Big E Keeps It Real
By Ryan Satin
The most shocking move of this year’s WWE Draft was undoubtedly New Day being split apart.
Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods were drafted to Raw, while Big E remained on SmackDown to continue pursuing singles competition.
Now, just one week removed, Big E joined me for a conversation covering when New Day learned the split was happening, their initial reaction to the decision, the group’s farewell on SmackDown and a lot more.
REMINDER: Friday Night SmackDown is airing on FS1 tonight at its normal time of 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. Central due to Game 3 of the 2020 World Series being broadcast on FOX.
Read the interview below, which was lightly edited for length and clarity, or watch the full thirty-minute conversation in the video at the end of the article.
RS: I want to talk to you first about the elephant in the room here. Your split from New Day in the WWE Draft.
We know as wrestling fans that talent don’t always get an advanced notice on where they’ll be going in the Draft. Were you guys [New Day] told ahead of time that you’d be getting split between brands this year?
BIG E: We probably got two days in advance. Which, I think a lot of it was to ensure that we didn’t show up to work and if we heard the news then, I assume that people just imagine that we would be tearing up the halls, knocking down doors, crying in public, just fits of rage.
So I feel like they decided, let’s give 'em a couple of days to simmer down at home before we had to actually do this on TV.
RS: What was your guys’ initial reaction?
BIG E: Initially, obviously, we were not pleased.
I’d heard some rumors maybe a month prior that it was something discussed. But I’ve heard rumors for years that we’re gonna be broken up, that one of us is gonna turn on the other, and we’ve been able to weather a lot of those storms.
But it felt like there was more momentum towards some kind of a split.
So I had an opportunity to talk to one of the writers and say, "Hey, just so you know, I heard one of these rumors. Is this a viable option?"
And I was told, like, "Hey, there are many options being presented," and they would neither confirm nor deny. But we just wanted to let them know that we feel like there’s still a lot of cache in us as a trio.
We still feel like there’s so many things that we haven’t done as a trio.
As much fun as we’ve had doing the goofy, slapstick New Day stuff, when Woods came out in that white and red suit in 2014, you never got to see militant New Day.
You never got to see us really be aggressive heels.
We were just goofy heels and it worked, but I feel like there’s so much we can offer as a trio. That’s kinda what I wanted to present to them. There’s so much we can do as a trio.
But, with some time, it’s something that obviously we didn’t want to happen … but I think about the fact that we’re in an era right now where we don’t have live events. So I’m not being broken up from my riding crew.
That would’ve been painful.
The guys that I’m on the house shows with four-to-five days a week, every single week that we drive from town-to-town, that’s where we came up with so many of our ideas. Where we really got to bond.
Man, we have so many stories from the road.
When I think of pro wrestling, that’s what I think of. That’s the essence of pro wrestling to me, is the traveling, the road, going from Kalamazoo to the next random town. So, at least now that we don’t have live events, it’s not like I’m losing out on guys I’d probably see 200 days a year.
Now I’m seeing them maybe a dozen days a year, so at least that kinda softened the blow.
I’m glad that it wasn’t one of us taking a steel chair to the other. I’m glad there was no permanent split.
We got to do something that I think was emotional, but was unique in that I can’t think of another time we got to see a faction that had as much staying power split up in the way that we did.
In a way, that’s loving.
I love that we get an opportunity to portray brotherhood in a very genuine sense in a wrestling faction. You never see that! It’s always about someone trying to one up the other, or this crabs in a bucket mentality, and I think we had almost from the beginning a very real chemistry and connection.
It was very clear from the beginning that this works, and our bond only grew over time. It can be so easy for guys to turn on each other, in a real sense. Or to get annoyed by the other or just be done with the faction, and we never got to that point.
As much as we didn’t want it to happen, I think the way it happened is kind of the best case scenario. So for us it’s just trying to find that silver lining and hopefully it allows us all to kind of spread our wings a little bit.
And I think it will allow for the reunion, I think when that happens (which I’m sure it will), to feel bigger.
We still have our podcast. We still have a few other projects in the works that I’m really excited about, with us as a collective. So, it’s still The New Day. We’re still together. We’re just separated by shows.
RS: I agree with you on the brotherhood aspect of things. I think that is what drew everyone to New Day these past few years. We could tell that your bond was genuine.
Since you guys have talked over the years about how you didn’t want to turn on one another if the group was to break up, I was really glad that you were able to stay true to that and have an emotional farewell on SmackDown.
You just mentioned how you would’ve liked to have seen New Day explore their serious side a little bit, but when people have been saying that you need to do that with your own character as of late, you seem to say that it’s not necessary. Do you ultimately want to adopt a more serious side in order to make a run for the Universal title?
BIG E: I think it’s just a matter of situation.
If you prick my finger, I will bleed. Sheamus provoked me, so I had a reason to get in his ass.
It’s not that difficult.
But for me to suddenly revert to 2012/2013 me, I’ve already done that. It really wasn’t that enjoyable. To me, being serious is an absence of character, as opposed to adding another layer to my character.
I think there will be times where I need to be more serious, and I’ll show that. I’ll show an intensity that I think a lot of people can’t really show or portray.
But, in the same vein, I don’t want to lose what made me special, what made me unique. Because I feel like you’re gonna find powerhouses who are taller, who are bigger, who are faster, who can do things that I can’t do, but I don’t think you can find another Big E.
I don’t think you can find someone who has my combination of look, talking ability, presence. I don’t think you can find an exact copy to fill my shoes.
That’s just how I feel. And I want to make sure that I stay in that lane. Because when I looked around in 2012, man. There was the Brocks. There was Mark Henry. There was The Ryback.
I was kind of filling a similar lane and, to me, it’s always about trying to find a niche or an avenue that no one else is occupying right now. That’s important to me.
So there will definitely be times where I have to be more serious, and it might just kind of happen. But to suddenly have no evolution, or there’s no path, and I just suddenly decide that, "Hey, it’s 2012 me again," doesn’t make a lot of sense.
I feel like to be really invested in a title program, or be invested in any program, you need to see that the wrestler, the talent, takes it seriously.
Winning means something. The titles mean something. And I think that’s an element of what it means to be serious that I need to connect with, but for me to just suddenly be devoid of character and just flip the switch, I don’t think really connects.
I just want to evolve in a way or go down a path that makes sense for me.
RS: Normally when a faction is split apart, we see official separation, but you guys still have a podcast, there wasn’t some sort of bitter break up, and you guys are still friends.
Do you think we will continue to see unity between the group across brands like we did with you in the ThunderDome audience this week during Kofi’s match?
BIG E: Possibly.
But if we’re going to do the split, it’s either we do it or we don’t.
I still want some level of connectivity, but there’s going to be no clamoring for a reunion if I’m constantly around. Or if they’re constantly finding ways to be in my segments.
I think that some separation could be a good thing. I think it allows us to build some identity.
As much as I want us to stay connected … I feel like, as moving as Friday was for so many people, if next week I’m showing up at Raw or wearing a lucha mask and pretending that I’m not Big E on Raw, and I’m teaming with them – and they’re finding ways to get involved in my stuff – I feel like we’ve really detracted from this really emotional profound segment.
At least to me. And from the response that we got from so many people. I feel like it takes away from that.
We’ll need to find ways. I think there’s a bit of a line here that we need to find a way to toe to still make sure we stay connected, but absence makes the heart grow fonder and I want your heart to grow fonder.
RS: Does that mean you might get new theme music? Or maybe new gear to separate yourselves a little bit?
BIG E: New theme music, possibly. Possibly.
But, you’ll know when you hear it. Or you won’t know when you don’t hear it.
RS: Like Kofi’s theme song we never got to hear for WrestleMania?
BIG E: Well, yeah. That’s a whole other thing that I don’t need to get into right now. That was a rough one.
As far as gear is concerned, I think that’s something I’ve thought about, we’ve talked about, and we’ll see.
There will be some change, I’m sure, at some point. I’ve always thought about ways to adapt my gear, just over time, just to do something different. Even when we were together.
So we’ll see.
RS: I loved everything you did with Sheamus on SmackDown. That Falls Count Anywhere match you guys had was intense. Going through windshields, off the top of cars, you had to be in massive pain after that.
BIG E: I’m not twenty-three anymore, man.
I’m thirty-four and I feel it a bit more.
That’s kind of the beauty of Sheamus, as much as he’s been stuck in our craw the last several years, he’s one of those guys who will bring it.
So I have a different kind of match with a Sheamus than I would with a lot of other people. Because he’s going to hit me as hard as he can and I’m gonna hit him as hard as I can, and as hard as I want to, and I’m gonna enjoy it. I was proud of what we did.
It was a lot of fun. It just had a level of physicality and brutality. It would have been cool to have a bit more time on that, or to not have a commercial break interrupt that, but I thought for what we were allotted it worked and I was pleased with the outcome.
RS: You should’ve been. It was a great match and very entertaining to watch on TV. I also think it helped with everything that you’re trying to tell on television in terms of keeping your character, but showing you can be a badass dude who can kick the crap out of people when need be.
It was very evident that you are not to be messed with when you see a match like that.
BIG E: I guess I deserve some of it, because I do a lot of absurd things and have for quite some time. Humping the ground and all the things I do. I’ve enjoyed that thoroughly and I have no regrets whatsoever.
I plan on doing a lot more of that, too, in the future.
So I guess I deserve some of it, too. It can be a "what have you done for me lately" crowd. I often think sometimes too about how there are a lot of eight-year-olds who are watching this show who, when I had my IC title run, who were like toddlers. They were babies.
I have to think of that as well.
Six years is a long time. But I also want to remind people I’ve had the second-longest ever NXT title reign, Intercontinental champion, I’ve been a powerlifter. I have to remind people of these accolades. I played football at the University of Iowa.
I’ve been in situations where I had to be angry and intense. This is not new to me. I wasn’t born a goof. I haven’t been a goof all thirty-four years. There have been times where I needed to be serious. So that’s an element of myself that I’ve never lost. It’s still there.
I guess after six years of nonsense and doing splits, I guess I deserve some of that.
RS: Now that you're doing singles matches again, is there anyone you're itching to wrestle that you maybe didn't get to do a lot against in tag matches?
BIG E: We have a lot of cool options I think now with the Draft.
I feel like after eight years of being in the company ... I don't think I've ever had a match with Rey [Mysterio] before. We've tagged before. We've done stuff together. I think that's interesting.
I think Dominik's been killing it.
I see a lot of faces that I think intrigue me more.
I think working Seth at this point would be interesting for me, because I worked Seth when he was in The Shield.
The only singles match I can remember on the main roster, we had some match on Main Event. That match was really meaningful to me because it was a time where I was kind of floundering and I got to have this really good match with him.
I remember Harper coming up to me and saying really nice things, and it meant a lot to me at the time.
We've done some tags since then, but I don't think we've had any singles or anything like that.
RS: I also want to see you versus Roman Reigns.
We have the buildup of "The Tribal Chief" going on right now and the buildup of Big E's singles run. I think a lot of people are hoping that two of you butt heads down the line.
BIG E: Yeah. That was a lot of the feedback I got.
Especially when he first came back.
I think he's been killing it with his character. This direction. "The Tribal Chief" stuff. Everything that I've watched has been on-point.
Friday Night SmackDown airs LIVE on FS1 tonight at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT due to Game 3 of the World Series on FOX.
Watch the full conversation below which includes additional discussion on the psychology of wrestling without fans and wanting to bring back the 5-count.