For the thousands of times fans have chanted along with (and given the meme treatment) to John Cena’s famous catchphrase, “You can’t see me!” very few know the origin and backstory behind this iconic, yet bizarre taunt.
Ever since his memorable debut on the June 27, 2002 episode of SmackDown where he infamously singled out “ruthless aggression” as the quality making him deserving of an opportunity to step into the ring with Kurt Angle, John Cena has become a household name for wrestling fans and non-wrestling fans alike. Cena brought defeat to Angle in formidable fashion and what followed was a number of talent backstage endorsing and congratulating him on his effort, most notably The Undertaker, who offered a handshake out of respect for what he saw. It’s hard to imagine a more impactful debut than that.
Cena’s strong introduction to the fans was followed up with an even more successful future, equaling Ric Flair’s record of sixteen World Championship reigns, and although his career is now slowing down, there is still that chance for a seventeenth. After a decade of carrying the “top guy” spot, Cena has had a 50/50 relationship with the fans. Many fans have disliked the “Super Cena” booking decisions where he almost never cleanly lost for over a decade, but at this stage in his career, Cena has gained the respect of the majority of wrestling fans.
John Cena has certainly had his critics over the years when it comes to his in-ring ability despite having a Meltzer-rated 5-star match against CM Punk at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view in 2011, amongst many other great matches — But it is Cena’s charisma that has contributed the most to his success (coupled with Vince McMahon’s love for a good physique).
Arguably the most important asset to becoming a top star in the WWE is charisma, character and the ability to work the microphone. Connecting with the fans sells tickets and merchandise, and Cena has sold plenty, being one of the most successful merchandise pushers in WWE history.
With superstardom and a fanbase behind you comes a slogan, a catchphrase that fans can get behind. John Cena has one of the more strange catchphrases out there, but to his credit, he has made it work over the years and it has since become amongst the most memorable taunts in all of wrestling.
“YOU CAN’T SEE ME!” has become a staple in John Cena matches, going alongside his patented Five Knuckle Shuffle like butter on pancakes. It’s an easy and fun line to chant as thousands around join in too. “You Can’t See Me” and the Five Knuckle Shuffle are forever attached to the name John Cena and the move has been imitated many times by his opponents.
“You can’t see me!” – How an inside joke between John Cena and his brother Sean led to the creation of one of the most infamous catchphrases in wrestling.
Cena spoke with WWE.com to reveal details behind the rallying cry.
“The ‘You Can’t See Me’ thing was a joke from my little brother.
“My family is a bunch of idiots,” Cena joked. “This stupid song came on, we started dancing around and my brother Sean did this dance from a video where he moves his head around his hands.”
“I just had to modify it a little bit. Instead of shaking my head around my hand, I shook my hand around my head.”
The seeds were planted for a famous action that has since become synonymous with John Cena… just from simply goofing around with his brother!
Cena continues, “It works from a camouflage, invisibility aspect but ‘You Can’t See Me’ in general is telling someone they are not where I’m at competitively. I’m on another level.”
Did you know? WWE’s now-defunct Saturday night program ‘Velocity’ is where John Cena’s “You Can’t See Me” catchphrase was heard for the first time.
In the media storm that followed Cena in the build-up to the first John Cena vs The Rock matchup at WrestleMania 28, Cena shed further light on his catchphrase.
“Nobody follows the humble beginning of my career when I was forgotten about when Vince and everybody else wanted me fired and I was on these useless matches on an ill-watched Saturday program called Velocity.
“I would just take personal inside jokes and put them on television.”
The catchphrase has gone beyond the boundaries of the squared circle, forming a cult-like following as a popular internet meme. Cena himself finds the humor in it as shown in this tweet below:
John Cena has also joked about being invisible on the popular ‘John Cena goes undercover on the internet’ styled videos on the GQ and WIRED YouTube channels respectively, sporting a total of almost 14 million views.
Lately, Cena has followed in The Rock’s footsteps and has transitioned more into working on the big screen, already achieving levels of success with his acting career. Though he may not have many Five Knuckle Shuffles left in him, he has left us thousands of entertaining moments using his famed catchphrase.
Whether you love or hate John Cena, there’s always an element of respect there.