From their first date to their drawn-out split in 2018, Us Weekly is revisiting John Cena and Nikki Bella’s love story.
After years of friendship, the two wrestlers first sparked a romantic connection in 2012. The pair’s relationship continued to heat up as Cena popped the question in April 2017. However, less than one year later, the pair split over different ideas about the future.
“Overall, we did have such an incredible relationship, it was just two people that wanted two different lives,” Bella said on Maria Menounos’ “Better Together” podcast in May 2020. “We were trying so hard to make it one. Even in the end when he was willing to give me kids, I could just tell, it’s not what he wanted. And that’s really, like, you know, what pushed me in the end.”
She added at the time: “If I’m going to force someone to be a father … what if he looks at you down the road and just regrets everything, and then you have this child and you’ve built this life. Is that what you want? And I remember thinking: It’s not what I want.”
The Total Bellas alum has since moved on with Artem Chigvinstev, whom she competed with on Dancing With the Stars season 25. Bella and the Russia native, who got in engaged in January 2020, went on to welcome son Matteo.
Cena, for his part, moved on with Shay Shariatzadeh, tying the knot in October 2020.
“It’s hard work to balance the time I need to run myself correctly. It’s work to be the best partner and husband I can be to my loving wife,” the Playing With Fire actor — who was previously married to Elizabeth Huberdeau — opened up about his marriage during a January 2022 appearance on The Drew Barrymore Show. “It’s hard to keep connections with those in my life that I love. And it’s also hard to put in an honest day’s work.”
While the now-exes have since moved on, the Incomparable author has been candid about dealing with their “traumatizing” split.
“You almost wish it was bad because it’s so much easier to walk away. It’s so much harder to walk away when it’s loving,” Bella told Entertainment Tonight in July 2022. “I think a lot of women get into this situation when it’s like, ‘I love this person, but I don’t know if it’s right for my life,’ and that’s a hard thing. Sometimes we meet amazing people, but we’re just meant to live a different life.”
She added: “I just got this feeling so deep in my gut of, like, ‘I need to walk away.’ And no one thought I would, but it was hitting me so hard. Even though it’s painful and even traumatizing, I just knew it was right.”
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Scroll through for a complete timeline of the wrestlers’ relationship: