John Cena: If I Embodied 'Ruthless Aggression' In My Debut, I Would've Kicked Undertaker In The Nuts

John Cena watches his 20-year-old WWE debut match back with 20/20 hindsight.

Twenty years ago, John Cena debuted against Kurt Angle and while his debut match did not result in an rise to instant superstardom, it laid the groundwork for what would become one of the most legendary WWE careers of the modern era. This year, John Cena is celebrating 20 years of being a WWE Superstar and as part of the celebration, he is looking back on his debut match and reflecting on what he would do now with the benefit of hindsight.

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John Cena says he found out about his debut just hours before the show began taping and when reflecting on his first meeting with Vince McMahon, someone that would become a father figure to him, John recalled the very first sentence McMahon ever spoke to him, “Cut his fucking hair.”

Truth be told, this wasn't even a sentence spoken to John. Rather, it was a sentence spoken about John and in his general direction but the words were spoken to Michael Hayes.

“I found out at 2:45 in the afternoon that I'd be wrestling Kurt Angle. I had one meeting with Mr. McMahon before this, and I was pushed into his office and Michael Hayes asked like, ‘What do we do with this?’, and Mr. McMahon's first sentence to me, it was a short meeting. He said, ‘Cut his fucking hair, and then I was out of the office,” John recalled.

Much of John Cena’s legacy today is tied to the polarizing reaction and the sheer amount of emotion he can make an audience feel. However, back in 2002, John Cena debuted in front of a very apathetic audience in Chicago, Illinois. Watching his debut in hindsight, John Cena wishes he and Kurt Angle could have slowed down and found a way to make the audience care but instead, he says that the match was a lot of fast-moving action that “all meant nothing.”

“I mean, you look back on stuff like this and I definitely could have done better with the idea of ‘ruthless aggression,’ and been embodied that more rather than just wear boots and tights, which is a rabbit hole we all find ourselves going down, ‘my look will identify my character,’ which is a bit of it, but it's also demeanor and nuance and all,” said John. “This is just a bunch of stuff. I don't mean to — I guess the goal was to make me tired. How's that a test of one's ability to sell tickets at a low price? You know, it's weird. Here we are. 20 years later, I got an accidental match against the top performer and it was kind of like an inside joke to see if it would make me exhausted.

“I just got beat and I'm standing up and Kurt's down, and I have to fall down,” John continued. "Reacting to his immediate lack of selling following his first defeat on WWE television. “But no, it doesn't seem like the audience cared about it, which I always try to look past the ring. If you look past the ring, not too many folks care.”

Continuing on, John Cena also says he wishes you would have been body “ruthless aggression” during his backstage segment with The Undertaker following his debut. John Cena goes so far as to say that if he truly was meant to embody ruthless aggression, he would have kicked The Undertaker in the nuts upon introducing himself.

“I just did what I was told, instead of being ruthlessly aggressive,” John continued. “Here I am, in fact, shaking hands and everybody and all that and this is awesome. This is an awesome moment. Certainly, it was pretty genuine. Everyone's like ‘Hey, maybe you did really good. Let's put it on tape.’ But here I am, intimidated by The Undertaker, John Cena. If I am aggressive and ruthless, I wouldn't really be intimidated by anybody, right? I might not ask to shake Kurt's hand or any of that. You know, here I am, marveling at my own hand because The Undertaker shook my hand. If I really embodied ruthless aggression and kicked him in the nuts, you know, or bowed up to him and say, 'Hey, I'm going to take that championship in a week or so.’ It’s such a — man, it is not a shame because it was a good learning experience. The story turned out okay, but especially now after I see the match, I see the audience and where they lose interest. You have to slow down, you have to tell a story. Just doing what I was told in performances like that almost got me fired, and I can see why because you look at the audience, nobody cares.”

20 years later, it's very obvious that John Cena was able to make people care. John will be returning to WWE to celebrate with the WWE Universe on Monday, June 27, in Laredo, Texas, for Monday Night Raw. Learn more here.

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