andrew Zarian of the Mat Men podcast revealed that his apology wasn't going over well in WWE, that was the least of it.
Cena's apology received extensive mainstream coverage from the likes of CNN and BBC and also faced backlash from famous personalities online and politicians as well, who described it as "pathetic".
Joe Rogan described John Cena's apology to China as a "cultural shift", referring to the incredible money inflow that comes from the Chinese market.
Reports revealed that an incredible $135 million of the $162 million revenue in the opening weekend of Fast & Furious 9 came from China alone. That certainly explains a lot.
There were a few who came to the defense of Cena, such as WWE Hall of Famer JBL:
Was John Cena unfairly criticized or was he forced to make his apology because of the Chinese market?