John Cena Talks Nikki Bella and Total Divas, His Goals, Make-A-Wish, WWE Crowd Reactions, More

May 19, 2016 - by Marc Middleton

John Cena did a Q&A with ABC News to promote his hosting gig for EPSN’s ESPY Awards in July. The full interview is at this link. Below are highlights:

You were nominated for the Sports Humanitarian of the Year Award in 2015 after granting over 500 Make-A-Wish requests, more than anyone else. What is your relationship like with the foundation?

The relationship is fantastic and it’s something I will do for as long as I can be involved. The number to me is just something that can raise awareness. When other people hear the number of wishes and talk about it, that raises awareness for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. That’s why the number matters. I’d like to do something more, and hopefully in the future I’ll do so much more, but with milestones and accolades come more exposure for the charity and foundation — and that’s a good thing.

It’s no longer taboo for pro wrestlers to talk openly about character development and storylines, just like actors talk about roles they play in movies or on television. How has that helped break the walls down in terms of getting mainstream coverage?

We could have that conversation all day. I’m kind of a unique example in that I use my real name. I don’t have an overly crazy look to me. It’s something that fits everywhere rather than, like, The Undertaker, for example. He doesn’t use his real name and he is characterized as a dead man walking. It’s not something you can see in everyday places. It’s great for promotion and success within our realm but very difficult to promote and succeed outside our realm. I just want to be a vehicle to let everyone know we’re doing some good things over here. I think a lot of those opportunities are now coming to fruition for the other WWE superstars, as well.

Some athletes like playing on the road because the negative reaction fuels them. There are a lot of arenas you go to where you get booed and hear “Cena sucks” chants. How do those crowds affect what you do?

It completely dictates what I do. It’s not in a negative way at all. Excitement is excitement, whether it’s excitement in appreciation or excitement in hostility. It’s all noise and it’s all excitement and it’s all anticipation and it’s all things that we strive off of. It completely makes me handle situations differently and I owe my career to it. It’s what allows me to think on my feet. It’s what keeps me sharp and keeps me listening to those that paid their hard-earned money to watch me. Some performers can’t adapt to an ever-changing audience and an ever-changing crowd, but I thank our fans, our WWE Universe, every day. They’ve given me such a crash course for having a fine-tuned sense of what’s going on and how to respond to it so I can do the best I can to give people who actually paid to see me the best show possible.

Your relationship with fellow WWE superstar Nikki Bella has been chronicled on “Total Divas.” What has that been like for you, to have cameras following you for the past three years?

That’s a bit difficult for me, but I love Nicole to death. She has a drive and a work ethic that is inspirational to me. She had a wonderful opportunity and was brave enough when the WWE came to the cast of ladies with the idea for a show that makes their private lives public. A lot of them said no, but she was one of the very few who said yes and has now created a brand that is six seasons strong and has been fortunate enough to get other opportunities. It’s not something I would have pursued, but because it can help Nicole out and I love Nicole very much, I do what I can for her and her show.

You’ve been able to do so much outside of wrestling over the past few years. You turn 40 next year. Have your goals changed given your mainstream success?

My goals don’t change. It’s the same thing when I started in 2002, it’s to get the mainstream audience a better perception of what WWE does. I am so passionate about what we do and I’m so quick to promote the WWE as a brand because I’m so loyal and passionate about it and I want everybody else to feel the same way. There are so many people that don’t watch our product at all and have preconceived notions about who our performers are and what they do, and my goal next month or five years from now is to change that perception. There are some very talented individuals that perform for our brand. I think our brand of entertainment is up there with anything as far as live experience. I want people to know that. It’s not uncool to do what we do.

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