John Cena at Money in the Bank 2021
John Cena has been in the WWE Company for two decades now WWE


  • John Cena and Brock Lesnar reached the top of pro wrestling in different ways
  • Lesnar was strapped to a rocket early on, while Cena worked his way up
  • Despite different paths to the top, both men have become pillars of the industry

WWE experienced a slight downturn in general interest following the departures of Attitude Era icons Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock to retirement and Hollywood respectively and was in search of someone big enough to take their spots.

Enter John Cena.

The modern-day counterpart to DC Comics' Superman, initial fan reception of Cena was indifferent as he had nothing much to offer to them other than generic ring gear and a bodybuilder's physique alongside the most stereotypical early 2000s hairstyle imaginable.

Cena found his footing in WWE by becoming a bold and brash heel known as the "Doctor of Thuganomics" that rapped his own theme song before becoming a hero for the younger fans once he became a babyface that would always find a way to win–for better or worse.

However, a WWE alum believes only one other star has an actual claim to be beyond Cena's always-bankable star power.

On a recent episode of his podcast, former WWE superstar Matt Hardy explained why Brock Lesnar is that man.

"In terms of maybe like overall stardom, it may be Brock Lesnar, just because he's... had a crossover career during the UFC deal. He's just such a freak of nature," Hardy noted.

Part of the famed "Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) 4" that also featured Batista and Randy Orton, it was only fitting that Cena and Lesnar are the two names to have that distinction.

The bodybuilder-turned-wrestler and the college wrestling star who defined the term "freak of nature," Cena and Lesnar's own journeys to the top could not be any different.

Lesnar had a three-month start on Cena in their WWE careers as he debuted on the March 18, 2002 episode of Raw and even became the youngest WWE Champion in history after defeating The Rock at SummerSlam 2002 in August–a distinction that he carries to this day.

"The Next Big Thing" would live up to his billing as WWE's featured attraction for the better part of the next two years before leaving the pro wrestling industry entirely in 2007 to pursue a career in mixed martial arts (MMA).

It was unheard of for a pro wrestling star to go into MMA at the time as it was usually the other way around, with the cases of MMA icon Ken Shamrock and Dan Severn being the most notable.

Lesnar took to prizefighting with ease as his raw athleticism coupled with his amateur wrestling pedigree brought him to the heights of the sport, capturing the UFC heavyweight title by knocking out the legendary Randy Couture and defending the belt twice.

He would return to WWE in 2012 and once again become a feature attraction that would take on the likes of Seth Rollins, Triple H, CM Punk, The Undertaker and Roman Reigns.

Cena and Lesnar would cross paths multiple times throughout their in-ring careers and while a substantial case can be made for either man being the most popular, pro wrestling fans can safely admit that either of them deserves it.

Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar won the 2022 men's Royal Rumble match as the last entrant after dropping the WWE Championship to Bobby Lashley in the match before. WWE