Long before John Cena was winning WWE fights and driving flashy cars in the “Fast & Furious 9,” he was picking up people at the airport as a limo driver — and even sleeping in his car while seeking fame.
The “F9” star waxes nostalgic in a couple of new interviews about his humble beginnings while he was hustling for his big break.
Cena, 44, tells Bloomberg that he was a pretty bad limo driver just after graduating high school, when he was living in Massachusetts. “I was not a good limo driver — on my first pickup, I was three hours late,” he said. “I was just taking the wrong road over and over and over again. This was 1995, so there were no mobile phones, so I couldn’t call anybody and go, ‘Yo, I’m lost.’ I was just late.”
That gig lasted only four months.
And when he came to Los Angeles in 1999, he went through what little money he had in just a couple of weeks. “I didn’t want to go home crying,” he tells The Sun. So he lived in his car, and he used the shower and locker rooms at the gym where he was working.
“I slept in my car for a while, which happened to be a very roomy 1991 Lincoln Town Car. I had my clothes in the trunk and I slept in the back seat,” he said. “I’d wake up, use the locker rooms and the shower and repeat the process all over again.”
But that all changed when a trainer at the gym suggested that Cena give wrestling a shot. And within four years of stepping into the ring as The Prototype, he was a winner and a rival to Dwane “The Rock” Johnson. Then he joined the $5 billion “Fast & Furious” franchise in 2011’s “Fast Five,” and the rest is history. By 2016, Forbes named him the WWE’s highest-paid wrestler at $9.5 million. His net worth has been estimated to be around $60 million from his movies and his endorsements with Honda, Gilette and Subway.
Sleep in a car? Now he collects one-off and ultrarare cars. And “F9” raced to the top of the box office charts last weekend with $70 million, the biggest opening weekend for a film since the pandemic began.
Cena’s rags-to-riches story was trending on Google on Tuesday, a day after “F9’s” weekend box office helped fuel AMC shares to rise on Monday.
So what’s next? Cena will play the superhero Peacemaker in “The Suicide Squad” sequel alongside Idris Elba and Margot Robbie. And he’s more open to having kids with his wife, Canadian engineer Shay Shariatzadeh. “I’m a little bit older, a bit wiser.” he said. “I’m realizing there is life and life exists and it’s beautiful.”