Interview by Wayne Chinsang
Illustration by Fphatty Lamar



Wayne Chinsang: So, howís it being WWE Champ?


John Cena: Busy, busy, busy. Itís really a dream come true, but they got me runnin', man. I got my track shoes on.


WC: I bet. You gotta prove yourself now?


JC: A little bit of that, little bit of that. And with the Championship comes the responsibility of being a spokesman for the company, so Iím all over doing whatever.


WC: So has it sunk in yet? I know itís been a few weeks since WrestleMania 21, but the sheer magnitude of what being the Champ really is, has that sunk in yet?


JC: Nah. And Iím kinda glad, because when it does Iím gonna be knocked out. They honestly have me going so fast that Iím just living by the words of making it through today-- just trying to make it through every day. It will sink in... and when it does, itís gonna be crazy.


WC: Are you scared that youíll have to stop once it sinks in?


JC: Actually, Iím telling them to just keep me going. Because when they give me time to stop, thatís when itíll sink in, and then Iím gonna need some days to recoup from that.


WC: It seems like your character within the WWE has always been someone thatís always electrified the crowd. I saw you in Milwaukee last year, and after the show you guys did this little thing where you really riled the crowd up. It didnít get aired on SmackDown!, but it was something that was really cool to see. You've always played off the crowd, and the crowd has always played off of you. But do you feel that thatís even more true now because you're Champ? I mean, you always kind of had it, but do you think itís magnified now?


JC: Well, it definitely helps. Before, even without the title, what I was doing got people riled up. But at the same time, if there was somebody else walking around with the belt, he may be their guy. Now the guy that gets you riled up is the Champ. I donít like having John Cena fans. I say weíre all in this thing together. We all work hard. Everybodyís putting forth time, effort, and money to make this thing happen. So instead of being a fan of John Cena, weíre all just members of The Chain Gang. So I put everybody on an equal level to get them even more riled up. If I got the Championship, then we all got the Championship. Itís a hell of a good time out there right now. It certainly does help.


WC: Yeah, and it seems like youíre having so much fun going into the crowd. It seems like itís genuinely you.


JC: Oh, yeah. It makes for a hell of a lot of original moments, because people never know what Iím going to do, and I never know what people are going to do. Itís awesome. It really makes for some great TV.


WC: Does that ever freak the company out?


JC: Of course. Each time I get the mic they worry about whatís gonna happen. They donít know when Iím going into the crowd. They donít know who the hell Iím talking to. It freaks the company out, but in a good way because you canít fake realness. Real recognizes real. When I do my stuff itís coming from the heart-- when we go out in the crowd or whatever. Itís all good.


WC: It seems like your character has had this natural progression. You started out as kind of a trash-talker, but more serious and thug-like. And then you got a lot more playful, and you started throwing nuts at people and shit like that. And now-- not that youíre not playful, because you still verbally jab at people-- but I think you are progressing even beyond that and getting more serious. Is that your natural progression, or just the progression of the character within the company?


JC: To be honest with you, itís just a thing thatís happened. I havenít even been rapping on SmackDown! for quite some time now, and thatís just because... itís not necessary that you have to evolve, but at the same time you want people to know that youíre not just about hip-hop. This is sports entertainment. If you like tuna sandwiches, thatís great. But to feed someone a tuna sandwich every week of the year, after a while you get sick of it. Itís just something to keep it fresh and new. And by the same token, I want the people who are maybe not necessarily into hip-hop music to say, "Thatís my guy. He may like hip-hop or whatever, but heís real." Iím trying to let everybody know that anything is a possibility. If you need me to be serious, Iíll be the most serious ass-kicker there is. If you need me to be funny, Iíll talk the best trash there is and be throwing people nuts. If you need me to get up in peopleís faces, you can be dealing with a thug. If you have all of those components, than thatís the recipe for success, rather than just being one-dimensional.


WC: So, along those lines, with your new album thatís coming out, I think thereís definitely a stigma attached to the term "wrestler's album" because they immediately think of Mean Gene [Okerlund] singing "Tutti Frutti".


JC: Oh, of course. Or Macho Man trying to drop some hip-hop album.


WC: (laughs) Did you hear that album?


JC: I was one of the three people who bought it.


WC: (laughs)


JC: And you can print that, bro. I got no beef with Macho. Macho was great in the ring, but that was somebody trying to cash in off of hip-hop. And to be honest with you, traditionally, music performed by wrestlers has been just that. Itís been an opportunity for them to cash in on music. This album has been a project of mine for the past two and a half years. Itís something I paid for out of pocket, and the main goal of this is to just get that multifaceted realism. When people listen to this album, they may like it or they may not like it. Itís gonna have its critics. But the one thing theyíll say at the end of it is that itís hip-hop. Itís real hip-hop, not some BS. Iíve been rapping now for two and a half years on TV. I should have put an album out the third month I was out and cashed in. Iím not even rapping anymore, but weíre still coming out with that album because you want people to know this kidís nice with the mic when it comes down to it; that heís about hip-hop and making good music. Heís not just throwing some bullshit out there on a homemade Casio.


WC: One of the things that amazes me-- and I think it's also telling of what you do-- is that the hip-hop people you align yourself with are real groundbreaking people in the genre. Iím familiar with hip-hop; we cover a lot of it. In fact, we just interviewed Murs last issue.


JC: Yeah! Thatís my boy right there!


WC: Yeah. So these are not hip-hop ass-clowns you're hanging with. These are real people who do real shit.


JC: With the WWE being the monster it is, I could have gone straight for anybody selling units right now. You know-- Nelly or Jay-Z. I could have tried for them. Itís not that theyíre not real, but theyíre at the top, you know what Iím saying? As a consumer you buy something 'cause it's got Eminem or Jay-Z on it. Or heís just putting out this album because heís got a relationship with G-Unit or whatever. Iím down with cats like Murs and all those dudes from Def Jux: Akrobatik, Mr. Lif. Iím lined up heavy with Freddie Foxxx and Krupt Mob, which, if you know hip-hop, thatís a real real name.


WC: Yeah.


JC: Itís guys like that. Baby Bash over in Houston has got a whole crew of underground cats that we do stuff for on the low-arm strength that some people hear about and some people donít. Thatís how hip-hop is made and how hip-hop is true. If I came in never making a record before and doing all these projects with top guys, thatís really getting thrown in the deep end and thatís not real. Thatís money talking. So with this project, as far as big-name producers go, you wonít see any of them. But as far as big-name artists, youíll see Freddie Foxxx as the biggest name. And then we got 7L from 7L & Esoteric, who did a last verse on a Boston track that we had. Heís a Boston MC, so it fit the mold perfect. Aside from that, itís mostly me and my cousin Trademarc. We want people to know that the album is hot or not hot because of us. I donít want any opinions on the first album because so-and-so did a track for us. Freddie Foxxx is a real good friend of mine, and I needed him on there just because he is hip-hop and that was really the official seal on it. Because people who know about him know what itís about. But as far as getting G-Unit for lyrics or something like that, I couldnít do that this time around.


WC: Itís like youíre surrounding yourself with the real shit, which is awesome.


JC: Yeah. Like I said, real recognizes real. I donít fake the funk on anything. Everybody knows Iím a white kid. Everybody knows Iím from West Newbury, Massachusetts. So on the album youíre not gonna hear about me smoking crack or shooting people. Hip-hop is a form of expression, and thereís a lot of people that come up like that-- thatís their struggle that they're talking about. That ain't my struggle, man. Youíre getting what I live. Youíre getting what I do. This is something that we really kinda had to walk on eggshells with because, youíre right, they hear a wrestler is putting out an album. I was born at night, but it wasnít last night, so I know what comes with that. And then hip-hop is hip-hop. A small-town white kid is putting out an album. Thatís a mountain rather than a hill to climb. You know what Iím saying? So you really have to stay true to it, and you really gotta do you.


WC: How did you hook up with some of the L.A. people?


JC: I had been hassling the whole Hieroglyphics crew for the beats and the production and whatnot. I met those cats and did all my networking through the machine of the WWE. I did a cover shoot with Method Man for SmackDown! Magazine, but I didnít want to reach out to Meth or Red or Wu or anybody like that. Meth is a standup guy, but for the reasons I told you before, for this first album I didnít want any crazy big names on it. So what I did was I helped Murs out. He gave me a blessed opportunity to do the H-U-S-T-L-E remix and the video, which I thought was hysterical. Heís a great dude and a fan. Ian Davis over at Hiero-- heís the main guy over there-- he got my number through Murs, called me up and said he had a bunch of beats he wanted to send me. He sent me some fire. Heís actually responsible for the beat to the new theme song that weíve got. He said all the Hiero guys are fans, so anytime Iím in the Bay Area theyíre all up there. Baby Bash knows Rey Mysterio through the Latino music market. So he hooked up with Rey, and I met him at an event over at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. Baby Bash has got a whole crew of artists in Houston, so anytime Iím over there, as soon as SmackDown! is over, I go straight to the studio and do whatever we need to do. The Boston thing is on lock. I met Freddie Foxxx through WWE here in New York.


WC: Do you know any of the kids in Atmosphere? Any of the Minneapolis crowd?


JC: No, no. In fact, I havenít even gotten up that way. Weíve got a big pay-per-view coming up in Minneapolis pretty soon, so I hope they come out.


WC: So, let's go back to the album. You said you worked on it for about two and a half years, but at what point did you stop and realize you needed to get it on a disc and out to the people?


JC: Man, Iíve got like 90 tracks in the bank. The thing was, Iíve always been a freestyle guy. Iíd never written music, ever. As much as you want to criticize guys like 50 Cent who say thereís a difference between being nice on the mic and writing music, itís the truth. I was always just a freestyler. I didnít know what 16 bars was, I didnít know how to fit a chorus... nothing like that. So the first song we made was the original theme song-- "Basic Thuganomics"-- because the music they gave me was so fucking retarded, and I wanted to do my own shit and make it better. So we got into the studio and made one song, and it was fairly easy. But if you go back and listen to the song thereís no chorus, and itís all scratches and stuff. So we made an album based on how easy the song was to make. Our first project was real gritty underground rap, which thereís nothing wrong with. But when you market that through WWE, and Columbia Records is going to put it out, youíve got to make sure youíre completing the WWE fan base because theyíre the ones that are mainly going to be buying the product. We have a lot of underground hip-hop kids watching our program, but we also have a lot of people that donít know anything about hip-hop music. So through trial and error during this two and a half year period of evolving as a studio MC, we found a comfortable medium where we keep our lyrical integrity. We keep the beats as grimy as we can keep them, but itís easy access for everybody. And everybody can relate to it, you know what Iím saying?


WC: Right. You've got to reach a happy middle ground.


JC: Yeah, exactly. So we got a little something for everybody on the album, and thatís a process. Thatís something that we thought about. A lot of people that try to make an album, especially if theyíre trying to make money off it, theyíll just drop that shit quick, cash in, and then theyíre gone. We really want to appeal to everybody and not only evolve the WWE through this, but evolve hip-hop. WWEís audience is not necessarily the audience for hip-hop music. WWEís always been a rock 'n' roll-based program. So if we can reach out to them and introduce them to an album thatís an easy listen from start to finish, then hip-hop has evolved into something that it didnít see before. And all these hip-hop heads that are closet wrestling watchers can come out and say, "I watch wrestling and itís cool, because my man Cenaís up there kickin' ass and heís real on the mic. I donít have to hide that I watch wrestling, because itís not all long hair and boots and tights. I got my guy up there doing his thing, so I can watch it just like the next guy."


WC: Is it harder making music than wrestling? Whatís a more grueling process for you?


JC: For me, definitely making music. Just because Iím so new to it and Iíve still got a lot to learn. The same goes with wrestling, but I have a comfort zone with it. Iím still trying to find my comfort zone in music.


WC: This is shaping up to be a pretty big year for you. Youíve got the Championship, you're on the brink of a new album, and then your movie-- The Marine-- is coming out. Is that at the end of the summer?


JC: Yeah. Hopefully end of the summer if they get everything correct.


WC: Do you want to talk a little bit about how that came about?


JC: Yeah. It's just like how everything else has happened to me, man. Knock on wood. Iíve just really been blessed with good timing. It was one of those things where they had had the script originally for Steve Austin, who they had just signed for three deals. They tried to work it out with him, but it kind of fell through. They really wanted to do the movie-- they really wanted to jump off WWE Films-- so they asked me if I wanted to do it. I went to the boss [Vince McMahon] and asked if this was something he wanted me to do, and he said he did. So I said, "Okay. Then weíll do it." It was just that simple. We went out to Australia, filmed for a couple of months, and tore it up. They didnít spend a lot of money on the movie, but itís going to look crazy on the screen. We had a great crew down there; everybody anted up and really put forth a great effort. They definitely got above and beyond their dollar's worth, and I had a blast. Itís already snowballing into more stuff. Youíll see a lot more of John Cena on the screen.


WC: How closely related do you see the acting and film stuff to the theater aspect of what you do in WWE?


JC: It has very distant relations because with what we do here at WWE thereís no take two. Youíre in front of a live audience, you give it your all, and that's it. You have to respect wrestlers because there are very few people who can do that stuff in one take. But with acting, you have to do everything with such emotion over and over and over again. You have to keep doing the same thing, because they have to get different shots, different looks, different lighting, reverse angles... all this stuff. So you really have to be on all day long. Itís the same line in the same room with the same setting with the same person all day long. Youíve really got to keep your game face on. Itís tough to repeat that.


WC: So between wrestling and acting, which do you feel more comfortable in?


JC: Definitely in the ring. If you ask me between music or movies or wrestling, my home is the ring. I really love to hang my hat there. Thereís nothing better than being in front of that WWE crowd. Itís one of the most energetic crowds on the planet, no matter where we go. So thatís where I hang my hat, and thatís whatís more comfortable to me. But each venue is a different struggle. Wrestling has a struggle and movies have a struggle. But itís great because each one is different, so it really develops you as an entertainer.

WC: I want to talk about WrestleMania 21 and, more specifically, the Hall of Fame induction ceremony the night before. You and I are almost the same age, and I grew up watching the guys who were inducted that night. So Iím sure thatís the same crew of guys you grew up watching wrestling.


JC: Hell yeah.


WC: And it was kind of funny that night watching you, because you looked like you were so happy to be there-- like a little kid. And I noticed even Big Show was crying. As cool as WrestleMania 21 was, how did you feel at the Hall of Fame ceremony, knowing that someday that could be you up there?


JC: Thatís always a goal and aspiration for everybody-- that you will end up amongst the greatest of all time. But for lack of a better term, and sorry to make it clichť, but this year they made it big. It was great because they made it really big around the people that we watched, so it really had a nice formal setting. The stage was big. The whole presentation was beautiful. You felt like you were part of something serious. Each year it gets bigger and bigger, and Iím sure itíll be bigger next year. But you knew you were a part of something special, and to see the guys that I grew up watching-- the guys that I loved, the guys that I hated-- that made it even that much more special.


WC: It looked like it was a really cool night. I wish that when they had shown it on TV, that they would have shown all six of the guys.


JC: Oh, man, the DVD for WrestleMania 21 is a must-have because all of those guys are hysterical. For Iron Sheik alone, the DVD is a must-have.


WC: I know youíre way into sports video games and that youíve been on a number of them. Is it weird wrestling as yourself on a TV screen in a video game?


JC: You know what? It is weird, because nowadays they make it so authentic. I've got the Xbox version of WrestleMania 21 at my house, and in the next room Iíve got WWF WrestleFest. But when you play WrestleFest itís a cartoony game, so itís like, "Okay, this is what Hulk Hogan looks like in a video game." But when you play WrestleMania 21, dude, they got me. It freaks you out because you wonder what they did to go to that extent to get not only your features, but your clothing and your mannerisms. Everything. Itís uncanny. Theyíre not video games anymore. Itís like a reality simulator. Thatís whatís kinda eerie about it.


WC: Yeah, I asked Tony Hawk the same question when I interviewed him, and he said it was actually kinda hard for him to watch himself take a fall.


JC: Yeah, it is. Itís eerie. Itís very cool, but at the same time itís weird.


WC: Maybe theyíll put you in the next Def Jam game.


JC: Yeah! Gimme a little unlockable character or something.


WC: Okay, so I'm gonna wrap this up, but I've got one last question for you that we ask everyone we interview. The question is, do dogs have lips?


JC: (pauses) Yes. Yes they do.


WC: Okay. I asked Batista that once, and he was like--


JC: He was thrown off by it?


WC: He was just like, (pauses) "Yeah."


Both: (laugh)


WC: So, I'll let you go. But I wanted to let you know that about a year and a half ago one of our writers wrote an article called "Ode To John Cena", and itís one of our most-read stories ever. It's been read about 20,000 times.


JC: Damn! Thatís pretty good!


WC: Yeah, so check it out if you get a sec.


JC: I definitely will.


WC: Alright, have a good one. Oh, and happy birthday next week.


JC: Thanks, man. I appreciate that.