Saturday, February 24

How John Cena Learned To Speak Mandarin, (& Why He Regrets It)

  • John Cena

    John Cena


    West Newbury, Massachusetts, USA

    John Felix Anthony Cena

    6 feet 1 inches

    251 lbs


    Championships Held:
    WWE Championship (x13), World Heavyweight Championship (x3), United States Championship (x5), World Tag Team Championship (x2), WWE Tag Team Championship (x2)

    Attitude Adjustment, STF


    Notable Rivals:
    edge, cm punk, randy orton, brock lesnar


    Eye Color:

    Hair Color:

There are very few professional wrestlers who have attained John Cena’s level of fame or longevity as the face of a major wrestling promotion—let alone crossed over to become a mainstream, household name. On screen, Cena is a sixteen-time world champion, five-time WrestleMania main eventer, two-time Royal Rumble winner, has wrestled at least one match for each of the last 20 years, and has plenty more accomplishments to hang his hat on.

In real life, a part of his success is having “kept his nose clean.” While there are reports of Cena politicking behind the scenes, he hasn’t found himself trapped in any major scandals like a number of other top guys over the years. Moreover, he has proven his commitment to WWE, wrestling, and its fans through efforts like his record-breaking volume of Make-A-Wish visits and going so far as to learn to speak Mandarin for the good of the business.

UPDATE: 2024/02/01 11:00 EST BY TONY PARKER

In a bid to conquer new horizons, the iconic John Cena immersed himself in the challenge of learning Mandarin, a bold move orchestrated by the WWE to penetrate the elusive market of China. As the mid-2010s unfolded, WWE was gearing up to conquer the Chinese market that has been elusive to them till now. And what better way than for the poster boy of WWE in John Cena being able to bridge the cultural gap? But now it’s evident that WWE failed in that mission and, as John Cena himself admitted, his efforts of learning Mandarin for the reasons he did ultimately gave no fruits.

John Cena’s Rationale And Process For Learning Mandarin

Cena Was Thinking About His & WWE’s Business Opportunities

John Cena has spoken about why he chose to learn Mandarin on a number of occasions, including a 2017 interview with The Straits Times (h/t Fightful), in which it came up that he chose to take on this endeavor to communicate with people in China—a huge potential growth market for WWE. Cena is one of the few people connected to WWE’s whose ability to speak Mandarin feasibly could create a cultural shift. Moreover, he’s a big enough star that no one could force him to make a choice like this–it’s something he took on of his own volition.

Cena discussed having already studied Mandarin for five years at the time of that interview, but that he was still very much in the learning process, and far from fluent. He explained that rote study and immersion were two of his key approaches. That included reviewing flash cards before he’d allow himself to get on social media as well as listening to podcasts and watching TV in Mandarin to surround himself with the language. The process also facilitated him participating in weekly videos on WeChat to gradually win over Chinese viewers to WWE’s cause.

John Cena Speaks Mandarin At WWE Press Conferences

John Cena Lightning Fist

While John Cena does not consider himself fluent in Mandarin, it is noteworthy that he was successfully able to deliver speeches in dialect for press events targeting Chinese media. That includes a noteworthy two-minute speech in Mandarin that he delivered in Shanghai, impressing onlookers with how comfortably he came across in the process.

Additionally, Cena even brought his Chinese influence into the ring in 2018 with the introduction of his polarizing “sixth move of doom.” In a strike that looks something like a martial arts blow, the move translates from Mandarin to “Lightning Fist.” He used it at WWE’s 2018 Super ShowDown event that emanated from Melbourne, Australia, adding an additional element of international flair to the proceedings.

John Cena Uses His Mandarin Speaking Skills To Create And Address A Controversy

Cena Upset China By Acknowledging Taiwan As A Country

In addition to John Cena’s skills in Mandarin serving WWE interests, they’ve also been a part of his promotional efforts in his budding movie career. When he joined the Fast and the Furious cast, he did some media in Mandarin, and that run included him speaking to a Taiwanese media outlet and referring to Taiwan as a country.


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The Hill reported on the situation, including how controversial both Cena’s initial comment and his subsequent apology to China were. Taiwan and much of the world perceive it to be its own, sovereign nation, while China disagrees. So it was that Cena entered complicated waters—potentially offending China with his initial words and then potentially offending Taiwan and its defenders by walking back what he had originally said, and going so far as to express regret over it.

Hardly anyone in pro wrestling history has demonstrated John Cena’s level of commitment to learning a language and culture. His commitment to learning to speak Mandarin and to understand the Chinese market are certainly noteworthy, and his public speaking efforts, development of new in-ring offense, and polarizing media comments have all served as a testament to just how invested the WWE legend is. There’s certainly more Cena could do in the wrestling world, including fresh matchups for him, chasing a seventeenth world title reign, or perhaps headlining another WrestleMania as a full-blown global celebrity. His efforts to learn Mandarin bespeak that Cena may well accomplish anything he sets his mind to.

John Cena Admits His Learning Of Mandarin Was A Waste

WWE Failed To Conquer China

In the mid-2010s, the United States-based WWE embarked on an ambitious journey to broaden its global presence by tapping into the burgeoning market of China. The strategic move involved the staging of numerous live house shows in prominent cities like Beijing and even in Shanghai, demonstrating WWE’s earnest commitment to establishing a foothold in the vast and culturally diverse Chinese landscape. Simultaneously, WWE introduced its revolutionary streaming service at the time, the WWE Network, in 2014, extending its digital reach to regions including Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau.

In a bid to further resonate with the Chinese audience, Cena undertook the commendable endeavor of learning Mandarin. Despite Cena’s dedicated efforts and WWE’s substantial investment, the anticipated success failed to materialize. He revealed his thoughts on the matter in an interview on Logan Paul’s Impaulsive podcast,

“WWE has never been able to penetrate China. They just don’t understand it. They think it’s a kung-fu exposition, they don’t know if it’s real.” “With relevancy, we could get some homegrown talent. I was literally trying to use myself as a vehicle to get us over there.” “The crazy thing is it didn’t work. This was eight years of labor, failing.” “It was one of those things where you just work really hard, and it just doesn’t matriculate.”

It became evident that pro wrestling struggled to capture the cultural interest of the Chinese populace, challenging WWE’s aspirations for widespread popularity in the region. While WWE’s foray into China showcased a genuine commitment to global expansion, the intrinsic cultural differences and the distinct preferences of the Chinese audience ultimately posed formidable obstacles. Despite the setbacks, WWE’s bold initiatives underscored the unpredictable nature of international market penetration and the necessity for nuanced approaches to resonate with diverse cultural landscapes.

Under new leadership with Endeavor in charge and massive network deals as well as PLEs happening around the world, WWE is globalizing like never before. But it remains to be seen if it will dare to conquer China ever again, and with John Cena near his retirement in WWE, it might not be him who plants the WWE flag in China directly, but he can always be involved in a non-wrestling capacity.

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