LOS ANGELES — When John Cena decided to take an extended break from WWE programming, it shocked a lot of fans. A member of the company’s roster since 2002, Cena has rarely been absent from WWE TV, unless he was healing from an injury.
Not that it’s been revealed he temporarily stepped from wrestling to host the upcoming FOX reality competition “American Grit,” many are wondering why now is the right time for him to take a break from the ring.
During a visit to the set of “American Grit,” Zap2it asked Cena just that. “I’ve been a cornerstone of WWE programming since 2002. That’s a long time, it’s more than 10 years,” he says during a group interview with a handful of outlets. “So much so that a portion of our audience has direct complacency with me. ‘Man, Cena holds everybody down. He doesn’t give the new guys a chance.'”
Now, with him gone, it gives the opportunities for those new guys to make their mark.
“From a company perspective, as you know I hold it very near and dear to my heart, the dance floor is open, boys,” he explains. “I’m gone, let’s see who steps up. And I like that. As much as I want to try to distance myself or as much as someone who views me would try to distance myself from WWE, I’m never going to go.”
Truthfully, in Cena’s mind, the timing can’t be any better for his current leave of absence.
“Personally, and this gives me a better perspective on Dwayne Johnson’s path, you get to a certain point and you cannot attract any more fans, he says. “Essentially, my productivity from a company standpoint … I’ve done as much as I can — 15 world championships and a myriad of other accomplishments. I don’t know what left I can do, but I still want to be able to put people in the building.”
That’s where this show, along with his other projects, come into play. “If I can get to a whole new audience — which is why opportunities like ‘Trainwreck,’ ‘Sisters’ and even some time on ‘Total Divas’ and ‘American Grit’ are just getting us out to new eyes,” Cena says. “If a few weeks in the woods can not only get people watching ‘American Grit,’ but more folks watching WWE, then we’ve made the right choice.”
Still, though he may be out in a forest and far away from civilization, don’t think he’s not keeping tabs on what’s happening on WWE programming.
“I watch ‘Raw.’ It kills me to be healthy and watch ‘Raw,'” Cena admits. “But at the same time, if we don’t have a future I don’t have any accomplishments. It’s cool to see the guys stepping up, it really is.”
Especially since those stepping up will have him to tangle with when he returns. While he may only be shooting “American Grit” for a month, Cena says “it gives our young thoroughbreds a chance to run on the track a little bit, but also lets them know I’m hot on their heels.”
Cena is scheduled to return to WWE at the end of December. “American Grit” will premiere in 2016 on FOX.