John Cena talks about his time homeless and living off pizza when he first moved to Los Angeles, California in 1999.
The WWE star-turned-actor, 46, sat down with comedian Kevin Hart on his ‘Hart to Heart’ show and said ‘every fitness opportunity failed him’ after college.
Cena had hoped to put his degree in exercise physiology to good use, but he was consistently rejected, leading him to try to become a highway patrol officer.
‘(I) came here to apply my degree and I really failed. …I couldn’t get any validation for this piece of paper I paid for. That four-year certificate from Springfield College saying, “We think you know what you’re talking about,” he said.
Desperate, Cena slept in the back of his 1991 Lincoln Continental and survived by eating pizza at a local store that offered an “eat all the pie, get it free” deal.
John Cena (pictured) talks about his time homeless and living off pizza when he first moved to Los Angeles, California in 1999
Cena in a photo from the start of his professional wrestling career in the 2000s
On a recent episode of Hart’s Peacock, Cena opened up about his first struggles after moving from his home in West Newbury, Massachusetts.
Cena had hoped to find a job that would use his degree, but it was harder than he could have ever imagined.
“I didn’t move to Los Angeles for entertainment,” he told Hart, explaining how he thought he could find a fitness-related position.
“I moved to apply my degree in exercise physiology and kinesiology,” he said before Hart chimed in, “Damn it.”
“It’s basically just a coaching degree,” Cena quipped.
Hart asked the WWE Superstar why he thought he wasn’t successful in Los Angeles and Cena said he couldn’t elaborate but maybe it was a lack of experience.
“Knowledge is one thing, life experience, wisdom is another,” he shared.
Cena went on to say that the hits kept coming and he “failed to the point of” living in his car and eating free food at Zeppy’s Pizza in Hermosa Beach.
“They had a deal where if you could eat all of their pizza, you got it for free,” Cena said. “I used to eat there every night, a whole pizza, so I didn’t have to pay, because I didn’t have the money to pay the guy.”
Cena sat down with Kevin Hart on comedian Peacock’s ‘Hart to Heart’ show to discuss his time living in his car and his early career struggles
The WWE wrestler said “every fitness avenue failed him” after college and he even tried to become an officer in the California Highway Patrol at one point.
Cena in a photo from his time at Springfield College in 1999
Cena held out in Southern California and eventually enrolled in the Ultimate Pro Wrestling School and made his WWE debut in 2002.
The ‘Peacemaker’ actor called his living situation at the time “uncomfortable” and said it helped him understand who he was and what he wanted to do.
At one point, things got so bad that he considered moving home to live with his parents despite his love for Los Angeles.
“I’m very lucky for my story because it was my choice to have hard times,” he said of his early career struggles.
“My father always said, ‘You are my son. I like you. You are always welcome home.” “If I could get to West Newbury, Massachusetts, I would be fed. I would have a roof over my head. I could regroup,” Cena said.
He also attempted to become a California Highway Patrol officer and a cop, but he failed in those avenues as well.
Cena said he “chose to stay out” and he’s glad he did because it paid off in the end.
The following year, the “Fast X” star enrolled in the Ultimate Pro Wrestling school and made his WWE debut in 2002.
His success with this also took time, but he became one of the most decorated, famous and highest paid professional wrestlers in WWE history.
In addition to his wrestling career, Cena has enjoyed prolific success in the theater world, starring in MAX’s “Peacemaker” in 2022 and having a role in “Barbie” in 2023.
Cena has won 16 world wrestling championships since his debut in 2002
His stumble to success may be one of the reasons he has remained humble over the years.
“My whole existence is an accident,” Cena told Hart.
“My whole existence is based on a series of happy events,” he continued.
Though he’s starred in some of the biggest movies and TV shows — including the 2023 box office hit “Barbie” — Cena still finds time to give back.
In 2022, the actor and philanthropist received the Guinness World Record for granting the most wishes from the Make-A-Wish Foundation.