John Cena has faced a lot of competitors in his wrestling career, but few are as enigmatic as Bray Wyatt, who he’ll be taking on this Sunday at WrestleMania XXX.
The demented patriarch of the Wyatt Family, with his unique brand of Southern inhospitality, has stormed the WWE recently, and now has his sights set on Cena.
WrestleMania XXX airs on Sunday at 7 p.m. on pay-per-view and on the WWE Network.
amNewYork spoke with the 36-year-old grappler about all things WrestleMania XXX.
What are you doing to prepare for your match with Bray Wyatt?
This one is peculiar. You ask me any other WrestleMania opponent I’ve ever had, I’d be able to give you a clean cut shot: “John Cena’s going to walk into wherever and kick the holy hell out of somebody.” But the Bray Wyatt situation is different. He’s a difficult opponent to scout because I don’t necessarily know what he wants to do at WrestleMania. A lot of my WrestleMania opponents in the past want to simply win. Bray Wyatt has stated that the most important thing for him to do on April 6 is ruin my legacy and he’s also that that doesn’t necessarily come at the cost of defeating me. He’s done some very awkward stuff on “Monday Night Raw” at the cost of victory, having victory within his grasp or one of his family members having victorywithin [their] grasp and then just throwing away victories just to create an embarrassing moment, or undermining moment for me. So, it’s very been very difficult for me to scout Bray, very difficult for me to come up with a battle plan or a playbook and I think, from an outside perspective, that’s what makes WrestleMania interesting. It can be the first match that I’ve been in where I may win, but I may wind up the loser, if that makes any sense.
What is your legacy?
I’m certainly not afraid to address the fact that there are a lot of people that enjoy my performances, a lot of people that don’t. I think the one thing that I’ve been consistent to over the years is the reason I go out there. I’ve openly said I love the WWE. I truly operate on a schedule of hustle, loyalty and respect. That’s the term on the T-shirt, but it simply means hard work, respect everyone, even though they may be your enemy, and be loyal to those who are loyal to you. That’s pretty much my ideology -- so good, bad or indifferent. You know, I’ve been around for 12 years now, so when you come out and say that the first time, people may not believe it, but 12 years people, people are like, you know what, this is what this guy stands for. And I think Bray’s trying to do what he’s trying to do – he may see me in a different light or whatever, but he says he’s going to change the way people think about me.
What do you think the legacy of Bray and the Wyatt family is?
I think their future is yet to be told. I will say his: April 6 is extremely important for them because their performance, or whatever they have up their sleeves April 6, is going to be a large piece in defining their future. So they build this thing up to be pretty epic and April 6 will be very important for them. I can say, as an experienced WrestleMania competitor, if they do not deliver, it’s going to be very tough for them to exist in the future of the WWE. I think that’s what I admire most about WrestleMania: It can define careers. As a crazy as Bray Wyatt is, I hope he understands the importance of that some day.
With the WWE Network, this will likely been the most watched WrestleMania ever. Is that a lot of pressure for you?
I think for some it is, for me. That’s why I do this and I welcome that. I want a bigger stage. I always want more eyes, and how fitting that the 30th anniversary of this wonderful event is, as you said, probably the most watched in the history of its existence. Now with the WWE Network and people being able to watch on any digital device, we will have the biggest audience we’ve ever had. Not only will the Superdome be rocking, it’s available on pay-per-view, it’s also available through the network at a wonderful discount so I really think people will be excited to see the event. I think it will be the most seen event in WrestleMania history. I love that. And after this year, I want more people and a bigger stage. I thrive on that.
What matches, as a fan, are you looking forward to watching?
I’m looking forward to The Shield, because I really find excitement in new. I’m a member of the WWE Universe. I’m a fan as well as a superstar, so when I see these new superstars, I get excited. … I’m really looking forward to the Andre the Giant over the top Battle Royal because it’s a 30-man situation with so many new superstars and somebody is going to have a WrestleMania moment there. I hope it’s a breakout moment for someone. The match that I am most interested in is Triple H versus Daniel Bryan, only because for six months, maybe even longer than that now, Daniel Bryan has been labeled as the guy who will never ever get an opportunity, the guy who is always beingkept down. And I agreed with that, until Daniel Bryan occupied Raw and madedemands. And those demands were met. And I think Daniel Bryan is a wonderful competitor. I think he has as much passion as anyone else in the WWE. But he asked for these matches, and it looks like a pretty unfair set of circumstances, but if you go back and watch the Raw where he took over, he asked for it. So if he doesn’t take advantage of that opportunity, if he doesn’t capitalize on that opportunity, then you really can’t say he never got one. As unfair as it may be, it’s the exact one that he asked for. So, as I said, WrestleMania is made of defining moments and when you ask for an opportunity at WrestleMania and you’re gifted opportunity, you better perform, so my eyes are on that match, big time.
Triple H hasn’t wrestled much recently. Do you think he’ll be rusty?
He’s my boss, but I’ve also been in there with him and I’ve been in there with him at WrestleMania. So he is above all else, he can wear a suit and be Triple H, or whatever he calls himself at the Tower in Stamford, Conn. When he steps in there, he’s The Game. And that is 100% true and he has that same passion that I have. I want a bigger stage. I want more eyes. I want this event to be as big as it can be, because I’m going to show the world that I’m at the top of my game. He’s a veteran of that. Daniel Bryan, I don’t know if he knows what those moments are about. Congratulations Daniel, you got everything you asked for, but hold on, man, you just got everything you asked for. It’s one of those scenarios, and I’m really looking forward to seeing that.
With the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, do you have a favorite Andre moment?
Believe it or not, it’s one that involves Andre, but it focuses on Hulk Hogan. It’s WrestleMania III. I think if you ask anyone my age, you’d get the same. Even at a young age of 7, 8, 9, whatever I was at that time, you knew how dominant Andre the Giant was. And that wasn’t past his prime, but it was toward the twilight of it. Andre’s prime was 10 years before that and he was even more dominant then. You want to talk about legacy, my man, that’s a guy who spans generations and is always known in the culture of sports entertainment as the ultimate big man and one of the first super megastars of sports entertainment, and my favorite moment was at Pontiac Superdome when Hogan finally defeated the Giant.
What are your thoughts on the Undertaker’s impressive 21-0 win streak at WrestleMania?
A couple things you know about WrestleMania – it’s the biggest show we do and always stay away from The Undertaker around WrestleMania season. He’s got a pretty good streak for himself. But you know what, in looking at it in years past, he had two fantastic matches with Shawn Michaels, and a wonderful match with Triple H. Wonderful matches. But after over 20 years, that’s a lot of wrestling. That’s a lot of performing. I feel old, and I feel the bumps and bruises and this is going to be my 10th WrestleMania. I can only imagine what’s that like. And I will say this, I haven’t been in the ring with Undertaker at WrestleMania, but I’ve been in the ring with the Undertaker and I’ve also been in the ring with Brock Lesnar. Brock Lesnar is a hoss. This guy is a 100% legit, bonafide stud. He belongs in a ring. He belongs doing what he does. And I don’t know man, I don’t know. For the first time, I can confidently say, I’m betting against the Undertake at WrestleMania.
What do you think of this year’s Hall of Fame class?
Oh my goodness, I love the Hall of Fame class this year. You want to talk about the reason to get the WWE Network so you can see the full, unedited Hall of Fame [on Saturday, April 5]. You have some pretty interesting individuals. Razor Ramon is going to be there. Mr. T is going to be there. Lita is getting inducted, and it will honestly be great to hear her perspective on the WWE because she etched our her own success in the women’s side of things in a very different, atypical way then it’s usually been done, so to hear here story is going to be fantastic. And along the lines of fantastic stories aswell, Jake the Snake Roberts is a unique individual. And I think my all-time favorite -- you’re looking for a sound bite machine -- the Ultimate Warrior is the ultimate wild card when it comes to the Hall of Fame. I think people will talk about this Hall of Fame class for years to come.
What drives your work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation?
I think when anyone who experiences some type of success, they get to a point where they realize that the most important thing is giving back. And that’s why all these celebrities have their own charity foundations, or they donate to a certain charity or what have you. Early on, very early on, I found the importance of Make-A-Wish, the feeling of overjoyed satisfaction,it’s indescribable when you can make someone’s day just with the use of time. They just want to spend some time with you. And to learn that you were given this one choice to do whatever you want -- and a lot of these kids are up against some pretty tough odds -- and their choice is they want to hang outwith John Cena for a day. First off, that’s the most flattering thing I’ve ever heard. Second of all, when you see the families and the kids enjoy themselves so much, and forget about the odds that they have just for that one day, dude, that’s something money can’t buy. And my roll in that is to give as much time as I possibly can. I truly support Make-A-Wish because for me it’s not just writing a check and I don’t see where the money goes. I see the end product; I see the difference it makes for these kids. I get letters from parents. Stuff that is just tear jerking and just … it does as much for me as it does for those kids. I love the charity; I will continue working for them as long asthey’ll have me because, like I said, I get to see that end product. I get to see the smile on the face of the children, on the face of the families. It’s wonderful, man.