In June 2002, main-roster newcomer John Cena faced Kurt Angle on an episode of WWE SmackDown. Although he lost the match, the rookie Superstar showed lots of potential during his impressive five-minute performance. He even earned a handshake from respected locker room leader The Undertaker backstage later in the night.
Like John Cena, Masters worked for Ultimate Pro Wrestling (UPW) before joining WWE’s Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) developmental system. He told Dr. Chris Featherstone on SK Wrestling's Inside SKoop that John Cena’s career path showed that he was also on the right track.
“We were motivated. We knew, for me personally, we knew, okay, wow, we’ve seen all the success Cena and these other guys were having. It just kind of gave me some direction. Me being a little bit younger than those guys, I kind of looked up to guys like Cena and these other guys because it was like, ‘Oh, okay.’ It kind of showed me a path to take.”
Watch the video above to hear more of Chris Masters’ thoughts on John Cena’s early years in WWE. He also discusses the importance of wrestlers having enough size to stand out and turn heads in public places.
Chris Masters on John Cena’s rapper gimmick
John Cena famously became The Doctor of Thuganomics after Stephanie McMahon heard him rapping at the back of a WWE bus. Although that gimmick change worked, Chris Masters says other Superstars are not always so fortunate.
“That’s the funny thing. In that case, it worked. But you’ve kind of got to be careful because sometimes if you show them the wrong thing and they run with it, now you’re stuck maybe doing something ridiculous or something you did not want to do.”
John Cena performed as The Doctor of Thuganomics from 2002 to 2005. He gradually turned into a good guy again and became the face of WWE for the next decade.
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