On the October 1, 2007 episode of Monday Night Raw, John Cena suffered a torn pectoral muscle during a match with Mr.Kennedy that would sideline him for 6 to 9 months. This was during the time Cena was the face of the company and the WWE Champion for an entire year. During the Grillin' JR Podcast, Jim Ross discussed Cena's injury that year and how you handle a big injury to a major star.
"Next man up," Ross said. "It's the only option you have, you can't wave your hands on it. It hurt, your top merchandise seller, your top draw, the face of the company at that time. It hurts. We had to persevere, you have to do a show every Monday night, it was a bad deal but you have to work through it.
"It was an adjustment and we had to regroup and sometimes that's a good thing because it gives somebody an opportunity that they might not have. Are you ready to step up when somebody ahead of you on the roster goes down? Are you prepared mentally to assume that role? It's the inevitability of this business, for those that say it's fake, it's amazing how fake these injuries are because these guys are having surgeries for no reason I guess."
Instead of being out the expected 6 to 9 months, Cena would return to WWE in just 4 months at the 2008 Royal Rumble, which he went on to win. Ross talked about Cena's constant motivation to come back from injury for WrestleMania that year and the appreciation the fans showed him that night for coming back so soon.
"What I remember about that night, when he was introduced, the ovation was defining," Ross said. "There was no booing, there was no gimmick booing for attention. The ovation was real, organic and natural. People were not tired of seeing John Cena. I still think the booing is what they think they are expected to do, cause they are getting recognized and noticed for it. The only other time I can remember something like that was Triple H's return and I think there was a time Austin came back the crowd went crazy. It was very impressive and we were so glad to see him back."
Ross also talked about what Vince McMahon saw in John Cena to not label him as injury prone and why he always chose him as the face of the company.
"Passion, John's passion was overwhelming," Ross said. "His dedication to his craft was overwhelming. I don't know that anybody had any doubts that I talked to. I don't think there were any massive apprehensions because we knew we were going to the right guy. Here's the thing about this, John was a guy who never said no, he worked his ass off for seven days a week or 10 days a week if there were 10 days in the week. He loved what he did. His record for Make-A-Wishes, granting wishes for terminally ill children, nobody is even close. That was the kind of guy he was, he would never turn anything down that's the kind of guy he was.
"He did everything he was asked to do. Because he was such a big star, the people that were asking knew John liked to do these and he won't say no. All of a sudden they get the top talent who isn't going to say no so they're silly not to ask him. He didn't turn anything down but the cover. He was just always there, we didn't have any issues of if John was injury prone. He worked all the time, worked a hard style. The point being is at no point did we lose confidence that John Cena wasn't going to hold up."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Grilling JR with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.