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John Cena on the ESPYs and his future: It's his life's work 'to broaden the perception of the WWE'

ESPN.com

This morning's big news that WWE's John Cena would be hosting ESPN's annual award show, the ESPYs, was just the start of the hype train which will run from here until the July 13 broadcast, and probably a little beyond.

When you combine a couple of marketing machines like Vince McMahon and Disney, that'll happen.

ESPN.com's interview with Cena, released to coincide with the announcement, gives us some interesting discussion fodder, though - so hopefully the promotion over the next couple months won't be too unbearable.

First off, John shuts down what I and others have used the news to do - speculate on his future:

I'm going to be wrestling for as long as I can. It's something I'm very passionate about and something that I love.

Then, he goes on to explain the significance of landing the host gig for the ESPYs, and how it aligns with his personal mission to change the public's perception of WWE (and, presumably, all of pro wrestling):

I've worked my entire career to try to broaden the perception of the WWE. A lot of folks think because we're so entertaining and oftentimes have such wild and well-defined characters that it's all we are. It has kind of been my life's work to tell the public that's not true. To be able to host an event like the ESPYS and be able to do all the things I've been fortunate enough to do outside of the WWE, and all the while still return to the WWE, hopefully it's a step in the right direction.

That doesn't mean, however, that he sees his role as completely destroying kayfabe and making Raw just another television show with credits at the end. To make this point, Cena contrasts himself with Undertaker:

I'm kind of a unique example in that I use my real name. I don't have an overly crazy look to me. It's something that fits everywhere rather than, like, The Undertaker, for example. He doesn't use his real name and he is characterized as a dead man walking. It's not something you can see in everyday places. It's great for promotion and success within our realm but very difficult to promote and succeed outside our realm. I just want to be a vehicle to let everyone know we're doing some good things over here. I think a lot of those opportunities are now coming to fruition for the other WWE superstars, as well.

His numerous outside ventures, from acting in Hollywood comedies to guest-starring on his girlfriend Nikki Bella's reality shows are discussed, but the 15-time WWE champ says it's all in service of one goal - and that isn't changing as he gets older and likely slows down on in-ring performing:

My goals don't change. It's the same thing when I started in 2002, it's to get the mainstream audience a better perception of what WWE does. I am so passionate about what we do and I'm so quick to promote the WWE as a brand because I'm so loyal and passionate about it and I want everybody else to feel the same way. There are so many people that don't watch our product at all and have preconceived notions about who our performers are and what they do, and my goal next month or five years from now is to change that perception. There are some very talented individuals that perform for our brand. I think our brand of entertainment is up there with anything as far as live experience. I want people to know that. It's not uncool to do what we do.

Vince is fortunate to have a company man like Cena, especially to lead this kind of cross-over effort with ESPN.

Will it be enough to drown out the sports fans who complain the network shouldn't be covering something "fake" like pro graps? Is Cena's mission beneficial for men and women down the card or in other promotions, or just top stars like himself and Nikki? Is it good for the business and art form of wrestling overall?

Start discussing, Cagesiders.

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