Over the past fourteen years, John Cena has inarguably become one of the greatest WWE superstars of all-time. The sixteen time World Champion has carried the WWE on his back for the better part of the past decade, headlining WrestleMania after WrestleMania, blowing merchandise sales through the roof and rarely missing any time due to injury.
Amazingly enough, it almost never happened. During the most recent edition of Wrestling Observer Radio, Dave Meltzer revealed that the WWE nearly fired their biggest star before he ever became the Cenation leader we've all come to know and respect.
Meltzer says that John Cena's early call-up in 2002 nearly cost him his career. Apparently the WWE was very close to letting him go, but one very influential WWE superstar changed their mind.
"[John Cena] worked OVW for a while which is where he really learned his craft. He was called up too soon, which everyone knew, and there's political reasons why that happened, and it nearly cost him his career. If it wasn't for Stephanie McMahon taking a liking to him after they'd just about decided to let him go, he could've been gone."
Cena debuted as a fairly generic character
in 2002 under his "Prototype" gimmick, which basically meant he looked like a prototypical wrestler. Unfortunately that was about all Cena had going for him at the time, but Stephanie McMahon saw enough potential in the young superstar to keep him around and Cena was reborn as a rapper from West Newbury, Massachusetts.
Meltzer also speculated on how different the WWE would look today had Stephanie not made the save.
"Imagine that. Imagine this business in the last 11 years with John Cena as the top guy and John being out of the picture. Obviously, they would've gone with Batista as the top guy, and Batista wouldn't have been as good in that situation as John Cena, and he wasn't as versatile as John Cena. He would've been okay, and it's not like the business would've collapsed, but it would've been a lot worse off."
It's very likely the "PG era" may never have happened with Dave Batista leading the way. Batista never was the clean-cut, babyface, superhero that parents would want their kids to emulate. He had a belly button tattoo for crying out loud. Even if the WWE did want to use him in that role, Batista has always been very critical of the WWE's more kid-friendly direction.
As for Cena, we can only assume he would have "never given up" on his dream to become the best professional wrestler in the business. Jeff Jarrett had just started up TNA in 2002 and it would be two more years before they landed a spot on television. Can you imagine a world where John Cena started his career with TNA? Would he have blossomed into a big enough star to make TNA actual competition for Vince? Could we have seen another Monday Night Wars?
I think we can all agree that both John Cena and the WWE are in better places thanks to Stephanie McMahon's powers of persuasion.
Cena will team up with his real-life girlfriend, Nikki Bella, for a mixed tag team bout against The Miz and Maryse at WrestleMania 33 before taking some time off to work on various film projects.
The sixteen time champion will also be hosting this Saturday's Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards, something I feel pretty safe in saying Batista would have never been able to pull off.
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