FROM PROFESSIONAL WRESTLER TO LEADING MAN
By Lee Parham
The Suicide Squad and WWE superstar John Cena has traveled down an unconventional and interesting path on the road to becoming Hollywood’s next action and comedy star.
blares across the speakers as the iconic “The Time is Now” entrance theme plays while Cena waves his hands in front of his face rapping “You can’t see me.”
“AND HIS NAME IS JOHN CENA!”
Regarded as one of the best professional wrestlers of all time and tied with Ric Flair for the most championships in WWE history, John Cena has cemented himself as one of the industry's legends.
Like his fellow wrestling compatriots Dwayne Johnson, Steve Austin, Dave Bautista, and more, John Cena inevitably stuck his foot in the waters of an acting career.
Cena made his silver screen debut in 2006 with The Marine, a film produced by the WWE. While the film failed at the box office and with critics, it’s gone on to garner a cult following on home video.
WWE Studios produced Cena’s next film as well, 2009’s 12 Rounds, but unlike its predecessor The Marine the film failed to gain a cult following and was panned by critics and flopped financially.
Cena’s film career appeared to be short lived, with his next few starring roles going straight to DVD, including an appearance in the Nickelodeon film Fred: The Movie based off the famous YouTuber.
However an unexpected turn to more comedic characters witnessed an acting renaissance for Cena. Small parts in 2015’s Trainwreck, Daddy’s Home, and Sisters earned him unfound acting praise.
Comedy proved to be an outlet for John Cena’s charisma to shine through, all accumulating to a lead performance in 2018’s Blockers alongside Leslie Mann and Ike Barinholtz as overprotective parents.
Additionally, Cena took his talents to family films as well, starring in the 2019 flick Playing with Fire and voice performances in 2017’s Ferdinand and Surfs Up 2: WaveMania and 2020’s Dolittle.
However a man of Cena’s stature would not be limited to just family films and comedies. Cena returned to action in the 2017 war thriller The Wall with Aaron Taylor-Johnson directed by Doug Liman.
In 2018 Cena made his foray into franchise filmmaking with a leading role in Bumblebee, a spinoff of the Transformers series. Cena portrayed Agent Jack Burns, part of the military hunting Bumblebee.
Next, Cena joined the ever-growing ensemble family of The Fast and Furious franchise in F9 as Jakob Toretto, the long lost brother of Vin Diesel’s Dom Toretto who’s out for blood.
Finally, Cena’s latest role finds him in the DC Extended Universe in James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad. Cena plays Peacemaker, a man hellbent on maintaining peace at all costs, no matter the price.
The character of Peacemaker will live on after The Suicide Squad, as John Cena is set to reprise his role in the 2022 HBO Max spinoff series as the titular character.
Other upcoming projects for Cena include Vacation Friends, a comedy also starring Lil Rey Howery, and Project X-Traction, a thriller pairing Cena with action and martial arts icon Jackie Chan.
From being a legendary professional wrestler to a revitalized acting career, John Cena’s filmography took awhile to fill out but he’s finally breaking through as a reliable movie star.