John Cena’s Heartfelt Confession: Defending His Gay Brother in Youth

John Cena says he used to stand up for his gay older brother growing up

In an interview on the “Armchair Expert” podcast, Cena described his early exposure to fighting and how he and his four brothers stuck together growing up.
John Cena on NBC's "TODAY" Show on May 15, 2023.

John Cena on NBC’s “TODAY” show on May 15.Nate Congleton / TODAY

Wrestling champion and actor John Cena had an early education in fighting as a kid, with some of his earliest battles coming while he was defending himself and his gay older brother.

Cena revealed that he learned “how to lose a few fights” growing up in Massachusetts while fending off bullies on behalf of his older brother Steve, who was not out at the time.

The WWE champ and “Peacemaker” star opened up about the experience in an interview on the “Armchair Expert” podcast hosted by Dax Shepherd and Monica Padman released Monday.

“Life was tough for my brother in high school — not only was he an introvert and interested in computers, he’s also gay,” Cena said. “And being gay in the ’80s in a small town in Massachusetts, man, that’s an uphill climb.”

On top of having a secret he could not talk about, Cena’s older brother did not possess the type of traits that were accepted as “cool kid” characteristics. Cena described Steve as a “true nerd.”

Cena himself was picked on by some of the other kids growing up, he said, either for his association with Steve or because of his clothes or his taste in music.

But growing up with four brothers, Cena said the boys “didn’t feel we needed anybody else” as they stuck together in their rural town.

“That sort of behavior started at like 10 years old for me,” Cena said. “So I don’t think I understood what was going on. Kids are harsh and they formed cliques real fast, and we always just hung out with each other.”

Still, Cena said, he tended to throw himself in harm’s way on behalf of his brothers, which resulted in near daily fights when he was about 12 or 13.

“Every day, man, I got my ass kicked — or at the very least it was a strong nudge so I go tumbling down the hill again,” Cena said. “Yes, I never fought back, but I never acquiesced.”

Those fights were part of the reason Cena dedicated himself to weightlifting as a teenager, he said.

“It took a whole lot of perseverance and a lot of failure and losing fights, but yeah, eventually they stopped,” Cena said. “Eventually they got another target, I guess.”

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