John Cena's nude gag was among the Oscars' best bits. How he avoided exposing his own

John Cena naked with an envelope over his groin and sandals standing on a stage next to a large beige setpiece
John Cena reminded the audience at the 96th Oscars on Sunday that "costumes are important." (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

A nearly nude John Cena pulled off one the most memorable jokes at the 96th Academy Awards, and backstage photos reveal how he did it.

The wrestler-actor made his presenting debut during Sunday's ceremony in a bit that referenced the streaker who stormed the 1974 show. After Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel struggled to persuade Cena to re-create the act, the "Peacemaker" star instead preached the importance of costumes as he timidly held a giant envelope against his crotch.

"Costumes are important," he told the Dolby Theatre audience. "They are so important, maybe the most important thing there is."

Read more: John Cena goes mostly nude to present costume design Oscar: 'Costumes are important'

Backstage photos captured by The Times confirmed that Cena wore more than just a pair of Birkenstock sandals as he presented the costume design category. "The Suicide Squad" star also wore a skin-toned modesty garment (often used in TV and film sex scenes) to conceal his rear and bare groin from audiences — and ABC censorship.

Two men in suits standing next to a mostly nude man wearing skin-toned underwear
John Cena, right, wearing a skin-colored undergarment, waiting backstage at the 96th Academy Awards on Sunday. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Cena's short-lived, but memorable, Oscars moment ended with him wearing a drape-like cover-up to present the Oscar to "Poor Things" designer Holly Waddington.

Times columnist Glenn Whipp wrote in Sunday's live blog that Cena's gag was unrehearsed. Clearly — with strong Twitter reactions and new GIFS inspired by the moment — it seems Cena's nearly un-garmented gamble paid off.

John Cena backstage in skin-tone underwear standing next to two men in suits
John Cena, right, prepares backstage to present the costume design award at the 96th Academy Awards. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Other highlights from Sunday's ceremony include the return of the five-presenter format, Ryan Gosling's electrifying "I'm Just Ken" performance and political statements from winners "Zone of Interest" director Jonathan Glazer and "20 Days in Mariupol" documentarian Mstyslav Chernov.

The 96th Academy Awards aired live on ABC. “Oppenheimer” was the night’s big winner, taking home seven prizes including best picture.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.