Happy John Cena Fortnite Day! Today marks an occasion I’ve been waiting years for. I’m completely serious – for so long now I’ve been telling friends, family, colleagues, and even strangers on the street how much I want to see the Doctor of Thuganomics leaping from the battle bus, ready to deal out a generous helping of hustle, loyalty, and respect to those awaiting below. Now the champ is here, and I couldn’t be happier.
Big Match John is sporting his classic appearance alongside back-bling and an emote that represent his character perfectly, bringing one of the most wholesome wrestling superstars of all time into the battle royale with spectacular style. I wasn’t sure he’d ever be turned into a skin, given it requires the man himself, WWE, and Epic Games to work together without throwing punches or asking for ludicrous amounts of money in the process. But here he is, and judging by the branding all over the official screenshots, he might not be the first athlete to call this game home when all is said and done. Pretty please give us the Undertaker next.
I’m not ashamed to say that Fortnite remains my favourite battle royale on the market. I’ve never been a fiercely competitive or skilled gamer, so while I enjoy the likes of PUBG and Apex Legends, the greater focus on learning the meta of each character and fighting against hardened trios of players has always turned me off. I prefer something more solitary, and Fortnite has always been able to provide that, despite its zany exterior. What began as a blatant clone of its genre neighbours has grown into one of the biggest media properties on the planet, commanding a presence that few games have ever been able to match.
While its position in the zeitgeist has faltered somewhat, Fortnite still sits on the throne and shows no sign of leaving it behind. Each new season brings with it massive narrative developments and crossovers with some of the largest media properties known to man. The ongoing season places a focus on both original characters and familiar faces like Darth Vader and Indiana Jones, while premium skins are continually added to the game as part of surprise bundles or official crossovers to promote upcoming films, television shows, and events. I’m partly surprised that Stranger Things didn’t get a mention, since it’s all anyone has been talking about for the past couple of weeks. Nope, we got John Cena instead.
Even before No Build brought me back into regular play sessions, I kept coming to Fortnite whenever a new crossover was added that felt precision engineered to pry open my wallet. Thankfully, I’m a filthy games journalist and member of the Fortnite Crew (gang gang) so I always had enough to pick up whatever skin tickled my fancy.
Alien, Street Fighter, Terminator, Arcane, Halo, Horizon Zero Dawn, and now John Cena. It’s a licensing bukkake, and I am absolutely here for it, even if the money exchanging hands to make any of this possible is so painfully transparent. But when you see Master Chief dabbing alongside Ariane Grande as they team up to take on a rival duo consisting of Marcus Fenix and Harry Kane you can’t help but fall in love with it all. Everything is just so ridiculous, but it somehow works because Fortnite has cultivated that absurdity so well.
John Cena feels like the culmination of this vision, because he is far more than one man. For years the wrestler has become a legendary meme we all look up to, and has only leaned into that reputation with his wholesome persona and willingness to have fun despite himself. He knows that he is the man who cannot be seen, making prank calls on the internet as he deals out five knuckle shuffles to anyone foolish enough to cross his path.
He used to be the biggest wrestling superstar in the world, but fans began to sour on him as he was booked to win every single match and even bury emergent talent. But now we’ve come full circle, with those who once despised him now recognising everything he’s done for the industry. Cena being aware of that cycle of events makes it so perfect, even more so as he dishes out jokes and his fun with the cultural object he himself has become. Now he’s in Fortnite, which feels like the ideal final destination for this social experiment.
I once thought that Fortnite’s crossover appeal would cannibalise itself, failing to justify its own existence without the help of new skins and cosmetics from things we already recognise. This reliance on nostalgia has always been a double-edged sword, but with the arrival of John Cena I think Epic Games is more self-aware than we’ve ever given it credit for. If Big Match John’s appearance is a sign of the future, I’m more than ready for it.
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