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February 11, 2009

Q&A with John Cena

John Cena’s second movie, 12 Rounds, opens March 27. I spoke with the WWE world heavyweight champion over the phone last week about his acting career, and I slipped in a few wrestling questions, too.

Was acting in a movie easier for you the second time around after having done The Marine?

It was certainly easier, but I don’t think it had everything to do with the experience from The Marine. We really just had a very, very good crew. Mark Gordon’s production company – he produced Speed, Saving Private Ryan – really stepped in there with Fox to make sure this thing kind of knocked itself out of the park. And Renny Harlin was such a great asset as a director. He’s the guy, whether it had been my first movie or my hundredth movie, that made it very, very easy. He’s a great guy to be around that certainly has an agenda. I’m a beast who runs on schedule because we travel so many days a year, and he was just spot-on, man. He was overly ambitious and he really delivered.

For those who may not have seen the clips on TV, what is the basic plot?

The long and short of the movie is that I start off as a beat cop and I make the bust of my life by accident. I take down pretty much the world’s greatest bad guy. In the process, the girl that he loves gets run over by a truck, so he vows to get revenge on me. He breaks out of prison a year later as I’m finally finding some substance to my life and totally ruins it. He blows up my house, takes my wife to be and challenges me to 12 rounds of survival, the reason being that he is like a game theory addict. He really has a plan for everything, and that night that I arrested him, it wasn’t part of the plan and he never banked on that. So he wants in his mind to know if I’m lucky or actually good. If I survive the 12 rounds, then I was actually that good.

I know that you had an acting coach on the set with you when you did The Marine. Do you have one for this movie as well?


Absolutely. I tell people this is like having my second match, and by the time I had my second match I needed a lot of coaching. I had a coach in pre-production and I had a bunch of great coaches on set. Brian White is a fantastic actor. He plays my partner and my best friend in the movie, and I learned so very much from him. Steve Harris is another guy that I learned so much from, another fantastic actor. The whole cast met me with open arms to try to make the film as good as can be.

Do you do many of your own stunts?

Yeah. Man, I just got to learn to put the stunt guys in every once in a while. Getting beat up on the movie set is wearing on me. What we do [in WWE] is live as it happens. There’s no cut, take three or take four. I couldn’t imagine having to do a match over like eight times. It takes its toll on you when you know you have a stunt day and the whole day is going to be you getting beat up. You go home pretty sore that day.

Both of your movies have been action movies. Do you have any interest in doing something different, such as a comedy?

I do have that interest; I just think it’s not time yet. It’s very similar to our business. You have to establish identity with the audience before you can really spread your wings and open up. I certainly got that in me. I hopefully will have some small chances to showcase that, but I think as far as the silver screen stuff goes, I’m going to stick with the action at this time. I just don’t think two movies is enough.

Ted DiBiase Jr. is starring in the direct-to-DVD sequel to The Marine. Did you talk with him at all or give him any advice before he began filming?

I really think he has a lot of potential to be a success and another person to kind of transcend the wrestling business into the movie business. He’s a very hard worker, learns very, very quickly and understands exactly what this opportunity is. That’s the one thing I really tried to hit home with him. I said, “Listen, they’re choosing you for a reason. The Marine did extremely well on DVD, so when The Marine 2 comes out, just because of the franchise, the DVD will sell, so you’re already involved with something that will be successful. If you do a good job, that’s a great way for you to make a name for yourself on to bigger and better things.” So I think he totally understood that. I certainly didn’t give him much advice about acting because he went through the same kind of torture chamber I did – meeting with an acting coach all the time and really trying to do his best. I just really hit home about how great the opportunity was for him.

What you do in WWE is scripted, but you also do live TV, which means you have to think on your feet and ad-lib. Did you have the freedom to do any ad-libbing in the movie?

That’s the difference, and that’s been the biggest thing for me to adjust to, because I’m one of the biggest ad-libbers there is. I certainly don’t like planning anything, just because my audience is a live audience. You can’t really force-feed them. What I’ve learned is that what they enjoy most is when it’s unpredictable, so I just go out there and do my thing. You can’t really ad-lib a lot in a movie, because there is a story. It’s such a huge production involved. It’s not just one guy and another guy, or a tag team match with four guys. You have everybody, from people in production and lighting. If you move in the wrong direction, you’re in the wrong light, which messes up the shot. That’s a different challenge that separates movies from sports entertainment.

Did you get a chance to see The Wrestler, and if so, what are your thoughts?

I did. I thought Mickey Rourke’s performance was awesome. What a great depiction of a guy who made a couple bad decisions and just really can’t get any focus on anything else but the thing that he loves the most.

Since we’re on the subject of movies: About a year ago, there were quotes from you in The Sun (U.K.) in which you were critical of The Rock for not giving back to the business after he made it in Hollywood. Do you still feel that way? Did the two of you talk about the article in The Sun at all when he was at the Hall of Fame ceremony last year?

No. I don’t want to say that you misread it; I may have been misquoted. What I actually said, and I’ll stand true to it to this day, I don’t even care, is that here’s a guy who, when he was with the WWE, pounded his chest that he really loved the WWE, and that wasn’t the truth. The truth is that Dwayne Johnson is a great actor and I think always wanted to be an actor, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s like an athlete saying, “Hey, I don’t do drugs,” and then getting busted for drugs. It’s not the truth. I mean here’s a guy who said he was WWE through and through, and then the first chance to take a road to a different career path, he took it. There’s nothing wrong with that. Dwayne’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. He’s one of the hardest workers you’ll ever meet, and he certainly is a great actor. The roadblock that I have, because I certainly am in love with this business and I don’t see myself leaving it any time, is when someone says that and then leaves, it cheapens our business. If he’s going to say that, then back your word. That’s the only beef that I have and that’s what I told the people at The U.K. Sun. It just cheapens that phrase: “Oh, I love this business.” So then next time I come up and say I love this business, well, the guy before me who said that left. That doesn’t look good for me or our business.

Randy Orton has been on an incredible roll as of late. I know that you and Randy came up together. Did the two of you ever sit around in Ohio Valley Wrestling and say, “One day, we’ll be headlining WrestleMania?”

No. As a matter of fact, when we were in OVW, we thought we wouldn’t make it out of Kentucky. I don’t want to say we were two lost souls, but we were surrounded by talent that was one of the greatest developmental units to ever be assembled. I think WWE started the developmental system in the mid ’90s, and that class of 2000 through ’02 I think is the most successful that has ever been. We were literally just two average guys among some very gifted performers, and never once did we think we’d be headlining WrestleMania.

What do you think about Orton’s performances recently?

I’ve said this before and I said this before his – what is this, his fifth or sixth “breakout?” – that he is the best guy we’ve got. He is certainly the best performer of my generation.

Here’s a question that comes up frequently: Will your character ever turn heel again? Would you be open to doing it?

Here’s the deal with my character: I’m in a really unique place. You’ve seen me get cheered, you’ve seen me get booed. Where I’m at right now, there is no good guy or bad guy. I can just be me, with certain little adjustments to my character, I guess, that makes me a “good guy” or a “bad guy.” The people who are going to decide that are the paying customers. When they get sick and tired of me, they’re going to turn on me. And when they turn on me, I’ve openly shown in situations where I get booed that I can turn on them back.

Credit: Baltimore Sun photo of John Cena by Kenneth K. Lam / Dec. 1, 2008

Posted by Kevin Eck at 6:16 PM | | Comments (43)
Categories: Q&As


i love cena man.
just tells it how it is, no beating round the bush
can't wait till 12 rounds come out
john cena & randy orton best 2 all round performers of our generation
john is exactly right to say what he said about the rock it was nothing but the truth
john cena is the definition of passion and for the rock to say he loved the business was just bulls---

I don't care what anybody says. I've been a John Cena fan since way before it was cool to be one.

He is really backing himself into a corner, should he ever decided to leave wrestling for the acting business.

Stiiiir that pot Kev . (re: Rock) .

Good interview.

Cena is setting himself up if he ever wants to leave wrestling for Hollywood.

Or he is playing us all to the hilt.

Maybe Cena is trying to spin it back on us because the Rock beat him to it.

Cena's right because it's impossible for The Rock to love wrestling but want to venture out and do different things. We all know that if we leave a job we must have hated it or else we would have stayed forever. So The Rock should say that he hates wrestling and the WWE and say he's glad he got away from those idiot wrestling fans.

I don't know what Cena's true beef with Rock is because it's more than just Rock making a career change and saying he loves the business.

I don't know if it's jealousy, if he wants a match with Rock, or if he is genuinely upset that Rock left but a lot of wrestlers have left WWE, how come Cena doesn't say anything about them. Either way it's ridiculous for Cena to assume anything about what Rock thinks of WWE. And to say if you love WWE you would stay with it forever. And he is also saying in a way that Rock leaving WWE has devastated the WWE universe so bad that they'll never believe a wrestler loves this business again.

But everyone has a right to their opinion no matter how stupid it sounds.

Is it not possible that Johnson did love the wrestling business at one point and later fell out of love with it? How many fans have walked away from wrestling after loving it once upon a time? I wouldn't say that those fans have cheapened the business. I would say that they wanted a change of scenery.

I dont think hes backing himself into a corner. I think what he means is that its one thing to retire from wrestling and go on to movies, but its another to say you live for the business then one big movie comes along when youre in your prime as a wrestler and you say screw this and leave.

Cena's just a great guy and I understand where he's coming from. Dwayne seems like he's a really good guy but one can't help but feel like he turned his back on the WWE fans. It was as if this business of loyal fans were used to upstart his acting career. It's kind of sad really. And now that he's REALLY distanced himself from the business, it makes it hard to believe that he ever really loved the business. But that's just how I feel about it.

As for Cena, I think he's right about his character. No matter what he does from this point on, he's still going to have people that love him and hate him.

John Cena sucks, it is torture seeing him wrestle, cut a promo etc.

Not that I wish this on him or anyone but RAW is so much better when he was injuried and not around for months.

Y2J was better as champ and RKO will be better too when he defeats him at WM25.

The explanation that John Cena gave regarding the Rock doesn't make any sense whatsoever. Does he really thinks that if someone loves the business, they are somehow obligated to remain in the business forever? That it is not possible to part ways with something that you genuinely love? That it is not possible for someone to have more than one passion in life, to love both wrestling and acting?

I agree with Elevation: if John Cena ever leaves the world of wrestling for anything, we will have a field day lambasting him as the biggest hypocrite on the planet.

I'm still holding my breath waiting for Cena to be heel again. A couple months ago when Cena and Jericho were having their little "Cena returns feud", and Cena had that spot on Raw where he totally went ballistic on Jericho - I got really excited cuz it looked like Cena had gone psycho.

Even if he doesn't go "heel" per se but goes more towards beat-you-senseless-with-your-own-spleen badass face - I feel like he would make more sense as a character.

Cena is a complete tool for hanging onto his simplistic arguement that Rock leaving wrestling proves he didn't "love" the business. And anyone who feels that Rock turned his back on the business and his fans is even a bigger tool...just one step above the "it's real to me" idiot.

Rock did what most people would do...he made the best financial choice for himself and his family. Wrestling is a form of entertainment; it doesn't save lives, it doesn't teach our children, it doesn't do any number of things that society could not do with out. Rock can entertain far more people doing what he is doing now then by wrestling. If anyone, to include Cena, is offended by that...grow up.

Great interview Mr. Eck, :)

My Main problem with John Cena, and i've been saying this for the last couple of years, is that They, The WWE Over-Market John Cena like he's Hulk Hogan, and its soooooo cheesy and cartoonish. Its Like they've gone back to the 1980's, like its some little kiddie game again. Plus yeah, Cena is way too much of a baby face.

Great interview tho.

To John Cena and the rest of you people here senselessly discussing about The Rock's departure, just quit talking ok? Dwayne did not do anything horrible. He carried the WWE for 5-6 good years. Yes, he said that he loved the WWE and then left it for Hollywood. But that doesn't mean that he actually hated wrestling. I mean its ridiculous. How many of you guys have been in a job that you loved and were then offered a better job, a job with tonnes of money, a job where you did not have to put your body on the line? Would you have made the switch? Hell yes! No matter how much you loved your previous job, there comes a day when you say enough is enough and try to move on to better things. In Dwayne's case opportunity knocked his door and he took it. Now Cena and all wwe fans can boo the rock all they want. It only proves that they do not have the mental maturity to move on in life. Life goes on. It does not stop for anyone or anything. Just go on Cena, try to be atleast 1% of what The Rock was in the ring. And then you can talk about love for the business and everything else. Achieve 1% of what The Rock achieved with WWE, let alone Hollywood. You can't wrestle, neither can you act. Stick to one thing, Cena. Trying to imitate Dwayne may be fatal. You never know. Actually I (and I say this with no remorse) would rather see you in Hollywood fulltime. Cannot, simply cannot see you performing in that ring. I mean, how did you and Randy Orton graduate from the same class? There's so much difference. Orton is so much more complete and I have to agree only on this one thing with you, Cena. Orton is the best in the business now.

I don't see where people don't understand where John is coming from regarding The Rock. It is well known that several times the WWE has asked The Rock to make a quick appearance coinciding with a break in his schedule only to be rebuffed by him.

Notice he doesn't say Hogan or Foley? 2 others that have made the cross entertainment jump? Because they even while doing movies, books or whatever still found time to occasionally poke their heads back in for the companies and fans who helped support them in the first place.

I may be wrong/I may be right but that's how I interpreted his words. Like him or hate him but you have to respect him because he hasn't wavered in that opinion in the slightest because he believes in that.

Yep, you could back a bus through the gaping holes in Cena's logic. I guess Ric Flair falls into the same category, right? After he retired, rather than stick around as an ambassador for WWE, he decided to break away and actually take up some opportunities (unrelated to wrestling) that he couldn't while under contract to WWE. Ergo, he doesn't really love the business.

Pretty stupid, I'd say.

On the other hand, I do respect that he seems to be saying what he honestly believes, and that he takes the time to genuinely put over other guys. That says something about him.

If the Rock loved wrestled he would not have turned his back on his fans to make movie.
when was the last time we saw the rock involved in wwe stuff......
John cena is the man...

i think cena is a little off with his views on rock and should probably have a little respect for rocks decision. he is never gonna be a patch on rock so this doesnt really make cena look good..

rock had wrestling in his blood! his dad and grandfather were both wrestlers so he was around it his whole life, and rock WAS wrestling. he was the greatest performer we have ever seen. he is not just a good actor.. he achieved everything he needed to in wwe, he has every right to move on. not to mention the fact that wrestlers do not age well and hang around long after they should then their bodies get banged up permantly. rock is very lucky to be able to leave ON TOP. his legacy is intact.

Rock is a 3rd generation wrestler and possibly consulted his father and grandfather, knowing what could happen if he stayed and thought of his well being. I am sure Rock loves the business, now Cena is headed in the same direction. In time we will see what he does.

I'm surprised he didn't kayfabe you on the Orton question.

"12 Rounds" looks like a strong candidate for Worst Movie of 2009.

I like cena but on this subject he is full of it. You're telling me that if "The Marine" had been a huge box office draw and hollywood studios were knocking down his door with multimillion dollar offers to make films that he would'nt even consider leaving wwe? With the lifestyle that wrestlers have to live you can't blame any of them who may find lucrative other career paths

Cena's comments towards the Rock was harsh,but I completely understand his logic. Rock is a 3rd generation wrestler who made a name for himself in WWE but after two starring roles he completely turns his back on the people who supported him. Dont get me wrong cena will never be the great one but the rock has completely distanced himself from WWE (he doesnt even refer to himself as the rock anymore) and when last has he even made an appearance on Wwe. But stating the ROCK doesnt love the wrestling industry is purely his opinion as any true fan knows its in the ROCKS blood. One thing I can agree on about cena's comments is that ORTON is currently the best in the business .


Cena is a loser who is not half of what he is pumped up to be. The Rock may have loved wrestling but when he started to get multiple movies that actually make money (unlike Cena's) for millions of dollars he has to focus on that. If Cena was a better actor he wouldn't be talking trash. The Rock was a star when Cena was setting up rings in rural Kentucky.

...... settle down Gustavo ...........

Of course Cena can do comedy, he does it every week once the bell rings.

Sorry, Kev, couldn't help myself. In all seriousness, I don't know that he's particularly suited for comedy. He'd have to do a little better than poopy jokes, that is unless he's not trying to aim any higher than the mark Vin Deisel set for bad comedies.

Cena is lame now. I don't find him entertaining at all. He can't wrestle and his promos are nothing to go crazy over. We've gone from having a foul-mouthed SOB lead the WWE to Barney.

Hey Kevin,

I'm not going to try to understand what either Cena or Johnson think or feel, but has anyone considered the possibility that this could be a work, possibly that after No Way Out, Orton might not be up against Cena for WM - so Cena will need a logical opponent at WM 25 and "The Rock" will make a one night only reappearance? It might be wishful thinking - partly because I'll be uninterested in Cena vs Orton and partly because I was a big fan of the Rock.
But I didn't see anyone else raise the possibility that this could set up a match.

It seems logical to me because with the exception of Jeff and Matt Hardy, the story lines are a little weak going into WM 25 and there isn't much time left.
If it is all over between HBK and JBL at NWO, HBK will need a good story in a hurry (C'mon Undertaker vs HBK!)

Cena and Orton is sure to get Cena booed out of the building and I don't think WWE wants Cena booed (or orton cheered) at WM25... then again, Cena will be booed if he fights the Rock too....

I think it will be risky for HHH to win the belt at NWO, and if they waste him on Koslov for WM after the farce at Survivor Series, McMahon has TRULY lost his mind.... (worse if they waste Undertaker on Koslov)

A lot needs to happen at NWO to set the stage for WM 25.

One last comment I'd like your thoughts on Kev,,,, the money in the bank match, assuming they are still doing it this year - I think they should cap it at 6 people. the first two were the best, then the 3rd with 8 people was a bad match in my opinion,,,, then of course there were only 7 last year, but we all know that wasn't the plan. It just seems with 8 people, after a big move, guys have to stay down too long to let other guys have their big move. Looks silly....

Money in the bank should include:
Morrison, Kofi Kingston, Shelton Benjamin, Rey Mysterio, Evan Bourne if he's back and MVP.
I'd be a mark for Kofi to win.....I know it probably wouldn't happen but I think he's great!

RESPONSE FROM KEVIN ECK: There is no way Rock is going to wrestle at Mania. Never say never, but I don't think the odds are good that he will ever wrestle again.

Seems to me that a lot of people bashing Cena and putting the Rock over - like he needs it - forget that Dwayne also had far more than his share of poopy jokes.

Rock was smart, he left when he had his health, his wealth, and his ambition intact. He's not going to be a guy who dies in his late 40s because of the "business."

I find Cena's comments to be childish, in all honesty. Maybe The Wrestler hit too close to home for him? Everything I've read about him says he has nothing else in his life but wresting. No wife, no girlfriend, nothing, just wrestling. Sounds like Randy the Ram.

I Agree with John cena to in extent I cant say that the rock didnt love this business but he sure doesnt care about it as much as he would leave us fans to think he did he had no problem putting the name rock in his first few movies but soon as he established his self in the movie business all of a sudden he doesnt wanna be know by the rock anymore but i do respect the rocks decision its his life and i futher enjoy most of his movies but the fact that he doesnt give back to the wrestling business at all makes me to believe that he may love the wrestling business but hes not in love with the business bacause i dont care how much you have going on we as people know we all make time for the things were in love with with in its clear to me is wasnt in love with this business and to say at the hall of fame ceremony that he would consider a match with austin then totally shoot it down the next time hes asked if hed ever wrestle again questions his integrety and that he tell the wrestling fans anything like were complete idots that say teh rock was a tremendous in ring performer that I truly miss one of my favorites of all time and im still a huge fan of the rocks ops mr.johnson to this day but when it comes to that issue I more in the corner of john cena but I wish the rock all the success in whats hes doing and look forward to his next big screen picture. And john cena may or may not be the the best in ring performer but no one can deny what john cena cena has accomplished hes the biggest name in wrestling today and he puts butts in seats whether you want to see him lose or win cena keeps the attention of every wrestling fan as sold more merchancise in a single year than all but steve austin yes even the rock and the great hulk hogan and wrestling wouldnt be the same without him and whether you like it or not thats the way he feels about the rock situation and for everbody comparing his in ring skills to the rock and getting all over him for his comments he never said rock was a bad performer or anything about the rock as a man or human being he just gave his opinion on the rocks love for this business so for all you people taking personal shots at john cena probably need to find something else to do to hate a man im sure most of you people never met and even wishing in injury on a guy is rediculous and while i agree randy orton is the best thing going on tv today john cena has carried this business for the last 3 years has put is health on the line coming back from injury not fully 100 percent for the better of this business says a lot to me that not only does he love this business but that hes in love with this business.

I'm not defending the Rock. I consider myself a pretty big movie fan and the only movie of Rock's I find bearable for any reason besides camp (see: Rundown) is Walking Tall. Not that I don't think he can be good either. I just think he either needs a better agent or more discretion when it comes to taking roles. As far as his comedy roles, well let's just say that if given the choice I'd rather watch Southland Tales than The Gameplan. I'm not saying Cena would be any different, I'm saying he'd probably be the same and that the market for those types of comedies is already oversaturated.

As far as Cena's comments, I've got a mouth on me and I think that if I were in the biz I'd be just as outspoken, if not more so, so I don't know if I can rightly fault him. Still, I do like to base these judgments on connection to wrestling, time put in, and perceived effort. Cena's getting pretty close to Rock in terms of years given to the industry, he might even be higher by now, I'm not keeping track. Rock, though, has an intimate connection with the business through his family and, in my opinion, was a better worker than Cena. Based on that, it's still a wash for me. I think Cena was justified in what he said to Eck, but I think he was out of line when he said Rock, "doesn't give anything back."

I can understand occasionally putting your foot in your mouth, because I've been there before, but I think Cena needs to start working on his speech skills and doing more prep before every interview. It seems like every time he talks to anyone the next week he's going back and clarifying this or retracting that or being taken out of context. If that keeps happening then there's a simple solution: be a better public speaker or don't speak as much. If you're clear and concise in what you're saying in the first place then it's harder to be taken out of context, as it seems Mr. Cena is so often, according to his own account.

I love John Cena. I think he don't give himself enough credit. Randy Orton is not a better wrestler to me. John is not overratted neither. Cena is one of WWE biggest money makers, if not the biggest. To me he is the best wrestler that WWE has.

i have become Cena 's fan from today as he is really honest

omg i love him so much he is the hottest living male in the world beating of course BRAD PITT

i love u baby so MUCH
my love 4 u is priceless :)

muaahhhh xoxoxo

Hell yea! Cena fan 4 life. Down since day one=)

I want to wrestle you, on Moday Raw from 5:30 to 6:30. I wont to be like a little John Cena on the 25, so I can go to Wrestle Manna.


I believe Cena is very correct on everything he spoke, and he was great on not offending anybody in the means of it. He's right about The Rock, and he worded it very well. I cannot wait to see this movie. Ive watched WWF and WWE since i was 8,and Cena has got to be the only one who gets my heart pumping every time 'You Cant See Me' comes on! I have never turned on him, and I believe if you like someone so much, you should have pure commitment to them, thru good or bad times.

Cena is R.O.C.K....!!!!
So do not disturb both of 'em.

i love john cena.
he is fine.
and he is my hero

I watch westlng last night in Great Britain. John Cena was just about to resign before something happened as usual.

I think he should this will end wwe Raw for good.

I am not really interested in the nexus I find them boring.

A message to the main leader go and hang yourself your are disgrace to England.

As Queen Elizebeth 1 would say there is someone bigger and stronger then you.

You will not last long mr manager of Nexus.

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About Kevin Eck
The Baltimore Sun's Kevin Eck blogs about professional wrestling.
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