‘I don’t know how many years I have left’ — John Cena’s busy schedule leaves his WWE future uncertain

John Cena Summerslam 2015

Wrestling fans may need to start preparing themselves for a world without John Cena.

In an interview with Complex, Cena admitted that while he does not know precisely how long he has left as a semi-regular WWE performer, he knows the clock is ticking.

“I just turned 40 in April and we have so many young and talented performers,” Cena said. “I don’t know how many years I have left.”

For the past few months, Cena has been fairly absent from WWE programming due to his other media engagements. Now a certified star outside of the world of wrestling, Cena is an actor, producer, ad man, and now something of a fixture as a television and awards show host. Between time commitments to other projects and contractual obligations, it’s tough to find time to consistently enter the squared circle.

“There’s no dipping around the fact that I haven’t been on the program in a while because I’ve been doing other stuff. I haven’t danced around it,” Cena said. “I explained that the reason I cannot be on the program is because the movie folks, their insurance doesn’t allow you to. That’s a deal-breaker, it’s not negotiable.”

Cena also addressed his current status as a “free agent” in the world of WWE. For the past two years most wrestlers in the WWE Universe have been exclusive to either the Raw or SmackDown brand, but Cena is currently floating between both groups, depending on where he is needed and what appearances his busy schedule will permit.

“The reason that I wanted to be a free agent and the reason they kind of granted my request is because I don’t know if I’ll be available for SmackDown specific only or Raw specific only, and I also know that my days are numbered,” Cena said.

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Wrestling fans have known for a while that Cena, between his seniority on the roster and growing profile outside the ring, would probably not be a weekly regular on their televisions for much longer, but this is one of the more direct times Cena has addressed the issue himself. That said, Cena is currently tied with Ric Flair with 16 world championship reigns, and there is little doubt that his career on the won’t end before he breaks the all-time record.

And even when Cena gives a more formal farewell to his time as an in-ring performer in WWE, he’ll likely still be involved with the brand, whether as a brand ambassador, behind-the-scenes, or even as a surprise run-in at a future Royal Rumble.

As Cena put it, “If the day comes when I’m not involved with the WWE that would come as a drastic surprise to me.”