Episode Two: Big E video transcript


(Radzi in a screen on the top left in a studio talking into a red microphone. Big E is on a screen on the right sat at home facing the camera)

Radzi: Oh, welcome to Making Gains in association with the University of Derby and Finnebrogue’s

Naked Bacon, the biggest revolution to happen to British breakfast in a generation. I am so excited to say that our guest for today's podcast is none other than a man who is one third of the longest-reigning WWE Tag Team Champions of all time, the reigning as I come to you IC champion and pound for pound one of the strongest superstars on the WWE roster, Big E. Welcome to making gain, Sir.

(Round of applause)

Big E: I appreciate it thank you.

Radzi: My absolute pleasure. I said one of the pound pounds strongest men on the roster, could we talk about your powerlifting numbers because they are pretty impressive?

Big E: We can. I'm trying to think of all my PR's. Give me a minute. Uh my best deadlift is 806 pounds, uh this is all raw and drug tested by the way. My best squat is 750 and my best bench press uh just touch and go is 575 pounds.

Radzi: So your bench wasn't in competition that was kind of in the gym?

Big E: So that that's it that's my gym. Uh man I can't, my best competition bench I want to uh I want to say it was like 525, was it better than that?

Radzi: I've got it 529 was the research.

Big E: I'd done yeah 529, there you go. Yeah yeah you know better than I do.

Radzi: And in terms of powerlifting that came after your kind of foray into football at college but what do you think you are most made for when it comes to exercise?

Big E: Uh I would say powerlifting probably um I think being you know I'm about five eleven, um being a bit shorter um has its benefits especially with bench we know being having shorter limbs and having a big barrel chest is obviously a good thing. A lot of the taller guys, uh there's some taller guys who have great squats but it's a little bit harder to squat well but just kind of my stature, I'm real I have a lot of fast twitch fibre like my, I have to work hard to be in good conditioning and be in good shape because it's mostly fast twitch explosiveness. So just doing something for one rep quickly is what I feel I was built for. I didn’t power lift of that long but I feel I had some nice success because I have natural gifts physically.

Radzi: Are you somebody who just looks at a weight and puts on muscle tissue? How does your body react?

Big E: Yes that's exactly how I am. I always when people are like man I can't gain weight like, I don't, I don't understand that that's not me at all I am someone. I have to be vigilant about keeping my weight down because I can easily be 320 pounds in a blink of an eye. so I've always been the type two. I just started lifting real young and I noticed what I was probably when I started lifting for real like in a real programme and taught how to actually like build a workout and periodisation I was 12 years old and I was in the gym five to six days a week. I loved it and I got, I was so thankful that I learned the proper way, um and I learned to squat to depth I learned how to do everything the right way and I just noticed like within man probably took a couple of weeks for me to notice a change in my body and as soon as that happened I was hooked. As soon as I saw that little lump of muscle starting to grow I said this is it, this is my thing and like the gym was always a place of solace for me when I was stressed or sad or whatever it was, I could just kind of turn everything off I can go to the gym and it's almost, it's almost meditative for me just be able to be in touch with your body to work on your body, uh the amount of focus it takes to bench press 575 pounds or to squat heavy. You just have to kind of shut everything else off and that's something I always loved about weightlifting is it allowed me that release. So I gravitated to it very quickly as soon as I started.

Radzi: So if you're going for one rep max kind of where do you take your head at that point? Some people go crazy, some people almost go the opposite they go very calm, where'd you go?

Big E: For me it's kind of there's a calm and then there's the explosion of adrenaline but you need to, I just try to think of you know especially on my deadlift I try to think of my setup because your positioning is really important especially when you're going real heavy. Um I try to think of my stance my positioning everything where I need everything to be and just kind of focusing that energy and a lot of times that's why I started using it in in wrestling is the bowl of chalk and that's just something I loved with powerlifting, is it gives you that moment and there's that moment of calm where you're in front of that bowl of chalk, you're chalking up, you're getting ready, you're thinking about your positioning and then as soon as you finish chalking up your hands you move to the bar and that's where that burst of adrenaline, that's where that you know that's where really hits and that's where you're about to go crazy so um that's what it is for me. Is you just take a second to kind of calm yourself and then get ready to have that physical burst.

Radzi: How do you split your sessions up? You mentioned six days a week at 12 years old which is unreal by the way.

Big E: Yeah uh it's uh I definitely learned to back down as I learned more about training and man I've been training for over 20 years. Now I learned I learned the importance of rest, so for me I'm lifting four days a week, um I'm doing two days of cardio and one like true rest day. I've also not I've backed off a lot of the power lifting um so there's still elements of that I still squat, bench and deadlift but I'm not really hitting a lot of one rep maxes you know. I'm almost 35 now it's uh I've had my fair share of wear and tear, uh you know four knee surgeries, uh tore my left pec too. So I said you know what I put my body through enough I still love training but I don't feel the same need to like put 700 pounds on my back again.

Radzi: But you kind of say that two of your knee surgeries came during college and you then still went into power lifting straight after that?

Big E: Yeah well actually, three I tore both my ACL’s in college and I broke my right patella in college all in like a two and a half year span, and uh you know I think about it and when all those injuries happened I thought you know what, this is enough I need to take care of my body I put it through enough but there was also that lingering part of me that just wanted to do more athletically like I felt like I had more to give. That itch wasn't gone i still had that itch and I used to have this dream man this recurring dream and it was almost a nightmare of you know when I was done playing football I would have these dreams that I was at practice and it would just felt like this was some a part of my life I didn't fulfil and I felt a void and I'm so thankful I found wrestling or wrestling found me because I just kind of locked into it because it immediately filled that void. So as soon as I started wrestling like that itch that need was gone like this was now what I felt I was meant to be doing and uh yeah man it was just uh that was my first dream, though you know football from a young age especially growing up in the states in Florida, it's massive, football was king um there so it was the first thing that I started playing. I started playing tackle football at age seven and uh I just loved it and that was what I thought was going to be my career in my life and you know life has a way of saying nah your best laid plans not going that way but I realise now when there's so many times where I'm at work, I'm in an arena I'm wrestling and I think this is where I'm supposed to be. I have I have a true feeling like this is what I'm meant to be doing right now in my life so I felt like I found my home.

Radzi: Condoleezza Rice once was asked, what do you, how did you define yourself and she said I'm a failed violinist and that's because that's what she wanted to do and then life took place and then she becomes what she becomes, and I think you know, I was trying to do skeleton bobsleigh at one stage I wanted to go to the winter Olympics. It didn't happen and as a result of that I found presenting and I love it. I get a euphoria but I still have that, I funny enough you want that itch I still have that itch because I'm just young enough to go oh could I, which means when I go to the gym I still attack things the same way I would have done but I don't have those goals if that kind of makes sense.

Big E: No completely I definitely get that man and it's um yeah it's funny it's you really think that that's where your life is supposed to be headed and you spend so much mental effort, like I was so I played uh I only played high school football for one year right and my senior year and typically your junior year is the year you get recruited and uh it was very difficult you know. To only play one year of high school football and get an offer to a big D1 school, uh almost it very rarely happens but my whole life from man maybe when I was like five up until I stopped playing at 21, even when I wasn't playing football in high school it was always I started amateur wrestling and I was a state champion in amateur wrestling and that was only because I wanted to do something that would fill the void of football because I went to a school that didn't offer football beforehand and then I transferred my senior year to one that did. So it was always trying to get back to football I was wrestling because it was the next most physical thing and it would maybe give me the tools to get back to football so even when I wasn't doing it, it was always to get back to that because that was the one thing that felt right, that I knew I wanted to do my whole life was directed to that and then it was over and I think that's one thing that people don't talk about enough too, is a lot of athletes really struggle mentally and struggle with depression uh and with their mental health because when you devote yourself to a craft, especially athletics, your training your eating uh, your rest, your study, so much of what you do is geared towards that. I remember man my schedule in college is you're like a lot of times you're waking up at 5:30, you're going straight to your lift, you're doing rehab, I was in rehabilitation of all the injuries you go to class you come back to go to practice to uh just so so much of my life is centred around this and then just like that snap of fingers it's gone and this connection you have with your teammates, with the people you train with it's gone and you might still be friends with them but you don't put in the same time and effort into this craft and it's so jarring I think to have something that you really love that's such a massive part of your life that you devote so much time to and then it's just gone. There's no transition, there's no like you don't slowly get eased out of that into like a normal life or a nine to five or whatever it is that you pursue. So it's uh I really thought I kind of suffered alone and then I started talking to other others as I got older and I realised so many of us kind of had the same feelings.

Radzi: But I think that even happens regardless of whether you make it or you don't so if you made NFL you then hit probably around the age you are now and then they start saying you've maybe got one year on your contract left and it might not even be as kind as that it might just be bam injury you're gone and then it's I don't even have the adulation anymore and who are you when you leave that sport and I remember Dave Chappelle, I think it was who it was advice from his father and he basically said make sure that when you leave this whatever this is that you know enough about yourself at the beginning so that in essence you don't lose yourself which is why then he walks away before the third series of the Chappelle show because he just says I'm going to lose myself this isn't what I signed up to and even though he gets offered I think 50 million for that series, he walks away because the cost was going to be too much and I think so, I think that happens almost no matter how high you get on that pyramid that departure that's brutal.

Big E: Oh for sure man and I actually realised that when last year I talked to a buddy of mine uh who I played with at Iowa and he played five or six years in the league and he told me he too had the same thing and I thought man, you know and a lot of times NFL careers like you go in not thinking here to play 15 years you just know it's that kind of sport so I thought he made it he made some good money, he got to get to that level and that he would have felt fulfilled, but it doesn't work that way and I think I think uh I love that Chappelle line too because I think, you have to be more than just your job and I know you can love what you do you can love your craft but when that's gone you have to make sure that you still feel whole as a person that you still feel uh that you have a sense of individual identity that's not tied to uh a job where someone can release you or fire you or cut you just like that on a whim and uh it's a fine line of really still giving your passion your all but also knowing that you would be okay if things came to an end.

Radzi: Am I right in thinking that the way you actually got to Iowa was the Iowa coach saw you in the gym benching?

Big E: Yes, yeah it's so it's my story of getting to Iowa and also getting to WWE, is it almost feels like happenstance I just stumbled into things. So the only reason he was there to recruit guys um his name is Phil Parker, he was the defensive backs coach in Iowa and he recruited Florida and he was there to recruit guys who were a year younger than me and I was just there um working out and I just think man if what if I, so so to backtrack a little bit so the coach's office he was going to talk to my coach. The coach's office is connected to the weight room so you have to walk through the weight room to get to the coaches office and that's the only reason so I think man what if I had stepped out, then what if I was sick that day, what if I was in the bathroom, what if I was even just outside running or doing something else as opposed to being there because he didn't know who I was. He wasn't looking for me but he just happened to see me benching 315 pounds for I think 10 to 12 reps, you know at 17 years old I guess that was fairly impressive. So that's what got me the offer to Iowa and nothing else and I just think man what if I hadn't been in that position at that time and I don't know if you want to call it God or the universe or whatever energy it is but I felt like even though things that I wouldn't work out for me I didn't become, I didn't have the career I wanted there I didn't go on to play in the NFL but being at I was also what got me to WWE because I had a similar thing where I just i was done at Iowa I wasn't playing football but I was still going to school there so I finished up, I got my degree I started going to grad school there I was working as a teaching assistant and going to grad school and I just happened to still be working out at the weight room.

Radzi: Just to be clear you're a teaching assistant in a school the size that you are

Big E: Yes when I think about it now it's like who let me grade college students papers, why, why did you ever think that was a good idea but yes that's what I did and I felt like I was I was you know solid at my job and I felt like I was in a good position but I just didn't think that this was going to be my next 40 years is because my plan was hey let me finish my masters spend five to six years working on a PhD and I'd either teach or be a part of university as an athletic director helping students and student athletes and that was kind of the plan. But in the same vein I just kept feeling like I don't know if sitting behind the desk or teaching is for me the next 40 to 45 years and that's kind of like weight on me is this hey you're in your early 20s what are you going to do the rest of your life. That question just loomed so heavy on me for so long but again I just stumbled into the opportunity with WWE. It was me being in the weight room at the time I'm still working out there even though I wasn't a part of the team and uh one of the guys that I played ball with uh was with the steelers for a little bit but he got hurt and he just knew a guy uh Mike Doughty, who bumped into Jim Ross randomly, just yeah just randomly they had the same flight and he was and Mike was wearing an Iowa shirt and he started talking to JR, I think they had another flight and they were on that same flight too, so they kept talking and they made a connection and said hey are there any guys at Iowa who might be interested when they're done with their wrestling career, getting into pro wrestling and because Mike Doughty was friends with Mike Humble and because I and I think too like imagine if Mike hadn't worn that Iowa shirt that one day imagine if JR booked another flight, I wouldn't have this career I have now because if you ask me to list 200 jobs I never would have put pro-wrestler on it, it's for some reason at 23 it just didn't occur to me that this is a job you could possibly do, it just never crossed my mind. I was a, I was a fan as a kid but I just feel so fortunate and so blessed and it's clear to me that there was some kind of plan there was there was some energy and like I said whether it's God or karma or the universe I'm not entirely sure anymore but um but I feel like it was all meant to happen. It was all meant to lead me to where I'm at now.

Radzi: We've definitely got to talk about WWE, but I'm just curious to know how big were you at your absolute biggest?

Big E: Oh man at my heaviest when I was uh when I was really powerlifting heavy and kind of not even eating whatever I wanted to like force-feeding myself to get big, I was 317 pounds.

Radzi: Competing at 275?

Big E: No competing at 375, I didn't know I competed at 275 for my first meet and then I competed at 295 for nationals and then after that, I would just I just let the weight creep up and I got I got to about 317. But yeah my heaviest competing was 295.

Radzi: And how did you structure your sessions back then?

Big E: Uh so Rob, I was really blessed because we were working out at John Cena as a gym close to where I live now but Rob McIntyre used to train all of us in FCW and FCW was the training ground for WWE at the time and he would kind of structure things. So I was actually when I was at my strongest I was only lifting three days a week. So yeah but they have all centred around so one day would be centred around it might be like a shoulder and upper body day but we'd also start with like deadlift and we'd have like a deadlift regimen so the nice thing is I could kind of it's very hands off for me because I just trusted him, he knew me, he knew my body um so yeah it was only three days a week and I'm always of the mindset that more is better, I just, I had that programmed in me but I realised sometimes backing off a little bit um can be beneficial so a lot of yeah at that time it was only three days a week

Radzi: And in terms of volume what did it look like in each session?

Big E: Man it always changed from time to time. Uh it's been so long man honestly the last, the last meet I did was 2011, I think so this is it's been a while so I have to remember but typically you know mice it was probably around like five sets of bench or so I might do on the day, we do some auxiliary stuff as well but for the most part I'm only doing a total of anywhere from like 25 to 32 sets. Leg days are not as volume heavy um because everything's centred around squat and honestly I feel like with four sets of squat I'm pretty much doing, I'll do some low back stuff, I'll do some hamstring stuff and then you're pretty good. Once you're really pushing it once you're like doing sets with 695 with you know 725 once you're that heavy, I didn't need a whole lot else after that on leg days.

Radzi: And when you say you were like pushing the food was that actually, did you structure it did you kind of track it or was it just a case of the more I can eat the better?

Big E: Uh yeah it was, it was structured for the most part so I was trying to do seven meals a day and uh a lot of that you know a couple of those might be protein shakes and the rest will try to be whole foods. But my problem is I can put weight on easily but to really put weight on I needed to kind of not eat the cleanest, so at one point I was just having, I'd have like a Digernose pizza every single day uh and it was just I guess a point where I was uncomfortable. I was just in almost in pain eating uh just stuffing myself but it allowed me to get a lot stronger and uh I miss I had a good squat gut. I don't know there's something to it, there's I don't know the science behind it but when you have that good belly and it pushes out against the belt man it just it makes, it allows you we call it coming out of the holes when you're squatting and you get to depth being able to squat when you have something to push out against uh really helps.

Radzi: You mention FCW so that's how you fire into WWE it's now NXT, but you were in the original FCW with guys like Brock Lesnar so many Seth Rollins, household names that you kind of I guess started with, what was that like when you go when you walk through those doors for the very first time?

Big E: FCW time was weird um hodgepodge I suppose because it's so when I got to, I got to FCW before Seth Rollins and like 2009 a little bit before um I think when I was there I'm trying to think of who would even, man I don't know if there were current names no Cena was like long Cena had already been on the road making his money at the time. Man um there were guys like Michael Tarver was there who's with uh Nexus for a bit um but like I think Seth came a little bit later. Roman Reigns came a little bit later, Dean a lot of the bigger names came a little bit after me, uh but yeah at the time, man it was it was pretty different from the NXT we know now. FCW kind of felt like we were all signed to WWE contracts but we felt like an island kind of on our own you know. It's just it's this little warehouse in Tampa we had at the time two or three rings and we don't have NXT now is our national TV, no one like our TVs at the time when we were in FCW were on some small local station in Florida like NXT might have you know 800,000 viewers. We might have had 80 viewers you know that's the difference in in the kind of the scope of what our product was at the time. But uh you know it's just a moment of time where you know we weren't making a ton of money you're under WWE contracts but I was making 500 a week and just enough to pay my bills and to go train but it also felt like I'm on my way I'm pursuing something that I want to do and I think too often I try to tell people who are pursuing a craft or dream or whatever it is that we're oftentimes too goal how do I say goal orient but we think too often of the end it's always like I can't wait to get out of here and achieve my dream but enjoying that journey, enjoying the process of getting to know your craft of getting better of a learning of making those steps on a week-to-week basis, I think it's really beautiful too so I try to tell people to be try to be as present as you can, to be in the moment of course your goal, is to get to the main roster or to become a pro athlete or whatever it is but also and enjoy the grind enjoy the friendships you make along the way enjoy don't just think that the only thing that matters is getting to your goal it's enjoy the journey there.

Radzi: And I guess that's really relevant to yourself because what if that goal gets taken from you, then you haven't enjoyed anything that's then totally futile, whereas if you've enjoyed the process you might have grown personally and learned from it.

Big E: Exactly, exactly man and that's the thing too and I hope that everyone gets to achieve their dream or whatever it is but you know like you said a lot of times it gets cut short and uh I think I was definitely guilty of that. I look back at my time at Iowa I'm very thankful for it but I don't know if I enjoyed it as much as I should have and could have. It's college you know there's so many new experiences and people you meet and I was just so focused on like making it to the NFL that was my goal and that was the one thing that mattered and I didn't enjoy it as much as I should have so yeah I try to tell people to enjoy that because not everyone can make it. But I think there's a beauty in pursuing something you love even if it's not making it, there's yeah there's something really uh there's a Jim Carrey quote um I think at a commencement speech where he talks about his father and he talks about the fact that his dad was really funny, that he probably could have been a great uh stand-up comedian but he took the safe route and he took the safe job and his plan B released him, they fired him, they cut him, so he learned from that moment that you shouldn't take the plan B. Don't take the safe route, go after what you love what you want to do, what your dream is, what you feel like your purpose on this earth is because there's no guarantees even in that safety net, there really is, you know there's not this you don't know, um you never know um so that's that to me was I was always already in what I wanted to do what I felt like I was meant to do but it just kind of reaffirmed that to me just hearing that again, um because waking up with purpose, waking up with a passion, with a real desire to do something is beautiful and you know there's always financial concerns and I get you got to worry about paying the bills but do what you love honestly if you do what you love and you have a passion for it you'll find a way to pay your bills, to make money from it, man you really will.

Radzi: Amen to that and so NFL doesn't happen for you dream wise but getting the call out to the WWE main roster does happen for you how do you feel when you finally get that phone call?

Big E: Uh it's uh in many ways it felt like a long time coming. I felt like I was ready for it but I was excited man because it was such an incredible opportunity. It's not even just hey you're getting caught up to the main roster which is incredible in and of itself but it's when I find out it's hey you're coming out with Dolph Ziggler who was red hot at the time, with Aj Lee who's red hot at the time and you're going to layout John Cena to close the show in Philadelphia the night of the Slammies and we're going to close the show with you standing over John Cena. That's pretty cool.

Radzi: That's cool.

Big E: That's pretty dope.

Radzi: With you looking enormous.

Big E: Yeah well I tried you know, I tried um so yeah I was um that was a big moment and to think that it was eight years ago man this job really it flies by man, it all flies by but that was that was massive for me, that was massive because it felt like all the time I'd spent the three and a half years or so in FCW in developmental it was all worth it the grind was all worth it the sacrifice, the leap when I got signed to WWE I hadn't I didn't know what I was doing I had never I hadn't zero pro wrestling experience I thought you know what there's a good chance that I do this and they fire me in two to three months, I don't know but really I bet on myself it was just a blind leap of faith. I don't I don't know if I can be good at this I don't know if I can be a star in this industry but let me try and worst case scenario is man I kind of you know pick myself up I go back to Iowa I finish my masters and then we reassess but I'm just so glad that because of the time I don't I don't actually have this risk-taking mentality of trying things, you know I'm not the most self-confident person you'll ever meet, like I had to kind of just say hey just shut off that part of your brain that second guesses and that doubts and just do it just jump into it and just see, just bet on yourself just give yourself a chance and I'm so glad I learned that lesson and that I took that gamble because it paid off, and I like I said I really truly feel this is where I'm meant to be in my life right now.

Radzi: I think if you were in the industry for another 10 years as a superstar I think people regardless will definitely look very fondly back at your time as part of the new day and rightfully so I mentioned one third of the longest reigning tag team champions in WWE history but significantly it's black history month in terms of you've got three black men with titles around their waist every venue you're going into whether it's the Midwest, East Coast, West Coast, Dirty South, wherever it is you are three black men representing a company at WWE, how aware of you are that when you're doing it? Can you kind of feel that sense of pride and responsibility?

Big E: Oh very much so very much so man and uh we always we try to entertain everyone of course too but there's also certain pride when you look out at an audience and you see black kids smiling and laughing because representation in media really matters when you can watch television shows and movies and watch the news and see people that look like you are excelling, I think truly means something and uh I am appreciative too of I think of guys like Ron Simmons that I grew up watching as a kid too and also one of the things that I loved is that I think so often in in media is you have these tropes of what a black man is or is supposed to be and the fact that we got to come out wearing pink and blue and we had unicorn horns on our heads and you know I realised you know there are so many of us black men who feel this pressure to fit into certain boxes and to carry ourselves a certain way but I've met so many uh my buddy Mike Daniels has been in the league for what like almost a decade at this point and he's a massive dude over 300 pounds and he's a huge nerd, he's a massive nerd and he loves anime but like in the same vein, he's an incredible football player that you can be more than what people conceive of you what they when they look at you the box they want to put you in and that's one of the things that I'm proud of too as black men that we didn't have to force ourselves into a certain preconceived notion of what we should be because we look a certain way that we got to be goofy, that we got to be weird we got to express ourselves in a way that felt authentic, uh to us and that's something that I'm really proud of and I hope that others take away as well that as black men and women we can pursue whatever it is that we want, that we don't have to feel uh forced into a certain lane because this is the expectation of us, that you know the black experience I love is because it's so diverse and it's so different and it's so robust and there is no singular black experience there just isn't. We all grew up in so many different ways and we just kind of wanted to be a part of that rainbow showing people that this is one flavour this is one way to express yourself and that's what I'm really proud of too.

Radzi: One way of expressing yourself would definitely be in the form of a beast as you mentioned and someone who does that is a man who lives in the valley of the beast CT Fletcher, how was it like going to that gym man?

Big E: Oh it was incredible. So we were in uh LA and I think we were in LA for yeah, we had a show there a house show in LA and I forgot who had the connection was, either I was there with Jinder and Braun and I think someone's like, hey you want to stop by CT Fletcher's gym and you know so many of us had seen his stuff on Instagram and he's so inspirational the way he attacks things and I even watched I watched a documentary on him and I realised man we have so many similarities, the way we were raised like, he had a very strict religious father and there's there was a certain connection that I felt with him so I was like you know what this might be a once in a lifetime opportunity so we decided to stop in, got to talk to him and we were so glad he was actually there and he put us through the paces man and you know like you said I'm used to doing power lifting it's for me it's one heavy single rep maybe two or three and then you rest for a couple minutes but CT put us through it man it's a like just a ton of drop sets. We might have done uh we might have done like 800 total reps that day. It was something I don't even remember but it was it was a lot of just reps. It was like a bodybuilder workout where it was just you know filling the muscles with blood just set after set after set. Uh man he killed us with the reps but it was such a cool experience when I was done I felt like my arms were completely useless just dead completely. But being able to train with someone like that who has that mentality and I love that and the mentality that he puts out there is just that it's still your set like keep going, keep pushing sometimes we think our limitations are at a certain point and we don't know until we just push through it that we can go further that we have more left in the tank that we have more of us to give and I think he's someone that inspires a lot of people and so to be able to meet him that day to train with him uh and talk with him a little bit was uh was pretty cool.

Radzi: He's a flippin legend that guy I have to say but in terms of your legends if I ask most people or a lot of people, especially inside the industry who you think the greatest of all time is people talk about Ric Flair in my case I talk about the Undertaker but for you it's an unusual answer.

Big E: Oh well this is, this is my favourite this is he's my favourite wrestler, so I'm not going to say like put him wherever you want. I'll say he's my favourite because he captivated me as a kid and that's the man the myth the legend Goldberg. I say Goldberg um because I think for me, he just hit at the right time um in the late 90s I was you know I was born in 86 so I was probably around 11 or 12 we first kind of came on the scene and he just captivated an audience like no other and it's just through his intensity. I love the walk uh the security guards and the security guards weren't to protect Goldberg they were to protect the people from Goldberg don't come around here trying to mess around with Goldberg because he might take your head off. So it's he just had an intensity and a connection like man if you go back and watch those old matches the way people lose their minds for him the way they explode on those jackhammers and on the spears uh is a thing of beauty and the fact that he's still doing it, he's still around I think is pretty cool. I also one of the things that I remember too is met him in a signing there was an in-store signing um man this had to be in the late 90s and I remember uh being in a suit with my dad who was also in a suit and I think we were either coming from church or going to church and we stood in line for a bit a long line because he was a huge star at the time and we finally get to the front of the line and we get to meet Goldberg and this is my first time really going to any kind of signing or anything and I remember the smile on his face, I remember him complimenting uh me on my suit. I remember just this interaction which probably lasted no more than 30 seconds, I remember just how pleasant it was and that's something that I always take with me too especially with kids too at the shows at meet and greets, that sometimes you can be tired you know I'm sure he had a flight and I'm sure he had you know he was probably on the road for the last 20 days whatever it was, but he took that time to be kind to be polite, to be giving and that's a memory from over 20 years ago that I still take with me today, something I always uh treasure and that's why like for me that's why I always say Goldberg because I have that personal connection with him not only as a fan and seeing him on tv but for that very brief moment he gave me a memory that I'll always treasure. I'll be 60 70 years old and I'll still remember the time that Goldberg was such a delight and I appreciate that.

Radzi: That's awesome thank you for sharing that one with us. I have to say when you talk about his entrance so I'm privileged enough to have said I've worked for NXT UK, so some of the guys on camera I recognised I'll say oh hey there's Dustin that's cool, when he returned to raw there was somebody in the background marking out harder than anybody else, you

Big E: Yeah no it was just cool to um you know at the time uh you know we're on the show we're a part of the show and there's a part of you too that wants to feel like a superstar and like people are there to see you too but it's also very full circle for me to be a part of a Goldberg walk. Just to be in the background as you walk by and for me to just kind of lose my mind and start flailing about uh felt right so it's just very full circle I never would have imagined when I was a kid uh watching him on TV doing his thing that I would ever be a part of anything Goldberg ever did on TV but it was really cool to just you know to be a fan and to think back to how he made me feel when I was a fan and to be a part of that was pretty cool.

Radzi: I have to say your energy is really kind of mellow and reflective and just I guess someone who's really comfortable with themselves, has that been partly as a product of lockdown because I know that I feel like I've grown in a number of ways during lockdown? Has that applied to you?

Big E: Yes, man completely so I'm I tend to be an overthinker, uh just by nature but I you know I got to a certain point uh once the pandemic hit and I realised I had all this free time you. I think you know with WWE we're on the road so often and it's always just go go go and it can be hard to be reflective especially when man a lot of times you sleep two hours and you have a flight to catch and then you're on to the next town, you got to wake up and work out but I just had all this time and I thought man what do I want to do with this time and I don't want to sit here, I don't want to spiral, I don't want my mental health to decline, so I said you know what, you know I had a friend of mine a Cat Simpson who kind of introduced me to uh Headspace and to guided meditation and I was kind of off and on I liked it but I hadn't really been consistent with it and I used being on the road as an excuse so I thought you know what if I'm not going to take this time now when I have all this time to really commit myself to meditation then like that that's on me. I gotta do it so I decided to spend every single day meditating and I would spend you know 10 to 15 minutes just every day, nothing too big. I would go on walks and I just spent more time working on myself and like you know I think especially with the passing of Brodie uh Luke Harper, John Huber someone who I was a dear friend of mine, someone I love very much I think that we don't, we don't know when this life comes to an end. We don't know when our time here is over and I just reflected more on who I wanted to be on uh how I wanted to impact this world the people around me and I often times sometimes it's easy to feel overwhelmed by what goes on around you that you're helpless but we're not and I think I just wanted to I thought more about being the change that I wanted to see to politicians or the people around me and maybe I can't drastically change the world maybe every you know maybe I'll never be a household name but that's not ever the goal but if I can make even just a dent into some of the problems that I see around me or bettering um some of the lives around me because I thought too of all the people that gave me a helping hand all the people, even people I may have never met or never knew who helped me out and I'd love to be a blessing to others and so I just thought more about who I wanted to be as a man, um what kind of you know I guess I don't worry too much about legacy per se but I wanted to make sure that my life I don't want to just be about what I accumulated, what I did for myself, um the money I earned if that's all my life was about then why was I ever here right and that's what I think about more and more is uh I do spend a lot of time reflecting and meditating has been a godsend because it's allowed me to be more present to be more mindful to be more appreciative. Man I have my health, uh I have no financial concerns, I'm truly blessed, I'm very fortunate to be able to do something that I love, to be able to work with friends, to laugh on a daily basis. So uh I spent a lot of time, you're spot on man it's the lockdown really uh kind of forced me to spend more time being reflective thinking about who I want to be and how I want to grow as a man.

Radzi: Thank you for that. Actually it's something it touched on something you've spoken about before enjoying the process that's been one of my big things is to notice the flowers. I'm very much I certainly a year ago A to B, I'm running late, I've got to get there, I'm thinking about the next job, the next goal, the next objective, whereas actually if we're not going to be present as a philosopher who said if you if you live in the present and you live um forever because the idea being that if we're living in the future we're not living at all and that that really does it certainly is precedent for me. But when I told people I was going to be interviewing Big E, a lot of people got confused because they thought I was talking about the deceased greatest rapper of all time, Biggie Smalls, Christopher Watts. You're into your music I know this, who are your top five all-time rappers?

Big E: Oh, all time man so I am usually not a fan of making lists but I will give you because it's so fluid for me uh. I will say like Tupac was always kind of been my favourite rapper, he's my number one. Okay I'll say, Pac, um Nas.

Radzi: Yes cubie's finest.

Big E: You know what here's one who doesn't get enough love but Ghost Face Killer if you look at Ghost Faces.

Radzi: I wasn't expecting that okay.

Big E: Ghost is a monster and has been doing it for decades. Look at his solo records, he never fell off man. Even some of his smaller albums like Apollo Kids which doesn't get enough love, go back and listen to his discography man. He's got a lot of heat, bulletproof wallets Ghost Faces in my top five. Um so what'd I say I said Pac, Nas, Ghost Face.

Radzi: Two more.

Big E: Uh I gotta go Big, it feels lazy because everyone says Biggie but I'll go Biggie and uh who do I wanna put in my fifth spot, I can't leave out Jay-Z, I gotta, I gotta put Jay-Z in.

Radzi: It's gotta happen you know. What it is that is a tough question. I appreciate you giving the list because there are so many and I was not expecting the Ghost Face Killer but I think Lotan gets slept on you know as a group people I mean they were, Mob, Wu-tang we're talking fire and especially that 90s for me as well early naughties era that is just. I look back at that and go oh my goodness I didn't realise how good we had it.

Big E: So good man and especially like I think a lot of times people think of Wu-Tang Clan and they think of their uh records as a group but also look at the solo records man. They got so many classics if you look at uh only built for Cuban Links, uh Liquid Swords, uh there's so many, uh there's so many individual records that are fire in their catalogue, uh ODB has one of the best records of all time uh so it's uh the uh oh I'm blinking um, you put me on the spot.

Radzi: You see for me one of my favourite bits is his spot with Mariah Carey, New York in the house that will get a party started by the way you go.

Big E: Yes uh it's the uh Return to the 36 Chambers, yeah it's the one with the driver's license picture on it. Yeah I was just blanking um but yes yes yes that's it's a classic. Um him singing is a beautiful thing so yes Wu-Tang Clan and their individual records their solo records are incredible.

Radzi: Big E this has been an absolute pleasure to chat to you. Thank you being so generous with your time. Thank you for being so honest and I look forward to seeing what you do next as the reigning Intercontinental Champion on WWE.

Big E: Thank you very much I appreciate it.

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Episode Two: Big E video

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