Veteran WWE Superstar John Cena appeared on The Pat McAfee Show this week and revealed his reaction to WWE Chairman & CEO Vince McMahon wanting to turn him heel several years back.
Cena, who did media this week to promote The Peacemaker on HBO Max, gave props to the SmackDown commentator and said he’d been wanting to do the interview for a long time, and that he’d give McAfee all the time he wanted because he was exceeding Cena’s expectations.
McAfee asked Cena at what point did he realize acting would be his next move after years of being a top WWE Superstar. Cena revealed how in 2012 McMahon considered turning him heel for the WrestleMania 28 main event against The Rock in Miami, which The Rock won.
“I’m playing a character that, you know, like I said, a character of virtue, a character that started as a generic wrestler, and then morphed into this hip-hop persona, then morphed into this character of virtue,” Cena said. “To play the same character for a long time, that’s a challenge. I loved the challenge, I really loved it when like, early on, you know… I remember Vince toying with the idea of possibly turning me heel for The Rock, The Rock I in Miami, and I told him, like, ‘Hey, no problem, 100% I’ll do it, but just remember that this is so… we’re so deep in at this point, we can’t do it and then jump back because we’ll be sunk at both ends, so if we do it, I have to be the opposite of virtue, I have to be pure evil and we have to go all in.’
“And from a believability standpoint I’ve always… you know, people always see me in uniform, go figure that. If you didn’t see me in a suit in WWE, you saw me in a ballcap, t-shirt, jean shorts, sneakers. You saw me in uniform because I want people to know that what they see is somebody they can relate to.”
Cena continued and commented on how Vince decided against the heel turn, and decided then that they would probably never make the turn.
“And he [Vince] decided against it,” Cena continued. “It’s at that point, he was like, ‘Listen, I don’t think we’re ever gonna do it.'”
Cena talked more about playing his character in WWE, different characters in movies, and the story-telling aspect of WWE. He recalled his Firefly Fun House Match loss to “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania 36, and his recent SummerSlam feud with WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns.
“So that’s me getting… OK, you have the luxury of playing this character, but you always are gonna play this character, which was great,” Cena said. “It got me to dive into nuances that kind of spawned the creation of, like, The Firefly Fun House Match, where like, ‘Yo, what if I went on a meta experience through all of my flaws and, like, my timeline.’
“So you could do stuff like that, but it’s really fun to be able to be like, ‘Hey, you wanna be this weird dude who thinks he’s a superhero and murders people in the name of peace? Yeah, yeah, that sounds like a great time, I’d like to do that as well. Or do you want to be this weird conflicted boyfriend and have awkward sex with Amy Schumer on camera, and like, yeah that’ll be fun, I can tell some jokes during that, that’d be fun.’
“So, it’s not that I thought I would be any good, it’s when you do something for so long as you do it… what brings me back to WWE isn’t the falling down, it isn’t the improvement of physical skills, it’s the story-telling. I like being able to tell a story with Roman Reigns, that I don’t think he’s a worthy champion, and for people to buy into that, and not because he’s not… not because of the value of the belt, let’s say. It’s because of who he is as a human being, and point out what I believe are his character flaws, and then we go back & forth about that. I love the challenge of telling a story and acting is literally just being able to change characters whenever you want, and tell a new story. And I found that pretty intriguing.”
Cena has not worked a program since losing to Reigns at SummerSlam in late August. He returned on September 10 for a dark main event at the SmackDown from Madison Square Garden, teaming with The Mysterios for a six-man win over The Bloodline, but he has been away since then.
For those who missed it earlier, you can click here for Cena’s recent comments on his WWE future and his WrestleMania 38 status.
Stay tuned for more from Cena. You can see his interview with McAfee below:
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