John Cena Will Star in Mountain Dew Super Bowl Ad, but Not at 'WrestleMania'

John Cena says there’s “no mathematical way” he can be at the event this year.
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This Super Bowl, you can see John Cena. But at this WrestleMania, you won’t.

The latest step in Cena’s career is starring in a Mountain Dew ad that will air this Sunday during the first half of the Super Bowl. The spot promotes Mountain Dew’s newest flavor, Major Melon, as well as its new contest, which will reward the first person to correctly tweet the exact number of Mountain Dew Major Melon bottles in the ad with a $1 million prize.

“A Super Bowl ad for me is a life-changing opportunity, and it’s also going to change someone’s life,” Cena says. “Mountain Dew Major Melon is really changing the perspective of advertising with this campaign, and I am really honored to be part of it. It’s a uniquely awesome flavor, Mountain Dew’s first new permanent flavor in over a decade, and it’s a brand that stands for passion.

“I admire Mountain Dew’s investment in areas of passion, and they go big. That’s a mirror image of what I try to do with my life—invest in passion and go big.”

Appearing as the lead in a Super Bowl ad is a major accomplishment for Cena. The WWE icon continues to expand his portfolio away from the realm of professional wrestling, yet that also means there are fewer chances for him to return to WWE. And this year, for the first time since WrestleMania 19 in 2003, it appears Cena will not be part of WWE’s signature show.

Cena made his debut at the event at WrestleMania XX in 2004 at Madison Square Garden. There have been occasions when he did not wrestle—like WrestleMania 32 and 35—yet he still made an appearance. But the combination of his filming schedule and COVID-19 restrictions appear poised to end Cena’s streak of WrestleMania appearances.

“Currently, I’m in Vancouver shooting Peacemaker, the series for HBO Max,” Cena says. “Given the quarantine regulations, if I were to leave Canada, upon return I would have to quarantine for another two weeks. Essentially, that would shut production down. Strictly based on the letter of the law right now, there is no logistical way I can be there. We film now until July.”

Though it is hard to picture a WrestleMania without Cena, it could allow for a brighter spotlight on WWE’s full-time stars. And as Cena was explaining his upcoming absence at WrestleMania 37, he laughed at the notion that he is now among that group of part-time WWE talent that returns for the biggest event of the year.

“What a hypocritical situation,” Cena says with a laugh. “I used to be very open about the fact that part-timers were just that, and here I am at 44 years old and I’ve become what I despise, as they say. That is kind of what it is.”

Although the card is always subject to change, Cena’s return to WrestleMania looks like it will be in 2022 in Texas or the following year in Southern California. Despite missing this year’s show, he is incredibly excited to show off his work on Peacemaker.

“It’s a wonderful episodic show, and it’s an amazing opportunity,” he says. “It’s a challenge I wanted, and I get to work with awesome people. James Gunn is writing and directing, which is amazing, and it’s something I couldn’t pass up.

“It’s very difficult to say because I know it’s going to be disappointing for a lot of people, but according to the letter of regulation right now, there is no mathematical way I can be at WrestleMania this year.”

With both taking place at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, there is connective tissue between this year’s WrestleMania and the Super Bowl pitting the Buccaneers against the defending champion Chiefs. Cena marveled at the prolonged success of Bucs quarterback Tom Brady, who will be making a record tenth start under center at this Sunday’s Super Bowl.

“Attaining top-tier professional success, even for a moment, that’s impressive,” Cena says. “But this is sustained, long-term success over time and under tension. Think of all the practice, the boring stuff, the ‘I don’t want to’ stuff. That’s the mystique that surrounds all of those that are consistently great for a long time. It’s inspirational to see the work ethic of Tom Brady.”

Viewers will have the rare opportunity to see both Cena and Brady during Sunday’s Super Bowl broadcast, although Cena’s time on screen will be much briefer. He is eager to see people interact with the campaign and tweet their guesses for a chance to win $1 million.

“If you don’t post, you can’t win,” Cena says. “But if you count the bottles of Mountain Dew Major Melon and you post, you can win. That puts you in the game. So if you want to be a little more meticulous while you’re watching the Super Bowl, watch the Mountain Dew Major Melon commercial and count the bottles in the commercial, and tag Mountain Dew’s Twitter handle.

“You’re probably going to be posting anyway, so you might as well take a chance. This is a chance to take a chance on yourself. And you never know, you may win a million bucks.”

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.