The last time John Cena stepped into a WWE ring, in October, the 41-year-old future Hall of Famer was in Melbourne as part of a tag-team match on a high-profile show. It was one of only three matches for Cena since late April; in addition to the major stadium show in Melbourne, Cena appeared at a rare WWE show in Shanghai, China, as well as April's Greatest Royal Rumble (the company's first major show in Saudi Arabia).
With just 13 televised matches in 2018, following 22 televised matches in 2017, it's clear the wind-down to his WWE career has begun. While that's not an indication that he's ready to hang up his sneakers and jean shorts, it's a scenario that becomes more real with the passage of time.
"That's like asking an athlete, 'Hey, do you ever contemplate retirement?' You have to, because anything that you rely on your body for [as far as] an end result, time is going to catch up with you," Cena said in a recent interview with ESPN's Cari Champion. "There is going to come a point when I can no longer keep up with the pace. I made a promise to myself years ago -- years before I ever found my passion for being on-screen -- when I can't keep up with the pace, I've got to walk away.
"I don't want to take a ticket-buyer's money and have him sit down and be like, 'Eh, he's just hangin' on'. I don't ever want that feeling," Cena continued. "I don't think that correlates with what I'm doing now; the biggest difficulty is trying to juggle stuff."
What Cena's doing right now is the final push for the Transformers spinoff movie "Bumblebee," which comes out on Dec. 20, in which he plays a critical role. It's the latest big step for Cena in his continuing push into Hollywood, which has included voicing the title role in the animated movie "Ferdinand" as well as memorable appearances in "Trainwreck" and "Sisters" among his many projects.
At this point in his career, Cena's desire to wrestle doesn't simply boil down to his desire to get into the ring -- there's a lot more in play that goes well beyond his wants and desires.
"I have learned, and I'm trying to fight this system but I'm losing, once you're in production for a movie, they don't allow you to wrestle. I can't go to a WWE taping [and] have my nose put over here," Cena said, pushing his finger toward his cheek. "Not only doesn't it look good, it's, 'Man, you don't look right,' so they shut the whole movie down. [There are] 150 people that are expecting a paycheck for that movie and I just screwed them out of their wage. It ups the budget of the movie, so I just put the movie behind the eight ball of possibly being a financial success.
"So as much as I want to do everything, you can't," Cena continued. "This was a giant misunderstanding I had about what Dwayne was doing -- what The Rock was doing -- because he does movie after movie after movie. I know the feeling of wanting to go back -- and I'm going back as soon as I can -- but I can't go back until I'm done with this."