Professional wrestling star JOHN CENA who is here next year for WWE Raw Live along with stars like WWE World Champ, Batista, stalwarts Chris Jericho and Kane, and bolshy blonde Beth Phoenix, among others.
The show at Vector Arena is not on until July 3 but tickets for the event go on sale tomorrow from Ticketmaster.
Being one of five boys you must've had a few good practice bouts in your earlier years?
Yeah, we used to set up a makeshift ring in the basement and have championship matches, and the WWE quite often bring up a photo of me at seven years old with the Championship of the Universe belt above my head.
Are you the only wrestler among them?
Yep. I asked them a while ago, because the WWE loves lineage and tradition, if they wanted to do a brother or family tag team. They all said, "No, we're fine watching you go out there and getting beaten up".
Are you back in the ring yet? It sounded like a nasty injury [he had a herniated disc in his neck which required surgery]?
Not quite yet. My neck is still healing up and I'd say I've got about one and half to two months to go and I'll be back. I feel great but I'm just pretty much waiting for the OK from the doctors. The spinal cord is a very touchy thing to start messing with and that was a wake-up call that's for sure.
When you went back to the arena a couple of hours after your operation so you didn't miss being able to watch Smackdown, many of the guys described you as a freak of nature.
No. No. I think the normal protocol after surgery like that is to take time off, regroup, but I just don't do that. I got up, I said to the doctor, 'I'm going to Smackdown', and he said, 'That's okay but I'd really like to go with you if that's okay'. And he gave me the same list of dos and don'ts that any outpatients would get.
I think what they were also referring to is the way you conduct yourself in competition.
Well, that's just work ethic. I'm in there trying to be bigger and stronger every day and I certainly don't stop. It's just a matter of mind set and wanting to be the best. Everybody in the WWE wants to be the best but there is only one that can and to do that you really have to work your arse off for it.
You've been around for a few years now and joined WWE. in 2002 when it was at a low ebb. So how has the business grown and changed?
Oh yeah, I came in at probably the lowest point of the company right after they had their all-time high of 99/ 2000 and business was starting to get as bad as it was good. But I've seen it completely turnaround and it's grown exponentially - we're in a wonderful time now.
So what part did you play in that turnaround
I was one of the faces in a group that came up at the same time - Batista, Randy Orton, just to name a few - that people identified with again. All the [previous] stars in 2000, like Stone Cold, The Undertaker, The Rock, virtually left overnight. Not to mention the company underwent a name change [following a law suit in 2000 by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) the company was forced to change to WWE]. But over time myself, Randy and Batista had been very consistent in staying on the programme and staying at the top of their game and becoming identifiable heroes and that's what makes the show interesting.
How do you build up to a match?
Honestly, I'm the easiest-going guy back stage because I know anything can happen on any given night. So I just go out there to enjoy it for what it is and that's the rowdiest crowd ever. You get to go out and soak it all up.
So there's not even any mind games between you and your opponent?
That stuff all happens in the ring and the great thing about that is that you have anywhere from 10,000 to 85,000 people helping you out. When you come through that curtain and you're not ready to go with the excitement of the fans then you need to find another job.
WWE Raw Live, Vector Arena, Auckland, July 3, 2009. Tickets on sale Friday October 17, from Ticketmaster.