HOW JOHN LANDED ON TOP
FROM BULLIED KID TO HOLLYWOOD STAR: THE WRESTLERTURNED-ACTOR CLEARED OBSTACLES AND LANDED ON TOP
He’s built a career playing vibrant, larger-than-everydaylife characters, so it’s not surprising when John Cena shows up for a Zoom interview to promote his new film The Suicide Squad decked out in full costume – helmet, gloves and all. “No-one is ready for it, but everyone needs it in their life,” Cena says of the movie and his flashy attire.
At 44, the Massachusetts native who became famous as a WWE champion before landing roles in big-screen fare like Trainwreck, Blockers and Bumblebee is having a blockbuster summer. He stars in Fast 9 and The Suicide Squad and will appear at multiple WWE live events including SummerSlam during the “Summer of Cena”. Now at a peaceful place in his life, Cena, who married his girlfriend Shay Shariatzadeh in 2020, is taking stock of the past and planning for the future. “Over the years, I’ve grown more self-aware, empathetic and understanding,” he says. “My perspective has changed. I’m not trying to relive my life at 30. I’m enjoying where I am.”
How did your childhood shape you?
I grew up in West Newbury, Massachusetts. The population was 1200, and there are no traffic lights. The town is predominantly white with very low diversity. It’s a beautiful place and I’m happy to have been raised there, but I’m glad I’ve had the opportunities I’ve had because the more you get to know about the world, the more you can know about yourself.
How did wrestling prepare you for your acting career?
WWE has prepared me for life. Period. We are all storytellers, and you have to learn the tricks of the trade and then the environment. WWE has made me the human being I am today. It’s given me independence, the ability to adapt and be humble. Even when you think you’re at any level of achievement, there’s an audience right there to tell you that you’re not – and they’ll be very vocal about it.
What sparked your initial interest in fitness?
My passion for strength was out of self-defence. I used to get picked on a lot because I was different in the way I dressed and expressed myself. As you’re an adolescent, social cliques form, and I didn’t fall into any one of those. I got tired of getting beaten up. I asked my dad for a weight set, and he got me one at 13. I started working out, and I haven’t stopped. I was doing it to protect myself, but that time spent in my little home gym was also balancing my mental wellness. It prevented me from doing harm to myself. It prevented me from fighting back and wanting to get revenge. It’s been balancing me out since I was a teenager.
How has your workout routine changed over the years?
I used to want to be as strong as I could [be], and that meant being stronger than I’ve ever been in my life. Now that I’m looking long-term, that has to change. Sometimes that comes with some embarrassing and uncomfortable stuff, [admitting] I’m not as strong as I used to be. I now do 40 minutes of uninstructed yoga a day, and it’s a very humbling experience trying to learn to be flexible when you’re not. Today I’m on a quest for wellness, so I can continue physical fitness for the next 30, 40, 50 years.
What’s your favourite way to unwind, especially after the year we’ve all had?
It can be to just kick up my feet and look at the sky, or take a nap or jump into something physical. Everyone has had ups and downs in the past year. The thing that I love most is spending time with folks I love.