A celebrated professional wrestler who made a smooth transition to Hollywood roles as an action star, John Cena ironically grew up as something of a weakling; he reportedly weighed only 125 pounds in junior high. When others began relentlessly picking on the West Newbury, MA native for his undersized appearance, he rebounded by undergoing a weight-training program and bulking up. Cena later played collegiate football as an All-American center at Division III Springfield College, and moved to Los Angeles after graduation to establish himself as a bodybuilder. To support himself, he sold supplements at the "mecca" of bodybuilding, Gold's Gym in Venice; participated in flexing contests; and briefly starred in a reality television series on the UPN network, Manhunt.
WWE recruited Cena when one of its stars happened to notice him training at Gold's; Cena then embarked on a successful and lucrative career as a top-tiered professional wrestler, winning a myriad of events against various competitors, and his wrestling career peaked when he won the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 21. Cena's assumed identity as a wrestler often involved donning a "rapper" persona, which correlated with the performer's out-of-ring plans, for he did actually harbor ambitions as a rap singer. In time, he made his debut as an urban music recording artist on the May 2005 Columbia Records release You Can't See Me. Cena would continue to act in movies over the coming years, appearing in releases like The Reunion and Camp Fred.
Cena's Hollywood acting work commenced with the title role in director John Bonito's poorly received action thriller The Marine (2006). The film concerns an injured U.S. marine who takes vengeance into his own hands when his wife is kidnapped by a thug (Robert Patrick). Cena followed this up with another lead, this one in director Renny Harlin's 12 Rounds (2009). As produced by Fox Atomic, the film mirrored the premise of The Marine; it stars Cena as a police officer who takes serious action when his wife is abducted.