World Wrestling Entertainment has its biggest day of the year this Sunday when WrestleMania XXVII hits the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. If you want to get more personally involved in an epic smackdown, though, you can also pick up WWE All-Stars, the new THQ video game (available for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, 3 and PSP, and the Nintendo Wii and DS) that pits current as well as legendary pro wrestlers such as Hulk Hogan, Randy “Macho Man” Savage, The Undertaker, Randy Orton, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson against each other in arcade-style, larger-than-life matches. John Cena, 33, the charismatic face of the WWE these days, is a part of the new game and this weekend’s WrestleMania activities, culminating in a match for the WWE title with him against The Miz Sunday. (The two have been having a weekly war of words with Johnson the past month on the USA Network’s WWE Raw, which airs every Monday night.) I had a chance yesterday to talk with Cena — who debuted in the WWE in 2002 and has had starring movie roles in The Marine, 12 Rounds and Legendary — about WrestleMania and his role with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, so read below for the interview and check out his character and others in this WWE All-Stars trailer.
Photos courtesy of THQ, USA Network
How does WWE All-Stars compare to he WWE’s signature game series, Smackdown vs. Raw?
I think I’ll spend most of my time playing this because it has a lot of unlockable features and depth to the game, but at the same time, it’s something I can comprehend and not have to worry about being the most coordinated guy out there.
What has this week been like, as everything is gearing toward Sunday? No time for rest, I would imagine.
No, but this isn’t my first WrestleMania. A lot of the new guys are experiencing exactly what WrestleMania is during WrestleMania Fan Axxess, which is already open. From now until late Saturday, we have 216 appearances by all the roster of WWE Superstars. That in itself is such an undertaking. It takes six months worth of preparation just to organize Axxess itself, and then you have the event on Sunday with 70,000 people in the Georgia Dome. That is our No. 1 day — from a production standpoint, from a performance standpoint, that is it for us. It really is a lot of work and I’m really thankful that at this point, I’ve been there, I’ve done it a few times, because I know exactly how much work it really is. These new guys may be a little bit overwhelmed.
A lot of people have enjoyed the TV lead-up with you, The Miz and The Rock. How much fun has it been working with those guys?
You’ve gotta remember, I’m still a fan. Not that anybody gives any less, but I really like to see when people step up for WrestleMania. It adds to the feel of the event. All three of us realize that this is it and you have to make the best impression you can, and everyone has stepped their game up for WrestleMania. For me, these past six weeks have been awesome.
With such a busy schedule, do you have time for hobbies and new things like that?
That’s a great thing about the WWE: Every night a is a new crowd, every night is a new challenge, every night is a new city, and there’s always another event. There’s no “OK, the Super Bowl’s over. I have s few months before I’ve got to go back to work.” There is none of that. We’re going to have our Super Bowl on Sunday, and then on Monday at 9 o’clock live, we’ll be on the USA Network. There really isn’t time to stop and have a hobby. I just try to be the best I can in this business, and that’s always been my goal. When you start resting on your laurels, that’s when you fall behind everybody.
I heard you’re taking a bunch of Make-A-Wish kids to WrestleMania.
Yeah, we do something like this every year, and this year I’m fortunate enough to take 30 Make-A-Wish kids and their families to Wrestlemania Axxcess and to the event itself. They’ll be my special guests. We’re going to throw them a huge party on Saturday, and then they get to come to the biggest stage of them all. Those families have no idea what they’re in for. I truly think this will be the most successful event in WWE history, so just being able to say they were there is going to be something special.
That’s really neat. Is the foundation something you have a personal connection to, or when you decided to give back that was where you leaned?
The WWE is involved with a lot of charity work, but I specifically like this. This is my cause. Regardless of their condition or their ailment, when you see them, they’re excited and they forget. That is the most important thing for me. To have someone’s wish be to meet me and spend time with me, dude, that is the most flattering thing you could ever imagine. To see these kids light up is great. We meet everybody in person, and we spend a lot of time together. Because we have so much merchandise, I come with all these gifts for all these kids, and then, it’s not over. They get to be a guest for a WWE event, and they always are sitting real close. If you look at me hit the ring, I’m always looking around and I can spot various people in the crowd. I always make sure to make it a very special moment for the Wish kid by saying something to them or acknowledging their family. It just adds to whatever we do, man. It’s one of those deals where no matter how tired you are or how you feel that day, you always got fired up when you hear you have an obligation with Make-A-Wish.
You’ve dipped your toes in acting in movies and on TV. Anything coming up in that arena for you?
I just filmed a bit part in the sequel to the movie Fred. It was the most-watched kids movie of the year last year, so they did another one and I snuck into that. I have a movie that’s tentatively titled Family Reunion that will be out in the fourth quarter of this year, and a few offers of stuff going on right now. I hope to be in three or four more titles before the year is up, but at the same time, keeping a full-time WWE schedule. When you love something, it’s not work, man, and I love WWE and have really found a new love in acting. If I didn’t want to do it, I wouldn’t do it. When it becomes hard and arduous, then it’s time to quit something.
Do you find that these days you have more wrestling heroes or acting heroes?
[Laughs] I’ve always been a fan of WWE, man. There’s a lot of guys I look to and respect in the industry, and I’m in a position where I’m the guy now instilling respect and passion on knowledge to a lot of the people in the youth movement. That’s where my heart lies.
I talked with Paul “Triple H” Levesque recently and he said he’s taking on a mentor role with some guys. Do you see yourself having those kinds of relationships as well?
Yeah. You don’t realize it, but suddenly you become the veteran. It seems like only yesterday that you’re the greenest-grass, wet-behind-the-ears rookie, and now people are coming to you for genuine advice and asking meaningful questions — not just, “Hey. man, what do you think of my new outfit?” It really is something special. It shows that people realize from the outside looking in that you care about what you do, and it really is special when somebody comes and asks you a down-to-earth question on how to be a success.
You’ve had John Cena characters in video games and loads of John Cena action figures. Is that trippy when you step back and think about it all?
It truly is, but I’ll be quite honest with you, we move so fast in WWE, I haven’t had the chance yet to step back and reflect on what I’ve done. I know there’ll come a day when my participation slows down, and I’ll really be able to get a grasp on everything that’s going on. But you’re absolutely right. From T-shirts to pillowcases to video games to action figures to koozies to iPad skins, there’s so much out there. And that doesn’t point a finger to the programming. We have three shows a week every week, no reruns — we’re just out there so much, you don’t have the time to step back and realize what you’re doing. I can’t wait for the day when I can actually be like, “Wow. What a hell of a ride.”