To anyone but true fans, professional wrestling is the stuff of a mountainous pile of cheese. Full of bad acting, scantily clad ladies (and guys) and hilarious stunts, the sport has a reputation to maintain.
But for former Iowa Hawkeye defensive tackle Ettore Ewen, aka Big E. Langston, WWE is a career opportunity he never dreamed possible.
“It was never something I saw myself doing,” Big E. admitted. “I honestly did grow up a fan though; my dad got me into it.”
The child of immigrants, dad from Jamaica and mom from a small Caribbean island, knew the most important thing was getting a good education. In 2004, Big E. was selected to be part of the University of Iowa football team but injuries only allowed him to play sophomore year. But the native Floridian never gave up on a degree. In fact, while he was halfway through his master’s program, the professional wrestling gig opened up.
“I definitely threw my parents for a loop when I told them what I was up to,” Big E. recalled.
Working his way through the ranks of WWE NXT, Big E. has been a part of the top-tiered WWE Raw for a little more than six months but already is turning heads. A recent Bleacher Report column claimed Big E. was WWE's next great powerhouse. And armed with muscles for days, that couldn’t be more true.
“I’ve never tried to lift a Fiat,” Big E. said, commenting on some promotional material saying he could hoist the tiny Italian-made car. “I need to try that someday though, just for the heck of it.”
Benching 806 pounds (although he said he's only in the gym three times a week) it’s no wonder this hulk can throw opponents around with ease all while maintaining a commanding presence in the ring.
Back in Iowa for the first time in four years, Big E. said he’s excited to return as part of the WWE Raw live tour, which is rocking the Tyson Events Center Monday starting at 6:30 p.m.
He was a wrestler through junior high and high school, even taking a state championship title his junior year. Participating in professional power lifting in recent years, Big E. is more than used to the uniform that comes along with wrestling.
He chose the lion to put on the front of his Spandex onesie, because he felt it really suited him as a symbol of power. While his original look started with shorts, the bottoms now have moved up to a more revealing Speedo-type look.
“I don’t know if it feels better, but I’m more aware of my body,” Big E. said with a laugh. “The uniform was something I wanted to do my own way to have it stand out.”
And that’s the way he wants his career as a whole to continue.
“Being considered a powerhouse in the WWE is something I’ve embraced,” he said. “The thing in this league is you don’t want to fill someone’s shoes; you want to be your own thing. I’m not trying to fill a void; I want to blaze my own trail.”
But in order to do it his Frank Sinatra way, Big E. had to be inspired. Who did he look up to in the wrestling world as a kid?
“(Bill) Goldberg was my all-time favorite,” Big E. said. “He has a special place in my wrestling heart.”
When he was 10, Big E. even met his idol at a signing event at a Target or Wal-Mart. As Big E. told it, he was with his dad on the way to church and they barely made the cut to get in.
“It was something I will always remember,” he said. “Goldberg complimented us for looking so nice as we were wearing suits. Those two minutes really meant a lot to me.”
Today, Big E. still has the signed poster framed and he is determined to continue that kindness as a current performer, always taking that extra 30 seconds to talk to fans.
The wrestler was also quick to point out that professional wrestling is a lot less fake than people would expect. Participants do still get hurt.
“I think it’s a lot more real than you image,” Big E. explained. “We have no off season, we’re on the road constantly and in the ring five days a week. Since we’re at the top of our ability in professional wrestling it’s easier for an audience to suspend disbelief and they really get caught up in the emotions of the stories we tell in the ring.”