The WWE Match John Cena Calls A Complete Failure

John Cena WWE

John Cena is WWE’s greatest of all time with a career and longevity that like few others but that was built from a start that Cena admits was a failure.

In 2002, WWE was in dire need of new faces on its roster and it looked to what life after the Attitude Era might seriously look like. Steve Austin walked out in June of that year, The Rock already had his eyebrow cocked towards Hollywood, and incredibly, some even thought The Undertaker might be winding down his career in the next year or two – how wrong they were.

Nevertheless, a new class of stars was introduced by the company from its developmental territory of OVW. The Class of 2002 included Brock Lesnar, Shelton Benjamin, Batista, Randy Orton, and John Cena. John Cena made his infamous WWE debut on a June 2002 edition of SmackDown to answer Kurt Angle’s open challenge.

When asked what made Cena think he could face off with an Olympic gold medallist, Cena answered with the two words that were Vince McMahon’s flavour of ice cream at the time – ruthless aggression. An era and a star was born.

John Cena Sees His Own Short-Comings In NXT Stars

Speaking to Chris Van Vliet, John Cena explained the differences between himself now and his younger self and delves into why he believes his WWE debut just didn’t work at all:

I think the things that they share in common are gratitude, grit, perseverance, and humility. I think the difference is the younger version lacks self-worth and the younger version lacks wisdom.

So John Cena in 2002 gets to go out and fight Kurt Angle under the impression of two words, ruthless aggression. It was a failure because I was neither ruthless nor aggressive, and I wasn’t able to see the opportunity. My blinders were – you’re getting a chance to go out there. Do everything you can and show him you can wrestle. No, I was given a golden ticket and a gimmick. Ruthless aggression. And sure I wasn’t ready.

The match was at the last second because Undertaker was sick. So the gear doesn’t match. But neither did the attitude at all. Like sportsmanship and grateful, especially after I slapped the guy, I should have been doing more in the match to gouge out an eyeball or rip at his tights, or be the exact opposite of ruthless aggression. Be a pacifist, whatever it is, but I didn’t dive into the opportunity I was given. I just went out there to do stunts.

Even the handshake thing with The Undertaker, somebody who’s ruthlessly aggressive would have slapped him like he slapped Kurt Angle. And now you’re like who the f*** is this guy? But I didn’t understand. Because I had blinders on about what the business is about.

While it might be relatively easy for a sixteen-time champion of the world to see life through a different lens now, John Cena warns that he sees the same issues he had over twenty years ago when he visits rising WWE stars in NXT:

And now, I love to go to NXT because everybody has a different personality. And I was like, what would I do? Have you ever thought about this idea? But people are thinking the same way I was about I just want to go out and do these moves. Man, you need that, but you got to also get them to believe.

During the conversation, John Cena revealed why WWE really scrapped his planned heel turn that could have changed the face of the company forever