There has long been a global fascination with superheroes. One just has to look at the highest-grossing movies of all time to see the world’s interest in superhumans making the world a better place. This captivation has created a movement of real-life superheroes. Mexico City’s Superbarrio is one of the world’s first real-life superheroes. Superbarrio was famous for his red luchador mask and used his masked persona to lead non-violent protests and civil disobedience against corrupt government policies.
That he wore a luchador mask to fight crime draws an interesting connection: There are many wrestlers who take on the role of vigilante, or people’s champion, in American culture. Hulk Hogan vs. the Iron Sheik was used to heroically depict America in the 1980s during a time of political turmoil; Sting has been used to track down and fight corruption in the wrestling universe; Stone Cold Steve Austin was the people’s champ who represented everyone who hated their boss and wanted to have a cold beer at work.
In the United States, wrestlers are presented as real-life superheroes performing superhuman tasks in fights that look like they popped out of a comic book. Sometimes, after building a reputation inside the ring, these wrestling stars return to reality and become actual superheroes by offering their influence to better the world through a variety of charitable organizations.
John Cena has been the face of the WWE for over a decade; he has held the heavyweight championship 15 times and currently holds the role of “the people’s champ,” fighting against the WWE’s villains, the Authority, who represent a money-first mentality. Outside the ring, John Cena is listed second on the Athletes Gone Good top 20. He joins the likes of Lebron James, Christiano Ronaldo, and Serena Williams, all of whom have used their celebrity to make major impacts in the philanthropic world. Cena made the list not only for helping the WWE raise $1.5 million dollars for Susan G. Komen since 2012, but also for holding the record of most wishes granted by the Make-A-Wish foundation; this summer, Cena granted his 500th wish. A second WWE star who made the top 20 Athletes Gone Good list is Roman Reigns, who has been spearheading an anti-bullying campaign with DoSomething.org.
The WWE as a whole has partnered up with many charitable organizations, including Alliance for a Healthier Generation, Connor’s Cure, and the V Foundation.
As an athletic organization, a partnership with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation was a perfect fit for the WWE. These two organizations have been working together since 2005 to fight childhood obesity. They are preparing to launch the #Commit2Ten campaign, which encourages families, as a whole, to set aside at least 10 minutes a day to engage in a physical activity together.
Connor’s Cure’s mission is “[t]o provide funds for pediatric brain and spinal cancer research, and medical care for children and their families.” The organization formed after an eight-year-old WWE fan named Connor Michalek lost his battle to brain cancer in 2014. Though the organization is only a year old, the WWE has helped raise more than $630,000 for research and treatment.
The WWE has created and developed out-of-this-world, superhuman characters since it first came into existence in 1980. But while Vince McMahon played a villain on television, his legacy will not just be founder and CEO of a billion-dollar industry; he, and now his daughter Stephanie, will also be remembered for giving the world real-life superheroes. As John Cena once said, “Seriously, I grew up a fan of Hulk Hogan, and I think I bring some of his best values to the ring.…the values of a superhero. Always do your best. Never give up. I think kids want to believe in that, and they should believe in that.”
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