John Cena has been the face of WWE for more than a decade, but his time as the company’s top star won’t last forever. With Cena taking more time off than ever before, there has been plenty of speculation regarding his future as an in-ring performer.
Cena, 39, made his WWE TV debut in 2002, and he won his first world championship in 2005. Fifteen world title runs later, Cena continues to pursue opportunities outside of WWE, wrestling less as a result.
That has prompted many WWE fans to ask the same question: When will Cena stop wrestling full-time?
“I’ll answer it like this: Every single day that I don't have an outside obligation, I will fulfill any commitment that I have to WWE,” Cena told ESPN.com in a recent interview. “And I will attach this quote with it that every outside obligation I have is to expand the brand of WWE and there has never been a superstar to say that before.”
Cena is still a full-time wrestler, though it wouldn’t be surprising to see him become a part-time performer like Brock Lesnar in the not-too-distant future. Lesnar makes sporadic appearances with WWE, only wrestling at the year’s biggest shows. Lesnar has had nine matches in 2016.
Cena took a two-month hiatus from WWE towards the end of 2015 in order to film the FOX reality-TV series “American Grit.” The same will likely be happening soon since the show will be coming back for a second season. Cena had roles in the movies “Sisters” and “Trainwreck” in 2015, and he could be taking more time off in 2017 for other trips to Hollywood.
His feud with The Rock a few years ago focused on the movie star’s decision to leave WWE for a career in film, but Cena is the ideal candidate to follow in Dwayne Johnson’s footsteps. He’s one of the few wrestlers that has the ability to remain a star while leaving wrestling behind.
It could be many years before Cena ever completely moves on from WWE like The Rock did. After The Rock had a match at WrestleMania 20 in 2004, he didn’t compete in WWE for another seven years.
“Right now the roster is loaded with characters,” Cena said. “It demands that you perform at your best every single night. I don't believe in shortchanging the consumer. I believe in giving the WWE universe what they want and the day I can't do that is the day I move aside.”
Even as one of the oldest wrestlers in WWE, Cena remains a top performer. His feud with AJ Styles has been one of the most entertaining of 2016, and their match at SummerSlam in August might be the year’s best.
Cena lost the WWE World Championship match at No Mercy on Sunday, and he's expressed a desire to hold the belt one more time.