WWE Superstar Big E recently did an interview with The Sports Bubble with Jensen Karp, where he shared his thoughts on the #SpeakingOut movement, offensive stereotypes in the industry, taking a knew before a match, Randy Orton supporting Black Lives Matter, and much more.
You can read the highlights or listen to the clips below.
Big E on female wrestlers coming forward, epidemic of sexual harassment in the wrestling industry:
“Sadly enough, I wasn’t surprised. You hear some whispers or have an understanding of culture. I will say there wasn’t any specific instance or a wrestler that I knew that I saw and that I had like covered up or there wasn’t anything that I knew of and just shrugged my shoulders at. So, there wasn’t anything that I was specifically aware of, but it’s honestly really, really, really saddened me to see and disgusted me to see how prevalent this was. And, I have to give my like hats off to like a friend of mine actually was the one who started this off, Victoria. She was brave enough to tell her story about David Starr and this all came out and then she emboldened a lot of women and even men to come out and talk about some of the things that they’ve experienced – the way they were victimized in this industry. And I think too often, we as men, we’ve shrugged our shoulders or we’ve said, ah, she’s probably lying or we’ve turned a blind eye to it. And we haven’t given these victims the voice and the respect that they deserve. And I think our industry should no longer and can no longer tolerate what’s going on. We can no longer tolerate rape. We can no longer tolerate sexual harassment. We can no longer shrug our shoulders at the way women have been victimized in this industry. And, I hope these stories, I don’t want to know that there are more stories or that, you know, I don’t want that to be the case. I hope this is the end of it, but I hope every woman gets an opportunity to speak her voice – to be heard, to be respected, to not be dismissed. I hope, all of the people who are guilty of this, I hope they’re eradicated from the business. I hope they’re arrested. I hope they’re imprisoned. I hope it’s something that we never see. I hope it’s a real turning point in our business, and I hope that women aren’t persecuted. I’ve already seen a lot of horrible comments from people. You know, at a time I think we have a great fan base, but I think it can also at times, there’s a portion of it, that can be very toxic. I think the way it disrespects women, the way it’s you know, condones abusers and rapists, I think is disgusting.
And I hope we continue, you know, the problem, I think one of the things that happens with a lot of these movements is that it causes a surge and then a week or so later, it can be forgotten. And I hope to God, that’s not the case. I hope this is not forgotten or if it’s not, I hope we don’t shrug our shoulders. I hope it’s something that we continue to talk about, that we continue to clean up this industry, that we continue to eradicate abusers and rapists – that we get them all out of this business, that we have them prosecuted because it’s something that no woman or man, no one should ever be victimized or, or have to endure. And seeing so many stories of kids, of people who are under age and who came into the wrestling business and wanted to learn or to train and were victimized. It’s really disgusting.
And I think, you know, as horrible as this year has been in many respects, I think the one silver lining is that people are actually listening.”
Big E on a limited representation for black wrestlers and wanting to break offensive stereotypes:
“I think we have, to say it kindly a very rocky past with the way we’ve depicted black wrestlers. You have so many that are celebrated and I’m not going to point the finger at the performer, but, you know, Junkyard Dog and Kamala, was an African Savage who didn’t speak and he patted his stomach. And there were a lot of depictions of black wrestlers that really make you cringe when you look at it now. And we wanted to not be that with the three of us [The New Day]. That’s what we really pushed for and, you know, at first it was, it was kind of in that mold, we came out as three black inspirational speakers slash preachers and it didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel like us. And then when we were finally able to have more of the reins It really, we had a more authentic depiction of who we were. Obviously, you know, your character is who you are with the volume turned up, is kind of the saying in wrestling. And that’s what we want. That’s because representation does matter. And I know sometimes it can be just something that people throw out there, but it does matter when you see an authentic portrayal of someone who looks like you, who acts like your friends and talks like your friends, because the three of us are into video games and anime, and we have a myriad of interests. And so many of our friends, so many of my black friends who I grew up with – were the same! Like they felt ostracized because there weren’t that many depictions of black guys who like anime or black women who were nerds. So we wanted to kind of open up that box a little bit and to show like, Hey, there’s a lot of us who, who talk like this and who, this is what we enjoy and this is who we are. And we want to keep pushing that to get more realistic depictions of black wrestlers and to kind of get beyond that past, that didn’t depict black wrestlers in a very good way.
One of the things that we wanted to do was like, you get white wrestlers, who are like [Xavier] Woods says it, in a way they get this blank slate and they can be any character across the spectrum. They can be just pretty much any character you could imagine, they can pretty much be. But with black wrestlers, until maybe recently, and it’s something we’re still fighting for it, you know, you had these very few tropes to pick from – you can be an angry, randomly angry guy, or you can be like a rapper slash dancer, or like we got saddled with these preacher gimmicks. You just had these like, okay, he’s a black wrestler or she’s a black wrestler, and you have three or four of these archetypes to choose from. We want to break that mold and continue breaking that mold and showing that the black experience is not this homogenous single experience. We come from so many different backgrounds and countries, and we have a myriad of interests that we want to continue to explore those on screen. And we want our fans to be able to see black wrestlers, Japanese wrestlers, that aren’t just stuck into these boxes that are allowed to be full, unique, interesting characters. And I think that matters and I think we’ll continue to keep pushing for that.”
Big E on taking a knee before a match, and receiving support from Vince McMahon:
“The stuff with George Floyd and the aftermath really weighed so heavy on me… And you know, for the three of us [The New Day] we don’t, we don’t have the answers, but we want it to speak to our experiences. So many of my friends, young black men who have bad histories of being pulled over by police, of being harassed by police, of being unjustly stopped. Like we, this is something that we’ve talked about. And so many, especially now, so many of my friends have kids now and they’re having to, you know, we talk about the talk usually is the birds and the bees and talking to your kids about sex, but for so many black men and women, their talk to their kids is about how to act when you’re pulled over by police, because you don’t know what can happen. If you don’t follow the letter of everything, they say, you, you fear that your child can be unjustly killed. And even if they do follow every single thing they’re told, you never know. So, that’s a big part of what it means to raise a black child. And that’s scary and that’s frightening and that’s sad.
And you know, even me, like I got pulled over, I never got into any trouble, never had any issues with the law, but I’m in college. It was a group of us – we had this youth leadership program – we all played college football at Iowa and someone said that we had a gun in the car and called the cops and we didn’t have a gun in the car, but we got pulled over. I had a gun pulled on me by a cop. And who knows like how that could have gone. To have a gun, a few inches from your face and I’ve done nothing wrong. And this, this happens time and time again. So, for us, it’s very frustrating. It’s very sad. And, I found the George Floyd news really, really weighed heavy on me and something that was, it was at the forefront of my mind for days and days – over a week, I’m thinking about it. And for me, I kind of felt some hopelessness, but I didn’t want to just use my anger and frustration and do nothing. I wanted to at least have a conversation and it’s been nice, man. We we’ve had so much feedback from different people who reached out and said, man, I didn’t consider these things until I listened to your podcast [The New Day podcast] and I learned something or I heard a perspective I’d never heard before and thank you. And you know, I’m not going to presume to say we have all the answers or any answers, but we just wanted to speak to our experiences to not be preaching, to, to not tell people how to feel or what to, to believe, but to tell you how we feel to tell you our experiences, to tell you the experiences of our black friends and what they go through and the things that are in their minds when it comes to being pulled over by police. So, a lot of what we’ve done recently is trying to raise awareness. And, you know, sometimes I really think, I don’t know the power or the purpose sometimes of a tweet or an Instagram post. And I really like sometimes I wonder, am I just screaming into a void or patting myself on the back when I post something and feeling like I’ve done something and that’s not. I wanted to make sure that it came from a good place, a place of actually wanting to help make our country and our society more equitable. I wanted to make sure it came from a place of, not self-aggrandizement, but a place of wanting to actually see a better world. So, we’ve done a few things and I think we’re going to continue to use some things like you mentioned, taking a knee, to bring attention to this movement on SmackDown. And the nice thing is, you know, we ran it by Vince McMahon, our boss, and he approved it. We got no pushback there. We got a lot of support from the company with the podcast and we can’t typically put out video, not the whole video because of the way the contract is with our podcast, but they were so supportive with us putting up the whole conversation because we felt like it was important for people to listen to this hour plus, and to see it and to see our faces and see our expressions.
So we were, we were thankful that we got support from the company too, but we’ve done different things. Like you said, we put the names of the victims – of these people who lost their lives and shouldn’t have. Put them on armbands – Shukri Abdi, Brianna Taylor, Tamla Horsford, Ryan Milton and so many more. We’ve tried to do a lot, we’re trying to learn ourselves with reading…. And we’ve got a few other things in the mix too, that we’re trying to not just post on Twitter and on social media, but to help raise money too for organizations that are working towards racial justice. So, it’s been a lot of that, just trying to do the work in our communities to try to stay on top of this, to keep even just keeping the conversations going, man, honestly, just, just to keep talking about this. And I think too often, we just shied away from this because we didn’t want to be labeled a racist and it can be uncomfortable because as soon as you feel that someone is saying you’re racist or you’re racially insensitive, your first instinct can be to backpedal or to defend yourself. And I, for me, I don’t want it to be about, it’s not about labeling people around me racist or pointing fingers, it’s about having these honest conversations and analyzing the biases that we carry and being honest about that. And for us, man, it’s really just about like the same protection I want for my female friends and for my gay friends and people, I don’t know who are gay or female, the same protections that I would want for them, I want for black men and black women.”
Big E on Randy Orton supporting the Black Lives Matter Movement:
“Randy will admit, like he doesn’t have the squeaky clean past. Like he’s definitely, you know, made some mistakes in the past. And that’s not to absolve him of anything he’s done, but like you said, he’s had this really conservative viewpoint. It’s not for me to try to make him a liberal or anything, but I think it’s something that he’s had close black friends and I consider Randy a friend, and we’ve had some of conversations at work. I think over the course of the last few years, even. And I think he’s finally starting to get it, you know? And like you said, that is I think as impactful as it can be to see a black athlete or black entertainers speak up about these things. I think it can be really impactful as well to see someone like Randy, who’s had these conservative views who in the past would never speak up to say anything like this to really, you know, I thought he did a really good job with what he posted and to offer that kind of support.”
Big E on if The Undertaker’s retirement is real:
“I thought he was done when he took off the gloves and laid them down, so I don’t know. And athletes retirement, whether it’s in wrestling or not, it can be very shaky, you know. We all were wrapped up in The Last Dance and obviously MJ retired and then unretired and it’s very common. And you know, with a guy as popular as The Undertaker – what I thought was, the cinematic match – the match with AJ [Styles] – I thought was incredible. And I think he can continue to have those kinds of matches. I think the cinematic match style, I think is kind of best for a guy like Undertaker who’s older, who might not be able to have the 25-minute classics in the ring that he would want at his age. So, I could see him continuing to do like cinematic matches for a few more years. But, you know, it’s kind of, I guess it’s his call, you know. He has the leverage to make the decision when he wants to walk away or not. I don’t know. I’m not going to make any declarations because I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if he returns.”