WWE wrestler and actor John Cena, a man with rippling biceps that appear even bigger in person than on TV, doesn’t appear to need a gun to defend himself. But he knows how to use one.
At the Wild West Traders Gun Shop and Shooting Range in Austell earlier this month, Cena grabbed a 45, loaded it with 12 bullets in homage to the film he stars in (“12 Rounds”) and shot at a paper target 21 feet away. (see above)
The verdict: 9 out of 12 bullets hit the tiny circle in the center. Impressive!
“I’m from small town,” he said afterwards. “Shooting was the only thing to do. I shot my first rifle when I was 10 years old.”
In the drama “12 Rounds,” Cena uses plenty of guns. He plays a cop who accidentally kills a mad man’s girlfriend. The bad guy later kidnaps his girlfriend as revenge and forces Cena to go through “12 rounds” of games, kind of like those in “Die Hard With a Vengeance.”
“It very much mimics pieces of that” film, he acknowledged. And not coincidentally, the “12 Rounds” director, Renny Harlin, did “Die Hard 2.”
Cena said portraying a cop wasn’t a big stretch for him. “I have a brother who’s a cop and a younger brother who used to be a cop,” he said.
Cena is still best known as the face of “WWE Raw,” which draws 4 million-plus viewers a week on USA Network. His wrestling character has evolved over the years. He began as a “street thug from West Newbury [Massachusetts.], he said. “The urban country kid who can rap. I was really hated.”
Early on, he said he was a former football player trying to figure out how to transfer those skills to wrestling: “I didn’t have a successful start. Everyone thought I wasn’t fundamentally sound and shouldn’t be in the ring at all. I head to earn the respect of my peers. It was more hard work than privilege.”
But over time, as his popularity increased, he became more lovable. Eventually, he just played himself and became WWE’s biggest current star.
Cena’s first stab at mainstream stardom was “The Marine” in 2006. But critics panned it and it did poorly in theaters.
12 Rounds, he said, “is so much better. It’s amazing. The budgets of the two films were about the same. But you watch ‘The Marine,’ and you’ll wonder, ‘Where did the money go?’ “ He said he truly appreciated the hundreds of people in the credits for making a quality film. “I never used to watch the credit reel,” he said. “But in this case, all those people deserve to get their names up there.”
In many ways, his move toward acting is similar to Dwayne Johnson, who was known in wrestling circles as “The Rock” and is now a bonafide movie star who is no longer active with the WWE. Cena gives Johnson kudos: “He’s done such a great job for himself, a nice guy, a consummate professional.”
But unlike Johnson, Cena has no immediate plans to leave WWE, regardless of how successful “12 Rounds” may be.
“I’m very comfortable doing both,” he said. “I turn 32 in April. Our lifespan is comparable to major league baseball. I can compete into my 40s. No reason to take those four million viewers and throw them away.”
And if you want to see him in person, he’ll be in Atlanta April 13 for “WWE Raw” at Philips Arena. Buy tickets at Ticketmaster for $24 to $74.