NZPWI had the opportunity to speak to WWE Superstar Big E this past Thursday, June 9.
Big E began his career in WWE NXT, where he defeated Seth Rollins to win the NXT Championship.
Once graduating to the main roster, the champion powerlifter aligned himself with Dolph Ziggler in his rivalry with John Cena.
Now one-third of the WWE Tag Team Champions, The New Day, Big E can be seen in action on Raw and SmackDown alongside Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods each week.
Big E spoke to NZPWI’s David Dunn about being part of The New Day, who came up with the five-count he used on NXT, his relationship with New Zealand’s Reuben de Jong, and more in this interview conducted Thursday morning.
David Dunn: WWE.com describes you as “a 290-pound tank of a man who can deadlift a Fiat”. Is that just a good measure of weight, or have you actually deadlifted a car?
Big E: I’d love to tell some beautifully strange story about randomly finding a Fiat in a parking lot and rolling it but I guess it’s kind of just a good analogy for where my strength is at. In competition I did 800 pounds. I’ve done a little bit over that in the gym—about 806—but an 800-pound deadlift is something that’s fairly uncommon. That was in the USAPL and a drug-tested federation too so that’s something I’m pretty proud of.
When you were in NXT you were famous for telling everyone that three’s not enough, you need five, and pinning your opponents for a full five-count. Was that something you came up with or something someone came to you with?
It definitely wasn’t something I came up with. At the time, NXT had been going on for a few months and I wasn’t doing a whole lot. I was on the back-burner a little bit when NXT first started. Eventually, when they decided to get me on TV, I think I had a couple of short matches and I remember having a conversation—it depends on who you ask—I had a conversation with Dusty Rhodes right before I was to use the five-count, a day or two prior, and he kind of told me what the plan was and I thought, ‘Hey, let’s give it a shot’. I really didn’t have anything as far as a character was concerned and I was still trying to get my feet wet, learning to wrestle at the time. I was two-and-a-half years into my wrestling career, still learning things, but I talked to Dusty and I can’t remember, I think there was a bit of a back and forth. Dusty, I think, told me he came up with it and then Jim Ross, I think, told me he came up with the idea. I’m not sure. Either way, the late great Dusty Rhodes or Jim Ross, who’s been very influential, so either way someone who’s made a profound impact on the business came up with the idea whoever it was but yeah, it definitely helped launch my career and was big for me.
In NXT, and when you first started in WWE, you were quite a serious, stoic character. Now, as part of The New Day, you’re one of the most over-the-top members of the roster. Was there any sort of learning curve to go from one extreme to the other?
It was very freeing. I was an introvert as a child and even through high-school and much of college as well, I kind of kept to myself too. There’s an element of the quiet stoic type that is me as well but underneath I always felt like there was this extrovert waiting to get out. Honestly, I feel like what we’ve done the last year or so is very much me. This is easily, for the three of us, the least inhibited we’ve ever really been. It’s so freeing – we obviously have a lot of creative control. When it comes to promos we never just read something that we’re given and if we are given things we always alter it, we add things, so the beauty of the success that we’ve had recently is that if feels like it’s very much our baby because in many ways it is. It was our idea to come together as a trio and we’re very proud and thankful that we’ve come this far. For me, it was a relief to be able to do the stuff that we’re doing now. It wasn’t a difficult or tall task to have some fun and kind of be be obnoxious and loud and do a lot of the nonsense that we do, it was just very freeing to have this run.
You’ve entered the ring from a giant box of Booty-Os at WrestleMania, and even gone back in time in search of the Vaudevillains on Raw. Have you guys come up with anything that’s been considered too over-the-top, too crazy?
We definitely have some weirder, crazier ideas. Nothing that’s really been shot down, it’s just kind of a matter of finding the right place for it. I can tell you I never imagined that we would have a time machine segment, but it’s something… in entertainment and in wrestling the goal is about finding a niche, finding where there’s a hole in our programming. At the time, Santino had been off TV for quite some time, there was no one really doing comedy at all on WWE programming. It’s something we thought we could do but we always wanted the wrestling to be good and hard-hitting. When the network specials, the pay-per-views, came around we wanted to be the guys that could go out there and have a great 15, 20-minute match. I feel confident – I’m really fortunate to be surrounded by guys who not only are very entertaining but can really go. I think [Xavier] Woods surprises a lot of people because we’re so used to him just being on the floor playing the trombone but when he gets in the ring you see everything he can do. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine two better guys to be in the ring with. They’ve really legitimately become – they feel like brothers to me and it’s been an incredible run. We have some weirder ideas, some things that are out there, but it’s really a matter of just finding a place for all these things.
What’s it like travelling with Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods? Any crazy road stories?
We’re all pretty laid back. Kofi and Woods are married, we’re not really wild guys in that sense. Not a lot of crazy stuff happens, [we’re] kind of routine in many ways, getting in a car and driving to the next town. No real crazy stories, but it’s just honestly the three of us getting in a car and kind of what you see on Ride Along is what we do. Even though we’ve only been The New Day officially for about a year and a half we’ve been working on this idea for two years now and there were months before we debuted where we had to do house shows together, live events, so it goes back months before you ever saw us on TV where the three of us were kind of doing our thing. It’s good, it’s been two years of traveling together, riding together, and we haven’t gotten sick of each other. That’s a pretty cool thing and often very rare in our business. We just have a comfort and an ease with each other, and I think we realised that pretty quickly and two years in. I feel like we can finish each other’s sentences. Those two are like family for me.
You’ve got a long trip ahead of you later this year coming to New Zealand for WWE Live. Have you ever been?
I haven’t. I haven’t been to New Zealand or Australia. One of my good buddies who was in developmental and I haven’t seen in forever is from New Zealand: Reuben de Jong, strongman, Russell Walker actually in FCW—that was his ring-name—but he’s from New Zealand so hopefully I get a chance to see him. I’ve heard great things about New Zealand and I’m honestly very excited about going for the first time.
I didn’t realise you knew Reuben de Jong.
He was signed by WWE – it didn’t last too long but we were neighbours in our apartment complex, he lived right across from me. Dr Tom Prichard was the head trainer for FCW at the time, Reuben was new to the country and had just kind of settled in so [Dr Tom] paired the two of us because I had a car and could give him rides to practice or to the gym. We ended up being paired together when Reuben first got there and he’s one of my favourite human beings, such a good dude. I was disappointed that his tenure in WWE and FCW didn’t last longer.
You’ve been all over the world with WWE. Is there any place that stands out as somewhere you never thought you’d visit but now you have thanks to being a WWE Superstar?
I could say that for a lot of places. I’d never really left the United States. I had one trip – my mom is from this tiny island … when I was two years old I went there, obviously I don’t remember. Beyond that I had never left the United States before this job. We’ve been all over: South Africa, Europe many times. One of my favourite places in the world—probably my favourite place to visit—is Tokyo, and we’re actually getting a chance to go there in a few weeks. The fact that it’s going to be the third time I’ve been in Japan is hard to fathom. If I had to pick one, I never thought I’d be in Japan. I always wanted to go but never thought there’d be an occasion and now this’ll be the third time. That’s one of the coolest parts of our job, getting to see the world.
A lot of WWE Superstars seem to be taking part in projects outside of WWE. Do you have any aspirations away from the ring?
One of the things I never really had an interest in before I was signed was performing. I really gravitated towards the job because of the physical nature but now, especially with the stuff we’ve done the past few years, I think performance is something that really has inspired me a bit. There are a couple of things I have an interest in. I think voice acting and doing voice-work is something that kind of piqued my interest and something I plan on pursuing a little bit. There are a few opportunities, it’s just a matter of kind of lining things up and getting the green light. I also I’m a big hip-hop fan as well and I’m friends with Wale and Flatbush Zombies, a hip-hop act that I really enjoy … so it’s just kind of doing a little bit of A&R work there connecting young artists with the right people. I really kinda gravitated to helping kids and young artists realise their dreams. So whether it’s being in A&R and hip-hop—that’s a possibility—as well as doing voice-work. I think the cool thing is WWE’s allowed us to be in the limelight, to connect with a lot of different people from different avenues. I think it’s important to stay inspired and pursue different things creatively but I plan on being with WWE for a very long time. I think a lot of those things can be accomplished while I’m here.
Big E and The New Day will be part of WWE Live on Wednesday, August 10 at Auckland’s Vector Arena. Tickets available from Ticketmaster.