, Newburyport, MA


June 11, 2007

Heavyweight homecoming: WWE champion John Cena reflects on road to stardom

BYFIELD - Not even the mercury, which was tickling the 90-degree mark and baking the sidewalk outside the Triton Regional Fieldhouse, could wilt this throng.

Clutching posters in one hand and indelible markers in the other, the mass had congregated a good hour before the doors opened, oblivious to the sultry temperatures, but fixated on the occasion.

The Doctor of Thuganomics, the WWE heavyweight champion, the budding motion picture star, was just around the corner waiting at a table with his pen in his left hand and enough smiles to fill up a fleet of Nikons.

In other words, John Cena was in town.

The fact that a grainy, 32-second cell phone video clip of Cena performing later that evening drew nearly 70,000 hits on YouTube sums up all you need to know about what realm the pride of West Newbury has reached in the sport.

As for what sidetracked him from his whirlwind WWE tour and into a steamy high school gym on a Friday night in the first place? Well, you need to look no further than the guy sitting to his right at the autograph table with the knee-high fiberglass cast.

A cause that hits home

It was nearly four months ago that Dan Cena, John's younger brother and a Newbury police officer, had his cruiser twisted into a pretzel by an alleged drunken driver in front of the Ould Newbury Golf Course on Route 1 while on duty. Luckily, Cena faired better than his heavy duty police vehicle, escaping with a broken leg and lacerations. He is still several months away from rejoining the force.

To help raise awareness and money to fight drunken driving, Daniel's dad, John Cena Sr., orchestrated the charity card at Triton and had no problem supplying the biggest name in the sport to referee the card's main event.

"The reason I have become involved is because it really hits home," said the world champ prior to spending the next two and a half hours affixing his signature to every piece of wrestling memorabilia imaginable.

"I felt a little bit helpless not being able to be there for him, but at the same time I thought of what can I do to help out the situation.

"My brother Dan is a damn workhorse - he's going to be fine and is already on the mend. But what we are trying to do here is raise awareness of drunken driving so it doesn't happen on a regular basis, and sadly, it does."

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