WWE Hall of Famer Hulk Hogan inspired WWE superstar John Cena who now inspires others

Like many WWE fans growing up in the 1980s into the 1990s, John Cena was a Hulkamaniac.

He trained, said his prayers and took his vitamins.

The youngster from West Newbury, Mass. lived by Hulk Hogan’s code to realize your dreams, and he did. Through his dedication and desire to succeed, Cena became the franchise player of WWE. Now the leader of the CeNation finds himself inspiring others the same way the Hulkster inspired him.

You can see the 15-time world champ flashing back to his childhood with a gleam in his eye whenever he stands alongside his hero in the red and yellow. Cena, who is on the cover of the upcoming “WWE 2K15” video game, appeared with Hogan and other top names during a panel SummerSlam Weekend in Los Angeles.

“I have a sweet spot for the 8-bit generation athlete,” Cena said. “It kind of got a little too complicated for me around the tail end of the PlayStation 2 when you have a million buttons. I’m a D-pad, A and B guy. Genesis was also cool…I had, believe it or not, the old ‘Wrestling Challenge’ stand-up [arcade game]. I loved ‘Nintendo Pro Wrestling’ and played the hell out of ‘Tag Team Wrestling’, which was a horrible game where the Ricky Fighters always fought the masked superstars a hundred million times. I loved it. The WWE games were okay, but I thought for an 8-bit standpoint that Nintendo did it best.”

Cena is amazed by the next installment of the WWE video game series, available Oct. 28 in North America and Oct. 31 internationally.

“It’s so much different,” he said. “It just goes to show how far games have come. Even the differences between last year and this year, 2K has really stepped it up. This is the best effort ever for the video game series.”

Of course Hogan was a regular in many of the vintage WWE games Cena played. The legendary figure remembers those old games.

“They were pretty rough brother,” Hogan said. “It didn’t even look or move like I did. I actually have Hogan’s Beach Shop where I have all the memorabilia. We have the old school stuff, brand new T-shirts and other things we sell. We also have the old Sega games, the original games. It’s almost barbaric. It’s almost like the old Pac-Man games. It was so animated and weird.

“To see where it has come now, I watch the live events, and I’m the biggest wrestling fan in the world. I record everything. To see the stuff recorded when I get home, from Raw to SmackDown to the pay-per-views at my disposal on the WWE Network, of course for $9.99.”

The WWE ambassador was ecstatic to return to the company he helped transform into a globally recognized brand. Hogan hosted WrestleMania XXX, sharing the ring with Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock at the start of the Super Bowl of sports entertainment. It’s been overwhelming for the WWE Hall of Famer to see the positive response from fans. After all he has been through, Hogan finds himself in a good place.

“My life changed before I came back to WWE,” Hogan said. “I met an amazing person, my wife, Jennifer. She kind of saved me, when I was going down the wrong path. I was crashing and burning and all the craziness with the divorce and problems of my body shutting down on me and a ton of surgeries. I wasn’t doing well. Then I met her. I was never around anybody who explained to me how beautiful the world is and how nice people really are. Life is tough, but life is for living and not for getting into debates and confrontation.

“I was in situations before filled with drama and negativity 24 hours a day. So my life changed before I came here. It’s just kind of like everything kind of rolled out the right way. The opportunity to come home and the opportunity to end my career here in WWE, it just rolled out exactly like it was supposed to. It was a great turn.”

The highlights of his current run include a tribute to Hogan on “Monday Night Raw” celebrating his 61st birthday. The final segment of the show saw Cena joined by Ric Flair, Roddy Piper, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and even Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff.

“I got rattled when they played the package because I didn’t know what they were going to do,” Hogan said. “Vince [McMahon] likes to do the sneaky stuff without telling me. I was rattled when I saw the package and really fell apart reflecting on that time. Everybody from Flair to Piper to Orndorff was supposed to come out and say stuff. Nobody got to say anything. When Hall and Nash got to the ring WWE was saying no promos. No promos?

“I thought you had to have Hall’s ‘Hey Yo.’ Then there had to be the transition to sing the birthday song to lead to [Brock] Lesnar coming out. The whole thing wasn’t going down the way we thought it was, but we had some old pros in there to pull it off. It was very emotional.”

When cameras stopped rolling, the man of the evening got one final surprise. Vince McMahon, the WWE chairman and CEO, walked down the aisle.

“I didn’t expect that,” Hogan said. “Nobody told me that was going to happen. I thought Vince was for sure going to throw the cake at me, and I was going to dive into the cake, but he was cool. He gave me a big hug. It was just a great night. It really was.”

Even after more than 30 years, Hulk-a-Mania continues to run wild. A thunderous roar fills arenas worldwide the minute Hogan’s patriotic music plays. Thanks to WWE Network and “WWE 2K15” a new crop of fans are getting introduced to the phenomenon. The Hall of Famer’s appearances have given him the chance to meet and interact with the superstars of today.

“I’m just praying for someone to reach out and grab that brass ring,” Hogan said. “That’s what Vince McMahon and Triple H are looking for. They want someone to step up. I would love to see the larger-than-life characters develop again like the old days. I don’t get to talk much to the guys. Cena is my man, but this Roman Reigns kid has really stepped up. There is potential in him. He has what it takes.”

Cena also believes opportunities are there for the emerging talent to reach the next level. He sees being in the WWE video game as a milestone, but a wake-up call for the performers to motivate themselves to improve and elevate their standing in the company.

“This is their moment,” he said. “They have to do their best to capture it…It’s been interesting to see the change in the business and how we recruit talent. The money and resources WWE has put forth with the Performance Center shows they are absolutely serious about finding talent, recruiting them and making them the best they can be. This way when they are called up to appear on ‘Monday Night Raw,’ they are ready to go.”

Don’t look for Cena to hang up the jorts and cargos any time soon. He always sets goals for himself.

“I do what I love, so when you wake up everyday, it’s not a job,” he said. “…A dream opponent for me would be Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan and Sting. I’m not sure if I could ever get in the ring with any of them, but you have heard Hogan say in the past, if he had one last match, he would want it to be against me. I say as a Hulk-a-Maniac growing up that would be the biggest honor I’ve ever received.”

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