Happy birthday, John Cena: Watch his WWE debut from 2002

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John Cena is practically synonymous with WWE and professional wrestling in 2014. However, once upon a time he was just another in a long line of rookies who was looking to make a name for himself.

Cena is celebrating his 37th birthday Wednesday (April 23) and to celebrate, it's time to jump in a time machine and go all the way back to June 27, 2002 for his inaugural WWE match. Cena, who hadn't adopted his rapper persona yet, answered a challenge set by Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle.

While he didn't win the match, Cena proved that he was there to make an impression. It wasn't until that October that Cena finally found the character that would make him a star, though. The Halloween episode of "WWE Smackdown" saw Cena dressed as Vanilla Ice, freestyle rapping.

What may have started as a joke led to one of the biggest WWE superstars of all time, as Cena's rapping persona caught fire with the audience. The rest, as they say, is history. Happy birthday, John.

Photo/Video credit: WWE