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'Every Time The Red light Is On, I Feel So Immersed in My Craft': Big E Shines in WWE’s 'Extreme Rules'

Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
 23 days ago

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Plus, the Usos retained the SmackDown tag titles, Charlotte Flair defended her Raw women’s title and Roman Reigns closed the show against Finn Bálor.

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WWE’s Extreme Rules opened with The New Day defeating the team of Bobby Lashley, AJ Styles and Omos. Following a Big Ending, Big E scored the pin on Lashley for the win, delivering an exciting performance in his first pay-per-view as WWE champion.

For Big E, it was critical that he ignite his inaugural world title reign alongside New Day partners Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods.

“I know as champion that I have to assert myself as a singles competitor, but we got to (do) this dance together,” said E. “Even though our match was kind of impromptu and set up on the kickoff, it’s meaningful to me to go out there with two guys that I genuinely love being in the ring with—and I’m glad we were able to go out there and tear it up.

“And I’m so humbled and appreciative that people are so genuinely behind us as a trio. We still have so much to offer, and I have high hopes for all three of us. I’m pounding the King of the Ring drum for Woods, which is another chance to show how good he is.”

The six-man tag was an exciting way to open Extreme Rules , and showed the benefit of The New Day working together. With WWE’s upcoming talent dispersal draft beginning on October 1, Big E noted his preference is to remain on the same show as Kingston and Woods.

“Our time apart was good in the sense that I got an opportunity to mature as a performer, but now I want to take those lessons I learned, specifically the character tweaks, and use those as a collective,” said E. “As a trio, we have so many different ways to go. I also like the idea of hitting that Wale music and going out there alone to defend my title solo. There is no leader in this group–we all have goals, and we’re all pursuing our dreams.”

An opponent that would make a captivating matchup for Big E is Styles. Not only is he a former WWE champion, he would bring a wealth of experience from his time headlining shows around the globe. E and Styles had a one-on-one sequence near the end of their Extreme Rules match, and the champ would relish a chance to work an entire program with the phenomenally talented Styles.

“I can’t say yes to that idea any stronger or louder,” said E. “Styles is a pioneer. I have so much respect for what he’s done throughout his career. If his whole career stopped before he got to WWE, he still would have been one of the best of this generation. The fact that he was able to do everything he did outside of here, and then come here and keep cooking, it’s amazing. I have so much respect for him as a performer. We’ve had a few interactions, and we had a couple matches with Y2AJ [Styles and Chris Jericho] when they were together, but I would love a proper one-on-one program with him. He is ideal—he’s so good, his offense is so believable, and I could fly around him.”

Courtesy WWE

Overall, Extreme Rules was a success for WWE. It included The Usos retaining the SmackDown tag titles against The Street Profits in a match that doubled as another star-making performance for Montez Ford. Charlotte Flair successfully defended her Raw women’s title against Alexa Bliss, and celebrated by ripping up Bliss’ doll Lilly, extending their program. Damian Priest retained the US title in a triple threat against Jeff Hardy and Sheamus, and Sasha Banks returned to interrupt a phenomenal Becky Lynch-Bianca Belair match. The show closed with Roman Reigns benefiting from interference by Jimmy and Jey Uso—and a clunky broken top rope storyline after a Demon “resurrection”—to win an otherwise fantastic match against Finn Bálor.

Big E has had the chance to work with Reigns over the past couple weeks, and though they have many shared experiences from their time together in the company, facing off against Reigns—who is WWE’s Universal champion—was a pivotal learning experience.

“Roman is having one hell of a run,” said E, who has the potential to be the longstanding rival that Reigns so desperately needs. “There is a complete commitment to who he is. I believe every word that comes out of his mouth. I believe every look on his face.

“You want to talk about presence? The way he carries himself is really captivating. It’s been a year, and he hasn’t slowed down at all. Credit to The Usos, too. That whole Bloodline package with Paul Heyman is really clicking. Roman makes these incredible moments, and I’m looking to make some of my own.”

The opportunity to be WWE champion is a coveted spot, one instantly recognizable and desired across the industry. E is ready to meet the moment with the belt around his waist, and he opens Raw later today with a title defense against Lashley.

“Every time the red light is on, I feel so immersed in my craft and so present,” said E. “The whole top shelf has opened up, and I have so many brand-new options and fresh matchups. I’m planning on making this match with Bobby a barn-burner. Our whole history is only two weeks, so it’s still new to me, and I am going to put everything I have into making it special and mean something.”

While Big E opened Extreme Rules , it was Reigns who closed the show. That is a spot that E is seeking to earn during his time as champion, creating stories that belong solely in the main event.

“You know you’re the guy when you’re working on top and closing the show,” said E. “That’s the spot, and you’ve got to put work in to get there. That’s the spot I want. But I’m not going to complain about it—because I know the only way you earn that spot is through your performances.

“I’ve got to go out there on a nightly basis and do my work. Now the work begins, and I’m excited for the opportunity to have great match after great match after great match, and that’s what I plan on doing on Raw against Bobby Lashley.”

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com . Follow him on Twitter @ JustinBarrasso .

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