John Cena has revealed that if it weren’t for his bars, his WWE career would have likely been cut short.
In a recent interview with Andrew Santino on the Whiskey Ginger podcast, the former wrestling star-turned-actor talked about his love for Hip Hop and how his ability to freestyle early on in his career when things weren’t going so well led to longevity in the ring.
“People didn’t know who I was. Things were good, but no one could attach to who I am … I was about to get fired because I wasn’t doing well,” he said, adding that he was preparing for what he thought was his “final” overseas tour in the U.K.
“On the tour bus overseas, they travel us all together and some of the guys are freestyling in the back. So I went in the back and waited for my turn and joined in, and just did the best I could — and tried to unleash the fury.”
“In the front of the bus was Stephanie McMahon [daughter of WWE executive chairman Vince McMahon] and she was the head of the writing team,” he added. “She was like, ‘How did you remember all that?’ And I explained to her the concept of freestyling. And she was like, ‘Well, make something up about me right now.'”
After delivering a freestyle on the spot about McMahon, Cena was asked if he was comfortable adding the bit to his routine — a decision he obliged and believes saved him from being cut from the squad.
The new routine, which began as a simple costume before transforming into his new persona, debuted on the Halloween episode of Smackdown that year.
Ironically, Cena shared that his love for lyricism wasn’t always appreciated, admitting he was often bullied in high school and college due to his fondness for the culture.
“I got bullied for listening to Hip Hop music growing up in West Newbury, MA,” the 45-year-old said, noting that his town was quite small — about 1,200 people.
“It was all jeans and Rock N’ Roll,” he explained. “Like, hair bands and metal. And in the late ’80s, early ’90s, I loved Hip Hop.”
“I would dress like Kid ‘N Play — House Party style with rayon polka dots, wingtip shoes, you name it,” he elaborated, before adding he’d also let his pants sag like “Jump” hitmakers Kris Kross.
“I got harassed and beat up every day,” he concluded.
Oddly enough, in 2005, the 16-time WWE World Champion released his first studio album You Can’t See Me alongside his cousin Tha Trademarc. Released by WWE Music Group and Columbia Records, the project was an instant hit, debuting at No. 15 on the Billboard 200 chart with over 140,000 copies sold in its first week.
Boasting guest appearances from Big L, Bumpy Knuckles and Esoteric, as well as production from Jake One, You Can’t See Me has since been certified platinum by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), commemorating over a million sales domestically.