Tri-Cities 12-year-old with cerebral palsy meets his hero, John Cena

BRISTOL, TN (WJHL) – A local boy’s biggest dream came true a week ago when he got to meet his hero, wrestler John Cena, in Johnson City.

Payton Marion, 12, has cerebral palsy and incorporates Cena into his physical therapy. Payton’s passion for the WWE Superstar sparked when his father Justin turned the television to a wrestling match.

“It happened to be a Monday night, and I said ‘Let me show you what I was watching at your age,”’ Justin Marion said. “And we turned it over to wrestling and it just happened to be a John Cena match, and we sat there and we watched together and ever since then he just instantly fell in love, fell in love with John Cena, and it just took off from there.”

With Cena scheduled to make an appearance in Johnson City for a Road to WrestleMania event on March 25th, Justin utilized the opportunity to try and make his son’s wish come true. He set up a GoFundMe account and raised the money needed to purchase tickets for a VIP package, which included a meet and greet.

“We go down to the meet and greet and we were sitting there and waiting to hopefully see John Cena. It wasn’t 100 percent certain whether he was going to be there or not,” Justin said. “Unfortunately John Cena wasn’t part of the meet and greet package, and so he [Payton] was kind of bummed out, but he was super excited he would still get to see him wrestle.”

As Cena made his way to the ring for his match, he gave Payton a special surprise. The wrestler threw the 12-year-old his shirt, and after the match, Cena gave Payton his armband. But Justin said his son still didn’t get a picture with his hero.

“I was sitting there thinking, ‘man, that was awesome,’ but I was really wanting to get a picture with Payton. I said there’s no way I can have Payton in the same building as his hero and not have them communicate with each other and take a picture.”

Justin remembered what he used to do with his dad at WWE events. “We would be able to go to the back and see them go to their cars, buses and stuff like that to get back on the road to go back home.”

The father hoped his plan would finally unite his son and Cena face-to-face.

“About ten minutes later AJ Styles walks out and instantly locks on Payton and asked him if he wants an autograph and picture and stuff like that, and of course we said ‘yes definitely we want that,”’ Justin said.

Styles, who was Cena’s opponent that night, asked if Payton got to see everybody that he wanted. His father mentioned their desire to meet Cena.

“He takes us to this door, tells us to sit in this chair, and he walks around the corner which was the locker room of all the Superstars. And about five minutes later, John Cena walks out.”

It was at that moment Payton’s dream came true, and Justin said they will both remember the encounter forever.

“One of the things that as a special needs parent that you get a lot is a lot of people will look at your kid as fragile, and they don’t want to touch them or pick them up… but John Cena, he came out there and he just treated Payton like he was 100 percent normal, nothing wrong. He grabbed his hand, touched his shoulder and was saying that he was super strong and just carrying on a great conversation with Payton,” Justin said.

Through perseverance, Justin’s plan worked. As a father, he said, being able to grant his son’s wish meant the world to him.

“He looks at a lot of people, a lot of other kids, and realizes ‘why can I not do this or that?’ Run around on the playground and things like that,” Justin said. “So whenever we make a dream like that come true, I just feel like Superdad almost.”

About a week after their unbelievable experience, the father and son express their gratitude to the wrestler.

“We would say thank you for everything that you do,” Justin said. “Just keep doing what you’re doing, and it means a lot to these kids that they take time out of their day to meet with them, especially after he had just got done with a big event, and I’m sure he was tired.”

And if Payton could tell John Cena anything today, “I think he would say he would beat him in a wrestling match!”

Copyright 2017 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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