“After much contemplation and 6 years of being together Nikki Bella and John Cena announced today their decision to separate as a couple,” the statement on Bella's Instagram account read. “While this decision was a difficult one, we continue to have a great deal of love and respect for one another. We ask that you respect our privacy during this time in our lives.”
The couple had been together for six years and was engaged to be married, with their relationship chronicled on the E! reality shows Total Divas and Total Bellas.
See the couple's relationship photos in the months leading up to the breakup that fans are now revisiting in the wake of the heartbreaking news.
Since their engagement in front of millions of fans at WrestleMania 33 in April 2017, between Bella's stint on Dancing With the Stars and Cena's skyrocketing fame as a movie star, there have been signs of cracking in the couple's bond.
During an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in March, Cena revealed that he was on "standby" as far as a date goes.
“I was able to let Nicole plan the bachelorette party and she just finished that,” he said. “And now I’m just kind of on standby to know when it is and where it is, and I’ll be there.”
In a recent appearance on the Today show with Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb, Cena opened up about the current state of his relationship with Bella, which was hinted at in a trailer for the new season of Bella's E! reality series, Total Bellas.
In the trailer, Bella can be heard asking, "So we really want to call this off?" with fans assuming they were discussing their wedding.
On Today, Cena said, "I think in relationships, you have highs and lows, and that was an extreme low."
He continued, "You have two choices. You either jump ship and start a new relationship or move forward and try to work through it. We're gonna move forward and try to work through it...I believe we both have some work to do, and we're genuinely trying our best to work through it, so I'm very happy to say that it's in a situation that we're working through. We haven't yet jumped ship."
In the preview for season 3 of Total Bellas, the pro wrestlers have a tearful conversation about Bella's desire to have children, even though Cena has been open about not wanting to have kids in the past.
"I would never force you not to be a mom," Cena tells his fiancée.
"I thought I could really sacrifice that and I just can't," Bella responds.
"I'm not sure we should go through with this," Cena tells her.
However, Bella assured fans in an appearance on Steve TV last month that the wedding was still on and that the moment was just that, a moment of doubt.
“We had a moment where we did call it off. I think the one thing that I realized about wedding planning is everyone always tells you how amazing it is and all these things, but I think you also come to realize how permanent it is and you do a lot of soul-searching. I wanted this for 6 years and when I came face to face to it, I had to be like ‘wait, is this what I want?'" she said.
Prior to the split announcement, Cena posted a cryptic Walt Whitman quote earlier in the day that made the story quite clear in retrospect.
"We were together. I forget the rest," Cena posted on Instagram without a caption.
Fans are just as confused as they are heartbroken about the breakup, with many pointing out that Cena said he couldn't wait to marry his bride-to-be less than two weeks before Bella announced the split.
On April 6, Cena told PEOPLE while promoting his new movie, Blockers, how he already felt married to the Total Bellas star.
“People come up to me and say, ‘I love watching your wife on television.’ And I love that, so that happens to me 10 times before it would be a, ‘Yo man I love your work.’ It’s always, ‘I love watching your wife on television,’” he said, adding that he wished the two had tied the knot “yesterday.”
“I’m already ready to go there and it sounds nice hearing it,” he said of fans calling Bella his wife. “I know that we will have a wonderful future together because I love the way that sounds.”
Additionally in the April 6 interview, Cena opened up about planning the wedding, which was allegedly planned to go down in May.
“I want it yesterday, but we have a date,” Cena told PEOPLE at the time. “I’m excited, but I also have great perspective that I want the day to be important for Nicole.”
He even said that while Bella had taken the lead when it came to wedding planning, he was still "very much actively a part of the process."
"I'm involved in every single step of the process, but I am like the last checkpoint. So, let's say, decor will be chosen. And then I'll be given three options but be nudged to like number two. I will politely agree to number two, but I am very much actively a part of the process," he said.
Sunday was an active day social media-wise for Cena. After posting the cryptic Walt Whitman quote and after Bella announced the breakup, he shared a tribute to Full Metal Jacket actor R. Lee Ermey, who died Sunday after a bout of pneumonia at the age of 74.
Cena shared a photo of Ermey in Full Metal Jacket with no caption, as he typically does.
Later Sunday, Cena shared a graphic on Instagram that read "worst day ever," a reference from The Simpsons.
"Worst Day Ever!" a read photo of Comic Book Guy from the iconic animated show the wrestler posted to his Instagram Sunday evening.
Bella is reportedly "devastated" by the shocking split, which reportedly came just weeks before their reported May 5 wedding was set to take place.
“She never gave him an ultimatum. He talked a really good game about having changed, about having his priorities straight, about knowing what’s important, and that it was her. But as the day got closer, it was like he just went back to who he’s always been — which is someone who puts himself first, always,” an insider told PEOPLE. “He’s an incredibly dedicated, driven, ambitious guy. And for the longest time, he said he didn’t think he had room in his life for a spouse or kids. It seems like in the end that was still the truth.”
The source continued, “But in that case, he never should’ve proposed, let alone in front of millions of people. Now she’s heartbroken.”
Cena had previously been married to Elizabeth Huberdeau from 2009 until 2012, had been vocal about his desire to not get married again, though things seemed to change when he proposed to Bella during Wrestlemania in April 2017.
“This was supposed to be the happiest time of her life. He ruined it and blew everything up," the source told PEOPLE, calling Cena the "ultimate heel."
“In wrestling, there are two archetypes: faces and heels,” the insider explained. “A face is a good guy, a hero, who you root for. A heel is a villain, who sometimes can seem like a good guy but then turns around and shows his true, evil colors. John Cena just revealed himself as the ultimate heel.”
Monday morning, Cena posted a more succinct statement about the breakup than his cryptic posts from Sunday.
"Hardship, loss, and humility are extremely difficult waters to navigate, but perseverance thru them builds a strength to withstand anything life throws your way," he wrote on Twitter.
Cena's followers responded to his tweet with a wide array of reactions, ranging from sarcasm to support.
It sounds rough but I think every fan has experienced some sort of break up. They know how much it hurts so we're all hoping for the best for both of you moving forwards— Tom Colohue (@Colohue) April 16, 2018
"It sounds rough but I think every fan has experienced some sort of break up. They know how much it hurts so we're all hoping for the best for both of you moving forwards," one fan wrote.
Facts. I loved them together but if they need some time to be apart then it's understandable, Nikki & John are human just like all of us. In my opinion, I just hope later on in life they find a way to get back together.— Candace Rutherford (@AndersKitten) April 16, 2018
"I loved them together but if they need some time to be apart then it's understandable, Nikki & John are human just like all of us. In my opinion, I just hope later on in life they find a way to get back together," another said.
Dolph ziggler cashing in pic.twitter.com/nSe95HckR0— ♦️ J O K E R ♦️ (@IAmAJoker_) April 16, 2018
Others saw this as an opportunity to poke fun at the failed relationship and remind us that Dolph Ziggler, Nikki's ex-boyfriend, is now back in the game.
Enough! Ziggler isn’t doing anything but living his life.— Ashlyn aka H-Lori✨ (@RealHannahLori) April 16, 2018
"Dolph ziggler cashing in," one fan wrote alongside a gif of Ziggler.
"Enough! Ziggler isn't doing anything but living his life," another argued.