We’re in the Age of Design, initiated by Apple Inc., where the most popular products are sleek, durable, and adaptable. And each new version that’s released to the public is more popular than the last, with noticeable upgrades in hardware and software.

If there’s a human version of the perfect design, it’s John Cena. It’s difficult to gauge whether we’re at Cena 2.0, Cena 3.0, or something even later, since his range of skills could position him as a game show host, the lead in a major motion picture, a sketch-comedy cutup, or a WWE elder statesman who drops into Raw and other productions to throw a few taunts and elbows. Cena’s most recent achievement is playing firefighter Jake Carson in the family comedy Playing With Fire (released Nov. 8). It’s the latest of his cinematic turns as a lovable brute with a big heart and a twinkle in his eye. 

While mainstream moviegoers may see Cena, 42, as an overnight success, he’s the first to tell you the journey has been anything but quick and easy. Cena’s rise in popular culture has been steady but not glitch-free. As with any well-designed product, the strategic improvements had to be updated before the final version hit the market. 

“The movie thing has been almost 20 years in the making. The hosting stuff has been 10 years of promoting WWE,” says Cena, who currently helms Nickelodeon’s Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? “I understand why people say, ‘Man, you came out of nowhere.’ But I know myself, I know my journey. I know exactly what it took to get here, and I know exactly where I want to go.”

And that’s the key to the latest design of John Cena. He’s his own creation.
 
“I have known with a clean and surgical purpose every single deed from the second I picked up my first weight at 12 years old,” says Cena, who grew up in West Newbury, MA. “That’s the sole difference between me and someone who says, ‘Well, I kind of want to do that.’ You say you want to continue to raise the bar, what are you doing now to raise it? We just don’t ask ourselves that question enough.”

It was his stints on ESPN and WWE programs that opened the door to hosting, one of those media jobs that look a lot easier than they are. As any WWE superstar will tell you, doing any outside gig while mired in the brutal WWE schedule is usually a pipe dream. But Cena was willing to put in the time and effort.  

“The hosting work was essen-tially betting on myself,” he says. “A lot of this stuff, I’ve been fortunate enough to do, but it comes with tremendous sacrifice.”

Not that he’s complaining, of course. In fact, it was all part of the plan. 

“I remember working Sunday night shows, flying to do the Today show, then flying to Raw, and then flying back to the Today show. But that’s on me. I’m orchestrating all of that.” 

Wrestler and movie star John Cena sitting and resting on a bench in a gym

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