June 27, 2012
Written: June 27, 2012
On June 27, 2002, one of WWE’s most polarizing figures made his ruthless debut, forever changing the course of sports-entertainment history.
That summer evening one decade ago in Chicago, Kurt Angle issued an open challenge for any competitor on SmackDown. At first no one answered the call … until a young John Cena made his way to the squared circle, to forgettable entrance music and standard red-and-black ring attire. Angle took one look at his opponent and assumed he was just cannon fodder.
Earlier that week on Raw, Mr. McMahon had spoken to WWE’s Superstars about his secret to success. The Chairman was looking for a Superstar who shared the same quality – ruthless aggression. Clearly, the speech was enough to inspire Cena to introduce himself to the gold medalist, and answer the challenges laid out by both Angle and Mr. McMahon. When Angle asked Cena what made him stand out from everyone else, the rookie ring warrior cited the very trait introduced by the Chairman: ruthless aggression.
With a powerful haymaker, the future “Champ” went on the offensive and gave Kurt Angle — a former WWE Champion and one of the greatest amateur wrestlers of all time — a run for his money. During the battle, the fearless Cena proved that he was a force to be reckoned with by countering both the Angle Lock and Angle Slam, and nearly claiming victory on numerous occasions.
The Cenation leader was ultimately unsuccessful, but the intense bout introduced the WWE Universe to an eager and strong competitor who never backs down from a challenge. That evening, Cena earned the respect of his fellow WWE Superstars, including then-Undisputed Champion The Undertaker.
One month after his battle with Angle, Cena proved himself yet again by winning his first pay-per-view match against WWE’s first-ever Undisputed Champion, Chris Jericho. Solidifying himself as a true Superstar with his victory over Jericho, Cena’s unique personality soon emerged as the rapper known as the “Dr. of Thuganomics,” moving from his generic two-color ring attire to his trademark jean shorts.
Cena quickly became one of WWE’s most popular and dominant Superstars. In his first two battles on The Grandest Stage of Them All, WrestleMania XX and WrestleMania 21, he captured his first United States Championship and first WWE Championship, respectively.
Ten years since answering Angle’s challenge, Cena is a 12-time World Champion, a Royal Rumble Match winner, a three-time United States Champion and a four-time Tag Team Champion. He has teamed with WWE Hall of Famers like Hulk Hogan and Shawn Michaels, and he has overcome insurmountable odds in the forms of Brock Lesnar and Big Show. The prospect of facing Cena at WrestleMania XXVIII was also enough to spark The Rock’s in-ring return after an eight-year hiatus.
Cena’s unparalleled career is not limited to his in-ring accomplishments. Recently, he reached an unprecedented milestone with Make-A-Wish, granting his 300th wish and further establishing himself as the biggest wish-giver in the organization’s history. The West Newbury, Mass., native is also a staunch supporter of the men and women who serve in the United States Armed Forces. Earlier this year, Cena honored America’s troops by wearing different variations of camouflage shorts, each signifying a different branch of the military.
One decade ago, John Cena was a brazen young competitor, refusing to back down and seizing an opportunity to make a splash against a gold medalist. In the years since, Cena remains that enthusiastic young Superstar at heart, defying the odds and making history. His extraordinary accolades in and out of the ring are a true testament to the abilities, heart and spirit of the Cenation leader.