As the WWE’s second-longest-running Pay-Per-View event, Survivor Series has always been a Thanksgiving holiday tradition in pro-wrestling. This year, it’s taking place on Sunday, Nov. 21 at The Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, NY.
Before WWE champion Big E takes on Universal Champion Roman Reigns on Sunday, BlavityU got the chance to talk to him about the changing landscape in the pro-wrestling industry and the prominence of its Black performers.
Big E, real name Ettore Ewen, began his professional wrestling career in 2009 when he signed a developmental contract with the Florida Championship Wrestling (rebranded in 2010 as the WWE’s NXT). Though he’s only the fourth Black WWE Heavyweight Champion in the company’s history, Big E says he’s noticed an increase in diverse talent, and best of all, it’s authentic.
“I look around at our industry and I am so proud of so many of the talent that I see who are unique,” says Big E. “They’re themselves. They’re not being shoved into these stereotypical roles that don’t make any sense for them. You look at Bianca Belair, and she is so authentic and genuine, and just being able to see the way she inspires young Black girls is so dope to me. Sasha Banks who has been killing it for years, or even like a Bobby Lashley, who had an incredible run, I love that. It never feels like Black talent are being put in positions simply to fill some kind of a quota.”
While Big E serves as a role model for young Black fans on television, he’s made it his mission to be just as impactful outside of the ring. Motivated to take action in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, Big E teamed up with partners Andres Hale and Jonathan Davenport to create Our Heroes Rock.
“I never had the death of someone who I’d never met shake me so much,” Big E recalls. “I think just having those visuals replayed on TV and in my mind over and over, I kind of felt almost overwhelmed. Like how can I ever hope to end systemic racism by myself or make all these changes?”
Initially, Big E, Hale, and Davenport launched Our Heroes Rock as Schoolhouse Rock!-inspired wrestling gear featuring lesser-known Black heroes in history. The trio later decided to expand and turn Our Heroes Rock into a hip-hop-fused animated series in hopes of bringing awareness to some of the prominent figures in our history.
“Eventually, we put our heads together and said, ‘you know what, let’s start a Kickstarter and make a short film.’ The great thing is Jonathan Davenport has done stuff with Marvel and Star Wars. He has been in the space. He understands animation. He’s an incredible illustrator. So we had a guy who can handle this. Our goal is to educate the world creatively through Our Heroes Rock and let Black history go beyond just February.”