What was supposed to be EC3’s “coming out party” delivered another cruel twist to his roller-coaster 2020.
The former WWE performer, who was released in April as part of cuts made because of the coronavirus pandemic, had just logged off a Ring of Honor video conference “super fired up to go to work” for a match against Jay Briscoe that was supposed to happen at last Friday night’s “Final Battle” pay-per-view. The promotion then called him and told him he had tested positive for COVID-19 and the match was eventually pulled from the show.
The news was a gut punch.
“It sucks,” EC3 said in a phone interview. “I guess my initial reaction was, I kind of laughed. Like you’re kidding me. The theory, the way I look at it, the entire year of 2020 for myself as a person and a character started with COVID, so 2020 might as well end with COVID. Only coming out of this in the end can I be a better version of myself, so it kind of fits. It’s kind of serendipitous in a way. It sucks, but serendipitous.”
The 37-year-old from Willoughby, Ohio experienced some inconsistent symptoms — “breathing fire” one morning and stomach discomfort that led to a “nine-minute fart” — but other than that has been fine quarantining with his parents, who have come to visit. EC3, who has also worked in NXT and Impact, isn’t certain how he got the virus but noted he works out at a gym and had business meetings with people who had been on airplanes.
“You can either come out of it better, stronger or worse and you’re nothing,” he said of tough situations. “I always chose the former.”
He’s applied a similar approach to being released from WWE after a little more than a year stint on the main roster that never got any traction creatively and was then hampered by a concussion that lingered for months. He has said WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon didn’t want him doing promos after seeing one he deemed too over the top.
“I tried to fight to speak, nobody went to bat for, ‘He’s a decent enough talker and maybe he can have some character development and depth and the Universe will know who he is if he does speak,’” EC3 said. “It was just kind of thrown away. Yeah, it sucked. There’s nothing more I can say about it. … I never want to come off as this super negative, ‘They never gave me a chance, they never did this.’ I’m so sick of that story. It sucked and whatever, it’s fine.”
EC3 said he was planning on asking for his release from WWE around the time he was let go. It left him feeling differently when it happened, even with the uncertainty of when other wrestling promotions would start running again because of the pandemic. He doesn’t rule out returning to WWE, but said it would need to be a “unique circumstance.”
“There was a sense of relief that this thing that had been hanging over me like the Sword of Damocles for so long [was gone],” he said. “ It was hurting me every single day and I don’t have it anymore and I’ll be OK.”
EC3 chose to completely change his character and his lifestyle when it was time to reemerge onto the wrestling scene. Gone were the fancy suits, slicked hair and arrogance that came with a character deemed part of the top one percent.
What we see now is a persona he had hoped to try in WWE that is edgier and more of a cult leader. EC3’s head is shaved nearly bald, he wears hoodies, work pants and boots and wants his followers to “control your narrative,” just like he is trying to do.
“It was very personal because for a very long time I wasn’t happy with who I was and what I was doing and that’s from a professional aspect and very much a personal aspect,” said EC3, who is also in charge of his “Free EC3” merchandise. “So as easy as it would be to rely on the past, a past that was very successful and a past that has a lot of miles left on it, there are a lot of places that idea and version of me could go. I think it was very important to take a risk and do something new because it was something I wanted to do.”
That’s applied to his life off-camera also. EC3 said when his wrestling gimmick was “the top one percent” he was living in a penthouse apartment in downtown Orlando overlooking the city and enjoyed the city’s nightlife. After his release from WWE that lifestyle didn’t interest him anymore.
EC3 decided to put all his “cool s–t” (like giant flatscreen TVs) in storage and live for a couple of months like a true vagabond out of a suitcase. He bounced around friends’ houses and other places needing to find something outside of wrestling that brought him purpose and happiness.
“The fact that I was making great money sitting at home sad and in darkness with brain trauma to not making nearly as much money, busy for every minute or every second of every hour of every day creating, evolving, doing things, interacting with people, I realized financially happiness isn’t just that,” EC3 said.
What he’s created through his own vignettes and now with Impact and Ring of Honor is a character very different from what we see in wrestling today. It’s one, at the moment, more interesting in his personal journey than winning matches.
During EC3’s program with Moose in Impact, where he had his most professional success from 2015-18, he wanted “to go out on my sword” and destroy what he created in the company in the past. Their cinematic match on the “Bound for Glory” pay-per-view was also to show Moose, who holds the defunct TNA world championship, “the man he truly could become.” At the end of the match, EC3 tells him to “enjoy his narrative” as Moose thanks him before smashing him with the belt.
“This works in the world of wrestling,” EC3 said of the control-your-narrative theme. “This works in the current world we have now, with the unfortunate [stuff] like a cancel culture and a toxicity of social media at times. Just being comfortable within your skin. Tell your story and be the person that you should be.”
EC3’s character came to Ring of Honor to find out if “honor is real” by challenging one of the company’s biggest stalwarts in Briscoe. During their initial singles match, his character was more interested in trying to get Briscoe to shake his hand than he was in winning the match.
“Personally, finding out if honor is real is very important,” he said. “The arc of this story is, ‘Is honor real?’ Ring of Honor prides itself on being the best wrestling in the world and what happens within this 18-by-18 squared circle, this ring it’s holy. It’s honorable.”
EC3 says the journey right now is “more important than the W or the L,” but that will change at some point. He hopes his character could one day get to work with John Cena because he believes the former face of WWE would have also created something unique if he had been let go by the company prior to finding his Doctor of Thuganomics gimmick in 2002.
EC3 has left himself the freedom to bring his character to numerous promotions by not signing any long-term contracts in the hopes of doing something different and unique. He pointed out that like the current alliance between Impact and AEW we know all these companies exist and wrestlers interact. He hopes to connect them with his own personal narrative and wants to leave the fans not knowing what’s going to happen next. He teased that the endgame for the character will be “explosive.”
“The world is crazy and different,” he said. “I don’t think wrestling needs to be cut and dried, white and black. I think shades of gray, intrigue is missing.”
He hopes to get a chance to finish his program with Briscoe in Ring of Honor and said those talks are going on above him. EC3 has all the intent “to be a huge piece” there. He believes Ring of Honor, like what he is doing, brings more realism to an overall wrestling product that has “gotten childish and corny in a way.”
“I’m all in and they have me at their disposal to make it work,” EC3 said. “And it will work because I think fans deserve something real and true that they can invest emotionally in and create moments.”