John Cena is the biggest wrestling star of his generation. He’s the kind of guy who will be known as a wrestling icon, and there’s no question he’ll eventually headline a WWE Hall of Fame class. Some of that has to do with the WWE machine getting behind him, and pushing him as the face of the company for most of the decade from 2005 to 2015. Regardless of what Cena’s detractors say, though, he also earned his position on top. Fans tend to take for granted how great he has been on the mic over the years, and particularly from the mid-point of his run on top onward, he became one of the best big match performers in WWE history. In addition to the man’s talent, he has demonstrated a work ethic like few before or since, consistently working media appearances, doing Make A Wish work, and keeping his nose clean without any major complaints or dust ups with management. For all this, he may well go down in history as WWE’s all time best company man.
Included in Cena doing what’s asked of him, and what’s for the best of WWE, Cena became a featured player in the Total Bellas reality TV series.
There’s an argument to be made that Cena’s participation in the series has changed how the public sees him. It’s hard to project a tough guy image when you’re captured in your home life. All the more so, it’s tough for Cena to uphold his kid friendly image when the show largely portrays him as stern and serious.
This article looks at the house rules that Cena imposes upon anyone staying in his domain, as gleaned from the show, as well as public statements from Nikki Bella.
15 Respect The House As If It Were Your Own
While John Cena did not, by any indications, grow up poor, he has nonetheless worked hard to arrive at the lifestyle he enjoys today. As captured on Total Bellas, he has a large, beautiful, well kept house. Viewers of the show got their first introduction to the regimented way in which Cena sees the house when he announced the first of the rules for his home in the opening segment of the show, starting with, “Respect the house as if it were your own.”
It’s clear that Cena takes pride in his home and in his way of life. He acknowledged similar leanings in a recent visit to the ID10T podcast, in which he talked about strictly scheduling his time and how welcoming other people into his life changed the dynamic. While Cena has clearly made concessions for Nikki Bella when she moved in, and by extension her family when they moved in for the show, he did not, at least in the early going, appear willing to compromise the integrity of his home.
This rule established Cena straightaway as someone who will not bend over backward for visitors, but rather expects for them to be on their best behavior and respect his property.
14 Anyone But Cena Is A Guest
Before the first episode of Total Bellas even aired, word leaked that John Cena had made his partner, Nikki Bella, sign a seventy plus page contract agreeing to the terms of her residence in his house. On the premiere, Nikki commented openly about her discomfort regarding the document, and took specific issue with the use of the word “guest” to describe her. While her phrasing was a bit emotionally over the top, there was some substance to her question of if Cena saw her as a guest in his house, if he saw her as a guest in his heart as well.
Cena made it clear that he saw everyone else coming in ostensibly to help Nikki after neck surgery (though, it would seem, at least equally moving in for the sake of the show) was a guest, too.
These guests included Nikki’s twin sister Brie and her partner—Cena’s colleague and friend—Daniel Bryan. It also included Nikki’s mother, and her then fiancé John Laurinaitis, who had previously been one of Cena’s bosses.
The word choice here demonstrates Cena’s ability to separate the personal from legal matters, as regardless of having personal relationships with this people, he clearly saw some need to keep a degree of distance.
13 Coffee Together Every Morning
In the opening scene of Total Bellas, John Cena openly stated matter of factly that everyone living in his house was expected to be up and downstairs to have coffee together each morning. A generous interpretation of this house rule might have someone thinking Cena is invested in community and having everyone spend time together and, indeed, it wouldn’t be so unreasonable for a regular host to ask guests to join him for coffee in the morning. The fact that presence for coffee was set forth as a rule rather than an invitation carried altogether different connotations, though.
Cena’s insistence on everyone being present for coffee may have been a contrivance for the sake of capturing footage of everyone together on a regular basis for the reality TV series. Nonetheless, there are value judgments present with it. First and foremost is Cena’s vision of appropriate lifestyle choices, to include not sleeping in and wasting time. This fits the narrative Cena’s friends and colleagues have shared about him over time. Chris Jericho in particular shared an anecdote previously about staying out late drinking with Cena once, and getting wasted to the point of Cena having to help him to his hotel room. When he woke up, Cena was there, not sleeping off his own hangover, but rather already awake and listening to Jericho’s music.
12 Don’t Leave Towels On The Floor
Of all of the rules that Cena established on Total Bellas, this is one of the more pointed and specific ones that might seem silly or arbitrary, but that clearly matters to Cena for him to have pointed it out directly in the first family dinner depicted on the show. Everyone has their pet peeves, and so perhaps it’s not so unreasonable for Cena to request that everyone in the house hang up their towels after using them.
The towel rule seems indicative of Cena’s core values, though, and not entirely different from his insistence on everyone having coffee together representing a bias against sleeping in. Leaving towels on the floor can clutter a bathroom, look messy, make towels dirtier more quickly, and even create a safety hazard as an extra obstacle someone could slip on or trip over. It may come across as laughable for someone to make such a big deal about this kind of rule, especially when guests are just coming in, but it’s representative of Cena being relatively set in his ways. It also may speak to the life he’s come from, after having grown up with four brothers who probably didn’t always respect Cena’s wishes about this sort of thing.
11 If Cena Says Go, You Have To Leave
In the infamous contract that John Cena had Nikki Bella sign upon moving into his house, one of the most widely noted terms, and one Nikki discussed her concerns about on Total Bellas, was the provision that if Cena says she has to go—for example, if they were to break up—then she must leave immediately. In the purest sense, a rule like this may not be seen as unreasonable.
Cena was welcoming someone into his home, and after having gone through a messy divorce in the past, it makes complete sense that he would feel a need to lay clear ground rules about what should happen if his relationship were to fall apart.
Despite the logical points that justify this rule, Nikki was understandably taken aback by Cena feeling the need to have it in place, even as they were clearly getting along well enough to justify moving in together. It, again, suggested Cena may have seen their relationship as temporary, or at least saw business concerns like who had the rights to the house to be more important than offering his girlfriend emotional reassurance. Of course, if Cena applied this rule to a woman he said that the loved, there’s little doubt it would go for anyone else staying in the house as well.
10 Formal Dinner Once A Week
In meeting with his new housemates, John Cena explained that everyone would be expected to attend a formal dinner each week, typically on Wednesday nights. The Wednesday part, in particular, may come across as odd and arbitrary but actually makes a great deal of sense given the WWE schedule that he keeps, and that others in the house experienced in the past, or still did on a part time basis. With Raw and SmackDown Live on Monday and Tuesday nights, weekend house shows, and pay per view events once a month or so on Sundays, Wednesday is one of the few consistently open evenings for a WWE Superstar. That’s especially true for a star like Cena who is a big enough deal to be called in more often than most, and even worked a free agent gimmick that saw him appearing on both Raw and SmackDown as needed after the brand split.
Daniel Bryan discussed the formal dinners in his visit to the Talk is Jericho podcast, citing that they were real. Like some of Cena’s other rules, they may have been developed for the benefit of the TV show, but Cena nonetheless took them seriously and enforced them. Bryan suggested on the podcast that maybe they should have had pyjama dinners and other arbitrary themes as well. Jericho noted, bemusedly, that it was odd Cena had gone from a notoriously casual dresser to wearing suits all the time in recent years.
9 Evening Fire Every Night
Not unlike the rule about everyone coming together for coffee each morning, one could interpret John Cena’s insistence that everyone gather for a fire each evening as a mixture of wanting to build community and wanting to stage scenes with everyone together for reality TV purposes. His even more old fashioned suggestion that, in the aftermath, the men would retire to have a drink together in his study reads as a bit more old fashioned, and potentially even like imposing an old fashioned standard to put on the act of being formal.
While Daniel Bryan seemed reluctant to speak his mind in Cena’s house in the first episode of Total Bellas, this was one issue that he did openly hint at thinking was silly, as he pointed out the absurdity of hanging out with only the men for no evident purpose. This point seemed to underscore a contrast between Cena and Bryan as well. While Cena is notably one of WWE’s all time great schmoozers, comfortable working a crowd, and always being on, the general perception of Bryan is that he’s more insular and introverted. The idea of mandatory socializing, particularly at night, seems right up Cena’s alley where as it may be anything but relaxing in Bryan’s case.
8 Shut The Door Fully
From the initial interactions with his house guests on Total Bellas, John Cena emphasized the need to shut the door fully when people go in and out of the house. He went so far as to demonstrate that there was a trick to manipulating the door handle to ensure it closed appropriately.
It’s not so absurd for someone to want to make sure the doors to the house are shut for security, pest control, and temperature maintenance. Cena does, however, seem a bit oddly fixated on this specific point.
Maybe Cena made this point as a contrivance of the show. The pointed directions not only drew attention to Cena’s cold and particular ways, but also foreshadowed conflicts related to their dogs, and particularly Bryan and Brie’s which Cena doesn’t want in the house, and which later bites Cena’s leg for blocking her way through that door. The amount of attention paid to the door also may been representative of an even more practical concern, not only for a door that doesn’t work quite right, but for the real dangers presented when the Bellas come upon an alligator (being wrangled by animal control) at the side the road not far from Cena’s home.
7 No Bending The Rules
As if having a litany of firm and esoteric house rules were not enough to drive home on Total Bellas that John Cena is set in his ways and very rule oriented, the opening moments of the “House Rules” episode also include him specifying a meta-rule right off the bat. “No bending of the rules,” he rattles off gravely, amidst a string of other rules.
Cena is, of course, an incredibly successful athlete. He wasn’t born into wrestling, but combined a tremendous work ethic in the weight room with a commitment to learning the craft of pro wrestling, and loyalty to WWE as a company. It’s clear that he’s principled and regimented, and it stands to reason that one of the ways in which he has achieved so much is to hold himself to high standards and not fudge his own rules or way of life.
That Cena would hold his house guests to the same standard may be a bit extreme. It does however hint at Cena believing that his guests can live up to the rules and can better themselves. Cena demonstrated a more concerned, if not necessarily softer side, in engaging then-retired Daniel Bryan in a conversation about the next steps in his career, given it appeared he’d never be cleared to wrestle again. This included nudging Bryan toward training wrestlers in a hard nosed way that suggested support via offering a challenge.
6 Make Your Bed Every Day
There are some of John Cena’s house rules that have a clear impact on other guests, or Cena himself. The rule about not leaving towels on the floor, for example, could lead to unsanitary or at least disorderly situations for everyone sharing the bathroom. Cena’s rule that every guest needs to make his or her bed? That one seems to cross a line of intimacy, reaching beyond public or shared areas, into the most intimate space that any given individual or couple occupies. Accordingly, Brie Bella reacted strongly to this rule in a cutaway on Total Bellas, acting like it was a big imposition to say that she has to do this.
This rule does seem to suggest Cena’s micromanager tendencies.
It also, however, asserts the degree to which he sees the entire house as his property, and to be cared for appropriately. Though Cena was never a part of the military, he has an almost militant instinct toward order and taking care of details, and it shows up in his establishment of rules of this nature.
Still, if there is one rule guests could get away with fudging via a closed door, or at least only following the rule with a half hearted pulling up of the covers rather than properly making their beds, this rule would fit the bill.
5 Let Cena Know If You’re Coming Home Late
When John Cena shared with his house guests on Total Bellas that they needed to contact him if they’d be coming home late, it came across, first, as a paternal gesture. While it may be a little overbearing for Cena to ask other adults to check in with him if they’d be late, it nonetheless seemed protective and kind spirited. However, Cena followed up the comment promptly with a clarification that they should offer a heads up because “this is a shoot first state and I own a lot of guns.”
Some viewers took Cena’s latter comments to represent a threat against anyone keeping him up by returning home late because he might literally shoot them if they interrupt his rest. A more likely, and slightly kinder interpretation: he owns a number of firearms and doesn’t want anyone surprising him late at night when he might mistake them for intruders.
In either case, his comments may have been hyperbole, or a bit of bombast built to sell drama on the show. Just the same, they did underscore a difference, particularly between Cena and Brie Bella and Daniel Bryan, who are portrayed as the more free spirited and peaceful kind of folks no one would expect to have guns.
4 Don’t Flush Anything But Toilet Paper Down The Toilet
John Cena is adamant that no one in his house should flush anything but toilet paper down the toilet. This rule falls under the category of policies or preferences that are not so unusual. Moreover, it’s a rule that does have a practical purpose behind them, given flushing miscellaneous materials that toilets aren’t designed to dispose of can notoriously cause plumbing issues. What makes the rule unusual was Cena’s delivery as he made a point of explicitly mentioning it amidst a litany of other rules during the first house dinner of Total Bellas.
In a more considerate version of the same rule being explained, Cena might have explained that the house’s plumbing is sensitive or discuss issues he’s had with guests in the past flushing. In a matter of factly stating, without niceties or context, Cena came across as trying to strictly enforce a rule about what others do in the bathroom. We might liken this to his discussion of everyone making their beds, as reaching too far into guests’ intimate spaces and personal lives. Someone not prone to give Cena the benefit of the doubt could also understand that statement as condescending, because most functioning adults would intuit this rule rather than needing it explained to them.
3 Shoes Off In The House
A number of John Cena’s house rules are oriented toward cleanliness and order, and thus there’s little surprise that one of his decrees would be for guests not to wear their shoes into the house. This is a common enough stance for conscientious house keepers to keep dirt and debris from spreading throughout the home, let alone tracking in mud, rain, or snow during poorer weather periods.
Daniel Bryan singled out this rule for complaint in his visit to Chris Jericho’s podcast, taking matters to an opposite extreme. He explained that in his and Brie’s home life, it wasn’t unusual for them to go out and tend the garden bare foot and then track dirt inside the house and worry about cleaning it up when they had the time later. While doing that might technically honor the letter of the law for Cena’s rules, it would obviously undermine the spirit of keeping dirt out of the house.
Interestingly, this was one of the few rules for which Cena had a clearly defined exception.
Because of his insistence on weekly formal dinners, that was a time when footwear to match outfits was acceptable, and he even cited that exclusion during his initial explanation of the of policy.
2 Don’t Try Your Luck
Most of the rules John Cena explained about his house were practical in nature, involving specific scenarios and the dos and don’ts of how he would expect for his guests to conduct themselves. He followed up a series of policies and guidelines in the “House Rules” of Total Bellas by adding a more abstract note: “Don’t try your luck.”
This rule harkens back to Cena’s contractual rule that if he asks someone to move out, they have to go. Cena has made it clear through his rules and his delivery of them to friends, and even his romantic partner and her mother that he is in charge of the house, and what he says goes.
Of course, Cena’s warning that guests shouldn’t try their luck carries a little extra gravitas given who he is. For one thing, he’s the biggest wrestling star of his generation, with locker room stroke that, according to some, ruined the careers of guys like Alex Riley, Kenny Dykstra, and Tyler Reks. For another thing, he’s a physically imposing presence. He may have delivered these rules to Nikki and Brie Bella who are wrestlers themselves, and Daniel Bryan and John Laurinaitis who were also tough guys with careers in the ring. Just the same, Cena is clearly physically stronger than any of these people, and the odds are that Bryan would be the only could have any chance of standing up to him in a physical confrontation.
1 When You’re Here, You’re In
In cold open to the premiere episode of Total Bellas, John Cena capped his initial list of house rules by adding, “When you’re here, you’re in.” It was an interesting comment if for no other reason than its ambiguity relative to all of the other straightforward rules he had established with all of his guests.
One could interpret this rule in a menacing way, and indeed Cena’s stern delivery of it would invite that sort of understanding. Not unlike a prison warden addressing inmates, he’s intoning that when guests are on his premises he owns them, and they have no choice but to abide by the rules that he has explicitly stated.
There is another way of taking this statement, however. Not unlike the Olive Garden restaurant chain’s slogan, “When you’re here, you’re family,” Cena may also be getting across an idea that when you live under his roof, you’re “in” with him, and thus have his support. We do see glimmers of this side of Cena in him giving career advice to Daniel Bryan later in the episode and in the affection he demonstrates toward Nikki Bella when they’re hanging out by the pool, and he briefly shows a goofier side of himself while blowing up an inflatable swan.