There are many times when the worlds of music and wrestling collide. From Capt. Lou Albano hanging out with Cyndi Lauper to Liberace keeping time at the first Wrestlemania, music and wrestling go hand in hand. Suppose, however, a wrestler becomes a musician? The likes of Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage have released albums, but none has received platinum certification. Today, John Cena is regarded as a wrestling icon and a very successful actor. The WWE veteran has carved out a name for himself after almost 20 years and has branched out.
In the Beginning…
Back in the 2000s, Cena was a wrestler who rapped insults to his opponents and declared himself to be the “Dr. Of Thuganomics”. In fact, he had recorded and performed his entrance theme songs live a few times. In addition to his great performance, rappers like 50 Cent and Eminem were at the peak of their pop culture influence at this time so this persona was perfectly timed. The fans embraced his character and booed him as the “heel” (bad guy in wrestling terms), but what happened when he applied that image to his own album?
“You Can’t See Me”
In 2004, Cena began work on his debut album. Several titles were considered for the album including “Underground” and “Basic Thuganomics” before “You Can’t See Me” was chosen. The album was released by WWE Music Group and Columbia Records with an additional collaboration with Tha Trademark, his cousin. “The Time is Now” would be the opening title song on the album, and the spinning championship title would be the album cover image. Since 2005, John Cena’s entrance theme song has been “The Time is Now”, and it is the album’s standout track. Those horns are an infectious earworm that stays in your head for a long time and the lyrics also perfectly resemble his wrestling image. Even non-wrestling fans recognize this song as his signature song.
The other stand out number on the album is “Bad, Bad Man”, which was one of the albums singles. The song even had a music video attached to it with the video being an homage to The A-Team. The video also had actors spoof Michael Jackson and Madonna, including Gary Coleman in a cameo. With the song and video, the album takes on a more humorous and lighthearted tone. By doing this, Cena can express his sense of humor that he would eventually use as an actor.
After the Album’s Release…
Released on May 10th 2005, the album peaked at #15 on the Billboard 200. In addition, 143,000 copies of the album were sold within the first week of its release. As of October 8th 2010, the album had sold 1,346,000 units, earning it platinum certification from the RIAA. Cena became the first (and so far only) wrestler turned musician who had gone certified platinum. This success boosted his WWE career and he would later evolve his persona into John Cena, who believed in “Hustle, Loyalty, and Respect.” John Cena evolved into a star in the WWE and into a Hollywood actor.
To some listeners, the whole project might seem designed solely to boost John Cena’s professional wrestling career, but that is debatable. Although there is some WWE influence on the album, Cena’s album seems to be a legitimate passion project. All of his songs were co-written by him and he put everything he had into his rapping. He did not view it as a passive experience he felt obligated to do. Having this album in his career played a crucial role in shaping his career to where it is today, and perhaps he wouldn’t be where he is without it.