BOSTON (CBS) — In some local sports circles, WWE superstar John Cena is a legend. The Massachusetts native and Springfield College alum has gone on to professional wrestling championships and starring roles in movies, and he even sported Celtics gear in a playoff game in Orlando, making the locals proud.
However, when Cena started getting spotted wearing Rays jerseys and going to games in Tampa, the tide turned.
“Everybody, especially in the Boston area, literally wants me tried as a witch and burned at the stake,” Cena told Jimmy Traina on the SI Hot Clicks Podcast. “And I admire that about true Boston fans. Boston is a fantastic sports city.”
Cena said he grew up a Red Sox fan in northeastern Mass., but the massive changes to the team and the atmosphere at Fenway Park led to him becoming more enamored with the Rays.
“Fenway Park was a very different atmosphere when I used to go,” he said. “And I’ve seen that place become a destination. I’ve seen it become a place where you go and buy a pink ball cap and a pink T-shirt and you don’t know anybody on the team and you just enjoy the game.”
Beyond the fans at Fenway, though, Cena said the Red Sox lost their identity as the lovable underdogs.
“The Red Sox also by design have become the team that the Red Sox used to hate. They’ve become the Yankees,” he told Traina. “They spend mega, mega money on talent and usually nine out of 10 times they’re in a bidding war with the Yankees for talent.”
Cena explained how the way the Rays play baseball and seem to love it drew him in, even if the seats remain largely empty down in Tampa.
“They just somehow make it happen,” Cena said of the Rays. “They’re what the Red Sox used to be. Like, throw together a bunch of jumbled up dudes and hope that it happens.”
Regarding the Rays’ inability to sell out playoff games?
“That’s sad. That’s sad,” Cena told Traina. “But they’re a team that loves baseball, and I dig watching them.”
Despite his disenchantment with the Red Sox, Cena said he still follows the team.
“I’m a sports fan. I still watch the Sox,” he said. “I get NESN at the house. I still hear RemDawg [Jerry Remy] call the games. … I guess, like I said earlier about my character, I’ve always been me. When someone changes that drastically, it’s like, ‘Ah the franchise turned their back on me as a fan. We used to be a bunch of rugged bums. Now we’re a bunch of high end guys.’ I don’t know, it’s tough.”
Traina made sure to ask Cena one more Boston sports question in the podcast, and it involved a certain quarterback by the name of Tim Tebow.
“You know what? I’ve questioned so many of Belichick’s decisions, and he always makes me look like an idiot,” Cena said. “He would know exactly what to do with Tim Tebow.”
Despite all the Red Sox feelings, Cena hardly holds a grudge. When came to Boston this month for Monday Night Raw, he was roundly booed by the hometown crowd. Based on his own feelings toward the Red Sox, he understand the fans’ feelings.
“With constant success comes animosity, and I’m the perfect example,” he said. “I like the Rays for other reasons that I don’t like the Red Sox. And it’s exactly why people boo me out there.”