John Cena comments on Tribute to the Troops
The following are excerpts from "Highlights from John Cena conference call," a blog by The Baltimore Sun's Kevin Eck.
I participated in a conference call on Tuesday with John Cena, who was promoting WWE's Tribute to the Troops show, which airs on Dec. 20 on NBC at 9 p.m.
The logistics of doing a show in Iraq: "What our format usually is, is anywhere from a three-to-five-day trip. We travel on a C-17 military aircraft. That is cast, crew, gear, everything. If you're not familiar with it, the C-17 is the second largest cargo plane in the military library, a C-5 being the biggest. And that is just pretty much an airborne aircraft carrier. A C-17 can fit, I believe, 110,000 pounds worth of cargo. So we pretty much pack up our ring, the Titantrons, the ramps, the barricades, all the HD production stuff, our entire crew, all the Superstars. We get on one plane. We fly over there. We spend anywhere from three to five days over there. The first two to four days are virtually the Superstars trying to meet as many of the troops as we can while our crew is building the set. So we only do film one show, usually from a central camp. This year it was Camp Liberty. We've also filmed in the past from Camp Speicher. And that's a place where we know we can get the show out to as many troops as we can. It's a central operating base where troops can come in from forward operating bases or scouting posts on leisure time and a lot of troops are stationed at Liberty in general. So we have from anywhere -- on the day of the show -- I would say 6,000 to 10,000 troops attending the performance, which is the goal. But for the days leading up to the performance, we break our group of Superstars down into about four mini-groups and try to meet as many of the men and women that defend this country as we can."
Whether any preconceived notions he had about going on the Tribute trips have changed over the years: "My attitude certainly has changed. I remember my first few years going over there, you want to do as much fun stuff as you can selfishly. It's your first time around that sort of environment -- my first time seeing howitzer cannons and mortar fire, and 50-caliber machine guns and stuff like that. And I'm a big kid, and that's the stuff that I'm into. So, selfishly I wanted to be as much a part of that as I could. Now, my focus has shifted to where it needs to be, and that certainly is meeting as many of these men and women as possible, traveling to as many of these forward operating bases that we can get to, and really doing what we can do to boost morale. It does nothing for the troops' morale for me to want to fire off their weapons. It does everything for their morale for me to meet as many of the people as I can and really relay the message that not only myself, not only WWE, but the United States of America is so very proud of what they do."
Why WWE was the only entertainment group there during the holidays: "I don't know why we were the only group. I know certainly that they couldn't kick us out if they tried. As long as those folks are over there, we're going to go back every year. And we just try to time it so we go back the same time every year because the U.S. Army is over there on a 15-month -- they're soon to be cut back to 14-month -- deployments. So the reason we go every year is we hit a new division every year that we're over there. That way, we can help a new group every single time we're over there and meet the maximum amount of troops that we can. ... It's our pleasure. I think it will become a standing tradition with WWE. No matter where the guys and girls are at, we'll make sure they get a little slice of home for the holidays."
How is it decided who from WWE goes on the trip: "Completely volunteer basis, and you don't have to go if you don't want to because obviously it is a conflict area, and there are some risks involved. But the list has become so hard to get to be a part of. It's like we have to turn people away every year."
Whether the military personnel look at him any differently since he starred in The Marine: "They certainly all have positive things to say about it. But a lot of the Army guys wish it was called The Army instead of The Marine. I think there is a little bit of a gateway to a mutual respect. You know, them knowing that I did spend a couple days over there [going through basic training at Parris Island to prepare for the film] certainly helps."
What the troops think of the Divas: "The Divas hold the No. 1 spot. I don't care how many championship titles I could bring over there. I could bring fireworks. I could bring anything. Those girls certainly hold the No.1 spot. They are saints for going over there. They are so beautiful and so great to the troops. And the guys just absolutely love them. They are the Superstars on that trip."
Whether The Great Khali made the trip: "He did not go this year. I know we can just barely fit Big Show into a plane at 7 feet. I don't know how we'd wedge Khali in there at about 7-foot-5 -- and he doesn't bend too well. But I really think he should make a trip over just because of the spectacle of a man that he is. I think the troops would certainly get a kick out of just his shock factor alone."