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The Transformation Of John Cena From Childhood To Peacemaker

If you grew up watching World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), then you likely know of John Cena. The wrestler has made quite the impact on pop culture, being both a WWE star and making multiple appearances in movies and TV. In fact, it was not unusual to see action figures of Cena across the toy aisles in the 2000s. He was, and still is, quite the phenomenon.

More recently, Cena has been dazzling both the big and small screen as DC's comic book character Peacemaker. He first appeared as Peacemaker in 2021's "The Suicide Squad," before debuting as the lead of the appropriately titled "Peacemaker," a series focused on the character that premiered in 2022. The HBO Max show is a hit, with Rotten Tomatoes scores sitting at 94% for critics and 88% for audiences. 

Cena went from being a wrestling star to a DC Comics action star, but how did he get there? Here is Cena's story from childhood to "Peacemaker."

John Cena was originally going to be a bodybuilder

Cena was born in Massachusetts, and according to People, from a young age he had an interest in building up his physique. This initially came about due to bullying, but it eventually led to Cena wanting to start a career in bodybuilding. With that in mind, he attended Springfield College in Massachusetts to study exercise physiology. In 1998, he graduated and received his degree.

Soon after graduating, Cena made the move to Los Angeles, California. It was here where his career started to take a different shape than he had originally planned. While in California, Cena was persuaded and encouraged to train for wrestling (per People). Wrestling was something familiar to Cena, as his father was an announcer for entertainment sports, under the stage name "Johnny Fabulous" (via The Boston Globe). Originally, it was not Cena's intention to work his way into the WWE or make wrestling a career, as it was just a fun hobby for him. 

Cena started as a pro wrestler

Using his experience with bodybuilding and his physiology education, Cena started a career in Ultimate Pro Wrestling, enrolling himself in Ultimate University in 2000 (per Discovery). Some of his time here was showcased on the Discovery Channel in the documentary series "Inside Pro Wrestling School." During this time, Cena went under the name Prototype and adopted an almost robotic persona. While at Ultimate University, he was able to move up the ranks and caught the attention of the WWE.

Cena signed a developmental contract with WWE and was placed in Ohio Valley Wrestling (via WWE). This was again captured on camera in the independent wrestling show "Ohio Valley Wrestling TV," in which Cena was featured among other emerging acts in the pro wrestling world. Cena once again excelled, quickly moving up the ranks. But this would only be the start for him, as his next level up to conquer was WWE.

Cena moved his way up at WWE

After impressing the management at the Ohio Valley level, Cena was then introduced to the WWE. He accepted an open challenge by Kurt Angle, which he ultimately won, surviving famous moves from Angle such as the "Angle Slam" and "Angle Lock." After this, Cena continued to get more and more popular in the WWE world, taking on different opponents and slowly making his way up.

For a period of time, Cena dropped the name Prototype and adopted a new persona at WWE, "Doctor of Thuganomics." As revealed in the WWE documentary series "Ruthless Aggression," his character was reportedly based on a white rapper archetype (per Sports Keeda). Still at WWE, Cena had a breakthrough moment when he claimed the championship at 2005's "WrestleMania" (per ESPN). With his new title of the WWE Championship, Cena was then brought on to WWE's largest show, "Raw." After this, Cena remained in wrestling and with the WWE for years, though he did begin to explore new endeavors for his career.

Cena began an acting career

In 2006, Cena launched his career as an actor, starring in the lead role of John Triton in "The Marine." The film is an action drama about an ex-marine who sets out on a mission to rescue his wife after she has been kidnapped. This was Cena's first step into acting, and looking at his IMDb page, you can see that he has been in a number of projects in the years since. Following "The Marine," Cena made an appearance in an episode of "Psych," before returning to movies in 2010 with both "Legendary" and Nickelodeon's "Fred: The Movie."

Over the next few years, Cena made cameo appearances here and there and continually reprised his role in the "Fred" films, as he plays the internet character's father. However, in 2015, he returned to the world of acting full swing in "Trainwreck" alongside Amy Schumer, "Daddy's Home" with Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell, and "Sisters" starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. It was quite an impressive year for Cena. Following these roles, he found himself appearing regularly in films, with "Blockers," "Bumblebee," and "F9: The Fast Saga" being added to his filmography. However, 2021 is when his biggest role yet would come.

Cena now stars as Peacemaker

In 2021, Cena's arguably biggest film role came as he got the opportunity to play Peacemaker in James Gunn's "The Suicide Squad." The reboot film features a star-studded cast, with the likes of Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Idris Elba as Bloodsport, Viola Davis as Amanda Waller, Pete Davidson as Blackguard, and many more. The film was a success with fans and critics alike, with the film sitting at a 90% rating from critics and 82% from audiences on Rotten Tomatoes. This is a big improvement from the reception of the 2016 film.

In 2022, Cena is now reprising his role as Peacemaker, starring as the lead in the character's brand new show. "Peacemaker" picks up right where "The Suicide Squad" leaves off, with Peacemaker going back home after the incident with Bloodsport. This is the first time Cena has been the lead in a TV series, and lucky for him, it's a big hit. Going forward, it will be interesting to see where this new chapter takes Cena and how he builds upon it.