WWE Champion Big E has discussed issues surrounding race in the wrestling business and if he has ever experienced racism in WWE.
Big E became only the fourth man of African-American heritage to capture the WWE Championship when he cashed in his Money In The Bank briefcase on Bobby Lashley back in September.
Speaking on Breakfast Club Power 101.5 FM, The New Day star was first asked about WWE Chairman Vince McMahon’s more controversial actions such as saying the ‘n’ word on television and if any of these things reflect badly on Big E himself:
“I don’t get flack for it. I guess I see myself as, I don’t want to say light in an area of darkness, but sometimes you have to work from within. We all work for these massive systems and there are certain beliefs and views that I don’t necessarily agree with or feel. But I feel like my presence in WWE, I still feel like I can reach people, I can motivate people, that I can still show like, ‘hey, this is how I feel, this is how I see the world.’ So, within the system, it’s a massive platform and I don’t want to lose that.”
Big E then revealed he spoke to McMahon about himself and Kofi Kingston taking a stand on WWE television after the brutal murder of Geroge Floyd:
“So I haven’t necessarily asked Vince about his political views or donations, but there are things that I wanted to do, smaller gestures, but things that matter to me. After George Floyd, Kofi and I decided we needed to show people, ‘hey, we are with you and we are feeling the same pain you are, we are crying the same tears.’”
“So, I went up to Vince and said, ‘hey, we want to kneel and throw a fist up, is that cool? I just want to run it by you.’ He said, ‘yeah,’ it was no problem whatsoever and that’s what we did. I’m not saying we changed the world by any means, but a lot of things that I felt were important to me, this past year especially, and I feel like George Floyd’s death touched me in a way.”
“I think it had a lot to do with, I wasn’t jumping on a plane with all these distractions, I had to sit with this, we all had to sit with this. There are things that I want to accomplish and that I want to do. Especially when you see these black kids at shows.”
“We are here to entertain kids from all backgrounds and ethnicities, but there’s just something too, you can look out and see a young black girl or boy and they remind you of yourself, or my sisters when I was young and that means a lot to me. To let them know that just because we are on TV and have money or fame or whatever it is, that doesn’t make us above feeling the way that you feel. I’m hurting like you hurt.”
The WWE Champion then discussed how important it was to all three members of The New Day to be able to be themselves in their roles, and not be pigeon-holed as many wrestlers of colour have been in the past:
“It has been important for us, the three of us are nerds, we are comic book nerds so we wanted to really just be ourselves. I think too often, in our industry you would see talent of colour put in certain boxes like you have to be a rapper or dancers. We came out with bright colours, just doing silly stuff and the response, at first was rocky, but we just wanted to show people you can be yourselves, you can be unique, and still be proudly black.”
Big E was then asked if he had ever had to deal with racism in WWE. Thankfully the WWE Champion says it’s not something he has experienced:
“In WWE, no, honest I haven’t. I will say, as far as our representation on TV we are getting to where we need to be. It’s always a work in progress. Often times if there are issues it would present themselves as, people see you a certain way and they want you to, as a character go, ‘oh you’re a big black man,’ so this is the role you need to play.”
“Our goal with The New Day was to start tearing down those boxes so people don’t see performers. When they see a black woman, they think she needs to be doing certain things. I look at somebody like Bianca, she’s so dope to me because not only is she an incredible athlete, but she’s so authentic.”
“What you see on-screen is who she is off-screen and I think we are getting more of those black characters on TV that are authentic and feel like one of us.”