How John Cena Started His Acting Career

When you think of wrestlers-turned-actors, John Cena is probably not the first name that springs to mind. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was arguably the most successful with his prominent eyebrows and penchant for big-budget action films. Dave Bautista made his name shooting characters in Dune and Blade Runner 2049. But Cena quickly proved his worth as both a comedian and an entertainer.

Cena has acted in films such as Blockers, Bumblebee, Vacation Friends, and more recently the Peacemaker series. In an interview with Men’s Journal, Cena explained his recent winning streak in the entertainment industry. “I was fortunate to work with veterans who were knowledgeable about sounds and how to interpret sounds. When the audience took the story in a different direction, the brilliants that were so durable could ride the noise and take the audience in the back.”

Cena is a far cry from driving limousines and sleeping in his car early in his career, he told The US Sun. “I used up my resources quickly and had to think quickly. I didn’t want to go home crying.” In fact, Cena was already one of the biggest names in WWE when he made the transition from wrestling to acting. So why did he want to be an actor?

John Cena became an actor as part of WWE

It turns out that John Cena wasn’t really trying to break away from WWE when he first started acting. Instead, he followed the organization’s instructions. In the early 2000s, WWE decided to open its own film studio in hopes of building its audience. They approached Cena to star in the action vehicle called The Marine, which cast the actor in a Dwayne Johnson-like hero role.

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“Originally, my film career was an order from WWE upper management – ​​like, ‘Hey, make films.’ Originally, I wanted my film career to be an extension of the WWE business model. I get it,” Cena said (via AP). “WWE Studios opened up in 2003/2004, they started making movies, the business model was, ‘If we can make our stars bigger stars, they will come to see WWE.’ Well, that’s what I wanted, but I didn’t want to go to the movies.”

Likewise, at the time, Cena was critical of wrestlers who tried to use the WWE as a platform for their acting careers. Speaking to USA Today, Cena said, “I used to punish people for not being as efficient as WWE.” He admitted that “I was a big failure as a young man. I was judgmental and worried and I wanted to go back in the ring because I loved that instant gratification.” But Cena’s big break in acting was just around the corner.

John Cena turned to comedy after struggling with action films

In 2015, John Cena decided to star in the Amy Schumer-directed comedy Trainwreck. It was a first for the wrestler-turned-actor. Cena’s performance in particular received rave reviews, prompting Cena to book more comedic roles, such as in Blockers, Vacation Friends, and later The Suicide Squad.

“Doing action wasn’t really a good fit for me because it’s the opposite of how I work. It was extremely choreographed and extremely scripted,” he told the New York Times. Cena says he thrives in an environment that allows him to riff and improvise. In fact, Cena told NME that his improv skills inspired him to create his Suicide Squad spin-off Peacemaker, a raunchy R-rated superhero comedy. “I think a lot of those moments could have inspired James [Gunn, director] during the pandemic to write the Peacemaker episode to lean into some of those moments.”

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Thanks to his improvisational skills, Cena has what many wrestler-turned-actors lack. Dave Meltzer, editor of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, told Men’s Journal, “Hulk Hogan didn’t make it, and Hogan was a big star in wrestling.” Blockers director Kay Cannon also told the outlet that there’s just a natural rhythm to Cena. “You can kind of teach comedy, but you really can’t. John just has it naturally. I don’t want to compare him to Tom Hanks because they’re so different, but he’s kind of the everyman; people just love to watch him.”