"I'm trying to figure out when to close that chapter,” Cena tells PEOPLE
Professional wrestling has been a part of John Cena’s life since he was young, and it’s not bound to fade from the actor’s interests anytime soon.
But Cena’s in-ring career is another story — one that may come to a close sooner rather than later.
“I turned 47 this past year and I don't have much time left in the WWE,” Cena tells PEOPLE, during an interview discussing his upcoming role in FanDuel’s ad campaign for Super Bowl LVIII.
It’s not for a lack of passion for wrestling or having a greater interest in acting, Cena clarifies: “I think it’s just the demand of age.”
“You know, I'm trying to figure out when to close that chapter,” Cena says about his pro wrestling career, which first began back in 1998.
“I wouldn't be who I am — professionally or personally — without the WWE, and I promised myself that I would never simply just be there for my own sake,” he says. “Every time I perform, I want to give my all to the audience. And I’ve got to admit when I hit the 45 mark, I had to begin to try to form an exit strategy and I'm trying to work on that currently.”
Cena first began training to become a professional wrestler in California during the late 90s, joining the Ultimate Pro Wrestling promotion in California. Soon after making a name for himself, Cena joined WWE’s developmental Ohio Valley Wrestling promotion. He’d make his official WWE debut in 2002, going on to win his first world championship at WrestleMania 23 in 2007.
Although Cena hasn’t regularly appeared on WWE television since 2017, he occasionally returns to the television show and remains one of the most decorated wrestlers in history.
His 16 world championships are tied with WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair for the most titles ever won by a single competitor, and the potential storyline for Cena to return to WWE and eclipse Flair’s record has been a talking point in the professional wrestling world for years. Cena didn’t say whether he’s had discussions with WWE about crafting a storyline surrounding his retirement, but he recognizes it’s on the horizon.
“I just want to do what’s best for the company,” Cena says. “If it's a big final match or if it's just a final match, or however I can be integrated into the product to let everyone know that this chapter is over, I'm willing to listen to what WWE has to say.”
None of that means leaving wrestling behind, though.
Cena says he has hopes to one day become a mentor or coach for WWE’s next generation of wrestlers. The Argylle actor says he often visits the WWE’s Performance Center in Orlando, Fla., to speak with the wrestlers training there in hopes of joining the program’s main television roster.
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“I do have almost two and a half decades of wisdom built up where I think I can offer a mentor perspective for sure,” Cena says. “So, if I am not integrated with the WWE family moving forward and in perpetuity, then I think it's a waste for everyone involved.”
In the meantime, Cena has plenty to keep him busy – from television commercials to his Hollywood career. His latest film, Argylle, is set to hit theaters on Feb. 2 and sees the former wrestler on screen with stars like Dua Lipa and Henry Cavill.
“When you have a certain amount of fluency and you're fortunate enough to have a long career in something like wrestling and you gain that, I guess you’d say 10,000 hours of mastery, it is tough to step away because you've invested so much of yourself in it,” Cena says. “Most athletes’ careers last three-to-five years. We're talking 20 years here for me. So, you’ve got to ask yourself, like, what else do I know? What else do I want to pursue? What else am I curious about? I have been fortunate to be able to open up a whole new Pandora's box of curiosity and things that I'm interested in."
Cena adds, "I basically just want to still leave WWE with my head up high and for the audience to be able to appreciate the effort that I've given.”
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