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THROWBACK: John Cena Made His WWE Debut 15 Years Ago, Today

Joe Baiamonte

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THROWBACK: John Cena Made His WWE Debut 15 Years Ago, Today

Featured Image Credit: WWE

Long before he discovered jean shorts, fluorescent t-shirts, sweatbands and spinning title belts, John Cena was a fresh faced former Prototype in red spandex and a damp buzz cut.

In 2002, the WWE was in the early throes of their post-Attitude Era hangover via a botched WCW Invasion, attempting to transition from the era of Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock into the age of 'Ruthless Aggression'.

The Rock would be dethroned as the company's Undisputed Champion by Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam of that year, essentially ending his run as a full time wrestler, while Austin walked out on the company having been asked to stare at the arena lights, also for Lesnar, in a King of The Ring qualifier on an episode of Monday Night Raw.

In their place, the likes of the aforementioned Lesnar, Edge, Rey Mysterio, Rob Van Dam, Eddie Guerrero, Jeff Hardy and Kurt Angle were pushed into more prominent, main event level roles. And it was during one of Angle's 'open challenges' on the 27th June, 2002 edition of SmackDown! that John Felix Anthony Cena would introduce himself to the world.


Credit: WWE

Cena would lose to the Olympic gold medalist that night, before scoring an upset victory over Chris Jericho at Vengeance a few weeks later.

However, early high profile feuds aside, Cena wasn't necessarily a 'Next Big Thing' in the same vein as the monstrous Lesnar, who cleaned up with the 2002 King of The Ring, two WWE Titles, a Royal Rumble victory and WrestleMania headline slot within his rookie year, complete with clean victories over The Undertaker, Hulk Hogan, Angle and The Rock.

In fact, Cena spent the remainder of 2002 and beginning of 2003 turning on Billy Kidman and teaming with B-Squared (Bull Buchanan) and Red Dogg (Rodney Mack). Hardly the main event superstardom we've associated with Cena since he won his first WWE Title at WrestleMania 21, in 2005.


Cena and his bride-to-be Nikki Bella. In typical WWE fashion, the pair were engaged at this year's WrestleMania, in front of a crowd of over 60,000 people. Because wrestling. Images: PA

However, Cena's 'Doctor Of Thuganomics' gimmick was catching on, saving a career that, as Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer has said on previous occasions, was heading for a 'future endeavours' letter before Cena channeled his inner Vanilla Ice during a Halloween episode of SmackDown! in 2002.

Following his WrestleMania 19 snub, where he was left matchless on WWE's biggest show of the year, Cena briefly feuded with Lesnar for the WWE Title and entered into a programme with the Undertaker.

Less than two years and three United States championship reigns later, Cena was confirmed as 'The Man' when he lifted his first WWE Title, defeating JBL at WrestleMania 21 in Los Angeles.


John Cena
John Cena

How could you not love this man? Image: PA

In the intervening 12 years, Cena has amassed a further 15 world titles, tying Ric Flair's (inaccurate) record of 16 reigns. He's also become a crossover star who can be seen doing everything from supplying Tina Fey and Amy Poehler's house party with drugs to hurling homoerotic threats at fellow cinema goers and covering his dick and balls with an athletic sock in a couple of his more memorable Hollywood appearances.

When he's not talking dirty to Amy Schumer about protein shakes, however, Cena is also granting a record breaking amount of wishes for the Make-A-Wish foundation (Cena has granted more than 500 wishes, more than anyone else in history), presenting Saturday Night Live, the ESPY's and Nickelodeon's Teen Choice awards. Or he's appearing in WWE reality series' Total Divas and Total Bellas with his bride-to-be Nikki Bella, who he proposed to in the middle of the ring at this year's WrestleMania in Orlando. Because of course he did.


Credit: WWE

And to think, the mad bastard has managed to do all this despite the fact none of us have been able to see him for most of the last 15 years.

OK, I'll see myself out.

Topics: Wrestling, John Cena, WWE

Joe Baiamonte
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