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WWE superstar, John Cena, says he has never once held back talent in the company.

By Jimmy Traina
October 10, 2018

John Cena joined the latest edition of the SI Media Podcast for a lengthy interview that covered a lot of ground.

One thing that because crystal clear during the 90-minute conversation is that Cena, who wears many hats, including WWE superstar, author (he has a new children's book out, titled Elbow Grease) and humanitarian (nobody has granted more Make-A-Wish Foundation wishes than Cena), he is as much as philosopher as he is anything else.

And while that philosophy is all about never giving up and staying positive, there is one thing that still seems to irk the 16-time world champion: The perception that he has held back talent during his career in WWE. From the podcast when Cena was asked what his current status is with the WWE:

John Cena: I think this is the best way to put it: I am very conscience of how long I've been in WWE. Fifteen years as a fully functional performer is a time span that is in rare company. If you look at my story arc over the last few years, and I hate looking back, I like to look at the future, but this is only to put it in context, my last major event was versus The Rock in New York. Since then I've been utilized to enhance new talent, which is great, but that's been going on for three or four years now. But even with the three or four years, I still have the reputation of being the one who holds back new talent. So if I'm consistently there, and it's very difficult to adapt new talent to the program, because maybe subliminally they rely on me for certain reasons, taking myself out of that equation puts them in a position where they have to develop new talent.

And I've tried my best to enhance new talent and develop it myself, but even when I'm in the running for the United States championship, I love what I do and try to make it the best I possibly can, so with the U.S Open [Challenge], that became a wonderful piece of television, or "Hey, we want you to go to WrestleMania as a fan." That's one of the storylines I'm the most proud of because it sent a message, not my final message beecause I'm not done, but final in the way of full-time performing, where you shouldn't consider yourself too big for any role. And I really wanted to get that message across to the young performers and challenge myself to make that entertaining.

Jimmy Traina: You said a few seconds ago about having a reputation for holding talent back. Do you think that you still have that reputation or do you think that's dissipated a little bit?

J.C.: I don't care about the reputation I have, what I care about is the performance I give. But, the easiest way to just silence that problem is take me out of the equation. Here's the crazy thing: all the people that have chastised me for staying around too long are now chastising me for not being around. So, also a great exercise in like, you'll never be able to please these people, because they always need something to be cynical about. I guess that's why they're called critics.

But I'm very happy now, because it truly is -- it's like it was in 2002, when Randy [Orton] and Dave [Bautista] and Brock [Lesnar] and myself and Shelton [Benjamin] and those guys came up and everybody left, we changed the name of the company, the XFL had failed, a bunch of superstars left, and now you're left with these new guys. And it's like, sink or swim. And we just happened to have a very, very talented group of individuals, and it was a long, long swim, I mean it the stock was at seven bucks for a long time, and now the fruits of our labor have kind of shown, and the company is bigger than it's ever been.

So I'm very excited for all the superstars now, I hope they understand in perspective, as Randy is towards the end of his run, Dave's obviously having tremendous success in the movie business -- he's another guy that's transcended the industry and deserves his just due -- my days as a full-timer are certainly numbered, and that has nothing to do with extra-curricular activities, as a 41 year-old, I can't do it. If you look at anybody in my shoes -- Chris Jericho had taken a break, [Hulk] Hogan certainly had taken a break, I think the only guy that may fall into that category of not taking a break is [Ric] Flair, but [Steven] Austin had already been done, Rock was already done. So people are like, 'where you going, man?' I'm 41.

JT: Based on your physique and your workouts, you can't feel 41?

JC: No no, I'm in the best shape of my life, but now -- you're young and you think you're indestructible, and then you get this job and you think that, like, it is a dream come true and you never want the dream to end. And I'm super grateful for everything that I've done, but as a 41-year-old man, especially someone who has had his attitude change about a lot of things in life, one of those things is how am I going to get around when I'm 70? How am I going to get around when I'm 80? I can't look at 41, being like, well I'm lucky if I make it past this year. I'm trying to do the best I can to live as healthy as I can and I know for a fact, a full-time WWE schedule is a young man's game.

Minutes later, Cena again brought up his reputation.

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JT: Do you ever get sick of doing interviews? Do you ever have those days? Because you do a lot.

JC: No! Amazingly enough, with everything I do, I think I'm tremendously misunderstood. Because people are so used to what they see on television.

JT: What's the biggest misconception?

JC: They think that I am what they see on television.

JT: On television you seem like a good guy, and a funny guy, and lighthearted.

JC: But once again, the perception of that is up to the viewer. Like, the perception that I hold talent back. I never once have done that, I just go out and do my thing. But someone can look at the character John Cena and have disdain for that. Or disdain that I'm not performing as a bad guy. And that's the root of their criticism. Or that I don't do great maneuvers. And that takes the guy you see, and makes him -- 'I don't like this guy.' They're all entitled to their opinion, but man, I wish I could sit down and break down what we do. I love talking about WWE, I'm absolutely obsessed with it, and I love talking about like, embracing the uncomfortable and going after stuff that you're passionate about.

You can listen to the full podcast below or download it on iTunes. Other topics discussed include his current status with the WWE, what he thought of his WrestleMania match against The Undertaker, why Roman Reigns has it tough right now, why The Miz deserves a ton of credit, what a wrestler can do to get heat in the locker room, all the attention he's getting for his hair, whether he can be on dating sites and much more.

Here is a full rundown of the podcast:

6:50: His current status with WWE.

9:03: His reputation for holding other talent back.

11:10: How being 41 years old has affected his wrestling career.

15:25: Did he have to convince Vince McMahon to let him be a part timer?

16:15: His heated promos with Roman Reigns.

18:15:  Why Roman Reigns has it tough right now.

22:50: Being “tremendously” misunderstood.

24:09: His new, controversial hair do.

25:14: Being insecure about his looks and dealing with criticism.

27:00: Does he do his own social media and the philosophy behind his unique Instagram account?

35:00: His Total Divas character.

37:30: Can and should John Cena be on dating sites?

45:05: His tireless and historic work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

49:50: His favorite sports teams.

51:30: Dealing with fans in public.

55:12: Recently losing 20 pounds; what he eats each day.

59:11: Feelings on his WrestleMania match with The Undertaker and sitting with fans for most of the show.

1:02: What The Miz does so well and Miz imitating Cena on Total Divas.

1:06: What gets a wrestler “heat” in the locker room.

1:09: Can John Cena go into a bar and have a drink?

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