For the first in a long time, there was no John Cena at Wrestlemania. Due to COVID-19 restrictions and his busy schedule filming the Peacemaker series for HBO Max, Cena was unable to partake in the WWE’s Showcase of the Immortals, sitting out Wrestlemania 37. Cena has appeared in 15 Wrestlemania matches, headlining the show five times and squaring off against legendary superstars like Shawn Michales, Triple H, Batista, The Undertaker, and The Rock. However, Cena’s last appearance on the Grandest Stage of Them All may have just been his very best.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused 2020’s Wrestlemania 36 to be unlike any Show of Shows that preceded it. For the first time ever, fans were not in attendance, the event was split across two nights, and cinematic matches, like The Undertaker’s farewell match against A.J. Styles, presented the WWE in a different light, stealing the show. The other cinematic match featured Cena against supernatural heel Bray Wyatt in a Firefly Funhouse Match. Taking fans by surprise, the match bended reality, with meta references to John Cena’s sprawling career, his past history with Wyatt, and WWE lore. Packed with Easter eggs for longtime fans, allusions to past superstars, and direct acknowledgment of criticisms against Cena, the Firefly Funhouse Match was like a wrestling nerd’s fever dream directed by David Lynch.
When we spoke to John Cena for the latest print issue of Den of Geek, he discussed the infamous Firefly Funhouse Match and what might come next when he inevitably returns to the squared circle.
Den of Geek: I have to tell you your Firefly Funhouse match from last year’s WrestleMania was one of the greatest pieces of television I’ve seen the WWE produce. I know that it was sort of polarizing, but I found it to just be incredibly brilliant, super meta, and deconstructive and I give you a lot of credit for being very brave and open with the character that you’ve spent years cultivating. So if and when you return to the WWE universe, how do you top something like the Firefly Funhouse match?
John Cena: First, thank you. Thank you so much for the kind words. I can tell you as it pertains to my existence in WWE, not all of the folks that I start conversations with about who I am and my investment to the business end up in such positive words. So thank you very much. That means a lot.
The Funhouse match was something I hold very close to me and maybe that’s another 45-minute interview for another day because that was kind of thrown in my lap at the last minute. And I remember specifically asking what a Firefly Funhouse match was. And the answer was literally, “We don’t know.” And in most performers that would cause panic, but I was just riveted by the open field that we could possibly create something special. And like you said, it took a lot of brave folks and a lot of hard work to make something that hopefully the audience understood. And at least if it reached one, we reached you and that’s good. And I’m sure in your critical television articles, I’ve been on the wrong end of an ass-kicking many times from you and that I totally understand, but I’m glad we at least got something you enjoy.
To your question now, I don’t think it’s about topping what you’ve done. I think it’s about correctly continuing a narrative. And I think that’s the most important thing. I mean, I main evented two WrestleMania’s with The Rock and then the very next WrestleMania I was in the middle of the card against the newcomer, and then I would move further shifting through the card against other veritable newcomers for tertiary titles or up to the point of being a fan at one point. But that was my contribution to the narrative. It wasn’t like I was jumping up and down saying, “I was the main event, so I need to continue being a main event.”
I always found a real sense of satisfaction contributing where I could, because I know that the idea of the sense of complacency with performers is high. And they always want to be at the top spot and there is only one top spot. But I believe a spot is a chance to contribute. So it won’t be about that. It will simply be if there is an enthralling and correct continuation to the narrative. I really, really want to get back to WWE. I really want audiences to get back to WWE. Heck I’m with everybody I think around the world saying I just want the world to get back to normal, but these are interesting times and I have a lot of interesting opportunities at my feet, and I really do appreciate the WWE universe understanding that after so many years of…
Carrying the company on your back for a while there…
No, no, that’s not true. That’s not true. If you think so, watch any wrestling match or WWE performance with one individual. So I don’t believe in that term. It’s an absolute team effort. And I hate when people say that because it takes the credit away from a lot of talented individuals. But I think one thing is for certain that if WWE ever asked me to do anything, be it a phone interview or go to a smaller city to promote or go to a larger stage or fly across the world or et cetera, et cetera. For 15 years my life was a blur that had not much else in it except light blue canvas and ropes. And I love it for that. And I think now the audience is very understanding that I developed a similar sort of passion towards this. And you can’t be both places at once because one place will suffer or if not, both places will suffer.
So I really do appreciate the respect from the often critical, and as Michael Cole says, a polarizing WWE universe to kind of allow me to take this chance and stand up and see what I got. I really do appreciate it, but I do look forward to returning. It won’t be about topping a Firefly Funhouse match. The first question I’ll ask is “Why?” And the next question I’ll ask is “Where do we go after that?” And if I get, “I don’t know” to both of them, that’s cool because that means I can come up with my own thing.