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John Cena talks creating his current character, says he doesn't 'want to offend anyone' in WWE's audience

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An often overlooked part of "Hustle, Loyalty and Respect" is the hustle.  John Cena is a non-stop promotional machine.  Whether it's to tout WWE, sports entertainment or himself, the Face that Runs the Place makes Rick Ross look lazy.

In addition to being front and center in the WrestleMania push (despite being in what amounts to an undercard match in relation to the rest of the company's biggest show of the year) and getting ready to help market his biggest ever non-WWE Studios film role, Judd Apatow & Amy Schumer's Trainwreck, scheduled for a mid-Summer release, Cena is also making rounds in support of a starring role in the lastest WWE/Warner Brothers animated joint, The Flintstones and WWE: Stone Age Smackdown.

To that end, he spoke to USA Today's Brian Truitt for a piece that ran yesterday in conjunction with the release of the new Flintstones DVD.  Most of the interview is the usual public relations talk from a man who can do these interviews in his sleep.  But the kid-centric focus of promoting a cartoon brought up some interesting tidbits regarding the always popular and controversial topic of Cena's WWE character.

For one thing, the Ce-nation leader intimates that he was the driving force behind his transformation from an Attitude Era-esque "Chain Gang Soldier" who spit rhymes full of double entendres to the all-American "Marine" dressed in rainbow colored merchadise:

I looked around and saw who was sitting in the audience and said, 'You know what, I proactively need to change.' And it was for the greater good.

It gives you a feeling of self-worth at the end of the day. It becomes more than just a job - you feel as if you're affecting lives and that truly is pretty important.

While a lot of fans probably tie the roots of his 2003-2004 babyface rise to Vince McMahon and WWE's overall push into the so-called PG Era, Cena claiming responsibility for it does fit with other interviews where he says that he could turn heel, but wouldn't want to because of how children view him and his position as spokesperson for charities such as Make a Wish.  It does, however, contradict a few more candid exchanges where he's claimed that he's following WWE's orders regarding the character.

The even juicier quote comes in response to a question from Truitt about the divided fan reactions between children & some females ("Let's Go Cena") and most adults, especially males ("Cena Sucks") that have become his trademark:

I totally get it. I don't necessarily spend my time watching programs that 6- to 10-year-old kids enjoy, so I get the need for different racy comedy and story lines. But at the same time I don't want to offend anyone in our audience so I do what I do to the best of my ability, and I actually really enjoy being able to be a real-life superhero and an aspirational character both in live entertainment and animation films like Flintstones.

Couple of things here...

  • He may not offend everyone, but you don't have to go too far back into his history to find examples of Cena offending a few of the "anyone"s in the WWE's audience.  How he thinks that leading a crowd in calling a woman a "ho", luring his rivals into a trap where he covers them in pretend feces or rendering an opponent unconcious repeatedly until his demands are met won't offend "anyone" is  fairly delusional.
  • Consider it high or low, but what Cena does on Monday nights is an artform.  And art, even art aimed at children, that has as a goal to remain inoffensive is going to be pretty boring art.  Hearing their biggest star say it's something he strives for only gives credence to those who find the corporate nature of WWE in the 21st century a hindrance to telling great stories.

What do you think, Cagesiders?  Check out the whole interview over at USA Today for more - including a fun look behind the scenes at the making of Stone Age Smackdown that will tickle process wonks like me.

Anything here that changes you opinion on the "Cena heel turn" discussion?  Who's the primary force behind the lack of a turn - John or Vince?  Do they seriously try to not rock the boat with anything he does (and fail), or is he just saying what needs to be said to sell a cartoon to kids and their parents?