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The story behind John Cena’s ‘You Can’t See Me’ taunt

The following is an excerpt from the new book, "Hustle, Loyalty & Respect: The World of John Cena." The book, available now, dives into facts about The Cenation leader's career, championships and life, such as how Cena's famous "You Can't See Me" taunt originated. 

“It’s a gift and a curse because people who like me do it and so do people who don’t.”

“The ‘You Can’t See Me’ thing was a joke from my little brother,” John Cena explains. For a long time, people wondered about the origins of his famous diss. Now a common axiom woven into the fiber of mainstream sports, The Champ reveals the brotherly buffoonery that started the phenomenon. The Cena siblings were testing out some fresh hip-hop beats for John’s upcoming album when, as usual, hilarity ensued. “My family is a bunch of idiots,” jokes Cena. “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.”

Sean’s goofy dance quickly became the subject of a dare. His older brother had yet to surpass ham-and-egger status in the eyes of the WWE brass, giving him the freedom to experiment with his character on an ancillary program called Velocity. For John Cena, that meant taking his family clownery and trying to get it aired on TV. He proclaimed he would do the goofy dance on Velocity. His brother called his bluff and lost.

“I just had to modify it a little bit,” says Cena. “Instead of shaking my head around my hand, I shook my hand around my head.” And just like that, an iconic hand gesture was born on one of WWE’s forgotten shows. Once he started doing it more and more, the verbal element materialized to complete the package, but don’t call it a catchphrase!

“Let me state for the record that I hate the word ‘catchphrase.’ It’s like ‘think outside the box’ or any of those other marketing terms. It’s just ugly.”

Semantics aside, “You Can’t See Me” has worked for John Cena on several different levels. Once he graduated permanently to WWE’s core programming, it caught on with the WWE Universe and evolved into a certified Cenation rallying cry. When he throws his open hand toward the arena roof, fans prep their lungs so they can shout it to the hilltops along with him.

On the flip side, when things are not going The Champ’s way, his words are thrown back in his face. John Cena does not enjoy seeing such a big part of his identity used in a not-so-positive light. His rivals revel in it, and also have a tendency to take “You Can’t See Me” just a tad too literally, making the obvious quip that anyone can see a man his size wearing a bright t-shirt.

Cenation members pay little heed to these snarky comments, and most WWE fans understand the dual meaning. The Champ breaks it down. “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.”

Also on another level than most of his peers is LeBron James. The NBA’s most high profile star has been seen mimicking John Cena after draining a key bucket. Across the rest of the sports spectrum, it has become a celebration for a home run, touchdown, and countless other athletic endeavors. No matter who uses it next, its home will always be on the white WWE canvas with The Champ hovering over another unfortunate victim on his way to victory.

 

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