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'You Can’t See Me': The Story Behind John Cena's Iconic, Mocking Hand Gesture
John Cena’s contributions to American culture are more influential than you think!
Superstars crossing over into mainstream pop culture and entertainment is a regular occurrence, as larger-than-life figures like The Rock and Dave Bautista have become Hollywood names. However, while John Cena has also enjoyed great success in the film industry, he arguably is more well-known for his signature "You Can't See Me" hand gesture than his acting chops. In fact, it's become a go-to taunting gesture in the sports world for more than a decade now, used by athletes across all sports. The "You Can't See Me" gesture was a primary point of contention Sunday night during the NCAA Women's National Championship basketball game.
Throughout the women's March Madness tournament, Iowa's Caitlin Clark — touted by many as the most exciting basketball player of her generation — frequently used Cena's gesture during her unreal on-the-court performances. Iowa fell to LSU in Sunday's title game, prompting LSU star Angel Reese to co-opt the gesture, ultimately getting the last laugh — and the 2023 women's national title.
After the women's national championship game, many sports fans wonder what the hand gesture — a simple waving of the hands in front of one's face — means and how long it's been popularized by John Cena.
What Does the "You Can't See Me" Gesture Mean?
In simplest terms, it means I'm so good, strong, and fast that you can't even keep up with me; you can't see me. I'm operating at a higher level than you are competitively, athletically, and mentally.
Naturally, this gesture became a staple of the John Cena character throughout his WWE career, as he never missed a moment to throw a "You Can't See Me" at his fellow Superstars. But, of course, the gesture itself is so easily identifiable at this point that it should come as no surprise that it's entered the world of sports. Athletes like Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese utilizing "You Can't See Me" is the logical progression of the gesture — after all, it translates seamlessly to all levels of basketball. Did you hit a dagger three? "You Can't See Me." Did you come up with a clutch defensive stop? "You Can't See Me." Did you conclusively win the national championship? "You Can't See Me."
In John Cena's case, the iconic hand gesture is used in tandem with his signature "Five Knuckle Shuffle" move — a fist drop used to humiliate as well as incapacitate his opponent!
What's the Backstory Behind "You Can't See Me?"
In classic Cena fashion — he's known as quite the jokester — the gesture was originally conceived as a joke between him and his brother.
"The 'You Can't See Me' thing was a joke from my little brother," revealed John Cena in an excerpt from his book, published on WWE.com in 2019. "My family is a bunch of idiots. This stupid song came on, we started dancing around, my brother Sean did this dance from a video where he moves his head around his hands. I just had to modify it a little bit. Instead of shaking my head around my hand, I shook my hand around my head."
There you have it; "You Can't See Me" was not a product of intense behind-the-scenes workshopping or an invention by the WWE creative team — the hand gesture was simply a result of dancing among family. Crazy, huh?
A big part of the charm of the gesture is the opportunity for the WWE Universe to say "You Can't See Me" in unison with Cena when he executes it in the ring — something that hasn't translated yet to fans in arenas in other sports. Still, we say give it a little bit of time!
When Did John Cena First Do "You Can't See Me?"
Although the exact date is unknown, most experts peg the first appearance of the hand gesture sometime in 2002.
According to Cena, early in his WWE career — when he was far removed from the "living legend" status he enjoys today — he was free to play around with his in-ring persona while competing on less-watched shows like the short-lived WWE weekly show Velocity. Cena has confessed he unveiled "You Can't See Me" on an early episode of Velocity and continued to tweak his presentation until he could fully achieve his final form. This final form led to over two decades of unparalleled success on RAW and SmackDown.
While we're shocked that it took so long for the gesture to cross over into the mainstream sports world, it shows that WWE is still growing — and professional wrestling is finally thoroughly permeating the pop culture scene.
At WrestleMania, John Cena failed in his bid to capture the WWE United States Championship from Austin Theory, but he did manage to throw in one impactful "You Can't See Me" for good measure. Although he's not scheduled to appear tonight, even the most cynical members of the WWE Universe have to admit that with RAW After WrestleMania just a few hours away — and interest in "You Can't See Me" at an all-time high with the general public — Cena showing up and making waves isn't out of the realm of possibility! Tune in tonight, and we'll find out together because it will be a wild and unpredictable night as the dust continues to settle from WrestleMania 2023!
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