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John Cena’s ‘ N*kεd’ moment at the 2024 Oscars might have caused hilarity from viewers and the audience, alike, but the nod to Oscars history has far more importance that the former wrestler being merely the butt of a joke (pun intended).

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john cena oscars streaker

The Meaning Behind John Cena’s ‘ N*kεd’ MomentRich Polk – Getty Images
The former WWE wrestler walked onto the stage on Sunday night with nothing but the Costume Designer award envelope covering his lower half, leaving little to the imagination for viewers.

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Cena’s appearance was prompted by host Jimmy Kimmel referencing the infamous streaker who intruded the Oscars at the 1974 ceremony.

hollywood, california march 10 l r jimmy kimmel and john cena speak onstage during the 96th annual academy awards at dolby theatre on march 10, 2024 in hollywood, california photo by kevin wintergetty images

Kevin Winter – Getty Images
During the 46th Academy Awards, the ceremony’s host, actor David Niven, was midway through introducing Elizabeth Taylor who was presenting the award for Best Picture, before a commotion built up among the crowd as a N*kεd man ran onto the stage behind the British star, much to everyone’s delight and shock.

‘Well, ladies and gentlemen, that was almost bound to happen… But isn’t it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings?’ Niven joked.

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Much has been made of the seemingly impromptu moment. Some believe that the streaker’s time in the spotlight was orchestrated by Oscars producer Jack Haley Jr, and that Niven had written the one-liner.

However, days after the streaking debut Opel appeared on The Mike Douglas Show and said: ‘Nobody believes that it wasn’t set up.’ And Niven’s son Jamie disagreed told The New York Times in February 2023: ‘No, no. That was spontaneous.’

But how does one sneak into the Oscars, get behind the scenes and strip N*kεd on live television without being stopped? According to Opel he had sneaked through the security checkpoint with a press pass, borrowed from a friend, hid in the scenery and removed his jumpsuit.

The 1974 Oscars streaker in question was photographer Robert Opel who is believed to have appeared N*kεd to make a protest or social activism. ‘It was a social comment,’ Opel’s nephew, Robert Oppel, told EW in 2018.

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Opel went on to open a queer-centred art gallery in 1978 in San Francisco, Fey Way Studios, according to Collider, and streaked through a Los Angeles City Council meeting, interrupting a debate on outlawing nudity on public beaches.

Opel lost his life five years later in 1979 during an attempted robbery in San Francisco.