It’s tough to imagine the WWE without 16-time Champion John Cena, but that was almost the reality as WWE nearly fired Cena just months after his debut on SmackDown. As part of WWE Network’s new series “Ruthless Aggression,” Cena explained how he was informed of his impending release in 2002 after he failed to capitalize on the momentum from his match against Kurt Angle.
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“The WWE, they used to make a series of cuts around late November and around mid-May. I was told I was getting my release in the Christmas cuts, because it just wasn’t working, and there’s no argument there. It wasn’t, They gave it to me on a silver platter. ‘John Cena. Ruthless Aggression.’ And I failed. I messed it up. It was on my last European tour, and I think I was in mixed tag matches – this is how well it was not going. I was just there to maybe have one last time in the ring, but I was on the way out.”
As we know, Cena was not cut and he went on to become one of the most decorated superstars in the company’s history. So what changed? As seen in the video clip embedded below, Cena’s ability to freestyle along with Rey Mysterio and Rikishi on the WWE tour bus ultimately led to his Dr. Of Thuganomics gimmick, which saved his career.
Cena is currently scheduled to make his return to SmackDown later this month, and it is believed that he will put the wheels in motion for an in-ring return at Wrestlemania 36.