By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express
The last time WWE was in Oshawa, Ettore Ewen was reaching the end of his career as a defensive lineman for the University of Iowa, being held back by numerous injuries.
This time around, the man now known as Big E walked into the General Motors Centre as one part of New Day, the current holders of the tag team championship.
“I had a lot of injuries in college playing football at Iowa. For me, it was the best of times and the worst of times. It’s definitely something that I’m very glad that I decided to do, but tearing both my ACLs, breaking my right patella, tearing my left pec…in a two and a half year period, it was very difficult for me,” he tells The Oshawa Express. “And then, I was fortunate enough to get an opportunity with WWE.”
Wrestling was nothing new to Big E, having been an amateur wrestler in high school and winning state championships in Florida in his weight class.
When he arrived at Florida Championship Wrestling – then the developmental organization for WWE – in 2009, Ewen decided to do something different to set himself apart, and became an avid powerlifter.
“It was something I was able to use at the time that gave me a purpose and, really, an identity in Florida. For a while, I was billed as Florida’s strongest man,” he says. “I was very new to the business and still learning. It was a good thing for me.”
Ewen was able to make a big mark in the world of powerlifting, setting state and national records at the 2010 U.S.A. Powerlifting U.S. Open in Dave, Florida, and the Raw National Championships in Scranton, Pennsylvania. At the first event, he was able to squat 611 pounds, bench press 490 pounds and deadlift 749 pounds. At the second event, his deadlift improved to 799 pounds.
After tearing his way through FCW and NXT – the current developmental organization that currently operates out of Full Sail University in Orange County, Florida, where he eventually became NXT champion – Big E made his big debut on Monday Night Raw in late 2012. Since then, he has gone on to win the Intercontinental Championship and is currently one of the holders of the Tag Team Championship alongside New Day members Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods.
“The one thing we’re excited about is how the crowds are responding to us,” Ewen says of New Day, which debuted as a good guy – or face – team but is now transitioning the other way to a heel team.
Ewen has a few wrestlers that he sees as the guys he likes to face the most, including Cesaro, who he faced at the Oshawa event.
“I have to give him a ton of credit. I think he is in the upper echelon of our business,” he says. “Even guys around the world and outside the borders of the WWE, this guy is definitely is up there. He’s one of the most impressive ring competitors.”
Going forward, Ewen says the sport is on the verge of hitting a new golden age.
“I do think the future of the business is in very good hands,” he says, pointing to the growing popularity of NXT, WWE’s developmental production. “What we do on the main roster of WWE will continue to become more nuanced and change to become more intriguing.”