WWE star John Cena could be on his last legs as a pro wrestler.
Over the last few years, Cena has moved from being WWE’s clear-cut No. 1 full-time star to a part-time attraction in the same mold as Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker. As difficult as it may be to imagine a WWE without Cena, he’s taken several major hiatuses recently in order to film TV shows like American Grit and movies such as The Pact, and his Hollywood career certainly doesn’t appear to be slowing down.
At least so far, Cena has returned after every time he bolted for a short period. But as the days go by and Cena gets older, there are more and more indications that his frequent absences from WWE programming could soon turn into a permanent one.
Here are five signs that Cena will soon leave WWE. For good.
He Says He Can’t Do Movies And Wrestle At The Same Time
In an interview with Metro.us back in May, Cena shed some light on why he disappears from WWE TV when Hollywood comes calling:
I would do both [acting and wrestling] at the same time, but the movie guys are a little weird with their insurance. They don’t want me to go smashing my face up.”
Without saying so explicitly, Cena essentially implied that, at least at certain times, he prioritizes his acting career over pro wrestling. One would assume that, because Cena is not able to compete in WWE while also filming movies, he is able to choose one or the other, and in recent years, he has taken several hiatuses from WWE in order to further his acting career.
Cena’s most recent hiatus lasted from WrestleMania 33 in early April until the July Fourth edition of SmackDown in order to film The Pact, and with more acting offers likely to pour in, Cena will have to choose whether to stick with WWE for the long haul or to eventually stop showing up at all.
And recent history suggests it will be the latter.
His SmackDown Match Against Shinsuke Nakamura
Instead of a lengthy buildup to Cena vs. Shinsuke Nakamura at a major pay-per-view like SummerSlam or WrestleMania, WWE gave us that match on this week’s SmackDown after only one week of buildup.
Of course, Cena vs. Nakamura is the true definition of a dream match, which begs the question: Why did it happen so suddenly?
Cena’s bout with Nakamura was likely done for a number of reasons. One, it was a clear attempt to help SmackDown‘s struggling ratings, though it only did that slightly. Two, putting Cena in a high-profile spot is one way of trying to boost the blue brand’s live event attendance, which dipped in Cena’s absence at both TV tapings and pay-per-views. Three, it was a way to focus on a tried and true draw in Cena as company officials begin to worry about Mahal’s ability to draw in a headlining role.
Ultimately, however, Cena’s rushed dream match against Nakamura was a clear indicator that WWE wants to put him in as many marquee matches as possible as his future with the company continues to be fuzzy. After all, the fact that he faced Nakamura on a random episode of SmackDown indicates that he may only have a handful of major title matches left and that WWE wants to squeeze in as many of them as possible before it’s too late.
He Just Landed His Biggest Movie Role Yet
According to The Hollywood Reporter, “Cena has nabbed a lead role in the Transformers spinoff Bumblebee,” which would mark his biggest movie role to date.
During Cena’s budding movie career, he’s primarily worked in supporting roles, but much like we saw with The Rock, Cena’s upcoming role in Bumblebee could propel him to even more Hollywood success. In 2002, The Rock landed his first leading role as the main character in The Scorpion King, and by 2004, he was off to Hollywood for good and would soon be cast in leading roles in a number of major films, including Walking Tall and Gridiron Gang.
Of course, chances are slim that Cena can replicate the success of The Rock, who was the world’s highest paid actor in 2016, according to FORBES. But the parallels between their respective WWE careers are becoming quite apparent and may mirror each other even more thanks to Cena’s role in Bumblebee, which could cause him to leave WWE altogether within the next couple of years.
The Push Of Roman Reigns And The Tease Of A Cena Dream Match
WWE rushed into Cena’s match with Shinsuke Nakamura, a WrestleMania main event caliber bout, in part because it may not have enough time to do that match on pay-per-view before Cena leaves.
As Reigns’ and Cena’s Twitter teases suggest, WWE may be doing Cena vs. Reigns at WrestleMania 34, the goal of which would be to serve as a true “passing of the torch” that anoints Reigns as the new No. 1 star in pro wrestling. WWE likely would not be building toward a Cena/Reigns match right now if those within the company weren’t worried that Cena could jump ship to Hollywood at any given minute.
WWE has missed out on potential dream matches, like The Rock vs. Shawn Michaels, in the past, but Reigns vs. Cena, a bout between WWE’s biggest draw and the man set to replace him, is one match that must happen before WWE misses the boat on it.
His Recent Comments About Retirement
Here’s what Cena himself recently told Complexabout his “free agent” status and his WWE future:
The reason that I wanted to be a free agent and the reason they kind of granted my request is because I don’t know if I’ll be available for Smackdown specific only or Raw specific only, and I also know that my days are numbered. I just turned 40 in April and we have so many young and talented performers, I don’t know how many years I have left. So in the time I have left, I’m gonna do what I can to dedicate to this company I just want to be able to do it the most time that I possibly can.”
In other words, there is no telling how much time Cena has left in WWE. He could be here today and gone tomorrow, especially if more lucrative Hollywood offers come pouring in or if he suffers a major injury that would sideline him for a significant period of time. At 40 years old and after having been in WWE for 15 years, there is literally nothing left for Cena to accomplish in WWE, especially with the lure of a less physically demanding acting career.
It’s hard to imagine a Cena-less WWE given how critical he has been to the company’s success over the last decade-plus, but even he has said he isn’t sure how long he will be around. And that was before he secured his role in Bumblebee, which may make even the very dedicated Cena realize that perhaps it’s time for a full-fledged career change. .forbes.com