20 years ago, a young talent in WWE was just getting his start, wrestling in trunks based on the local town’s sports team and promising to deliver “ruthless aggression.” That young man was future 16-time World Champion John Cena, and WWE Hall of Famer John Bradshaw Layfield was one of the first to notice his star potential.

Talking with Busted Open Radio, JBL was asked about how he saw Cena in those early days. “I don’t think the magnitude of being a star, but being a star? Yes, no doubt about it,” JBL said, noting that Cena was already prepared for the strenuous requirements of a 30-minute main event match, describing it as “a world of difference” from the usual 8-minute match. “Anybody can be trained to do that, you start the match, get heat, go home.”

“A 30-minute match is difficult, and that’s really deep water,” JBL continued, “because now you’ve got to go on a rollercoaster and you’re into the unknown.” JBL wasn’t sure if he was Cena’s first 30-minute main event, but notes that he was one of the first to take Cena into “the unknown.”

“Vince pulled me aside and asked me ‘How is he?'” JBL continued. “And I said ‘He’s your guy.'”

According to the former WWE Champion, “Vince was really surprised, happily surprised,” and apparently the WWE chairman & CEO “had no feeling one way or the other.”

“He said, ‘Really?’ and I said ‘Yeah, he’s that good,'” JBL said. He was quick to note that he didn’t expect Cena to reach the proverbial stratosphere and become a 16-time world champion — “Nobody did” — but Layfield said he “could tell right away that this was the guy that they needed going forward.”

If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit the “Busted Open Radio” and give a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.

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