WrestleMania 34: WWE's John Cena making children's wishes come true

John Cena has granted over 500 wished for sick children.
John Cena has granted over 500 wished for sick children. Photo credit: WWE.com

Say the name John Cena to most people and the first thing they'd think of is wrestling. But there is another side to the 40-year-old that only a select few get a glimpse of.

That John Cena is a world apart from the combative, never say die entertainer that has been on World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) screens for more than 15 years.

Cena is involved in numerous charity causes, the most notable being with the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

The non-profit organisation was formed in 1980, and gives children with life-threatening medical conditions the chance to meet their heroes.

The former college football star has granted more wishes for the foundation than any other celebrity, sports star or entertainer in its near 40-year history.

Clearly the world of WWE has been the catalyst for Cena's appeal, to children in particular. The 16-time world champion sells more merchandise than any others in the 100-plus superstar roster, a stat that goes back as far at the mid 2000s.

The WWE corporate machine has marketed Cena as a role model, but Cena the man has proven that that stretches beyond the wrestling hype machine.

Speaking to gathered media in New Orleans at a Make-A-Wish event, Cena told Newshub that putting smiles on the faces of children less fortunate than himself is the most rewarding aspect of what he does for a living.

"It's fantastic, Cena said.

"I think anyone could understand that if anyone needs a day off, it's kids like that.

"That's the whole existence of make a wish. I never lose the perception of entertaining people  the feeling that generates - and now we get to do it in its grandest form at WrestleMania In New Orleans.

As for WrestleMania itself, the biggest name in WWE isn't scheduled for a match. That is most likely to change on the night as Cena is heavily rumoured to be involved in a confrontation with another legend, The Undertaker.

Twelve months removed from having his off-screen fiancé Nikki Bella accept his marriage proposal in the middle of the ring, Cena's WrestleMania storyline has him attending the Super Bowl of professional wrestling as a fan.

But regardless of what happens at WrestleMania, the reality for Cena is that it won't compare to what he gets to do for kids who need a lift in spirit.

"A WrestleMania moment, aside from a certain young lady saying yes when I asked her to marry me, is nothing.

"I don't care what any wrestling cynic or dedicated pre wrestling fan has to say about that - making a difference in people's lives is paramount.

"Any selfish satisfaction I get by performing on a stretch of canvas is way down on the list. The cool thing is that being able to do that, allows me to do this."

Currently Cena has granted more than 500 individual wishes, while global music superstar Justin Bieber has granted over 200.

WrestleMania 34 will stream live on the WWE Network on Monday April 9 and be broadcast live on Sky Arena.

Make-A-Wish New Zealand was formed in 1986 and grants wishes to around 200 critically ill children each year. All New Zealand children aged between 3 – 17, battling a critical illness, can apply for a wish on the website www.makeawish.org.nz.