By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.
You might be able to “see” him, but the whole world seems to know John Cena. Especially this week. The WWE superstar-turned-Hollywood actor created quite a stir on Tuesday after he profusely apologized to his fans in China for calling Taiwan a country. That, in turn, caused people to criticize Cena for supposedly caring more about money than human rights.
No matter how you view the situation, love him or hate him, it seems Cena has once again been thrust into the spotlight. Here are 10 interesting facts about one of the most polarizing wrestling stars of the modern era:
♦ John Felix Anthony Cena was born on April 23, 1977 in West Newbury, Massachusetts. A natural athlete, he would become an All-American offensive lineman for Springfield College, a Division III college football team in Massachusetts.
♦ Cena graduated in 1999 with a degree in exercise physiology and body movement. He then worked as a limousine driver and briefly pursued a career in bodybuilding. He quickly turned to professional wrestling, however, and relocated to California to train under Rick Bassman, a talent agent who discovered many notable mat stars, including Sting, the Ultimate Warrior and the Miz.
♦ Although he looked the part and sometimes incorporated references of a military background into his wrestling persona, Cena never served in the military. Over the years, however, he has formed a lasting bond with the U.S. Armed Forces. He even took the lead role in the 2006 WWE Studios-produced action film, The Marine.
♦ Cena got his start in the WWE in October of 2000, when he received a tryout match for the company’s “Smackdown” program. Just months later, in 2001, he signed a deal with the WWE and was assigned to its developmental camp, Ohio Valley Wrestling. There, Cena worked on his mat skills and personality. Early on, he was known as “The Prototype.”
♦ Cena was called up to the main roster in 2002 and quickly established himself as a promising young talent. By the end of the year, however, he turned into a cocky villain who incorporated freestyle rap routines into his promos. Cena then billed himself as the “Doctor of Thuganomics.” In 2005, he released his own rap album, You Can’t See Me, which eventually went platinum.
♦ By the fall of 2003, with the fans behind them, Cena returned to being a fan favorite. At the next WrestleMania, he captured his first singles title, the United States championship, by beating the Big Show.
♦ A year later, at WrestleMania 21, Cena defeated JBL to win his first world title. He would later win the world championship 15 more times. His 16 world title reigns ties him with Ric Flair for the most in WWE history.
♦ Over his wrestling career, Cena has performed with a who’s who of wrestling royalty, including the Undertaker, The Rock, Kurt Angle, Randy Orton, Brock Lesnar, Shawn Michaels, Triple-H, Edge and many others.
♦ While not officially retired from wrestling, Cena has transitioned to an acting career, appearing in films such as Daddy’s Home 2, Bumblebee, Playing with Fire and F9. Later this summer, he will play “Peacemaker” in the DC Comics film, Suicide Squad.
♦ To date, Cena worked with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to grant more than 650 wishes for children with life-threatening upillnesses, the most in the organization’s history.
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