The Rock and John Cena: a lifetime in WWE

John Cena's debut (June 27, 2002)

The Rock wasn't the only Superstar to make a name for himself with a memorable debut. One of John Cena’s most impressive matches was also his very first. On June 27, 2002, inspired by a speech from Mr. McMahon to the WWE locker room earlier in the week, the young Superstar answered an open challenge on SmackDown from Kurt Angle, and cited the very trait the boss was looking for in a Superstar — ruthless aggression.

It took some kind of guts to stand up to the gold medalist. Turned out there was a lot more than guts in the man who seized this opportunity. Cena made SmackDown viewers' jaws drop with a slap that echoed through the arena, then nearly pinned Angle after a battery of power moves. Although he managed to counter both the Angle Lock and Angle Slam, Cena ultimately fell victim to the gold medalist’s experience. Although his bid was unsuccessful, Cena proved his abilities and earned the respect of his fellow WWE Superstars. (WATCH)

The Rock, meanwhile, began his seventh WWE Championship reign three weeks later at Vengeance.