Florida Man is coming home.
Although wrestling fans around the world know him now, Ettore Ewen, better known by his ring name Big E, still calls himself Florida Man on Twitter. Ewen, a Tampa native raised in Carrollwood and New Tampa, became a decorated athlete in wrestling and football while attending Tampa Preparatory and Wharton High.
After graduating from the University of Iowa, Ewen, signed a developmental deal with World Wrestling Entertainment and began working in their territory known as Florida Championship Wrestling. In 2012, FCW was rebranded into NXT, which feeds new stars into the main roster of the WWE. In December that year, Ewen made his main roster debut.
Big E, 32, is now a WWE Superstar with his own line of cereal, Booty O’s. Tuesday, Amalie Arena will host WWE’s Smackdown for the first time in two years. The two hour show, shown live on the USA network every Tuesday, will feature some of WWE’s greatest stars,including Heavyweight champion A.J. Styles, Samoa Joe and Becky Lynch.
We caught up with Big E by phone before the show.
You’re coming back home and bringing Smackdown with you.
I spent my whole life here. Besides college, the five years I was at the University of Iowa. It will be great to jump on the Veterans highway and get to work. I’m excited.
Will anyone special be in the crowd that night rooting you on?
I have a couple friends. My barber. Shout out to Big Jay the barber who’s at Boyz 2 Men Barbershop at University mall. I know he’ll be there with his whole family and I’m sure a host of others.
When you come back to the area to perform, does it bring back memories?
When I was in FCW, when RAW or Smackdown would be in town, I remember you would go with the whole crew, get in the ring, all the guys from TV walking by. Definitely a different feeling now being a little more established.
How important is it for these young wrestlers to have a place like NXT?
I think it’s fantastic. It has become more than just a feeder system for WWE. It's become its own brand. It’s really cool to see how a lot of our hardcore fans have really taken to the brand. It has such a different feel, which I think is great. It doesn’t feel like RAW, it doesn’t feel like Smackdown. There is so much talent there. I think it’s great to have it in Central Florida. It’s cool. When I was in NXT five years ago, we didn’t travel nationally. And not only are they traveling and doing shows around the country, but they’re doing tours of Japan and Europe. And people across the world have taken to NXT so passionately.
Factions don’t seem to last very long these days in the world of professional wrestling. Your team, The New Day, debuted in 2014. Why do you think the group lasted?
Honestly, one of the biggest things is we’re pretty selfless amongst ourselves. We wanted to make it clear from the beginning there is no leader. Not hogging the spotlight and believing in the group as a whole. With wrestling and entertainment as a whole, there’s always egos and it’s hard to remain humble, remain a group centric. That doesn’t always happen and for us it’s been fairly easy. There’s no bickering. There’s no battling. I’m not saying we don’t have different ideas sometimes. But were always able to discuss it. We’re always trying to think of what’s next. There’s no complacency. There’s no feeling we made it and it’s time to coast. We're always trying to push for new ideas. Trying to get better in the ring. We fought tooth and nail from the very beginning. We weren’t three guys the office put together. We were three guys on our own, whose career was stalling. We needed to do something and that was what fortified it.
After a successful run of throwing Booty O’s, the New Days brand of colorful breakfast cereal, into the crowd, you guys have switched to tossing pancakes to the fans. Will a New Day version of frozen pancakes be coming to a store near us?
We’ve definitely explored trying to do something in that vain. Cereal is easier. Right now our cereal is at FYE and FYE.com. … We’re talking to people in licensing for a way for this pancake nonsense to be available to our fans.
How does Big E like his pancakes?
I really like blueberry pancakes. There are also these Kodiak Cakes that I’ve been meaning to try. They’re like protein pancakes.
The tag-team tournament will continue to decide who will face the Smackdown champions, the Bludgeon Brothers at Summer Slam. The New Day will face the winner of the Usos and the Bar match up this Tuesday. Is there one team over the other you would like to face?
We’re ready for whoever. The Bar was the team to end our reign as tag champs but in the same vain the Usos was our best feud and brought the best out of us. If forced to pick one, I guess I’d like to rekindle things with The Usos. We have a ton of respect for them. They’re extremely talented. And a lot of people are making a strong argument that they are the best tag team in the world right now. And we always want to go against the best. Regardless of who it is we’re excited for the opportunity.