Recently we had the opportunity to sit down and speak with Big E, the WWE Intercontinental Champion about various topics involving his career. He spoke in-depth about what life is like on the road, the impact the Ultimate Warrior’s death had on the locker room, and guaranteed he’d still be holding onto the belt after Extreme Rules.
Here is a transcript of the interview…
Where did the name Big E come from? Is it something you’ve been called before your wrestling career, or did the WWE come up with that on their own?
Honestly, I guess we kind of worked together on it. As far as what I (inaudible) … It’s really the only name I’ve used. I’m formerly Big E Langston, but the ‘Langston’ is dropped and now it’s just Big E. But no, it’s something that I’ve been called pretty much from middle school on. My given name is Ettore which begins with an E. For some reason a lot of people shortened that and I became known as Big E.
Is your Big E character mostly acting or is it more an extension of who you are?
I feel like it’s essentially an extension of who I am. I feel like the characters that end up being most successful in what we do, in our business, are really extensions of who people are. I’m really kind of myself, just turned up a little more.
Leading into that, I kind of love watching the commercials you’ve done alongside Sheamus and looking at what you do on social media. Can we expect to see more of this comedic side on television in the future?
That’s my hope, because honestly I feel like that’s an even closer reflection of who I am. I know a lot of times my extended role that I had on TV was more serious or stern, but I feel like the in screen videos have allowed me to show some personality and try to demonstrate who I really am. My hope is that we can show that on TV, and that’s the direction that I think will come, hopefully in the coming months.
What is your travel schedule like? Most people know about Monday Night Raw, and the taping of Smackdown on Tuesdays, but how many days a week do your perform?
It definitely varies. I think a typical week for us is about 5 days in a row. Typically we leave Friday and then return again Wednesday morning. We’ll have two to three live events going on… Usually live events Friday, Saturday and Sunday. And then we’ll shoot TVs on Monday and Tuesday, be home, we’ll get home Wednesday morning-ish for about a day and a half and start again Friday morning. Then we have times like the European tour that we have – we have a European tour next month where we’ll shoot two TVs somewhere in the U.S. and then we’ll fly to Europe and be there for about 11 dates and then fly back and then shoot two more TVs. So all in all it’s about 17 straight days of being away from home. It’s definitely a very busy schedule. Like you said, I think a lot of people don’t necessarily realize how much we do as far as the amount of untelevised events that we do. It’s a rigorous schedule but it’s a rewarding one as well.
What would you say is the hardest part of life on the road?
I think you get used to it but if I had to identify one thing it’d probably be dealing with … your priorities, and making sure you’re on time for your flight, getting into a town, renting a car, you have to go to the gym, get food. It takes some discipline just to do everything that you need to as well. I know that there are other things too like getting in touch with your family. I’m single but there are guys who are married and have kids. Just really having to get work and personal life balanced, I think can be difficult.
I don’t think a lot of people think of that, I like that you mentioned that. Just contacting your family must be hard to squeeze in every once in a while.
Right, right. And we have things such as Skype and Facetime. Somehow you stay connected, but obviously being there for your family and being physically present is the most important thing. We all do our best to stay connected … the rest of us stay in touch.
What wrestling stars from the past have inspired your character or your career in general?
I was a big fan of Goldberg as a kid. I really took to his intensity. To me he was just a phenomenon as far as the way he was able to capture people’s attention. I actually got to meet him at a signing probably about 15 years ago when I was a kid. It was a really pleasant experience. He was really polite. It really demonstrated to me that you can spend 20 or 30 seconds with a fan and you can leave a lasting impression. That’s something I still remember from at least 15 years ago. Just the way he conducted himself in the ring and out was something that inspired me. I was also a big fan of Ron Simmons as a Florida State football fan. He played at Florida State. He actually finished in the top 10 in the Heisman race as a nose tackle, which was unheard of in those days. And a big fan of what he did in the ring as well. I was actually a big fan of Vader as well. I always liked the guys who were larger, kind of in the powerhouse mold, those were the guys that I took to.
What has it been like having iconic names back in the locker room recently such as Hulk Hogan and the Undertaker for WrestleMania?
It’s kind of surreal to look around and see guys that you grew up watching and they’re mere feet from you and you’re having conversations with. I think it’s been great for fans to see. Especially when you think of, I think it’s really an iconic moment to see Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold, and the Rock all in the same ring at the same time at WrestleMania. It’s cool for us as performers. It’s really cool to see guys that we all look up to and pattern a lot of what we do after, to see those guys backstage and have an opportunity to ask them questions, interact with them. It’s kind of surreal to have that opportunity.
How did the recent passing of another famous Intercontinental Champion, the Ultimate Warrior, affect the locker room?
It was really shocking. The first that I heard about it was leaving when we shot Smackdown on a Tuesday, and I believe it was that night as we were leaving the facility and on the road to our hotel that we fell asleep. And I think a lot of us were shocked to have seen him backstage about 24-hours before he was there for Raw. To see him and his lovely family and his daughters was really heartbreaking to realize the grief that they had to endure. But, I think one of the positive things that came out of it was that Warrior was able to come home and be recognized for his great career, to be around his fans, and to realize a lot of people really appreciated what he did in this business. He really made an impression on a lot of people’s lives.
How does it make you feel when you see something … Being somebody that’s in the business like you are, you know a little bit about things that go on backstage. How does it make you feel when you see media reports such as a Nancy Grace or something, immediately attributing something like that happening to steroid use, or the life of a wrestler?
Honestly, I’ve heard some rumors about the Nancy Grace piece. I haven’t seen it so I can’t really necessarily comment directly on what she said. I can say that we have a wellness policy that’s been in place for many years now that’s comprehensive. Not only does it cover performance enhancing drugs, but it also covers concussions, and impact hits as well. There’s a large company commitment to ensuring that we live long, healthy lives. What we do, there are definitely risks and it takes a toll, but right now we have a good system in place that ensures that we as performers live long, healthy lives.
Now, you’re coming here to Albany on May 5th. What should a fan attending a WWE show for the first time expect to see?
I think honestly we’re the best value in entertainment. If you’ve never been to a show, it’s exciting. It’s a bit of a spectacle with the lights and the glitz and you’d see all your favorite performers that you see on TV mere feet in front of you. It’s always an exciting opportunity for our fans to see what we do in person. It just has a different feel from TV. Like I said, it’s all your favorite performers, John Cena, Daniel Bryan, the Shield, the Wyatts. It’ll be a big show for sure.
Will you still be Intercontinental Champion when you come to Albany on May 5th?
I promise you that I will still be Intercontinental Champion.
You started your career in WWE by basically squashing John Cena, the biggest name on the roster today. Is there anyone on the roster you’re looking forward to working with in the future?
I’ve had the opportunity to have matches with a lot of guys. John Cena, I never had an official match, but that would obviously be something. He’s been the face of this company for many years and he’s up there. If I had to pinpoint a guy, I don’t know what the Undertaker’s future is but he’s the guy as far as having that aura. Even after that loss to Brock he still has that aura of being the guy for so long. Who knows if he’ll continue to wrestle but, I think that for me as far as active talent is kind of a dream match.
What moment so far stands out in your career aside from winning the Intercontinental title?
Besides that, I’d have to say my first WrestleMania. Having the title match, Dolph Ziggler and I, with AJ against team Hell No. Even though we came up short it was WrestleMania, having that opportunity to be in the spotlight at the ‘show of shows is as big as it gets. That was New York as well. So being New York for WrestleMania and for being a title match my very first match. Actually, it was – my very first match on the main roster was at WrestleMania, so that was big for me. Besides winning the Intercontinental title, I’d have to say that’s it.
What’s the next goal for your wrestling career? Is there some feud you’d like to address or is it straight to the heavyweight title picture?
I think honestly my focus right now is having the best Intercontinental title reign that I could have. But I would say that if you don’t enter this business with the goal of being at the very top, of being WWE world heavyweight champion, I think you just really don’t belong. That’s kind of my focus, obviously having the best reign currently that I can have with the IC title, but eventually it’s to be at the very top, that’s the goal for me.
The last WWE star I spoke to was Mark Henry and we discussed the company’s efforts with charity work – Tribute to the Troops, Make a Wish, etc. Which charity events have you participated in, and what do they mean to you personally?
I’ve been involved with Tribute to the Troops. Actually last year I auctioned off three of my singlets that I’d worn and raised over $1,400 and took a trip to Toys R Us and spent all that money, then donated to Toys For Tots. We actually have a lot of guys too, who aren’t necessarily as publicized who have done things on their own. I know Damien Sandow has worked closely with charities that he’s enjoyed. Even though we’re nemesis … nemesises in the ring … if that’s a word. I respect what he’s done for charity as well. So that’s something that I’ve enjoyed. And Tribute to the Troops was a blast. To be, not only to have a show for the troops, but also spending the day meeting and greeting and being able to say ‘Thank you’ to those who serve our country was something that was really inspiring and honestly just a really fun experience for all of us.
You’re kind of in the Mark Henry mold in that you’re a former weightlifter and then you transitioned over to wrestling. He was pretty much talking about retirement on the horizon when I spoke to him. How long do you plan on doing this?
Right now I’m 28, I was 26 when I was called up. I still feel like I have many years ahead of me. It’s hard for me at this point really to pinpoint a year. You referenced Mark, and Mark’s been doing this a long time, I believe since ’96. I believe he’s in his forties now, so I think he weighs that. But for me, this is just the beginning. I feel I still have a lot to prove, and I feel like my goal isn’t to be in and out and leave anytime soon. I’m not even really looking at setting a date for retirement. That’s not really something that’s even on my mind yet. That’s many, many years away.
If you weren’t with the WWE what do you think you’d be doing career-wise today?
When I was in school, I was working on a Master’s and I wanted to be an Athletic Director. It’s something that I was actually pursuing for a while. I also enjoy writing and I think that’s something I’d like to get back to, I’m not sure in what capacity. There are a few different pursuits that I think I might end up in, but I was actually in school to be an Athletic Director.