From its humble beginnings in Ettore’s pizza shop, WWE has grown into an international juggernaut. Its family-friendly programming is the antithesis of what wrestling used to be and it has emerged as one of the most popular televised sports in America.
In this article, I will be talking about the life of Ettore Messina. He has been a part of some of the most influential moments in sports history, from his time as an assistant coach with the Iowa City Hawkeyes to becoming the General Manager of WWE.
IOWA CITY, Iowa (KFVS) – Ettore Ewen maintained a modest profile as an Iowa defensive lineman from 2004 to 2006. Kinnick Stadium, on the other hand, offered him a welcome fit for the greatest Hawkeye football legends last month.
Ewen returned to university as a WWE champion and one of the industry’s most famous individuals, 12 years after leaving for a sudden chance in wrestling. Big E, his outsized demeanor, was scarcely recognisable to those who remembered him as a rather reclusive comrade.
Ewen came from the same tunnel he had ran out of as a player during a stoppage in Iowa’s Oct. 9 game against Penn State. Ewen walked onto the field, carrying a microphone and shouted, “Yo, Kinnick!” in a gray “Iowa Football” T-shirt that could hardly accommodate his huge chest and arms. He flexed in front of the Iowa cheerleaders and mascot before telling the sold-out audience, “I am darn proud to be a Hawkeye.”
Before rushing over to Las Vegas to present fighters Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder for their highly anticipated heavyweight showdown that evening, Ewen reflected on the man he had become since leaving Iowa’s campus.
Ewen was headed to the Big Ten because to his impressive weight-room performance.
“I never would have ended up playing at Wharton, never would have ended up in Iowa, and probably my entire life would have been different if my parents could continue to enroll me in Tampa Prep,” Ewen said. “I wouldn’t be in WWE right now if I didn’t want to be. So I’m simply thankful for all the unexpected turns.”
Michael Sabers, a former Iowa tight end, had the expected response when he first saw Ewen: “This guy is frickin’ jacked.” Sabers recalls Ewen as “the most quiet, timid, bashful man you’d ever meet,” despite his bouldered chest and arms (he looked like this as a high school senior). He quickly became friends with Sabers offensive lineman Rashad Dunn and tight end Lucas Cox, with whom he now communicates nearly daily through group text.
The injuries started almost right away. After a strong start in 2004, Ewen tore the ACL in his left knee during preseason training. He tore the other ACL the following training camp. In 2006, he missed spring sessions due to an injured pectoral muscle. In 2006, Ewen made his NFL debut, earning 14 tackles and a half-sack in 12 games. Then there was the shattered kneecap.
“He had terrible health,” Ferentz added, “essentially his knees just blew up.” “When a child is unable to continue playing, it is the worst thing that can happen to them.”
As a Hawkeye, Ewen had fond memories of playing No. 1 Ohio State at Kinnick Stadium in 2006 and visiting Michigan Stadium a few weeks later. In the 2005 Capital One Bowl, he stood on the sideline and watched teammate Warren Holloway, a fifth-year senior who had never caught a touchdown, score on a 56-yard reception as time expired to upset Nick Saban’s LSU squad.
Ettore Ewen has 14 tackles and a half-sack in 12 games for Iowa during the 2006 college football season. The University of Iowa provided this image.
“I was a few months out from having my ACL repaired, but it didn’t matter because I remember running across the field like I’d caught the pass myself,” Ewen said. “That was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
However, as the injuries mounted, Ewen’s playing career came to an end. He accepted a medical hardship and was able to keep his scholarship. Sabers, who shared a home with Ewen and others on Miller Avenue in Iowa City that Sabers’ mother had acquired, saw his buddy retreating. They alerted Iowa’s football personnel to contact Ewen at one point.
“I was frequently my own worst adversary, and I would put limits on myself,” Ewen said. “I didn’t think I had any worth.”
Ewen ultimately told his closest friends about his melancholy, and he now encourages for others to be honest about mental health difficulties.
Sabers stated, “He didn’t conceal it; he let his support system assist him through.” “We banded together as a family to assist him. It was difficult for him, and he was struggling. It’s incredible where he’s at right now. I can understand why he’s such a strong advocate for mental health awareness and being willing to speak about it. We all go through difficult times throughout our life, but we must never give up. You must persevere because better times are on the way.
“There is no better illustration of it than Ettore.”
Ewen’s second life-changing weight room experience starts in the first-class cabin of a flight going for Chicago from Iowa. Mike Doughty, a former wrestler for both Iowa and Iowa State, sat next to Jim Ross, WWE’s long-time play-by-play announcer.
Doughty’s Iowa wrestling club jacket caught Ross’ attention, and he inquired whether he was a Hawkeyes fan. Ross, an Oklahoma supporter, emphasized his acquaintance with then-Sooners coach Bob Stoops, who had attended Iowa for college football. They began to converse. They exchanged their goodbyes and parted ways after arriving in Chicago.
Doughty and Ross then boarded a flight to Philadelphia and were sat next to one other once again. Doughty didn’t recognize Ross, who explained that he was on his way to present “Raw.” They chatted more about wrestling, particularly college wrestlers like Kurt Angle who had successfully transitioned to WWE. Doughty informed Ross that he went to every major national wrestling tournament. Ross handed Doughty his business card and urged him to contact if he ever came across someone WWE should consider.
Ettore Ewen’s time at Iowa was cut short due to a slew of ailments, including a torn pectoral, two ruptured ACLs, and a shattered kneecap. The University of Iowa provided this image.
“When I look at all those moving parts, I see two flights — not one — with the Iowa jacket,” Doughty said. “We probably wouldn’t have had the talk if I had worn a regular jacket. Then you think to yourself, “Wow, maybe there’s someone out there in the ether putting these things together.””
Doughty ran with Mike Humpal at the 2009 NCAA wrestling finals in St. Louis and informed him about Ross’ chat. Ewen was working out with Humpal, a former Hawkeyes linebacker who had been released by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Humpal, like many others, was impressed by Ewen’s physique and asked him if he would be interested in working for WWE.
Humpal stated, “He spun around and lighted up like a Christmas tree.” “I’m talking about wide-eyed. Ettore had a habit of walking about like Eeyore: he was calm, restrained, and didn’t appear to get thrilled about anything. ‘But I’ll do it!’ he replied.
“I wasn’t expecting him to respond like way.”
Ewen had grown up watching wrestling. Seth Olsen, one of his teammates and roommates at Iowa, was teased by him and his pals for watching “Raw” every Monday night.
Pro wrestling was “sort of sophomoric,” Ewen added. “I simply didn’t think I was old enough.”
While they taunted Olsen, Ewen’s friends stared at him, puzzled.
“‘Man, WWE?’ we had always laughed. Something has to be done with this body. ‘Bodies like yours don’t come along very often,’ says the narrator “Sabers said.
Big E’s rise in WWE was primarily fueled by his trio alongside Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston, known as The New Day. WWE
Ewen had been working on his physique since he was 12 years old, when he began lifting weights. He immediately noticed a difference in his physique and realized he was stronger than the ordinary adolescent. He squatted 600 pounds in high school. Even after his injuries, he flourished in Iowa’s legendary weight room, setting personal bests in the squat and bench press after ripping his pec.
Even in Iowa City, Big E’s mythology began.
“His name was Big E,” Sabers said. “That’s how we all referred to him.”
A master’s degree appeared far more realistic than WWE once Ewen’s football career ended. He accepted to serve as a teaching assistant for an Iowa professor who urged him to pursue doctoral training in health and sports studies. He had no debt, since Iowa had honored his scholarship even after he was unable to play, and a promising academic future. But there was something lacking.
“I wasn’t sure whether I was ready to sit at a desk for another 30, 40 years, much alone teach,” Ewen said. “In terms of athletics, I felt like I had more to contribute. Then, out of nowhere, Mike Humpal approached me in the weight room and made this proposition.”
In Iowa City, Ewen, Humpal, and Doughty got together for burgers. Doughty dialed Ross’ number right away.
Doughty remembered Ewen as “grounded in humility, incredibly courteous, and simply an outstanding physical specimen.” “He’s great. I’ve seen a lot of well-built wrestlers, and he’s the best. I was thinking, “Look at this guy,” but as I started to speak to him, I realized what a wonderful young man he was.”
Ettore Ewen (Big E) met with old friends Mike Humpal and Mike Doughty upon his return to Iowa, who had helped him connect with the WWE more than a decade before. Mike Doughty provided this image.
Ewen reflected on his life: he was 23, he had no partner, no children, and he was in a nice job at Iowa, but not one he was thrilled about. At the time, WWE’s developmental program was Florida Championship Wrestling, which was situated in Tampa, Ewen’s birthplace. Even if he was dismissed after three months, he felt he could live with his parents and reapply for graduate school, missing just one semester.
“I felt like I was free to take that risk,” Ewen said. “And I’m glad I did.”
Ewen’s physical capacity to be a professional wrestler was never questioned by anybody who encountered him. However, the “E” in WWE stands for entertainment, which presented a problem for Ewen.
“He was a guy of few words,” remarked Humpal. “‘I’m not sure whether he’s got the personality,’ I said. ‘Never would have thought it,’ say several of his college classmates.”
Ewen says that the transition from wrestler to performer was much more difficult than the athletic adjustment. His initial concept, a wrestling mailman called Mel Mann, failed miserably.
Ewen built his concept, initially as Big E Langston, and then as simply Big E, with the support of late wrestling star Dusty Rhodes, who would assist him with promotional films.
When they lived together, Sabers had witnessed Ewen’s artistic side. He had no idea it would be used in this manner.
After winning Money In The Bank, Big E visits SportsNation to reminisce on his path through the WWE.
“He’d write poetry,” Sabers added, “and some of the academic stuff he’d produce was very remarkable.” “With his intellect, I assumed he’d be working in academia or generating money.” I never imagined he’d end up in the WWE. However, when you consider the extent of his work, you’ll see that he employs the abilities he has.
“The aspect that still surprises me is the shaking hips, humping the floor, and performing all the strange things he does. That’s Big E out there, right?”
Sabers recalls receiving a text from Ewen inviting him to attend the WWE Slammy Awards in Philadelphia. That night, Big E made his WWE debut, assaulting John Cena with his signature finisher, the Big Ending.
“John Cena is the king of the mountain,” Sabers stated. “That was the point at which I realized, ‘Wow, I believe this is going to be a major deal for him.’”
Since then, Ewen has established himself as one of WWE’s most known talents. Big E breaks bench-press records and executes the splits. Fortunately for Ewen, his physique, which failed him frequently as an Iowa football player, has performed well in the ring.
Ferentz said, “It’s amazing that he’s been able to do anything physical.”
Ferentz, who remembers Ewen as a “wonderful young kid,” is ecstatic to see the former Hawkeye succeed on such a large scale.
Ferentz stated, “He’s probably more famous than any of our NFL [players].”
Ewen’s WWE travels have taken him to Iowa multiple times, but this month’s visit was particularly memorable. He instructed the vehicle service transporting him around town to take him to Pancheros, a student hangout where he and Sabers pounded burritos, as soon as he arrived.
Sabers, who hosted Ewen for the weekend, saw his buddy stop for every signature and photo request, as well as converse with tailgaters.
Ettore Ewen made a spectacular comeback to Iowa City. Big E, who now represents WWE as its global champion, relished the chance to energize the crowd at Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium. Hawkeyesports.com/Brian Ray
Sabers said, “He’s a celebrity.” “It almost makes me cry to see this person who has gone through so much, and look at how much pleasure he’s enjoying today.” You speak of reaching rock bottom, of being as low as you could have imagined your life going, and now of being as high as you could have imagined.
“I’m really proud of him and delighted for him. It’s a fantastic idea.”
Returning to Iowa City brought back memories of a young guy who was resigned to being miserable, not doing important work or finding genuine fulfillment, and “sort of meandering through life,” but he also developed a newfound appreciation for the chances that had been offered to him along the way.
“Just because your first desire gets taken away from you doesn’t mean your life is finished,” he said. “I never would have anticipated coming back to Iowa after all of my operations and football being over, and being able to walk out in front of the student section at Kinnick.”
“I just want to let people who are suffering know that just because one chapter of your life is finished doesn’t mean you won’t be able to discover another amazing, beautiful, and rewarding one.”
The “wwe wrestler comes out” is a story about how Ettore used to live in Iowa City and then became a WWE wrestler. He then went back to Iowa City and now works at the University of Iowa.
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