The latest episode of WWE's Ruthless Aggression documentary series did a deep dive into John Cena's rise to stardom during the mid-2000s on SmackDown. Cena's initial run in the company, which kicked off with his impressive debut against Kurt Angle, flopped due to a lack of personality with his character. That changed when he adopted the "Doctor of Thuganomics" gimmick, which led to him delivering rapping promos on almost every episode, even after he turned face and started challenging for world championships. But shortly after his move to Raw, Cena slowly moved away from the rapper gimmick, and eventually the rapping gone altogether.
Cena explained why he decided to make that change late in the episode.
"Here I had a personality that attached to the people who were watching, but then slowly the people who were watching changed and they began to be more kids and more families to come to these events. And I saw it happen. I didn't need a sheet of analytics. I can see it. So I said, 'This is it. We're changing up, right now.' I remember going into Vince's office and said, 'I have to stop rapping.'"
Elsewhere in the documentary Cena revealed that he was on the verge of getting fired back in late 2002, and the only thing that saved him was when Stephanie McMahon noticed him freestyling during a European tour bus ride.
"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."
Though his rapping went away, Cena's fashion sense remained mostly unchanged starting in 2007. During a recent interview with James Corden he explained why he stuck with wearing jorts for so long.
"If you look at my other options, it's just underwear," Cena said, getting a laugh from the audience. "So I wanted to do some sort of street clothes because my persona was a tough wannabe rapper kid from the mean streets of West Newberry, tough to do that in your underwear. So I also wear sneakers, most guys wear calf-high or knee-high leather boots, so I'm pretty much in street clothes. And I chose denim because you don't blow the crotch out in denim.
"I tried cargo pants, and in front of the world a few times here I am trying to put my life on the line with a few Superstars I'm having a match with, and everyone is just looking at my d—," he continued. "So denim is a safe play. And they're back in, so I stood the test of time."