In the spirit of the late great comedian Bob Hope, the superstars and divas of WWE brought holiday cheer to the brave men and women serving the United States with its annual Tribute to the Troops.
Through the last decade, the entertainment juggernaut, in partnership with Armed Forces Entertainment, took this show of appreciation to the U.S. soldiers stationed from warzones in Iraq and Afghanistan to those stationed domestically.
The milestone 10th spectacular comes from the Norfolk Scope in Norfolk, Va. and Naval Station Norfolk, the crown jewel of the United States Navy. They welcomed members of the WWE roster for a weekend with sailors and their families in the Norfolk and Hampton Roads area, culminating with the “WWE Tribute to the Troops” event. It was the first time the show was taped at a U.S. Navy installation.
For superstars like John Cena, who has been part of nine of the 10, “WWE Tribute to the Troops” is bigger than WrestleMania and the company’s most important show of the year.
“The reoccurring theme you see regardless of where you go...all the troops really want to say thank you to us, and to me that’s backwards,” Cena said during a conference call to promote the event to air as a two-hour special 9 p.m. EST Wednesday, Dec. 19 on USA Network and 9 p.m. EST Saturday, Dec. 22 on NBC as a one-hour special.
“We’re there to 1, let them know that we completely support them, and we want to say thank you, and 2, to give them a weekend of basic downtime. They get to meet and greet us over the weekend, but at the very final day we actually set up and perform for them.
“So the whole weekend is built around thanking them, but literally everyone we meet wants to thank us for supporting them. And that's just: it's extremely humbling and flattering, and it just goes to show the resolve of the men and women in uniform. They do not under any circumstances put themselves first.”
Cena notes the same theme of thanks no matter where the event goes. However, the WWE superstar definitely has different experiences when entering into war-torn areas of conflict during those early years of the event.
“There was obviously the element of disaster, and everyone was certainly on high alert,” Cena said, “but it's actually very comforting now that we can actually keep it domestic because that means that the conflict areas are dwindling. I truly miss those expeditions. We’d fly on the DC 17s and all of us kind of go over there and just rough it for a week, but it is very good news that more troops are home, are stationed home, are coming home, on the way home.
“…Now we can produce the events domestically in an arena and pretty much give the arena to the military and let them enjoy it for the day. The overseas ventures we had to set up our own arenas, and a lot of times it was literally starting with a desert floor and making do, and the soldiers would help our crew members construct whatever we could manage.
“It is two different experiences, I really did love being over there. I think the message does not lose any magnitude at all. The fact that we stayed domestic, and personally I like the fact that it's domestic, because it certainly says to me that the conflict areas are dwindling, and more of our men and women are home where they should be, with their families.”