John Cena Describes Almost Getting His WWE Release in 2002

John Cena will go down in history as one of WWE's biggest stars, but the 16-time world champion wasn't always treated like wrestling royalty. In fact, he was almost fired by the company way back in his earliest days on television, long before his he headlined his first WrestleMania event. Back in 2002 Cena made his television debut on SmackDown as a surprise opponent for Kurt Angle, and impressed fans with his "Ruthless Aggression" in the ring. But within months the shine on Cena had worn off, and fans became woefully indifferent to the white meat babyface.

In the second episode of WWE's Ruthless Aggression documentary series, Cena revealed that WWE told him he was going to be released in November at the next round of roster cuts.

"I was told I'd be getting my release at Christmas cuts because it just wasn't working. And there was no argument there, it wasn't," Cena said. They gave it to me on a silver platter — John Cena, Ruthless Aggression. And I failed, I messed it up."

Cena then recalled the famous bus ride where he started freestyle rapping, which impressed Stephanie McMahon so much that she offered for him to try rapping on television. He appeared on a Halloween episode of SmackDown dressed as Vanilla Ice and rapped a few bars, opening the door for what would become his Doctor of Thuganomics gimmick. And the rest is history.

WWE has announced Cena will appear on the Feb. 28 episode of Friday Night SmackDown, which has fans hoping that he'll step back inside the ring for a match at WrestleMania 36. Cena has already teased the idea of wrestling that night in various interviews.

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"This is the first time in 15 years, or maybe more, that I haven't been on a WWE scheduled pay-per-view in a calendar year. So this is the first big transition.... I've officially moved elsewhere, I'm not a regular player. WWE is still my heart. I'm still apart of the family. I still keep in touch with a lot of folks. I try my best to teach and mentor and help when I can. But man, I'm 42," Cena said while on Jimmy Kimmel Live. "I've been proud of the effort I've put forth, and I just want to make sure I never am in a position where paying customers look at the effort and say, 'Eh, he's sticking around cause he's greedy.'"

"I always like for them to give me ideas and then me kind of make it my own. I know we have have a small, large event called WrestleMania around the corner. It just so happens to be in Tampa. That's kinda where I live, so I'll be in the neighborhood. Suicide Squad should be done. But it's not like I call someone up and be like, 'I wanna be in WrestleMania.' Those spots are very coveted. There are performers that work all year, 250 shows a year, to earn those spots. I would love to earn one of those spots."

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