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John Cena and Nikki Bella: ‘Total Red Flags’

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In the summer of 2013, Total Divas premiered on E! promising an inside look at the personal and professional life of WWE’s female talent. From the very first episode, the audience is introduced to the often perilous relationship between Nikki Bella and John Cena. Despite the insecure beginning, it became a ship, affectionately called Nena. As Total Divas popularity grew and the Bellas, Nikki and her twin sister Brie, with it, John and Nikki spent more time together publicly. Without watching any WWE product many found themselves invested or at least familiar with the couple.

After years of televised break ups and reunions, of open book insecurities and 75 page living agreements, and of well documented vulnerability and commitment issues entirely on John Cena’s side, he proposed at Wrestlemania 33.

On April 15, mere weeks before the couple was due to be wed in Mexico, Nikki announced on her Instagram page that they had split.

Quickly after, John Cena posted a meme featuring Nikki’s face meshed with Stone Cold Steve Austin, and then began talking openly to the press. Nikki spoke to the press as well, but John was not being a moderately transparent public figure. He was vowing his love for Nikki Bella and publicly stating that he really did want all of the things he for years said that he did not. In an on camera interview with People, Nikki was asked if she would have preferred he have spoken to her privately. She responded, “of course.”

But John didn’t reach out to Nikki privately. He immediately took to social media, the meme on Instagram, a series of cryptic tweets…

Many immediately questioned if this was just a stunt for the upcoming season Total Bellas. Some thought it could be the kind of grand romantic gesture that women dream of, a man finally realizing he wanted all of the things you wanted with him once you stand up for yourself and leave.

There’s one thing this is for sure: an abuse tactic.

All of John Cena’s statements paint a picture of a misunderstanding or subtly lay the blame at Nikki’s feet entirely.

I’ll note again: Nikki posted an announcement about the split on her Instagram, where she stated, “While this decision was a difficult one, we continue to have a great deal of love and respect for one another. We ask that you respect our privacy during this time in our lives.”

What we have is a woman saying “no”. A woman setting boundaries and beginning a process for herself. She was absent from the Bellas YouTube channel from April 15th until May 8th. During press, Nikki did confirm that some of the conversations leading up to the split would be on Total Bellas, but she still didn’t get into it or sell it as an opportunity. In her every word and action she was respectful of John and his relationship as significant to her life and to her product, but she was consistently a woman who had shut a door.

Regardless of if this is a work or no, we have to acknowledge that with the information we concretely have John Cena is a stalker manipulating his status and relationship with the media to gaslight, shame, and coerce a partner into staying with him, which is contrary to what was supposedly both of their requests: privacy and respect.

We have seen who John Cena is with cameras rolling within WWE product, a character. We have seen who John Cena is with cameras rolling on E! Product, a man.

If this is how coercive, dismissive, and unyielding he is in front of a camera, who might he be behind it? And in the context of behaviors that WWE has condoned and the treatment of women it struggles to overcome even now, how can we have faith that he’s just a good guy with a lot of neurosis?

Even removed from the context of WWE, John Cena is one of the most popular figures in entertainment, regardless of his beginnings as a pro wrestler, and he is especially lauded and worshipped by children.

What exactly might he be teaching them?

Maybe this will be a grand gesture to end all grand gestures. Maybe John Cena means it… and love is that profound. Maybe he’ll win Nikki Bella back again and they’ll have marriage and a family. Maybe they’ll live happily ever after…

A man who is often emotionally unavailable, who repeatedly shuts down on you or shuts you out, who limits and regulates what you can and cannot do, who is insistent upon having the upper hand, and who will not entertain building a life where you and your family are the centerpiece is a toxic man.

Many reading this have likely been in a toxic relationship, where there was a lot of love, a core friendship, a mutual respect… but ultimately the toxicity was too much, the incompatibilities too great, and with great heartache, you let it go.

And of those many, too many will have been unallowed to end that relationship peacefully.

If you feel stalked, harassed, coerced, or at all unsafe after your own breakup (or in your relationship) help is available through the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE(7233), 24/7.

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