Released May 10, 2005
1 hr, 5 min, 27 sec
You Can’t See Me isn’t a fantastic album. Written and performed by two white dudes, both unknown as artists, and one of them being a professional wrestler, there were a lot of things working against this one.
But the intent was never really to write and release a real work of art.
John Cena debuted in the WWE in 2002, facing Kurt Angle in a very close loss, answering Angle’s open challenge to see if anyone could last five minutes in the ring with him. He demonstrated aggression, heart, and dedication in that match, but Cena spent most of 2002 and 2003 at the bottom of the card, floundering on the main roster with no gimmick to keep him afloat. In fact, he came very, very close to the chopping block, nearly being released and written off as another failed attempt at a homegrown star during the 2003 spring cleaning of the roster. However, he was given one last chance, and Cena reached back into his heritage, and found gold in an overblown white rapper gimmick, wearing throwback jerseys and oversized chains to the ring. Cena became a charismatic, entertaining heel, great at getting fans to hate him and want to see him get his ass beat, which happened regularly for the rest of 2003 until he began using his signature chain to steal wins.
However, by 2004, Cena had turned himself around, becoming a fan favorite as the crowd now wanted him to succeed in the face of adversity. The biggest moment of this turnaround came when Cena overcame the immense challenge of WWE United States Champion The Big Show at WrestleMania XX in 2004, defeating Show to win his very first championship in WWE.
This comes back around to You Can’t See Me soon, I promise.
Now, Cena had become a strong contender, and he defended, lost, and won the US title twice more throughout 2004 leading into 2005. By WrestleMania 21, Cena had become the #1 contender for the top prize of the company, the WWE Championship, held by long-reigning champion and utterly hated wrestler JBL. Cena’s biggest moment of his career came with his win at WrestleMania over JBL, the first world championship reign for Cena, and a prelude to fourteen more (eleven more reigns with the WWE title, and three with the World Heavyweight title) over the course of the next nine years, more than any other wrestler in WWE’s history.
At this point, Cena had become the top face of the company. Previously the face of WWE’s secondary show SmackDown, Cena was sent over to the main show, Raw, that same June, bringing the WWE Championship with him, solidifying his position as the top guy. To capitalize on Cena’s massive popularity in 2005 (with most of the crowd, anyway), WWE released an album he’d recorded with his cousin, Tha Trademarc, in 2005, titled You Can’t See Me.
See, I told you it would come back around.
You Can’t See Me, like I said, isn’t a great album. The beats are basic, Cena’s flow is choppy and stilted, and his cousin frequently outshines him. But You Can’t See Me wasn’t released to be an album, it was released to be a promotional piece for WWE and Cena’s title reign. Even the cover of the album features Cena’s customized WWE Championship. It’s the most overt extension of a gimmick I’ve ever seen – releasing a rap album just because a wrestler is portraying a rap gimmick. It’s incredible. Not to mention the fact that, by 2006, much of Cena’s rapper character had faded away, as Cena slowly evolved into his current gimmick of “guy who never loses matches.” The only remnant of You Can’t See Me that remains with Cena today is opening track “The Time is Now,” which remains Cena’s theme music even today.
Ten years after the album’s release (ten years and four days, to be exact), You Can’t See Me stands as little more than a curiosity in the history of WWE’s ventures outside of wrestling. By far the most successful single-artist album released by the promotion, having shockingly gone platinum, You Can’t See Me exists in 2015 as little more than a relic of an era gone by, when Cena wasn’t considered (and manufactured to be) the “most polarizing figure in wrestling.” It was a simpler time back then, when the opening chords of “The Time is Now” hit, and the entire crowd pounced up to see their favorite wrestler defend the title he loved so much.
Now, he just sucks. Ugh.