On June 24, 2002, WWE CEO Vince McMahon entered in the WWE RAW ring and ordered the WWE superstars to find some ruthless aggression from within themselves. He said he had been looking for a wrestler who can stand out from the rest of the pack. Three days later, Kurt Angle entered the WWE SmackDown ring, challenging the WWE roster to show their ruthless aggression.
John Cena made his WWE debut and accepted Kurt Angle’s challenge. Though he lost the match, he displayed incredible skills and impressed everyone. Even the then WWE World Heavyweight Champion, The Undertaker shook John Cena’s hand after the match.
However, John Cena’s incredible debut was not able to attract fans months after his debut. In the recently released documentary series, Ruthless Aggression, John Cena stated that he was served with an opportunity and he ruined everything. He said that he was not able to create a character and that’s why people started hating him. He said people get attached to a persona or a character, but he was not able to do anything.
Because of his decreasing fan base, WWE officials called John Cena and said that they have to let him go. They told him that in late November2002 he will be playing his last WWE match. John Cena was not happy with the talk, but he decided not to talk. He said he was not in a place to talk because it was his mistake, not WWE’s.
“I was told that I would be getting my release at Christmas cuts because it just wasn’t working, and there was no argument there, it wasn’t,” said John Cena.
However, during his ‘so-called’ last road trip, John Cena found his person. While sitting on the front seat and thinking of his future, John Cena heard Rikishi and Rey Mysterio freestyle in the back. He joined the two superstars and started freestyling with them. His lines were so impressive that WWE CBO and Vince McMahon’s daughter Stephanie McMahon got impressed. Stephanie McMahon asked John Cena whether he could freestyle in the ring, to which John Cena responded saying ‘Yes’.
In the Halloween special of WWE RAW, John Cena dressed up as 'Vanilla Ice', impressing many with his freestyle. Before his contract could expire, he appeared on another WWE episode, where he was seen rapping and called himself ‘The Doctor of Thuganomics’. The persona resonated with the hip-hop generation of the 2000s and attracted a huge fan base. Later, John Cena signed an extension deal with WWE, saving his career.
As The Doctor of Thuganomics, Cena used to often rap to introduce himself before a match. This is also when he started wearing hats and sports jerseys as part of his ring gear. As the character evolved, Cena started introducing new moves for his iconic slogan - 'Word Life'.