In May 2018, the worlds of professional wrestling and Hollywood gossip collided with the abrupt breakup of wrestler-turned-actor John Cena and Total Bellas star Nikki Bella. The longtime WWE power couple announced their split with just weeks to go before their wedding, leaving fans scrambling for any sort of explanation. But as you’ll see in the relationship timeline below, we spotted plenty of red flags during their six-year relationship …
2012: John asked Bella out for a first date. “The first opening line was, ‘Hey, do you want to go to dinner with me?’ and I was kind of like, ‘What? With me?'” she later told TribLive Radio. “It just kind of started out like a dinner date, and I have to admit, we were friends for so many years, but then when you make it romantic, I couldn’t even say a word to him.”
2013: Nikki moves in with John … after signing a lengthy contract. “Having been through that process, here is how I view it,” John later explained to Nikki’s twin sister, Brie Bella. “It is like buying a handgun for home defense. It gives you a sense of security, and it gives you a failsafe in case something happens … I had to have your sister sign an agreement to live in the house. It wasn’t a one-page [agreement], it’s a 75-page agreement.”
May 29, 2014: A clip from Total Divas shows John finding out Nikki has been married before — and hearing the news from someone other than Nikki — at Brie’s wedding.
September 7, 2014: An episode of Total Divas shows John and Nikki clashing over their plans for the future. “I’m trying to be a realist,” John said. “I’ve told you that I don’t want to get married and I don’t want to have kids, and you do want to get married and you do want to have kids. So I feel like this is a time-bomb over my head.”
September 27, 2017 An episode of Total Bellas shows John refusing to give Nikki power of attorney in case he is ever put on life support. He told her she’s “not even on the list.”
September 29, 2015: An ex of Nikki’s, wrestler Dolph Ziggler, tells her he could give her marriage and children. Nikki eventually comes clean to John about Dolph’s advances, as viewers see in a January 2016 episode of Total Divas.
April 2, 2017: John proposes to Nikki at Wrestlemania 33 — getting down on bended knee in front of “75,000 of their closest friends” — after they defeat married couple The Miz and Maryse in the wrestling ring.
April 3, 2018: At the premiere of his film Blockers — two weeks before their breakup — John raves about his and Nikki’s relationship to, saying, “I think the best thing about me being able to ask her hand in marriage was she doesn’t need to question my commitment to our relationship. I am with her to death do us part.”
April 5, 2018: A teaser for Season 3 of Total Bellas shows Nikki in tears over her relationship with John. “I’m not sure we should go through with this,” he told her in the promo.
April 8, 2018: On Instagram, Nikki posts an animated re-enactment of John’s proposal just one week before their breakup. “What a moment, still get chills and tears every time,” she wrote. “Honestly feel like the luckiest girl in the world.”
April 15, 2018: Nikki shares the news of her and John’s split — less than one month before their wedding date. “While this decision was a difficult one, we continue to have a great deal of love and respect for one another,” Nikki wrote on Instagram. “We ask that you respect our privacy during this time in our lives.”
May 8, 2018: Nikki told fans she has moved in with her sister and has been “just kind of been hiding out.” She also thanks her fans for their love and support.
May 14, 2018: On Today, John said he “still would love to marry Nicole” and “still would love to have a family with Nicole.” He reveals their relationship ended because of an “unfortunate set of circumstances.”
May 17, 2018: In the wake of John’s statement on Today, Nikki told Life & Style exclusively there’s hope for the relationship. “It’s definitely not too little, too late,” she says. “There’s definitely hope. Right now, I’m just focusing on me and working on myself because a healthy me is a healthy us. And hopefully John’s and [my] paths come back together in a happily-ever-after.”
May 31, 2018: A source revealed to Us Weekly that John and Nikki got back together. “Calling off the wedding was the right decision at the moment and their relationship only grew from it,” the insider explained at the time. “It didn’t mean that any love was lost, or that they lost any feelings for one another, but they both have realized that they love each other and want to be with one another.”
June 4, 2018: Nikki clapped back at a fan for accusing the pair of “faking their split” to garner better TV ratings. “Sad that my breakup has to be ‘good’ timing for all of you,” she wrote on Instagram. “I forgot I’m not allowed to just live my life. What blows my mind is that people like you would even think I would do this for ratings or show,” she continued. “Don’t you think a wedding would have done a much better job? So unreal. Done with the hate! So happy I have a Bella Army on here that is so loving and supportive,” Nikki concluded.
July 3, 2018: Nikki confirms that she and John are no longer romantically involved. “Because I am a reality star, and I do have a reality show … I feel like I have to kinda say what’s the update on John and I, but right now we’re just friends,” Nikki revealed on her vlog, which was posted on July 1, and filmed on June 26. She prefaced that by saying, “I think it’s hard for people to understand because we film and then things get shown a few months after.”
October 30, 2018: Nikki confessed that she’s still adjusting following the split. “It feels like, you know, when you get married and the next day people are like, ‘When are you having kids?’ and it’s like, ‘I just got married.’ I feel like it’s the same thing. When you become single, it’s like, ‘Oh, are you dating?!’ Honestly, I’m so not interested. I’m just not ready yet,” she said at the WWE Evolution on October 28.
January 15, 2019: Nikki gave fans an update on her friendship with John. “He and I are friendly,” she explained. “I have given him the heads up on everything because I have so much respect for him. So I told him like, ‘Hey! I’m going on a date with this guy, just want you to know,’” the professional wrestler continued. “I love him, I have respect for him — he’s just such a good friend of mine.”
March 27, 2019: After months of speculation, Nikki finally confirmed that she and her former DWTS partner, Artem Chigvintsev, are an item. “Artem and I are dating. We are not engaged, we are not married, we’re not boyfriend and girlfriend, we don’t say ‘I love you,’” Nikki confessed during an episode of “The Bellas Podcast,” before adding,“Yeah, we make out. What else? He’s a great kisser.”
March 30, 2019: Just days after Nikki said it would “kill her” to see John move on, he was spotted with new girl Shay Shariatzadeh on his arm. “John and his new girlfriend have been out in the public multiple times,” Nina Safai, a Canadian blogger, explained to Life & Style. “I’ve seen them together four times now. It started on March 3, and I’ve been running into them once or twice a week since then. I first saw them at Thierry dessert shop — it seemed like their first or second date.”
April 2019: As of now, it looks like the former flames have officially moved on and are focusing on new romantic relationships. In fact, on April 22, a year following the pair’s split, Nikki shared an empowering message on Instagram. “I woke up this morning smiling, said ‘thank you, God, and universe,’ out loud. Never have done that. Feels so good! So happy! Trust the journey! I love you all!”