Being John Cena

John Cena is not just strong, he's video-game strong.

Where else but in the world of Zangief and Kratos can a man lift the 500-pound Big Show and the 250-pound Edge ... at the same time?

But that's the weight Cena hoisted during this past WrestleMania, a feat he laughs off in an almost shylike manner.

"I didn't know if I was going to have it in me," he says, "but I guess that's what makes WrestleMania WrestleMania."

But could he add any more weight the next time Mania rolls through? Maybe add Hornswoggle as almost a cherry on the top for a triple slam?

"Don't let Hornswoggle fool you," Cena says of the 4-foot-4, 138-pound leprechaun. "He's heavy."

ESPN caught up with Cena, the biggest star in wrestling since the days of The Rock and Stone Cold, to talk about everything from performing his own stunts in the film "12 Rounds" to being the face of the upcoming game "WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010." Here's what he had to say:

ESPN: "12 Rounds" just dropped on DVD. Did wrestling in WWE help prepare you for the stunt work you had to perform in the movie?

John Cena: Not only the stunt work but the acting as well. One thing people don't realize is we film episodic television. We're the first to say that what we do is entertainment and it's for the sake of the fans. The fans are pretty much why we exist. So you learn to perform on the fly, and you pretty much learn how to act. So not only did it help me with the stunt work as far as keeping in good physical shape, but it helped me understand the story, helped me understand the script and helped me understand my role. It really got me prepared to be an actor. Those people who are successful in the wrestling business really have to be well-rounded.

ESPN: What's the craziest stunt you did in the movie?

John Cena: The one where I was really scared was the stunt where I had to repel off a 10-story building. The other stuff I'm OK with. I'm fine with being beat-up and pushed around, but I'm really scared of heights and scared of ledges. It was one of those things, though, where I had to do it, and you can watch in the special features in the DVD, they show me, and you can see I'm really scared. There's no faking it. I didn't want to do it, but I ended up doing it, and it came out great. But at the same time, that was the only one where I was like, "I don't know about this."

ESPN: So if you're scared of heights, how do you do ladder matches?

John Cena: I try to stay on the ground as much as I can and only climb that ladder when I need to grab the championship.

ESPN: When you were first starting in the wrestling business, what was your dream? Did you expect the championships and movies and action figures and video games, or were you just hoping to get in WWE and maybe one day win the Intercontinental title one day?

John Cena: No, no, my goal going into this business still hasn't changed, and that's to expand this business. And I think with everything that's happened, the coming and going of championships and the different movies and all the different media outlets, I just want to increase our awareness. That's my goal since I got here, and it's what kept me going. Because if your goal is to just win a championship, then once that happens, you might have a lull where you don't know what to do next. I just want to let people know that we have the greatest show on Earth.

ESPN: Similar to sports where some guys are just happy to get in the league ...

John Cena: And other guys want to run it.

ESPN: You want to run the league?

John Cena: I'm trying.

ESPN: You get to do so much from going overseas and wrestling for the troops to doing Make-A-Wish visits. What's the coolest thing about being a WWE star that you didn't expect to experience going in?

John Cena: The coolest thing to me, and especially now that our program is PG-friendly, and we advertise that to the hilt, but fathers and mothers come up to me and tell me to keep doing what I'm doing because I'm a good role model for their kids. The parents will give me the endorsement of, "You know what, my kid thinks a lot of things are cool, but this is one of the things that he thinks is cool that I'm really OK with because you're a good, positive role model." Honestly, you have no idea what that means to me. In this day and age, there have been some people in high-profile positions who maybe aren't good with the fans or make bad career decisions. They just don't realize that a lot of people are watching.

ESPN: When you guys go out and perform, there are always a bunch of athletes sitting ringside. What athlete would you say is the biggest WWE fan?

John Cena: The biggest, both spiritwise and framewise, has been Shaquille O'Neal. He's awesome, man. He comes to the events as a fan and has such a good time. He's just there to have fun with his kids, and he's a perfect guy to have there at "Monday Night Raw."

ESPN: Shaq would make a perfect wrestler.

John Cena: I actually think he'd make a great wrestler. Before it's all said and done with him, I'd love to get him in the ring.

ESPN: One of the perks of being John Cena is getting your face on the cover of the new "WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010" video game. The game this year has a lot to do with character development. What do you consider the biggest change to your character over the last couple of years?

Cena I came onto the scene as a trash-talking, braggadocios street thug from West Newbury, and those are certain facets of my personality. You often hear when you talk to guys in our industry, that this is my personality, I just turn the volume up, but over the years, I've really become me. No volume turned up, no nothing. I've been able to go out there and just be myself.

-- John Cena

John Cena: I've been able to be much more of myself. I came onto the scene as a trash talking, braggadocios street thug from West Newbury (Mass.), and those are certain facets of my personality. You often hear when you talk to guys in our industry, that this is my personality, I just turn the volume up, but over the years, I've really become me. No volume turned up, no nothing. I've been able to go out there and just be myself. It's through solid performance after solid performance that people just take you for who you are. That's why I have so much fun and I'm so relaxed at these events, because I don't need to do anything to get in that mode, and I don't have any prematch rituals. I just go through that curtain, and people get what they get.

ESPN: Would you like to turn heel again in the future?

John Cena: That's the thing, I'm one of those guys who on any given day can be booed out of any building. I'm the only guy who is neither a good guy or a bad guy. That's because I'm genuinely myself. Certainly, guys in our industry try to sway the audience one way or the other, but like I said, I go out there and I'm me. I have certain things that I stand for, certain things that I believe in, and if you don't like it and you tell me to go to hell, I think that's your God-given right as a fan. It's one of those deals where I'm that one guy who is outside of that realm of good guy, bad guy. I'm just me, and it elicits a response both positive and negative.

ESPN: You were recently thrown through a spotlight on pay-per-view. The visuals were amazing, but how real was that spotlight?

John Cena: It was completely real. I thought I broke my tailbone. I had spinal-fusion surgery on my neck a while back, and I actually had to get an MRI on both my hips and spine and also my neck. I thought my surgery had come undone. That was about as real as it gets. That one was tough for me. I still kept keeping on, and I didn't miss any shows, but I was walking very gingerly for quite some time.

ESPN: That was crazier than any stunt you did in the movie?

John Cena: Yeah, and that's why the physicality in "12 Rounds" or the stunt work in "12 Rounds," I'm OK with that because I do it for a living. But man, there are just some that hurt more than others, and that was one.

ESPN: When you look at the Raw roster and you look at WWE, who are some of the young guys you look at as really having a chance to be big stars?

John Cena: Now is a really good time because since the inception of WWE, there has always been that one, this is the guy. But now, you have a lot of possibilities, guys like Ted DiBiase Jr., The Miz, Cody Rhodes, Kofi Kingston and even a guy like MVP. These are guys who are all on the cusp. For the first time, we have all these guys who are ready to charge the gates and make a run to try and be the No. 1 guy on Raw.

ESPN: What do you think of The Miz coming out and insulting you, using a lot of what is said on different message boards and various wrestling sites to put you down?

John Cena: I knew a young gentleman quite a long time ago who was insulting people just as bad and lit up those message boards the same way he did. I actually said it on television a couple of weeks back, but there's a part of me that respects what he's doing because I was doing the same thing, but at the same time, I don't know how he thinks with all the things I've had to put up with and persevere that one person is going to shake me down. I certainly respect what he's doing, there ain't nothing wrong with coming out and going for it, and eventually we'll see if he's ready. I had to come up the same way -- fight, scratch and claw for everything and make as much noise as I could -- and when it was time for me to go, I showed everyone I could go. That's what it's all about.

Jon Robinson covers video games and gaming for ESPN.com.