WWE superstar Big E has recently moved on from his long-time tag team stable The New Day and has started a new singles run on Friday night Smackdown.
Like the many others in the locker room, they have had to adapt to the show just rolling on despite all the uncertainty that has engulfed the world.
He speaks with The Inner Sanctum about some of the challenges this year to date, his career progression and his thoughts on some of the exciting Australian talents that are working and rising the ranks at WWE.
Jono Baruch: Big E, thanks so much for joining us, let us start in the present, it’s been a remarkable year, how have you personally dealt with some of the challenges of the outside, while in showbiz terms, the show has gone on?
Big E: The biggest thing for me has been adapting to every situation.
I think moving to the Thunderdome (Amway Centre, Orlando Florida) was certainly a step up from where we were at, at the Performance Centre.
I think the biggest thing is and the biggest challenge for me is that wrestling really needs that fan interaction probably more than any other sport.
There really is nothing like that organic response. They let you know right away if something is good
That has probably the biggest difference.
JB: You’re usually on the road for about 300 days a year, what’s it been like to actually get some extended time close to home this year?
Big E: We went from a live event schedule about 4-5 days a week with events all over the country and now were down to one day a week.
For me, while a lot of the others are still getting on planes I haven’t had too because the Thunderdome is only an hour or so from my house.
So that’s a big difference, I’m used to never being home and now I’ve slept in my own bed every night for the last 8 or 9 months.
If that’s your life for about eight years, being on the road and never being home and then suddenly, bang, you’re home every night.
There were some months where I’d look at my schedule and go, I’m going to be home maybe three days this entire month and now it’s every single day, so it’s definitely an adjustment.
JB: Can you describe the surreal experience and what it’s like wrestling in an arena with no fans?
WrestleMania must have been weird?
Big E: For sure. We were meant to have that triple threat ladder match, us (The New Day: Big E,
Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods) against The Miz and John Morrison and the Usos.
Things just a few days before the event changed.
It ended up being one person from each team. I wasn’t even there.
It was bizarre. Wrestlemania, you’re used to the pageantry, the week, the roll call of legends and
80,000-100,000 people there cheering you on and now, were in a very empty building.
This has easily been the weirdest, but most interesting year of my career.
JB: Do you remember how you got into wrestling? What was the moment that made you go, ‘yeah, I want to do this?’
Big E: My story is a bit sad because I’m a failed former football player and someone came up to me
and said do you want to give this a shot? And I responded, ‘okay why not?’
They (WWE) flew me down to FCW at the time, which happened to be in Tampa, where I’m from originally and it just felt right and that everything was aligning for me.
I was in grad school at the time, so I had a little bit more flexibility to go give it a try and see if it was for me.
There wasn’t really an “I can do this” type moment.
All I really wanted in 2009 when they flew me down for the tryout was to see if this was fun because that’s what I missed with my athletic career being cut short.
When I got down there for that week, I didn’t really have a clue what I was doing, but I really thought that this was something I could grow to be really good at.
11 years later and change, I’m still here.
JB: Do you remember what that first match was like in FCW?
Big E: Not entirely, but I do remember being very bad at it.
At the time of my tryout, I didn’t even have wrestling shoes so I was using these old and worn out sneakers and I remember as I was running the ropes, the sole of the sneakers just flew completely off.
So, I was thinking, ‘oh man, this is not what I need happening to me.’
That’s one of my first memories.
JB: You rose quickly debuting on Raw not long after with Dolph Ziggler and AJ Lee. The first thing you’re scheduled to do is go and beat up one of the greatest of all time in John Cena. What was that like?
Big E: It was really, really cool.
We were in Philadelphia, I think it was the night of the Slammys Awards so it was a big night.
I remember being nervous for it, but I also felt that I had something, and I was ready and I was thankful for that opportunity.
It was a very unique debut because I don’t think you get to see that type of stuff really anymore. A new guy closing the show by dropping, as you said, arguably the greatest of all time.
So, that was really cool, but one of the best things for me was being able to stand at ringside and learn from Dolph who is incredible, from AJ, who was incredible and had incredible momentum at the time.
To learn from those guys and observe from ringside, the way they structured matches and
That was kind of the role I was put in like you get to be this heater for Dolph but it’s an opportunity for you to slowly get your feet wet and I am so grateful for that and to those guys.
JB: Not long after your TV Debut was your Wrestlemania debut. You spoke about the buzz and excitement just before but being a relatively new guy on the scene and stepping out to a packed MetLife Stadium, chills?
Big E: Of course. That was my very first match on the main roster.
To be in the ring that night with guys like Daniel Bryan, another guy who is a generational talent and
one of the greatest to ever do it.
Kane who is a living legend too.
I was extremely fortunate looking back to be able to share the ring with some of those guys early days and be around some of the best.
Looking back, I thought that I was ready, but it’s clear to see the strides that I have made from around 7-8 years ago, because I wasn’t ready to be the star I thought I was at the time and I was lucky to get that opportunity back then to be around the best.
JB: An Intercontinental champion and 8-times Tag Team Champions with your New Day teammates including the longest Tag Team reign ever. We’ve seen a lot of things about how the faction formed but did you believe that it would get as massive as it did?
Big E: I definitely believed in us.
I believed in our chemistry and I thought we had something special.
I knew that because well before we were able to be on TV together, we did live events together the three of us, and that’s how we built our chemistry. I knew very quickly that we were clicking here.
We would ride together on the road to those 4 -5 shows a week and we would talk about ideas and
shoot these little vignettes on our own.
I really thought we had something.
To think that we would go on to host Wrestlemania, that Kofi would, as a New Day member, win the
WWE Championship and have this extremely emotional moment with his kids and his wife in the
All the things that we have been able to accomplish. I didn’t think that we would be able to be together this long, in this industry is incredible.
At the end of the day, we were just three guys trying to get on TV.
We believed in ourselves and I don’t think we would have foreseen, especially back in 2014 when we were getting this off the ground, I don’t think O would have foreseen us accomplishing everything we have.
JB: It was only two years ago you were down here in Australia performing at the MCG. From memory I think you opened the show that night. Can you describe what that was like and some of your thoughts on some of the Australian talent around the locker room currently?
Big E: That crowd was crazy. It was massive.
It’s a shame we can’t get to Melbourne and Australia more often because you guys are such great fans.
There’s a ton of talented Australians. When I see Rhea (Ripley), I think she’s already incredible but to me, if I’m a promoter, there is a woman who you can build around for the next 10 – 15 years.
She is the next megastar and she is already there.
I love the IICONICS (Billie Kay and Peyton Royce).
I love them so much. They’re both incredible human beings and their story to me is incredible.
Both coming from the same school together in Australia, come to the States together, make it to the WWE together and then win the Women’s Tag Titles together, at Wrestlemania.
To do all that with your childhood best friend is remarkable. I love their story.
And then there’s others like Shane Thorne, Murphy, Bronson Reed who’s in NXT at the moment. There’s a lot of talent coming out of Australia.
Catch Big E in action on SmackDown every Saturday at 12pm AEDT on FOXTEL’s FOX8.