Let’s be honest: hailing from the rolling hills and broad valleys that constitute West Newbury, Mass., will likely never earn you “street cred”--unless, of course, you’re John Cena. Then again, it didn’t happen overnight for him, either. Long before he became the Dr. of Thuganomics, young Cena had to endure the neighborhood rocker kids’ taunts about his baggy pants and rayon Kwamé shirts. His love for freestyling lyrics about rebellion and individualism just didn’t fit within the small rural community. By the time he turned 15, however, those same kids would stop teasing him, for it became apparent that Cena had been developing another passion: hitting the gym.
After applying to more than 60 colleges (and being accepted by 58), Cena attended Massachusetts’ Springfield College, where he excelled as a Division III All-American offensive lineman and team captain for the Pride. But as much as he fondly remembers his college football accomplishments, he’s equally as proud of earning his degree in Exercise Physiology, which he attributes to making him a smarter, more durable performer in the ring today.
Though a huge WWE fan since childhood, rooting for heroes like Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, and Shawn Michaels, Cena had honestly never even considered a career in sports-entertainment. Instead, he flew out to California in 2000, to pursue a profession in bodybuilding (a move he now admits to making simply because his father had told him he wouldn’t make it out there). But while working behind the counter of Gold’s Gym in Venice, a discussion with a wrestler-in-training encouraged Cena to enroll in classes at Ultimate Pro Wrestling. He was instantly hooked, and became motivated to learn everything he could about his newfound craft. He obviously proved a quick study; within a year, World Wrestling Entertainment signed Cena to a developmental contract to train at Ohio Valley Wrestling. By June 2002, he had joined the SmackDown roster, and less than a year later headlined the first of what has since become countless main-event matches.
That said, Cena has never forgotten his roots. In fact, remembering where he came from has helped him evolve into the man he is today: a well-versed hip-hop artist, a successful movie star and a blue-collared Chain Gang Soldier who’s always ready to fight. In his jean shorts and Reebok Pumps, he leads his WWE fan-based army into battle with the mission statement he’s been down with since Day One: hustle, loyalty and respect