Cena was born in West Newbury, Massachusetts on April 23, 1977, to Carol (née Lupien) and John Joseph Cena. His mother is of English and French-Canadian descent, while his father, a former ring announcer for Chaotic Wrestling, has Italian ancestry. His maternal grandfather was baseball player Tony Lupien, while his maternal great-grandfather was businessman Ulysses J. Lupien. He is the second oldest of five brothers: Dan, Matt, Steve, and Sean. A fan of wrestling growing up, he would create championship belts out of cardboard for himself and his brothers. He is a cousin of computer scientist Natalie Enright Jerger and was raised Roman Catholic. Cena was teased and beaten up while in school, and asked for a weightlifting bench at the age of 12.
John Felix Anthony Cena (/ˈsiːnə/ SEE-nə; born April 23, 1977) is an American professional wrestler, actor, and former rapper currently signed to WWE. With the most world championship reigns in WWE history, Cena is widely regarded as one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time.
Cena idolized Hulk Hogan growing up, moving to California in 1998 to begin training for a professional wrestling career the following year at Ultimate Pro Wrestling's (UPW) Ultimate University, operated by Rick Bassman. He started wrestling in local flea markets, and once he was placed into an in-ring role, Cena began using a semi-robotic character known as The Prototype. Some of this period of his career was documented in the Discovery Channel program Inside Pro Wrestling School. He held the UPW Heavyweight Championship for 27 days in April 2000, and wrestled for the UPW until March 2001.
Cena moved to California in 1998 to pursue a career as a bodybuilder and switched to professional wrestling in 1999, and made his debut for Ultimate Pro Wrestling (UPW). He signed with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now WWE) in 2001 and was assigned to its developmental territory Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW), winning the OVW Heavyweight Championship and OVW Southern Tag Team Championship. After moving to SmackDown in 2002, Cena gained fame and success after adopting the character of a trash-talking rapper. After winning the WWE Championship in 2005, Cena transitioned into a clean-cut, heroic character which he described as a "goody-two shoes Superman". He led the company as its franchise player and public face for the next decade.
Cena attended Central Catholic High School in Lawrence, Massachusetts, before transferring to Cushing Academy, a private prep boarding school in Ashburnham, Massachusetts. He then attended Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts, where he was an NCAA Division III All-American center and captain on their football team. He graduated from Springfield College in 1999 with a degree in exercise physiology and body movement, after which he pursued a bodybuilding career and worked as a limousine driver. Cena worked in the store area of Gold's Gym for $6 an hour.
On October 10, 2000, while billed as The Prototype, Cena made his unofficial debut for then World Wrestling Federation (WWF) on a SmackDown! taping in a dark match against Mikey Richardson, which he lost. He received another tryout on January 9, 2001 at a SmackDown! taping in Oakland, California, defeating Aaron Aguilera before wrestling again in a dark match at a SmackDown! taping on March 13.
Before his WWE debut, Cena made an appearance on the webcast Go Sick as Bruebaker, an angry, cursing wrestler in 2001.
In 2001, Cena signed a developmental contract with the WWF and was assigned to its developmental territory Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW). During his time there, Cena wrestled under the ring name The Prototype and held the OVW Heavyweight Championship for three months and the OVW Southern Tag Team Championship (with Rico Constantino) for two months.
In 2001, between his training in Ultimate Pro Wrestling and Ohio Valley Wrestling, Cena was involved in the UPN produced reality show Manhunt, in which he portrayed Big Tim Kingman, leader of the group of bounty hunters who chased down the contestants who acted as fugitives. The show, however, was mired in controversy when it was alleged that the portions of the show were rigged to eliminate certain players, scenes were re-shot or staged to enhance drama and contestants read from scripts.
Cena has portrayed a heroic character throughout his WWE career, except for a villainous run in 2002–2003. His signature ring gear includes jean shorts, sneakers, wristbands, and armbands. He also wears a variety of T-shirts and baseball caps, which commonly include one of his catchphrases: "Never Give Up", "You Can't See Me", "Hustle, Loyalty, Respect", and "Respect. Earn it". He has a history of returning from both real and scripted injuries much sooner than expected. ESPN reporter David Shoemaker said in April 2016, "Never underestimate Cena's recuperative abilities. He's somewhere on the recovery scale between German platelet-rich plasma therapy and Deadpool." Fellow wrestler Big Show said he felt most stable being lifted by Cena, despite Cena being over 200 lbs lighter and almost a foot shorter—a testament to Cena's functional strength.
Throughout the early months of 2002, Cena constantly found himself competing on house shows for the WWF, where he wrestled against the likes of Shelton Benjamin and Tommy Dreamer. After his main call up in June 2002, he continued to appear on OVW programming until September 25, when he lost to Kenny Brolin in a Loser Leaves OVW match. He would later appear in a one-off appearance for the developmental farm in November under the ring name Mr. P in a six-man tag team match, where he teamed with Hall of Famer Big Boss Man and Charlie Haas, in a winning effort against Lance Cade, Trevor Murdoch and Sean O'Haire.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cena was unable to appear at WrestleMania 37, marking the first time he missed a WrestleMania in nearly 20 years, as he had wrestled or at least appeared at the event every year since his first appearance at WrestleMania XIX in 2003. At the time, Cena was in Canada filming the HBO Max series Peacemaker, and the pandemic made it logistically impossible for him to travel to Tampa, Florida for WrestleMania 37, as upon his return to Canada, he would have had to quarantine for two weeks, which would have shut down production on the series. Cena did, however, appear in a WWE advertisement to help announce the location of WrestleMania 38. He finally made his return to WWE programming at Money in the Bank on July 18, 2021, confronting Roman Reigns after the latter retained his Universal Championship against Edge in the main event. Following this, WWE announced the Summer of Cena tour, confirming Cena had signed a 25-appearance deal. After initially being scheduled to face Finn Bálor for the title, Cena ultimately highjacked a contract signing on the July 30 episode of SmackDown so he would challenge Reigns at SummerSlam. At the event on August 21, Reigns defeated Cena after a back-and-forth contest.
Before his professional wrestling career, Cena appeared in an advertisement for Gold's Gym. As a wrestler, he has endorsed the energy drink YJ Stinger, appearing in commercials beginning in October 2003, and Subway, for whom he filmed advertisements with their spokesperson Jared Fogle in November 2006 that began airing the following January. For a time in 2007, he also endorsed two "signature collections" of energy drinks and energy bars sold by American Body Builders. In 2008, Cena filmed a commercial as part of Gillette's "Young Guns" NASCAR campaign.
Cena participated in the Royal Rumble match at Royal Rumble on January 25, 2004, but was eliminated by Big Show. At No Way Out on February 15, Cena faced Big Show and Kurt Angle in a triple threat match for a WWE Championship match at WrestleMania XX, which Cena lost by submission to Angle. At WrestleMania on March 14, Cena defeated Big Show to win the United States Championship, his first singles championship in WWE. He retained the title against Rene Dupree on May 16 at Judgment Day, and in a fatal four-way match involving Dupree, Rob Van Dam and Booker T at The Great American Bash on June 27, until he was stripped of the title on the July 8 episode of SmackDown! by Kurt Angle (the SmackDown! General Manager) after accidentally attacking him in his wheelchair. Cena won the title back by defeating Booker T in a best of five series that started on August 15 at SummerSlam and culminated on October 3 at No Mercy, only to drop it to the débuting Carlito Caribbean Cool the following week on SmackDown!. The duo began a feud which resulted in Cena allegedly being stabbed in the kidney while at a Boston-area nightclub by Carlito's bodyguard, Jesús; this worked "injury" was used to keep Cena out of action for a month while he was filming The Marine. After returning on November 14 at Survivor Series, Cena won the United States Championship back from Carlito on the November 18 episode of SmackDown!. He retained the title against Jesús at Armageddon on December 12 in a street fight.
Cena first starred in The Marine (2006), and gained praise for his performances in Trainwreck (2015), Ferdinand (2017), Blockers, and Bumblebee (both 2018). He starred in F9 (2021) as Jakob Toretto, reprising his role in Fast X (2023), and portrayed Peacemaker in The Suicide Squad (2021) and the eponymous television series (2022–present). He released a studio album, You Can't See Me, in 2005. Outside his work in entertainment, Cena is known for his involvement in numerous charitable causes, namely with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, where he has granted the most wishes, at over 650.
On January 30, 2005, Cena took part in the Royal Rumble match, making it to the final two. He and Batista went over the top rope at the same time, at first ending the match but the match was restarted and won by Batista. At No Way Out on February 20, Cena defeated Kurt Angle to earn a spot in the SmackDown! brand's WrestleMania 21 main event match, beginning a feud with then WWE Champion John "Bradshaw" Layfield (JBL) and his Cabinet in the process. In the early stages of the feud, Cena lost the United States Championship to Cabinet member Orlando Jordan. At WrestleMania 21 on April 3, Cena defeated JBL to win the WWE Championship, his first world championship. Now with a spinner WWE Championship belt, JBL took the original title belt and claimed he was still the WWE Champion, until Cena defeated him in an "I Quit" match at Judgment Day on May 22 to retain the title.
Cena's debut album, You Can't See Me, was recorded with his cousin Tha Trademarc. It features, among other songs, his entrance theme, "The Time is Now", and the single "Bad, Bad Man", for which a music video was made that parodied 1980s culture, including the television show The A-Team. A video was also made for the second single, "Right Now", that premiered on the August 8, 2005 episode of WWE Monday Night Raw. Cena and Tha Trademarc were later featured on a track by The Perceptionists called "Champion Scratch". Cena appeared on T-Boz's album, Still Cool.
Cena's original gimmick portrayed a white rapper who wore jerseys, backwards hats, a chain with a padlock around his neck, and was known as the "Doctor of Thuganomics". First as "The Prototype", and later under his real name, Cena sometimes used underhanded tactics to score victories, such as using his chain as a weapon behind the referee's back. Cena often rapped before his matches, insulting his opponents, events that happened in the media and even the crowd. Cena also regularly performed "rap battles", where he and his opponent took turns rapping on each other. In 2006, shortly after his debut film, The Marine, his wrestling character shifted from that of a rapper to a young military upstart, wearing dog tags and cargo shorts to the ring and also performing a salute to the crowd. Cena said in a 2011 interview with WWE.com that "every night when I do that salute, it's also a sign of respect to the men and women that don the uniform of the Armed Forces."
At New Year's Revolution on January 8, 2006, Cena retained the WWE Championship in the Elimination Chamber match after last eliminating Carlito, but immediately afterwards, Mr. McMahon announced Edge was cashing in his Money in the Bank contract—a "guaranteed title match against the WWE Champion at a time and place of the owner's choosing". Two quick spears allowed Edge to pin Cena and win the championship. Cena won the title back on January 29 at Royal Rumble. After that, Cena began feuding with Triple H. The crowd, which had mostly cheered Cena over the previous few months, started booing him again and cheering the villain Triple H. Cena beat Triple H at WrestleMania 22 on April 2 to retain the title. The negative reaction towards him intensified when he faced Rob Van Dam at ECW One Night Stand on June 11 which took place in front of a boisterous crowd of mostly original ECW fans at the Hammerstein Ballroom. Cena was met with raucous jeering and chants of "Fuck you, Cena", "You can't wrestle", and "Same old shit". When he began performing different moves as the match progressed, the fans started chanting "You still suck". Cena lost the WWE Championship to Van Dam after interference from Edge.
During his WWE career, Cena has appeared on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live! three times. He has also appeared on morning radio shows including the CBS and XM versions of Opie and Anthony as part of their "walkover" on October 10, 2006. Other appearances have included NBC's Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Fuse's Celebrity Playlist, Fox Sports Net's The Best Damn Sports Show Period, FOX's MADtv, G4's Training Camp (with Shelton Benjamin), and two appearances on MTV's Punk'd (August 2006 and May 2007), as the victim of a practical joke. He also served as a co-presenter, with Hulk Hogan, at the 2005 Teen Choice Awards, as a guest judge during the third week of the 2006 season of Nashville Star, and appeared at the 2007 Nickelodeon UK Kids Choice Awards.
WWE Studios, a division of WWE which produces and finances motion pictures, produced Cena's first movie—The Marine, which was distributed theatrically by 20th Century Fox America beginning on October 13, 2006. In its first week, the film made approximately US$7 million at the United States box office. After ten weeks in theaters, the film grossed $18.7 million. Once the film was released on DVD, it fared better, making $30 million in rentals in the first twelve weeks.
In 2007, Cena was interviewed for the CNN Special Investigations Unit documentary Death Grip: Inside Pro Wrestling, which focused on steroid and drug use in professional wrestling. When asked if he had taken steroids he was heard to reply, "I can't tell you that I haven't, but you will never prove that I have". The day after the documentary aired, WWE accused CNN of taking Cena's comments out of context to present a biased point of view, backing up their claim by posting an unedited video of Cena answering the same question – filmed by WWE cameras from another angle – in which he is heard beginning the same statement with "absolutely not". A text interview on the website with Cena later had him saying the news outlet should apologize for misrepresenting him, which CNN refused, saying they felt the true answer to the question began with the phrase "my answer to that question". However, they did edit the documentary on subsequent airings to include the "absolutely not".
In January 2007, Cena, Batista, and Ashley Massaro appeared representing WWE on an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, giving the children of the family whose house was being renovated WWE merchandise and eight tickets to WrestleMania 23. Two months later, he and Bobby Lashley appeared on the NBC game show Deal or No Deal as "moral support" to longtime WWE fan and front row staple, Rick "Sign Guy" Achberger. Edge and Randy Orton also appeared, but as antagonists. On April 9, 2008, Cena, along with fellow wrestlers Triple H and Chris Jericho, appeared on the Idol Gives Back fund-raising special. In March 2009, Cena made an appearance on Saturday Night Live during the show's cold opening sequence. On March 7, 2009, he was a guest on NPR's quiz show Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! in a Not My Job sequence titled "Sure, pro wrestling is a good gig, but when you win, do they throw teddy bears into the ring?".
On the heels of his feud with Edge, Cena was placed in an inter-brand angle to determine the "Champion of Champions"—or which was the most dominant champion in WWE's three brands. Cena, World Heavyweight Champion King Booker, and ECW World Champion Big Show were booked in a triple threat match at Cyber Sunday, with the viewers voting on which of the three championships would be placed on the line. At the same time, Cena was involved in a storyline with non-wrestler Kevin Federline, who appeared on Raw with Johnny Nitro and Melina. After getting into a worked physical altercation with Federline on Raw, he appeared on November 5 at Cyber Sunday to hit Cena with the World Heavyweight Championship during the match, helping Booker retain his title. On the January 1 episode of Raw, Cena was pinned by Federline with an assist from Umaga. At New Year's Revolution on January 7, 2007, Cena defeated Umaga to end his undefeated streak and retain the WWE Championship. At Royal Rumble on January 28, Cena retained the title against Umaga in a Last Man Standing match.
Cena was featured on the ABC reality series Fast Cars and Superstars: The Gillette Young Guns Celebrity Race, which aired in June 2007, making it to the final round before being eliminated on June 24, placing third in the competition overall.
On January 27, 2008, at Royal Rumble, Cena made a surprise return as the final participant of the eponymous match, winning it and the traditional WrestleMania XXIV title shot, last eliminating Triple H. Instead of waiting until WrestleMania, the shot was cashed in against WWE Champion Randy Orton at No Way Out on February 17, winning by disqualification, therefore not being awarded the title. The following night on Raw, Cena was placed back into WrestleMania's WWE Championship match on March 30, defeating Orton in a non-title match with Triple H as special guest referee, making it a triple threat match, during which he was pinned by Orton. On April 27 at Backlash, Cena failed to regain the title in a fatal four-way elimination match, in which he was eliminated by Orton. During the match, Cena eliminated JBL, renewing their feud from 2005. Cena defeated JBL on May 18 at Judgment Day and at One Night Stand on June 1 in a First Blood match. Cena failed to regain the WWE Championship from Triple H on June 29 at Night of Champions. JBL defeated Cena in a New York City Parking Lot Brawl at The Great American Bash on July 20 to end their feud.
His second film, also produced by WWE Studios, was 12 Rounds. Filming began on February 25, 2008, in New Orleans; the film was released on March 27, 2009.
Cena hosted the Australian Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards with Natalie Bassingthwaighte on October 11, 2008 in Melbourne. Cena guest starred as Ewan O'Hara, brother of Juliet O'Hara, in an episode of the fourth season of the comedy drama Psych. He also guest starred as himself in the seventh episode of Disney Channel's Hannah Montana Forever.
Cena has granted over 650 wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses through the Make-A-Wish Foundation—the most in Make-A-Wish history, with his first wish dating back to 2002. The Guinness Book of World Records confirmed that not only had Cena granted this many wishes by mid-2022, but that second place was fewer than 200. In 2009, Cena received the Chris Greicius Celebrity Award.
In 2009, Cena expanded his relationship with Gillette by introducing a new online campaign called "Be A Superstar" featuring himself alongside fellow WWE wrestlers Chris Jericho and Cody Rhodes. The campaign features motivational videos. After Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson called Cena "Fruity Pebbles" during their feud (in reference to Cena's colorful merchandise) Cena appeared on the box of Fruity Pebbles cereal in 2013.
Cena made his in-ring return at Survivor Series on November 23, defeating Chris Jericho for his first World Heavyweight Championship. He retained the title against Jericho at Armageddon on December 14. After defeating JBL at the Royal Rumble on January 25, 2009, Cena lost the championship at No Way Out on February 15 to Edge, who attacked Kofi Kingston and took his place in the Elimination Chamber match. Cena received his rematch for the title at WrestleMania 25 on April 5 in a triple threat match involving Big Show and won. He lost the championship back to Edge in a Last Man Standing match at Backlash on April 26 after interference from Big Show, who chokeslammed Cena through a spotlight. Cena defeated Big Show at Judgment Day on May 17 and Extreme Rules on June 7 in a submission match by applying the STF. During Cena's feud with Big Show, The Miz challenged him to a match on the April 27 episode of Raw, but as Cena was out due to injury, Miz claimed an unofficial win via forfeit and continued to do this over the following weeks, until Cena defeated him at The Bash on June 28.
While promoting his 2009 film 12 Rounds, Cena announced his engagement to Elizabeth Huberdeau. They were married on July 11, 2009. On May 1, 2012, Cena filed for divorce, which was finalized on July 18. Later that year, he began dating fellow wrestler Nikki Bella. They became engaged when Cena proposed to her at WrestleMania 33 on April 2, 2017, but ended their relationship in April 2018; they had been scheduled to marry on May 5.
At Royal Rumble on January 31, 2010, Cena competed in the titular match, making it to the final two where he was eliminated by the returning Edge. Cena regained the title at Elimination Chamber on February 21 in the eponymous match, but his reign was cut short after Mr. McMahon made him defend the title immediately against Batista, who emerged victorious. Cena defeated Batista at WrestleMania XXVI on March 28 for the title, and successfully defended it in a rematch at Extreme Rules on April 25 in a Last Man Standing match. Cena defeated Batista for a third time in an "I Quit" match at Over the Limit on May 23, ending their feud.
Cena co-starred in his third film produced by WWE Studios, titled Legendary, which was played in selected theaters beginning on September 10, 2010 for a limited time. It was then released on DVD on September 28, 2010. That same year, Cena starred in the children's film Fred: The Movie, a film based on Lucas Cruikshank's YouTube videos of the same name, where he plays Fred's imaginary father. The movie was first aired on Nickelodeon in September 2010.
On the January 17, 2011 episode of Raw, Cena returned and faced Punk in a match which ended in a no contest after Cena was attacked by the debuting Mason Ryan, who later joined The Nexus. Cena competed in the Royal Rumble match on January 30, which saw Cena eliminate most of the Nexus members, ending his feud with the stable. He made it to the final five before being eliminated by WWE Champion The Miz, who was not part of the match. Cena won the titular match at Elimination Chamber on February 20 to face Miz at WrestleMania XXVII for the WWE Championship.
WWE chairman Vince McMahon said he regarded John Cena as the WWE's Babe Ruth. Bleacher Report named Cena one of the 10 greatest WWE wrestlers of all time. In 2012, WrestleMania XXVIII, headlined by the John Cena vs. The Rock main event, became the highest drawing event in WWE history with 1,217,000 buys. The event held the record for the highest grossing live event in WWE history as of 2012; grossing $8.9 million.
Cena then began a feud with Kane, who cited his disgust for Cena's "Rise Above Hate" slogan and claimed that Cena would need to embrace the hate to defeat The Rock at WrestleMania. Cena fought Kane to a double countout at Royal Rumble on January 29, 2012, and then defeated him in an Ambulance match on February 19 at Elimination Chamber. At WrestleMania XXVIII on April 1, Cena faced The Rock in the main event; the match ended when Cena attempted the People's Elbow on The Rock, and he countered with a Rock Bottom for the pinfall.
From late 2011 until WrestleMania XXVIII, Cena wore a black "Rise Above Hate" T-shirt promoting WWE's "Be a Star" anti-bullying campaign. In September and October 2012, Cena wore pink and black with the phrase "Rise Above Cancer" in partnership with Susan G. Komen for the Cure as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
On January 27, 2013, Cena won his second Royal Rumble match, announcing that he would pursue the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 29. Cena, along with Ryback and Sheamus, began feuding with The Shield, culminating in a six-man tag team match on February 17 at Elimination Chamber, which The Shield won. On the February 25 episode of Raw, Cena defeated CM Punk to reaffirm his status as the #1 contender for the Rock's WWE Championship. At WrestleMania on April 7, Cena defeated Rock in their rematch to win his eleventh WWE Championship. Cena then began a rivalry with Ryback, during which he suffered a legitimate achilles tendon injury. Cena retained his championship against Ryback in a Last Man Standing match at Extreme Rules on May 19; the match ended in a no contest after both men were down for a 10 count. Cena then defeated Ryback in a Three Stages of Hell match on June 16 at Payback. He defeated Mark Henry via submission on July 14 at Money in the Bank. At SummerSlam on August 18, Cena lost the WWE Championship to Daniel Bryan, with Triple H as the special guest referee ending his reign at 133 days. The following night on Raw, Cena announced he would undergo surgery for a triceps tear and would be out for four to six months.
Cena returned to WWE again on the February 28, 2020 episode of SmackDown, seemingly announcing his retirement before he was confronted by "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt, who challenged him to a match at WrestleMania 36—a sequel to their WrestleMania XXX match in 2014—which Cena accepted. On the second night of the event on April 5, rather than a traditional wrestling match, the two squared off in a surreal cinematic-style match called a Firefly Fun House match, taking the competitors on a trip through history as moments from Cena's and Wyatt's history were played out, including Cena's debut against Kurt Angle, a moment featuring his Doctor of Thuganomics character, and the pair's match at WrestleMania XXX. Wyatt ultimately defeated Cena, and following his victory Cena's motionless body vanished from the middle of the ring.
In October 2014, Cena was featured on two songs with rapper Wiz Khalifa for his two singles "All Day" and "Breaks" for the soundtrack to the WWE 2K15 video game.
In 2015, Cena made appearances in the comedy films Trainwreck, Sisters and a cameo in Daddy's Home. In 2017, Cena starred in the war drama The Wall and lent his voice for the animated films Surf's Up 2: WaveMania and Ferdinand. He also appeared in Daddy's Home 2, reprising his role in a larger capacity than the 2015 film. In 2018, Cena starred in the comedy Blockers, and had a leading role in the Transformers spin-off prequel, Bumblebee. In 2019, he starred in Playing with Fire, playing the role of smokejumper superintendent Jake Carson. In 2020, he voiced Yoshi, a polar bear, in the adventure comedy film Dolittle.
— Pro Wrestling Dot Net analyst Will Pruett in July 2015
On August 17, 2015, Cena guest co-hosted Today on NBC. Cena appeared on Late Night with Seth Meyers on August 21, 2015. Cena co-hosted Today again on March 28–30 and May 9, 10, 13 and 30, 2016.
Cena started learning Mandarin Chinese in 2016 to help the WWE expand its reach, and he spoke in Mandarin at a press conference in China. He also revealed in April 2018 that he learned to play the piano.
Cena returned at WrestleMania 32 on April 3, 2016, helping The Rock fend off The Wyatt Family. Cena then made his full return on the Memorial Day edition of Raw on May 30, four months earlier than had been expected for his type of injury. He was confronted by AJ Styles, only to be betrayed by Styles, who joined his former Club teammates Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson in attacking Cena. On June 19 at Money in the Bank, Styles defeated Cena with interference from Gallows and Anderson. On the July 4 episode of Raw, Cena was again attacked by The Club, but was saved by Enzo Amore and Big Cass, setting up a six-man tag team match on July 24 at Battleground, which Cena, Amore, and Cass won after Cena pinned Styles. On the July 19 episode of SmackDown at the 2016 WWE draft, Cena was drafted to the SmackDown brand, while also defeating Club member Luke Gallows in a singles contest. Cena continued his feud with Styles, and at SummerSlam on August 21, Cena lost their rematch. With Styles later winning the renamed WWE World Championship, Cena challenged him and Dean Ambrose in a triple threat match for the title on October 9 at No Mercy. He lost the match after being pinned by Styles, which came after Ambrose and Cena simultaneously made Styles submit, therefore restarting the match. Cena took a sabbatical from WWE to film American Grit season 2.
Cena hosted two seasons of American Grit on Fox, a reality television series with 10 episodes. 16 men and women were split into four teams, where challenges were given. A US$1 million prize was given to the winning team. American Grit premiered on Fox on April 14, 2016, and the finale of season 1 aired on June 9. Cena hosted the ESPN ESPY Awards on July 13, 2016, in Los Angeles. On December 10, 2016, Cena was the guest host of Saturday Night Live (SNL) on NBC.
He was the pace car driver for the 58th annual Daytona 500. On October 13, 2016, Cena made his debut as the voice of Ernie the Elephant in a new commercial campaign launched by Wonderful Pistachios. He was named to Adweek's "Creative 100" and received praise for his performance. In 2020, Cena and Honda announced a partnership, with Cena becoming the new voice of Honda.
In November 2016, Cena appeared in a public service announcement, "We Are America", sponsored by the Ad Council as part of its "Love Has No Labels" campaign.
On January 24, 2017, Nickelodeon announced that Cena would host the 2017 Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards ceremony on March 11. On January 11, 2018, it was announced that he would be hosting the awards ceremony again on March 24, 2018, becoming the third host behind Whitney Houston and Rosie O'Donnell to host the ceremony back to back years. Two days later, the game show Keep It Spotless premiered with him as an executive producer. In addition, he was cast on Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as the voice of the villain Baron Draxum. The series premiered in July 2018. On February 14, 2019, it was announced that Cena would host a revival of Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader on the network, which premiered June 10, 2019.
On January 29, 2017, Cena defeated Styles at the Royal Rumble to win the WWE Championship and tie Ric Flair for the most recognized world title reigns at 16. However, Cena would lose the championship two weeks later in an Elimination Chamber match at Elimination Chamber on February 12 to Bray Wyatt. Two nights later on SmackDown, Cena lost a triple threat match against Wyatt for the championship in a match also featuring Styles. Cena then began a feud with The Miz, with Miz accusing Cena of being a hypocrite because of his movie commitments, while Cena accused Miz of stealing other wrestlers' moves and personalities. Miz's wife Maryse then slapped Cena before Cena and his girlfriend Nikki Bella sent Miz and Maryse retreating. SmackDown General Manager Daniel Bryan then set up a mixed tag team match for WrestleMania 33 on April 2, which Cena and Bella won. Cena proposed marriage to Bella after the match and she accepted.
In July 2017, WWE dubbed Cena a "free agent" during the Superstar Shake-up, meaning he could work for both the Raw and SmackDown brands. Cena defeated Rusev in a flag match at Battleground on July 23, Baron Corbin at SummerSlam on August 20, and lost to Roman Reigns on September 24 at No Mercy. Cena returned to SmackDown the next month after Commissioner Shane McMahon named him the final member of Team SmackDown for the men's 5-on-5 elimination match against Team Raw at Survivor Series; at the event on November 19, Cena was eliminated by Kurt Angle and Team SmackDown was defeated.
In December 2017, the Ford Motor Company filed a lawsuit against Cena for selling his 2017 Ford GT, therefore violating his purchase agreement. According to Ford, he signed a contract to keep the car for at least two years but breached the agreement by selling it to make a net profit shortly after receiving it. On June 19, 2018, the two sides reached an undisclosed settlement, with Cena apologizing to Ford and Ford promising to donate the settlement to charity.
Cena failed to win the Royal Rumble on January 28, 2018 and the Elimination Chamber match to determine the #1 contender for the Universal Championship on February 25 at Elimination Chamber, as well as a six-pack challenge on March 11 at Fastlane for the WWE Championship. On April 8 at WrestleMania 34, Cena was quickly defeated by The Undertaker. After defeating Triple H on April 27 at the Greatest Royal Rumble, he thanked the crowd for sticking by him during a tough period, referencing his loss to Undertaker and his recent breakup with Nikki Bella. Cena competed in a tag team match with Bobby Lashley against Elias and Kevin Owens at Super Show-Down on October 6 in Melbourne, Australia, which he and Lashley won. He was also scheduled for a match at Crown Jewel in Saudi Arabia on November 2, but Cena refused to work the event following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. On November 29, it was announced Cena had been awarded the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award Winner by Sports Illustrated.
In July 2018, Cena briefly moved to China, where he settled in Yinchuan. He went on to create a YouTube show on WWE's channel, highlighting his trips to local stores and markets. He explained that he would be living there for five months while working on a film, Hidden Strike, with Jackie Chan. The shoot concluded in November 2018.
In 2019, Cena was cast in Justin Lin's F9, playing Jakob Toretto, the brother of Vin Diesel's character Dominic Toretto. During the film's promotional tour in 2021, Cena referred to Taiwan as "a country". He subsequently posted an apology on social media as China considers Taiwan a part of China. Comedian and political commentator Bill Maher criticized Cena for his apology to China.
Cena returned to WWE television on the January 1, 2019 episode of SmackDown, where he and Becky Lynch defeated Andrade Cien Almas and Zelina Vega in a mixed tag team match. On the January 14 episode of Raw, Cena lost to Finn Bálor, Drew McIntyre, and Corbin in a fatal four-way match to determine the #1 contender for the Universal Championship at Royal Rumble. Cena was scheduled to compete in the Royal Rumble on January 27, but was taken out due to an in-storyline ankle injury supposedly suffered during the match.
Cena made a $1 million donation to Black Lives Matter in June 2020 as part of the #MatchAMillion initiative made popular by K-pop band BTS.
On October 12, 2020, Cena married girlfriend Shay Shariatzadeh, whom he had been dating since early 2019, in a private ceremony in Tampa, Florida. The two met during the production of Cena's 2019 film Playing with Fire, which was filmed in Vancouver, where Shariatzadeh works.
In 2021, Cena co-hosted the TV game show Wipeout.
On May 10, 2021, Cena posted a video on his Weibo account, in which he sat in a car and ate ice cream while promoting the upcoming film Fast & Furious 9. In the video, Cena speaks Mandarin and sings into the ice cream cone as if it were a microphone. The video was viewed by millions of users and inspired the creation of new memes like "Bing Chilling".
On May 24, 2021, a video of Cena apologizing to China was published on Twitter. While promoting Fast & Furious 9 in an interview, Cena stated Taiwan would be the first country to be able to view the film. This resulted in a backlash from Chinese social media users, prompting Cena to apologize in Mandarin in the video for the slip of the tongue. His apology received mixed reactions in China, and was the subject of further internet memes in the west.
In 2022, John Cena performed a piano rendition of Mötley Crüe's Home Sweet Home for the Peacemaker soundtrack.
On the June 6, 2022 episode of Raw, it was announced that Cena would return on the June 27 episode of Raw, which marked the 20th anniversary of his main roster in-ring debut. On that episode of Raw, Cena returned and cut a promo recalling all his memories and thanking the fans for their support. He also made appearances backstage with The Street Profits, Ezekiel, Theory, Seth "Freakin" Rollins, and Omos. On the December 30 episode of SmackDown, Cena wrestled for the first time in over a year, where he and Kevin Owens defeated The Bloodline's Roman Reigns and Sami Zayn. On the day of "Raw is XXX", Cena was announced as the cover star for the WWE 2K23 video game, the second time for him being a cover star of a WWE 2K game after WWE 2K15. In February and March 2023, Austin Theory would call out Cena multiple times and challenge him to a match at WrestleMania 39 for Theory's United States Championship. Cena would eventually accept, but lost the match between the pair.
Cena also was cast as Christopher Smith / Peacemaker in James Gunn's The Suicide Squad, a role originally intended for Dave Bautista. In 2023, he reprised his role as Jakob Toretto in Fast X, which premiered in theaters on May 19, 2023. He was also the voice of Rocksteady in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, which was released on August 2, 2023.