The first half of 2017 will be remembered by the WWE Universe for two sets of top-notch pro-wrestling promos: Kevin Owens paling around with Chris Jericho, and John Cena and The Miz absolutely tearing into each other weekly before WrestleMania 33.
While TheWrap had Cena on the horn last week, the host and executive producer of Fox competition series “American Grit” was happy to talk some squared-circle — and the wrestler-turned-actor who could snap you in half with his STF submission maneuver didn’t pull any (working) punches while discussing mic work, and his locker room reputation.
For those who missed those “SmackDown Live” verbal jousts, they generally went like this: 1) Miz completely kills Cena with some vicious, shoot (the professional wrestling term for a real attack, physical or verbal) insults, which took a shocking turn to the personal. This goes on for 5-10 minutes, to the point where a viewer would pencil in the “Real World” alum for a surprise win. But then, 2) Cena comes back even nastier and he shoots for even longer, punctuating the whole thing with something so harsh it makes one worry for The Miz’s future in the business.
Here’s what Cena had to say when we asked him about that epic back-and-forth, which was surprising for how many lumps the top WWE Superstar took in an effort to hype a mixed-tag match:
If you look at my existence in WWE, I have never asked anyone and will never ask anyone to pull any punches. I believe that it’s a ‘Strong Survive’ environment, and accept nothing less. I think people forget my [history] in WWE sometimes and the fact that I truly had to earn every inch. There is this overwhelming perception that I am protected and coddled — that couldn’t be father from the truth.
Every single opponent that I have, if they don’t realize that I give them free range to throw their best punch — and just know that I’m going to punch back — I openly let that be known. I just think it’s something that goes vastly overlooked.
I just believe you bring your best to every story and you bring your best to every fight. And if my skills aren’t as good, then it’s time to step back. It’s just a matter of believing in myself and going out there and speaking from the heart. I believe that sometimes that’s something missing in some of the WWE storylines … being honest and brave enough to put everything out there on the table.
I’ve always done that, and I think the same could be said about multiple storylines with multiple Superstars … and it’s always with me.
This is why I have the reputation of quote-unquote “burying younger talent,” because I will let them do whatever they want with me — and then after they get done, they’re not as motivated. So, it’s not that I sink their ship, it’s that they fail to operate at an elite level. And I’m on to the next person, [to] whom I say, “Hey man, bring your best punch and I’m gonna punch back” — and they don’t take that attitude beyond me.
I take that approach to everyone. The Miz story couldn’t be a better example of that, because when that story started … no one wanted to see that match. No one. I made it a point to have everyone work as hard as they could to change everyone’s mind. And now here you are, months after the fact, saying that was one of the most entertaining things done on television. That just goes to show you that it’s all just about how much you’re willing to invest and how strongly you believe in what you want to do.
Check back with TheWrap in a few days for the “American Grit” portion of our interview with Cena, who is set to return to WWE on July 4.