John Cena, a name that is firmly asserted in the world of WWE and is arguably the biggest star in the sport in recent memory.
While it’s hard to imagine anyone breathing the rarefied air that Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock once breathed, Cena is certainly among those who came closest since both men departed wrestling.
The 43-year-old’s turning point came in early 2000, during a casual conversation he had with a wrestler at Gold Gyms who encouraged him to participate in classes at Ultimate Pro Wrestling.
For Cena, the suggestion of making a go of it as a wrestler was not an entirely outlandish idea. John Sr made a living as a wrestling announcer and businessman which showed the sport was very much a part of the Cena household.
As a kid growing up in suburban Massachusetts, the younger Cena spent many hours glued to the television, witnessing his wrestling heroes Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior and Shawn Michaels go at it in the ring.
Becoming a wrestler himself, Cena’s rise was rapid.
Calling himself “The Prototype,” the ambitious wrestler captured the Ultimate Pro Wrestling Company on April 27, 2000, in San Diego, California. During the course of the next year, Cena drew the attention of WWE executives, and in 2001, the young upcoming entertainer signed a developmental contract with the company to work at Ohio Valley Wrestling.
Cena captured the OVW heavyweight title in February 2002, then made his WWE debut that June when he signed up with the SmackDown roster. Just two years later, Cena took home the United States Championship, defeating The Big Show in March 2004 at WrestleMania XX.
In the years since, Cena has notched many wins and titles. In 2007, he became the first wrestler to ever come up victorious against Edward “Umaga” Fatu.
Along the way, Cena was given the nickname “The Marky Mark of Wrestling,” which in turn, greatly increased his celebrity status. Similar to Hogan, Rock and a few others, Cena proved that his showmanship in the ring translated to success in other venues.
Even with the busy schedule of WWE to think about, Cena began to star in movies during the production phase of WWE. He starred in the action films The Marine (2006) and 12 Rounds (2009).
Now, his acting profile has gone from strength to strength, where he has featured in Bumblee Bee and the latest instalment of the Fast and Furious franchise, which is expected this year.
For the first time since 2002, John Cena went a full year without wrestling just prior to this year’s Royal Rumble. The 16-time world champion has been one of the most marmite characters in the WWE for as long as anyone can remember, but a classy entertainer none the least.
Happy birthday, John!