LISTEN: Ray talks to WWE Intercontinental Champion Big E Langston:
Teddy bear hugger? Yep.
Start watching at the 5:34 mark.
Big E Langston is no stranger to Big Ten country. When he was an Iowa Hawkeye, he was Ettore Ewen. But you may not have seen him on the defensive line very much, as he battled injuries as much or more than offensive tackles during his college career. He is more noticeable today , and not just because he is 285 or so pounds of muscle. Big E is a rising WWE superstar, the current Intercontinental Champion, and he is scheduled to be among those competing in the squared circle when WWE returns to Bankers Life Fieldhouse on December 27.
Big E has been Big E since he was a little E. “It’s something as far back as middle school and high school where people were calling me Big E. My first name is kind of hard to pronounce, so people just always called me Big E.” For the record, his given name is pronounced eh-TOR-ee, And if it isn’t, I will speak to you from a jar at the Indiana University medical lab on December 28 after Big E gets through with me.
I often wonder how often guys the size of Big E get asked “Hey, do you lift weights?” For Langston, the answer yes, and for a long time. “I started lifting with a serious program when I was 12 years old. I saw results within three weeks of starting weight training, and I was hooked. Just having the ability to control your body and the regimen it takes, it was something I was in to.”
He got more serious about his lifting after his football days ended, and after pro wrestling began. “I didn’t start my power lifting career until I was signed by WWE, and I was in development in Tampa,” Langston said. “I had a lot of fun, and was able in 2011 to win the USAPL National Championships as a super-heavyweight.”
He has trimmed down a smidge since his competitive lifting days – if you consider dropping to 285 trimming down. But Big E can still lift a little bit of weight. “I can still squat over 700 pounds. I’m a little off (my personal best), but not by much.” What the slight weight loss did was give Langston an extra burst of speed coming off the ropes that most other big men in wrestling don’t have. “For me, that’s my way of separating myself from some of the other big guys here, to be explosive, to be agile.”
Don’t let the size fool you. Like many other WWE superstars (Jack Swagger and Dolph Ziggler to name a couple), Big E has legitimate grappling skills – he was a Florida state wrestling champion in high school. “My dad is Jamaican and became a huge wrestling fan when he moved to the states, and he passed that on to me as well.” A career as a wrestler didn’t occur to Langston until much later on. “I was very fortunate; a guy I played football with at Iowa knew a booster who had a connection with Jim Ross,” the WWE Hall of Fame broadcaster and former head of talent relations for the company. “They suggested my name, sent some pics to WWE, and I got sent me down to (WWE Developmental) in Tampa for a week for a tryout.”
You know a Big E Langston match is ending when Langston lowers the straps on his singlet and delivers the ending – as in the Big Ending, his finishing move. It’s where Big E hoists his opponent onto his right shoulder and crashes violently to the mat, opponent face-first. “I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to use as a finisher when I first signed, but honestly I have to give credit to (fellow WWE wrestler) Curt Hawkins. He showed it to me and gave it to me four years ago, and it’s the only finisher I have ever used.”
Next for Big E? Be a top guy in the company. “I think we all strive to be at the top in this business. Every time I step through the curtain, I try to be better than I was the night before. It’s been a great start, but it’s just a start.”