Cena will compete against United States champ Antonio Cesaro on the “WWE Tribute to the Troops” telecast on NBC and the USA Network. Video will chronicle the memorable few days the WWE superstars and divas had interacting with service men and women. This included meet-and-greets, flying in an F18, partaking in a spirited game of dodgeball and going aboard the USS Mitscher warship.
U.S. Rear Admiral Tim Alexander, Commander, U.S. Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, observed firsthand what a morale booster these long-remembered moments can have.
“Whether you're at home or you're deployed, it's always nice to have somebody, who doesn't really have to frankly, stop and say, ‘Hey, thanks for what you do. We recognize you make some sacrifices, and we appreciate that. So we're grateful to WWE for taking the time to come down and spend some time with us here in Hampton Roads and for making us the subject of the 10th Tribute to the Troops.”
It’s not uncommon to watch Cena kiss the dog tags with names of his family around his neck or give out a trademark salute. The superstar, who starred in “The Marine” movie, exudes patriotism.
“This is the proudest day on our touring schedule,” Cena said. “I've often said that, and a lot of the superstars have said that. Almost so much so that it becomes cliché. It is not. This is a very proud day for me especially.
“I take great pride in being able to be put in front and center in front of the people who I admire most, and that's the people who defend our freedom. I adopt a lot of me, my creed and my personality from the military code of conduct.
“A simple word like hustle, loyalty, respect is easily translated to honor, code and country. It really is an extra special day for me. I'm glad we continued our relationship. I'm glad the folks at the Naval Station in Norfolk and bases around the country and abroad have opened their arms to give us not only a place to entertain, but the hospitality that they've given us over the years…We do in excess of 300 shows a year, and this is the proudest day on our calendar.”
Cena headlined the first “WWE Tribute to the Troops” event in 2003 against the Big Show from Bagdad, Iraq. Since then the WWE programming has changed its direction toward more family-oriented programming. Cena stood at the front of this content shift.
“It was a legitimate conscious decision,” he said. “Our programming has changed so much over the years. I started in 2002, and our program was more TV-14, edgy, anti-hero based, conflicts hero-based. And since then I think our program has made a turn for the better, into a more PG environment, all of our programming platform wise PG. The reason for that is simply because the people attending our events.
“A lot more families began to attend, more children began to attend. So when you have those young and youthful eyes looking at you, and you know that you’re global -- we're truly translated in 140 countries -- you tend to have choices to make and me being portrayed as a good guy on our programming, it was an obvious choice that I wanted to do my best to use my television time to set a good example.”
One thing that hasn’t changed is the dedicated military fanbase that follows the WWE product. The multi-time champion says it comes down to the company’s relationship with the military and the Armed Forces Network, which features WWE programming.