Professional wrestler John Cena took home the United States WWE Championship, defeating The Big Show in March 2004 in Wrestlemania XX.
Who Is John Cena?
John Cena was born April 23, 1977, in West Newbury, Massachusetts. Calling himself "The Prototype," he captured the UPW title in 2000. In 2001 he signed a contract to work at Ohio Valley Wrestling. Cena claimed the OVW heavyweight title in February 2002, then made his WWE debut that June. Two years later, he took the United States Championship. The wrestler has since expanded his brand through the release of a hip-hop album and appearances on TV and film.
John Felix Anthony Cena was born on April 23, 1977, in West Newbury, Massachusetts, the second of John Sr. and Carol Cena's five boys.
At an early age, Cena showed a passion for sports and working out. By the time he was 15 he was a regular gym rat and, after graduating high school, Cena headed off to Springfield College in Massachusetts to study exercise physiology and prove his worth on the football field. At Springfield, Cena turned himself into a Division III All-American offensive lineman and team captain.
In 2000, the new college graduate left the Bay State despite his father's wishes, seeking a new life in California as a body builder. It wasn't an easy transition for the 6-foot 1-inch aspiring star. He had just $500 in his pocket to make it across country and get settled. To make ends meet, he folded towels and cleaned toilets at a Gold's Gym in Venice Beach. And because he couldn't afford an apartment, he shacked up in his 1991 Lincoln Continental.
Foray into Wrestling
But the turning point came in early 2000, during a casual conversation Cena had with a wrestler at Gold's who encouraged the gym employee to take classes at Ultimate Pro Wrestling (UPW), a former World Wrestling Entertainment developmental company.
For Cena, the suggestion of making a go of it as a wrestler wasn't an entirely outlandish idea. His father, John Sr. (a.k.a. Johnny Fabulous), made a living as a wrestling announcer and businessman. As a kid growing up in suburban Massachusetts, the younger Cena spent many hours glued to the television set as he watched his wrestling heroes such as Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior and Shawn Michaels go at it in the ring.
As a wrestler himself, Cena's ascension was rapid. Calling himself "The Prototype," the ambitious Cena captured the UPW title on April 27, 2000, in San Diego, California. Over the course of the next year, Cena drew the attention of WWE executives, and in 2001 the young enterntainer signed a developmental contract with the company to work at Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW).
Cena captured the OVW heavyweight title in February 2002, then made his WWE debut that June when he signed up with the Smackdown roster. Just two years later, Cena took home the United States Championship, defeating The Big Show in March 2004 in Wrestlemania XX.
In the years since, Cena has notched many wins and titles. In 2007, he became the first wrestler to ever come up victorious against Edward "Umaga" Fatu.
Along the way Cena, whose good looks and sculpted body inspired the nickname "The Marky Mark of Wrestling," greatly increased his celebrity. Like Hogan, Cena proved that his showmanship in the ring translated to success in other venues.
Ventures Outside Wrestling
Through the production wing of WWE, Cena starred in the action films The Marine (2006) and 12 Rounds (2009), the latter featuring the wrestler trying to save his girlfriend from a gang of terrorists in New Orleans.
In addition, Cena, who has long had an affinity for hip-hop culture, became a recording artist when his rap album, You Can't See Me, hit record stores in 2005. The recording debuted on the U.S. Billboard chart at No. 15. His credits also include appearances on NBC's Celebrity Apprentice.
In 2015, Cena received critical praise for his acting skills in the hit comedy Trainwreck, directed by Judd Apatow and written by the film's star, Amy Schumer. Cena played Schumer's muscle-bound but sensitive boyfriend. “I got my chance to throw my sense of humor out into the world, and at the same time play this hulky guy who’s a softy, which in real life I’m a very emotional guy,” Cena told Business Insider.
Cena married his girlfriend, Elizabeth Huberdeau, in July 2009. In May 2012, Cena filed for divorce, allegedly shocking Huberdeau. Their messy separation played out in the media, but they eventually settled in July of that year.
In 2012, Cena began dating fellow WWE superstar Nikki Bella. On April 2, 2017, he proposed to Bella after they defeated The Miz and Maryse in a tag team match at Wrestlemania 33. Cena and Bella ended their engagement in April 2018, and briefly reconciled before it was reported that they had again gone their separate ways.