WWE Champion Big E talks historic win: ‘A moment that I’ll never forget’
Exclusive: The new WWE Champion is also using his platform to highlight racial injustice and teach young children about Black History
It’s a new day in the WWE universe and a historic one. Big E cashed in his “Money In the Bank” briefcase against Bobby Lashley to become WWE champion on Monday—the fourth Black man to do so.
The feat also marks the first time the title has changed hands between two Black men. Ettore Ewen, the man behind the fun-loving and hip grinding Big E persona, cements his place of distinction next to Lashley, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and New Day partner Kofi Kingston.
“It was one of the best feelings I’ve ever felt. Just the reaction from fans, that’s what really makes it special, just people losing their minds. Everyone has been so positive, so kind,” Ewen tells theGrio. ”It’s a moment that I’ll never forget.”
The achievement is a self-described cloud nine he hasn’t come down from even days later.
“It’s really just the inundation of messages, of tweets and texts, just so much love and support. I got back at the end. It must have been around 11:30 p.m. I get through the curtain and so many of my peers were there clapping and hugging me and saying incredible things. And that definitely is what really has helped me to [feel] special,” he shares of the aftermath following his win.
It’s been an organic rise that has seen him become two-time Intercontinental champion and six-time WWE Smackdown Tag Team Champion. His resume now includes being the face of the RAW brand. The live crowd at Boston’s TD Garden cheered his coronation that has been 12 years in the making.
“I think when people see a genuine human, someone who is genuine in the way they try to come across—in a way they try to approach the world, I think it’s allowed me to connect with fans,” the charismatic grappler describes his connection with the fans.
“Also, I feel like I have a pretty decent track record of entertaining them and doing my best to make them laugh or smile. So, I’m just grateful that it all seems to be working because people have been so good to me.”
As Ewen held the title over his head as champ to become a part of history, he also stood as part of a changing guard in the WWE. Black performers are now standard-bearers for the Vince McMahon-led sports entertainment company.
“I hope that we are getting to a point where it’s becoming more normal. I look around and there are so many incredible Black wrestlers, whether it’s The Street Profits, obviously, Kofi, [Xavier] Woods, Bianca [Bel-Air], Sasha [Banks], the list goes on and on,” he credits his fellow athletes.
“I think Bobby did an incredible job as a world champion. So salute to him, hats off to him.”
Ewen hopes their athleticism, skill, and dedication are being taken notice of.
“I’m glad we’re getting to this point where representation in WWE is becoming — especially among Black wrestlers, male or female — is becoming more common. And I hope that other Black men and women, boys and girls are inspired by them. I hope all people are inspired by what we do.”
Ewen is the son of a preacher and is using his particular pulpit to do more than just entertain. At the height of the protests surrounding the murder of George Floyd last year, he and Kingston took a knee in the squared circle and raised their fists.
“We just wanted people to know that we are feeling the way you’re feeling, the same frustration,” he recalls of the gesture.
Ewen had conversations with other Black men, such as Woods, Kingston, and friend Andreas Hale, who shared his pain and anger. He could not get the incident and other injustices out of his mind.
“We’ve been put in a certain position and we just wanted to take a moment to let people know that, just because we’re on TV or we have money or fame or whatever it is that people think that we have, we’re not above this,” he says.
He has a response for those who believe he should only entertain in his role.
“There are some people who will say that they don’t want politics,” he begins.
“They want to just forget about the rest of the world. But to me, none of that stuff happens in a vacuum. It all greatly affects us. It was shaping our world. The entire world was being shaped by this. And it was just a moment where we wanted to acknowledge we feel the way that you feel; that we also want to see a more equitable world. We don’t want to see Black men killed for nothing anymore.“
He’s also leveraging his profile to make a difference with his Kickstarter-backed project, Our Heroes Rock. The animated series will teach children about Black History and prominent figures, such as Ruby Bridges and Ida B. Wells.
“We want to do it in a way that’s fun and engaging. So, we have 3D animation. We’re using hip hop music, science fiction to tell the story. And in many ways, it’s kind of the spiritual successor to Schoolhouse Rock.”
As Ewen continues his ascent in the WWE and popular culture, he is anchored by the two men who have helped shaped his WWE legacy: Woods and Kingston.
“For me, this title win is a New Day win. It’s never for me,” he states.
The New Day is more than just a popular trio in WWE but a brotherhood.
“I would not be here without Kofi and Woods. I would not have made it this far. Man, I don’t even know if I would be employed at this point in my career. So I can’t thank those guys enough because they helped me grow as a man and as a performer,” he declares.
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