Whereas John Cena might have divided the opinion of wrestling fans over the course of his career, he has become a much more beloved figure since he ended up as a full-time wrestler and made his way to Hollywood, where he is also finding great success .
Many would argue that Cena is the last true mainstream star WWE produced, and the company has never really been able to replace him as the best babyface. They tried with Roman Reigns, but it was a spectacular failure, and he found much more success as a heel instead.
Cena wasn’t always cast as the face of WWE, however. He was set to be released from the company at one point after struggling to make an impact on the main roster. Everything was about to change when he left his bland character behind and became the Doctor of Thuganomics!
John Cena’s Early WWE Struggles
Cena had a pretty good run in OVW, which was WWE’s developmental territory in the late 1990s and through most of the 2000s. There, he played a character known as The Prototype and was part of the Legendary Class of 2002, which also had names like Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton and Batista.
Of these four, Cena’s future looked the darkest. He didn’t have the size and looks of Lesnar or Batista, or the natural ability of Orton.
After being called up to the main roster, he was repackaged and simply called by his real name. Unfortunately, he didn’t really have a gadget and was just a bland character. He made a memorable debut against Kurt Angle, but it didn’t take long for him to get lost in the shuffle. Soon he found himself wrestling on Velocity and even nearly got released by the company.
The Doctor of Thuganomics is Born
It was pretty clear that Cena’s “Ruthless Aggression” persona wasn’t working, and there didn’t seem to be a clear path for him. It was expected that he would soon be fired by the company. A real incident would end up turning his entire career upside down and creating one of the biggest stars in wrestling history.
While on a bus trip on a European tour, Cena engaged in a freestyle rap battle with Rikishi and Rey Mysterio. Also on the bus was Stephanie McMahon, who was impressed with Cena’s ability and challenged him to come up with a freestyle on a can of tuna. When he did, she offered him the chance to do a freestyle rapping gimmick on TV. The rest, as they say, is history.
John Cena broke as Doctor of Thuganomics
Cena finally broke after receiving the Doctor of Thuganomics gimmick. He started freestyling before games and insulting his opponents. After seeing him as a bland character for so long, fans finally had something to hang their hats on.
The not-so-PG raps managed to grab fans’ attention, and it helped him stand out from the rest of the pack. Cena would even go on to record his own rap album. In many ways it was a moment in time and wouldn’t work in today’s climate.
This provided Cena with the big break he needed and transformed him from a lower card number to a main event player in very little time. Ultimately, he would end up earning most of his success as a clean babyface and becoming one of the most famous wrestlers of all time. Without the Doctor of Thuganomics gadget, he would never have had this chance.
John Cena has become one of the greatest of all time
Cena would eventually drop the Doctor of Thuganomics gimmick in 2005, as WWE was watched by a lot of kids and families, and he adapted to that audience.
His clean babyface gimmick didn’t sit too well with die-hard wrestling fans, but when it comes down to it, no one can deny what Cena has achieved in the business.
He’s a 16-time world champion, has competed in multiple WrestleManias, is on Mount Rushmore of a lot of fans, and has successfully transitioned from the wrestling ring to Hollywood sets. Without the Doctor of Thuganomics gimmick saving his WWE career decades ago, none of this would have ever happened.