WWE SUPERSTAR AND HANDPICKED TEAM BRING OUT THE BEST IN SHOW’S PARTICIPANTS.
John Cena carries 15 WWE World Heavyweight Champion titles and five U.S. Champion titles and has granted more Make-A-Wish visits (more than 500) than anyone who’s ever been asked to do so. His motto “Never Give Up” continues to deepen in meaning as he takes on new ventures, such as acting in thrillers like “The Marine” and “12 Rounds” and even the romantic comedy “Trainwreck.”
Now, the beloved leader of Cenation, whose ethos is Hustle, Loyalty, Respect, is bringing out the best in people in a big, new way as host of the FOX hit show “American Grit.” Cena told 24Life that the show is much more than a milestone in his career.
24Life: What does transformation mean to you?
John Cena: Well, in “American Grit” we use the word “evolve,” but it truly is the same thing and the same concept. It’s when you start an experience and by the end of the experience, you learn something to apply to your life.
24Life: How did some of the contestants on the show transform?
JC: It wasn’t even some. It was all. Everyone involved with the show went through a transformation because you have — whether you like it or not — everyone has first impressions of everyone else, and through this time that we all spent together out in the forest of Washington, everyone evolved. Everybody really put their best foot forward, and I’m very proud of that.
24Life: Did you help pick out the competitors on the show as well as the military heroes? What kind of things were you looking for in people?
JC: Well, I’m very happy to say that I did have a little bit to do with the selection process of the cadre and was very satisfied in who we got. I wanted people with a great skill set, with the ability to lead individuals and with wonderful stories. We got four amazing folks in Noah Galloway, “Tee” Hanible, Nicholas Irving and Rorke Denver. [I wasn’t involved in casting the participants, so it was] very much like basic training in the military: a drill instructor doesn’t know who enlists. They just get off the bus and go. I think that really was great about this show, because the only common theme among the competitors was that they all said they would never give up. Everyone came from every walk of life. It was great to see a bunch of different personalities all with the same backbone of “I’ll never give up,” and to see their different approaches to not giving up.
24Life: In addition to personal grit and determination, teamwork is an underlying theme of the show. How has teamwork factored into your career?
JC: I think throughout the course of everyone’s career, they’ll be matched up with a bunch of different teams.
I think one of many good messages the show sends is about the ability to work very efficiently with perfect strangers.
That essentially is a lot of what the business world is about, your ability to put your differences aside, co-exist for a period of time and accomplish a goal. In the business world, the goal is the bottom line, but on “American Grit” the goal is to get to that finish line, to be able to compete efficiently as a team so you have a chance to win that prize at the end. So I loved the fact that perfect strangers had to do that immediately: “Hey, I just met you. Did we just become best friends? Yes. Let’s go and let’s try to do this.”
24Life: We know you’re busy with multiple projects. How did you stay fit during the filming of the show while also being part of the WWE?
JC: It’s the same way I’ve stayed in shape for my entire run with the WWE. It’s time management. If it’s a priority in your life, you make the time for it. If I have a bunch of interviews, then I schedule my fitness around those times. I don’t just say, “Well, I have a ton of interviews today so I’m not going to do anything. I’m not going to exercise.”
24Life: So, tell us a little bit about how you mentally prepare for challenging an opponent.
JC: I prepare a lot differently than everybody else. I’m sort of like WWE’s weird, odd-ball thinker. I do as much research as I can. I get to know whoever I’m competing against, but not only that, I look beyond the ring. I do the best I can to try to understand our audience as well. All things considered, I use the skills I have and the research that I have to try to put forth something that will be special.
24Life: And your top three favorite exercise moves in your own workout routine?
JC: Squat is number one. Squat is number two. Squat is number three!
24Life: How do you recover, after a challenge?
JC: You know, I still haven’t learned that phase of the game yet! Once again, it falls into the category of time management. Sometimes you’ll be sleep-deprived, and you have to think both short- and long-term about the effect that that has on your body. If you’re going through a two- or three-week run where the travel is tremendous and you know you’re going to be limited to four hours of sleep per night, you have to prepare for that in any sort of training that you do. You have to say to yourself, “Okay, brace yourself. Strength is going to go down. Productivity is going to go down. Those are certain things that are going to be affected.”
24Life: And what about nutrition — how do you eat for performance?
JC: This varies for everybody. I’ll just sum it up. Just don’t make bad choices. That’s it. We all know the things that are healthy for us, and we all know the things that aren’t healthy for us. If the choice is, “I will starve myself or I will get something that is bad for me,” eat the something that is bad for you. But, if you have a choice of something healthy and something harmful, do your best to just eat healthy.
24Life: What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself in your professional career?
JC: I’m learning stuff about me every day. That I can continually push the limits of what I think I’m capable of, that I continue to move that line. That is true on all platforms: in strength, in work capacity, in time management. I just find new ways to just balance it all.
24Life: And how would you describe your mindset?
JC: “Perspective” is probably the best word, the best, most applicable one. I have great perspective on what is asked of me, what I am supposed to do. I don’t try to work over my needs. I try to do the best I possibly can with every situation I’m given. I think the greatest thing that I’ve learned over the years is perspective on every situation from multiple angles and especially my own.
24Life: What is something that you’re passionate about outside of fitness or your career?
JC: I like seeing good, motivated people do good things. That’s why “American Grit” has been so wonderful for me because I literally just got to host, meaning I take this competition from point A to B to C, and let these great, great individuals do great things. I directly see how it affects people. In the first episode, where Goldie just hugs Rorke and has a genuine moment when they’re both moved to emotion, [that’s what I’m talking about]. When you can be a vehicle to facilitate that, it’s an incredible feeling.
24Life: What is the most helpful piece of advice that you’ve received thus far in your career?
JC: Show up early, show up clean-shaven and outwork the other guy.
“American Grit” airs on FOX Thursdays at 9 p.m. Pacific, 8 p.m. Central Time.