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The three roles that put John Cena in ‘F9’ and made him part of the family

The three roles that made the face who ran the place.

Universal Pictures

You know what they say about the Fast and Furious franchise: When you’re here, you’re family. Actually, they say that about Olive Garden, but please, nobody tell Vin Diesel. Today (Friday, June 25) sees the ninth installment of the Fast saga hit theaters after multiple delays due to COVID. Meaning us fans of men and women who fight in tights get our glimpse of John Cena in his most significant role to date.

As Jakob Toretto, Cena is officially “family,” a very different path than anyone with a brain saw coming when he was doing flicks like The Marine and 12 Rounds. So with that in mind, it feels appropriate to take a little tour down memory lane and look at the three performances that put John Cena in a position to be in F9 and altered his career.

Let’s start with 2015’s Trainwreck. This was, at the time, Cena’s first foray into significant Hollywood filmmaking. Written by Amy Schumer, directed by Judd Apatow, and starring Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, Tilda Swinton, and a hilarious LeBron James, Cena needed to come correct. John shined by playing a stereotypical version of himself, a man obsessed with his looks, the gym, and harboring some serious emotional issues. Nevertheless, Cena knows how to hit every note perfectly and holds his own with some of the funniest people in movies.

Trainwreck let the world know he could do more than play the big action hero with muscles on top of muscles. The former Mr. Nicki Bella’s ability to make fun of himself and display a sensitivity not afforded to his in-ring persona makes his role, albeit brief, very memorable.

And not for nothing, but unlike The Rock, Cena’s first opportunity to sit at the big kid’s table didn’t involve awful CGI and actually gave him speaking lines. Just saying.

Most wrestlers who transition into acting get typecast in action movies. Either as good guys or villains, that’s their lane until someone who writes checks says otherwise. It’s only when they show a little personality, not necessarily range, that other roles fall into their laps. Cena played it smart in 2015 with parts in not only Trainwreck but also Sisters. Sisters starred Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, John Leguizamo, and freaking James Brolin. Clearly, John Cena is a man who aims high.

Continuing his break from his WWE alter-ego, Cena played Pazuzu, a drug dealer named after the damn demon from The Exorcist. Sisters showcases Cena’s ability to handle absurd comedy with a straight face as Fey and Poehler bring a different style of comedy than Schumer and Apatow. John sells this reality where a man of his size is not only a drug dealer but the inventor of the fleshlight and a savvy investor. The dude kills each line, but nothing hits like his answer when he’s asked if he has kids.

I’m. Sure. I. Do.

With that slight pause, body language, and monotone delivery, Cena tells us everything we need to know about Pazuzu. Seriously, that name?

Regardless of how ridiculous they get, the Fast and the Furious flicks come equipped with a lot of heart. These characters love each other and genuinely believe in that f-word. So any addition to that universe, especially a long-lost Toretto, needs to know how to convey warmth and heartfelt commitment. Enter 2018’s Blockers, a flick where the first-ballot WWE Hall of Fame wrestler played a sweet, overbearing dad wedded to his fanny pack. Once again playing the straight man, Cena shines going against type.

As Mitchell, he’s relatable to any parent struggling with the fact their kid is growing up but also gets to be the clueless dad who has no idea what that eggplant emoji means. His chemistry with Leslie Mann and Ike Barinholtz, two comedy movie vets, makes the movie. Once again, John proves he can hang with the big dogs and even outshine them from time to time. Plus, there’s this scene that proved to be prophetic.

Starting with F9 and ending with The Suicide Squad, this might be the Summer of Cena. It’s also the summer where he eats a beach filled know. You saw the trailer.

Maybe one day we’ll see if he can handle more dramatic roles, but the man is carving out a nice lane for himself in the world of comedy and now action. With Peacemaker right around the corner, Cena’s next rodeo in WWE may very well be his last.

His time is now.