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In any line of work, it’s easy to be envious of those who make it to the top.
But judging from the wrestlers who turned out for a John Cena movie premiere last week in Orlando, the 16-time WWE champion turned Hollywood superstar has plenty of support from his current and former colleagues.
More than a dozen talents from not only WWE, but AEW, TNA, New Japan Pro-Wrestling and other promotions, came to Waterford Lakes Town Center on Tuesday night for a special early screening of “Freelance,” the new action movie starring Cena and Alison Brie, which is now in wide release.
The event was put together in part by Paragon Talent Agency and former WWE superstar Mojo Rawley (now known as Dean Muhtadi) for what he billed as a family fun night at the movies. Attendees included top championship contender LA Knight, Alexa Bliss, Shawn Spears, Tyler Breeze, Tenille Dashwood, Tanga Loa and Riddick Moss, among others. Vincent Mejia, a man with Down syndrome who trained with Muhtadi to wrestle last year as part of a “Dream Mania” benefit show, was a crowd favorite.
Cena was not in attendance for the screening, but his presence was felt. Movies in which he played a leading role — such as two segments of the Fast and Furious franchise, “Daddy’s Home,” “Bumblebee” and “Trainwreck” — have grossed a total of half a billion dollars at the box office. When you add supporting roles such as “Barbie,” the total crosses $2 billion.
“John has been ‘the guy’ for over a decade now, almost two,” said Muhtadi, whose Paragon agency has worked with more than 250 wrestlers on media placement and media relations. “John made it a lot easier for the rest of the wrestlers to prove their worth. Every show, every movie, every commercial he does knocks it out of the park.”
Professional wrestlers have a long but varied history as movie stars. For every success for Hulk Hogan (“Rocky III,” “No Holds Barred”) or Roddy Piper (“They Live”), there are less memorable turns from Kane (“See No Evil”) or films like “Ready to Rumble” that featured 1990s-era WCW stars.
Things are different now, at least for a select few. Dave Bautista went from world heavyweight champion to a starring role as Drax in multiple Marvel films, and more recently showed dramatic chops in “Knock at the Cabin.” And Dwayne (the Rock) Johnson, of course, has become one of Hollywood’s biggest stars with a mix of superheroes, traditional action and comedy.
“John kind of paved the way,” Muhtadi said. “It’s the big three, right? Cena, Rock and Batista. Three completely different acting styles — all three jacked-up dudes as wrestlers, but they have flourished in the same field in different ways. They’re proof that every journey is unique and everyone is ‘1 of 1.'”
Contact Jay Reddick at firstname.lastname@example.org