WWE superstar John Cena recently spoke with Sports Illustrated to talk all things pro-wrestling, including how unique his WrestleMania 36 showdown was with The Fiend. Highlights from the interview can be found below.
How important an audience is for pro-wrestling:
I’ve always said that the most important superstar is the audience. I don’t think we’ve ever seen a better indication of that than right now. The program is different.
How WWE has to adapt to the times and transform their idea of what sports entertainment is:
I firmly believe that not only will it survive, it will thrive, but it has to, as an entirety, embrace this process. I believe they’re beginning to do that. The longer they go without an audience, they need to transform as an entirety what sports entertainment is. I think they’re in this weird sort of middle ground, where they don’t know when crowds will be let back in. If you truly commit to a paradigm shift, that may scare away the normalcy the viewers are used to seeing. So you kind of have to operate like there is an audience, but there isn’t an audience. It’s a very weird time. I don’t think they’ve committed to transition yet, and that’s absolutely justifiable because, eventually, people will be let back into turnstiles. It’s very complicated. There isn’t a clear-cut answer to be like, ‘Just do this and it will be better.
How is skill as a sports entertainer can be used to tell stories on a bigger scale:
I don’t want to get locked into the dimensions of strictly wrestling. I don’t even view sports entertainment as wrestling, I view it as sport and entertainment. I think that’s one of the small, subconscious vehicles that allows me to look at things in a bigger scope and challenge myself to grow and take risks. I don’t use industry terminology, I don’t look at it like that. I really think the narrative of good versus evil is an important one, and certainly one that everyone can relate to with a lot of gravitas. That’s the nucleus of sports entertainment.
His WrestleMania 36 showdown against The Fiend:
I’ve had many experiences and many stories in WWE over my tenure there, and a lot of it has been embracing conflict and embracing the tale of good versus evil,” said Cena. “This isn’t the first time I’ve done something like this. For the viewing audience, it was the first time they’d seen a cinematic depiction of this, but this isn’t the first time that we’ve seen a conflicted John Cena character. As with all the opportunities I get in WWE, I never try to be complacent and I always like to push the envelope. This was an instance where we could do just that, and I think we put forth a product that certainly got people’s attention and got people talking