wrestling / Columns

EC3 on His Reinvention After WWE, Developing His Own Projects, Facing Flip Gordon at ROH Best in the World

July 11, 2021 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris

EC3 is now controlling his narrative. Since his release from WWE in April of 2020, the former TNA World Heavyweight champion and WWE 24/7 champion has reinvented himself as the “Essential Character,” who is laser focused on controlling his narrative and story. He recently launched his own feature wrestling project, the Free the Narrative event, which recently premiered on FITE TV and is available to buy now.

Now, EC3 is scheduled to face Flip Gordon in a singles match this weekend at Ring of Honor’s Best in the World pay-per-view event. The show will be ROH’s first event in front of live fans in over a year since the start of the pandemic. EC3 recently joined the 411 Wrestling Interviews podcast to talk about his upcoming matchup, the return of live fans ROH Wrestling, developing his own projects such as Free the Narrative, and a lot more. Here is what EC3 had to say, since he destroyed his old self and became reborn in order to control his own story:

Jeffrey Harris: How does it feel to help usher in fans back to Ring of Honor for the first time in almost a year and a half at Best in the World:

EC3: It feels fantastic. It feels fantastic to be able perform, to execute, to feel the adrenaline and feel the rush and energy of a live audience. I’ve been waiting and waiting for July 11. Ring of Honor has been putting out such a consistently good product that the only thing that was missing was fan reaction, feeling it, knowing it, deriving from it, so it’s very exciting. July 11, we’re back in front of the fans. It feels good. I don’t know if I’ll be personally ushering them in. I’ll be busy, but they will be ushered in, and they will be paying to see me of course too, so that’s a good thing.

Jeffrey Harris: After signing your contract with ROH a few months ago, does this feel like the light is at the end of the tunnel that fans are coming back because for a long time in wrestling, it’s been limited capacities, or you haven’t been able to have fan connection at events?

EC3: Yeah. I mean there were some good and bad that came out of how to create and perform professional wrestling out of this. You mentioned limited capacity and things of that nature, that’s what inspired creating my own narrative and experimenting with that, but as far as the light at the end of the tunnel with Ring of Honor, signing with them was very much a long-term decision because I knew at the time were in what we were in. And it was tough not knowing the landscape because the landscape of the world constantly changed, so to make a commitment, it’s speculative, but I knew and had faith that this day would come. I’m very happy it has. I’m very happy they have opened the doors. Personally, I would’ve opened them six months ago, but that’s just me and I’m a conspiracy theorist. So, we’re good.

Jeffrey Harris: What do you think of your matchup with Flip Gordon?

EC3: Flip Gordon has undergone an evolution unto himself. I used him for nefarious means in my buildup to my match, my excellent match, at Ring of Honor 19th Anniversary with Jay Briscoe, where I did find out that honor is real. It was means to an end. I didn’t really know him, nor do I care for him. I have followed his career. He’s controlling his narrative in a sense. I respect the fact he’s disregarding the flash, and he’s, you know, doing things for himself. Cheating to win is one thing, and then in Ring of Honor, it’s not necessarily the way to do things. So, I’m very curious about this match. I’m very curious what would’ve built up to this match if I wasn’t stricken with a nearly deadly infection in the buildup to the match, but there is no hatred, there is no animosity with Flip Gordon. Nor is there any like or any love. Flip Gordon is a man coming into his own. [He] will be there somebody, but it will not be at the expense of myself. I feel with Flip Gordon, he has a lot to learn. Being involved with me, he’s going to learn it all.

Jeffrey Harris: I think the wrestling business is a business that thrives on rebirth and reinvention. I do not think you are a person that rests on his laurels. In 2020, you took the reins of your career, you took control back to essentially control you narrative. You took the reins back on your story. But what do you think about the business thriving on reinvention and rebirth?

EC3: Reinvention is utterly one of the most important things that somebody can do, and a testament to that would be The Undertaker for one. Not to compare myself and him at all, but I appreciate that because I definitely took it upon myself to control your narrative. Control Your Narrative is to tell your story. And all throughout wrestling, I see these individuals who I know their true story, but what’s portrayed on television via booking committees and creative teams and one man’s opinion, I never get to see their true selves and their true stories told. So Control Your Narrative was a self-created experiment on myself to derive from my reality, my purpose, to take back control, to have the freedom to be myself and run with it. It’s interesting that — it’s artistically very satisfying as far as reaching a broad audience. When it’s under a three-letter corporate brand, it’s hard to reach the vast wrestling audience because it’s only on your social [media accounts]. So fortunately, Ring of Honor has allowed me to control my narrative. My brief run at Impact, I was able to control most of my narrative, and I was able to kind of establish this character. But at the same time, people who are tied to past, harken to the past. I still don’t know what I’m doing and what I’m fighting for, and that’s a big thing with Free the Narrative, Control Your Narrative. It’s not only to tell my story but to tell the story of so many people I’ve met who deserve that Opportunity. And hopefully, through this grassroots campaign, and this completely independent production and style, we can tell stories to wrestling fans about wrestlers they deserve to know.

Jeffrey Harris: When we saw the start of the emergence of this movement, the pandemic was setting in. It was a very uncertain and unprecedented time in the world. And I think it was a stroke of brilliance that you started mixing in words like “Essential” because “essential” was sort of becoming a very relevant word at that point. Where was the inspiration or stroke of brilliance to use that word “essential” as part of this movement?

EC3: Yeah, I think as we evolve, you evolve your handle and your name. Ethan Carter III in TNA, to the top 1% EC3 in WWE, whatever that was, to the Essential Character; it’s just seeing what’s relevant, what’s taking place in the world and applying it. So, the word “narrative” has been repeated by both sides of the corporate media structure that lie to us every day: “Narrative. Narrative. Narrative.” It kept pounding, but narrative is a story. They’re telling us a story. I want to tell you *my* story. Essential. I think essential came based on the fact that Florida opened wrestling as an “essential” business. Also, the fact that so many people in the world were losing their jobs because of the economy, because of the pandemic, and some were deemed “not essential,” which you deem a human being not essential, you take away their identity. I was deemed “not essential” by my corporate employer, but I believe I am essential. If I don’t believe I am essential, then nobody’s going to believe I’m essential. So, just using what’s relevant, putting my spin on it, being creative, and you know, it sells t-shirts. It’s cool.

Jeffrey Harris: On April 15, you were released by WWE. One year later to the day, WWE released another group of talents on the same day as you. Do you find that strange or ironic at all?

EC3: Strange and ironic because one thing happened. Sense and serendipity are another thing. There is a saying that everything happens for a reason or that everything’s connected, or any other crazy, bull**** quotes you can see on Instagram. The timing was very interesting. The timing was very interesting for the Free the Narrative project especially because I met with Matthew Cardona on April 15, 2021 to have a sitdown on this longstanding blood feud that would be settled in Free the Narrative. On that same day, the releases came out after we had our discussion, after our discussion was released to the world. It ties together, and that group of people, a lot of people have been coming, knocking on my door, seeking to control their narrative. And I guess I was a martyr, or a leader, or at least formulated an idea. That idea has grown beyond me as a person. That idea has grown that so many more talents know their worth, their ability to tell their story, know their talent, and know their value. It happened for a reason. I don’t know what that reason is. I’m not one to say how anyone should do their business, so so be it, so be it, World Wrestling Entertainment, but a lot of good people can truly find themselves outside that umbrella.

Jeffrey Harris: Tell me about the expansion of the Free the Narrative brand with the event, and would you like to do more events with the brand? And tell me about the movie project.

EC3: I wouldn’t call it a movie per se. There was a wise, sometimes crazy, old man who once said, “We’re makin’ movies, pal!” But are we truly making movies? I don’t know that. I’ll consider it a feature. The Free the Narrative feature was something that I wanted to try. I wanted to attempt to do something different, creative, but kind of push forward what I could see coming out of wrestling. Wrestling at its core is storytelling. I really wanted to focus on stories. It’s not just mine. It’s not just Matt Cardona’s. It’s everybody that was involved in it, wanting to give them a platform to tell their story. And we had a soft release on Vimeo. Like it was a close to the heart edited project from myself, my partner JC, who subs as a narrator, put countless hours into creating something different, shooting wrestling in a different way. And through the pandemic, wrestling found itself doing “cinematic matches” per se, and I believe those totally jumped the shark as far as the movie s***, the breaking of reality, cinematic matches I don’t think have a ton of appeal. But real professional wrestling shot cinematically I think has a ton of appeal. Real stories told cinematically has a lot of appeal. So, that’s the Free the Narrative project.

I’m very happy to partner with FITE TV to bring this to a bigger platform because like I said, creating your own thing, you’re limited to your social media, and that’s a very small bubble. But with FITE’s platform behind it, they’re interested in the project. We can definitely continue to grow, bring this to more people, get feedback, constructive criticism, good feedback, bad feedback, indifferent feedback, I want it all. I want to see what the wrestling world thinks of something different. They beg, they beg online, every time I’m online, for something different and unique, so hopefully this fills that void. As far as another project, launching this on FITE TV, you’ll see a brand-new ending that is leading to what is coming next, and I assure you, it’s huge.

Jeffrey Harris: Sometimes I think that wrestling fans can have a very rigid view on what wrestling should be. But I think right now, much like wrestling thrives on reinvention, the business should be experimenting and trying new things. But what do you think about experimentation and trying something different?

EC3: I think if you do the same thing, you always get what you always have. And I can rest on my laurels. I’ve been very successful. I have a great position with Ring of Honor. I’m very happy there, or I can take my extra time involved in what I’m most passionate about, professional wrestling storytelling, athleticism, fitness and these things, and hopefully build upon them and do something interesting and unique. What’s interesting about the Free the Narrative project is that wrestling fans that have seen it and came back at it seemed to definitely enjoy it, but it definitely played to people who are not necessarily wrestling fans on a different level, which I found very unique. And I think wrestling is for everybody, but I think wrestling has lost focus on appealing to the masses because vocally the wrestling fans are controlling the narrative so to speak. So away goes some of the things that draw mainstream appeal as far as storytelling and things of that nature. So trying to push that forward, it’s a risk. If it fails, I fail very greatly. If it succeeds, we change the game. Either way, you win. Either way, you learn, and either way, you’re controlling your narrative.

Jeffrey Harris: After you beat Flip Gordon, is it time to start pursuing the ROH World title, the Pure title or TV title? Or is not really about titles right now and just controlling the narrative and your story?

EC3: Two-pronged attack. Obviously, working for a company, you want to prove you’re the best. At Best in the World, that’s a great forum for it, to be the best, you should be the champion, or you should be fighting to become the champion because if you’re not, what the hell are you there for? The Ring of Honor World title is especially — it’s in my purview, it is in my sights, and it wasn’t something I was so concentrated on initially arriving into Ring of Honor because when I arrived in Ring of Honor, my purpose was to see if honor is even real in professional wrestling anymore. My match with Jay Briscoe, he proved to me that honor is real. Knowing that honor is real, honor is worth fighting for, and honor is in the World Heavyweight Title. So that is definitely, definitely something I would look forward to. In hindsight, though, with what I’ve created of myself, wins, losses, sometimes you have to sacrifice yourself to tell the better story, perhaps like I did with Moose last year at Bound for Glory. To create the man I see him becoming, I had to sacrifice my legacy in Impact to him, so he could take that next step. Whether he did or not, I don’t know. We revisit that subject in Free the Narrative on FITE TV. So yeah, I’m good. I’m ***king crazy! I got all sorts of s*** going on!

Jeffrey Harris: One thing we’ve also seen during the pandemic is certain companies being able to work with each other and have these sort of comic book-like crossovers. Some people have called it crossing over the forbidden door. What do you think about crossing over the thresholds of forbidden doors, and do you have any sort of attitude about crossing over forbidden door thresholds?

EC3: In Free the Narrative, there is no forbidden door. There’s a forbidden door, and it’s busted open because Free the Narrative contains people from all different brands from an MLW, to AEW, to Impact, to independents. So, we do not have foresee the forbidden door being an issue in Free the Narrative because it’s not about your wins and losses. It’s about creating and finding yourself. As far as Ring of Honor, and what’s taking place with Impact and AEW, when you mention crossovers, you have to totally look at what is the most successful film franchise of all time, that’s the Marvel series, the amount of crossovers in Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, however they cross over, that’s great fan service and fans want fan service. Wrestling fans know that other companies exist. Wrestling fans know that this person works here, and this person works here. We may never see it. To build something, to anticipate something that you may only see once I think is a great opportunity for every wrestling company to take. So, the door should no longer be forbidden. The door should be busted wide open, and I think it has been.

Jeffrey Harris: What were your thoughts on getting to have your short-lived WWE 24/7 storyline with Drake Maverick in WWE?

EC3: I don’t think it’s any secret in reality that Drake, aka Spud, is one of my best friends in the entire world. I think that’s public knowledge, and if it’s not, that’s an open admission. He’s a man — he’s one of the most talented and smart to this industry I have ever worked with. And when his career is over, if he’s not in a position where he’s controlling narratives of creative and things of that nature, bringing people along, teaching them how to do this the right way, that would be a huge disappointment to me because that man knows so much; [he] lives, breathes this, and he does it the right way. Unfortunately, his partner [Killian Dain] was released. He’s kind of in a lost space, but no matter what happens, he has my faith, he has my support, he has my friendship. And he knows my door is always.

Jeffrey Harris: Will you be part of the ROH Glory by Honor tour in Philadelphia in August?

EC3: Yes, I will be storming into the former ECW Arena gun blazing, jacked, tan, ready to continue building the legacy that building has built. I’ve been there once. I got 6-1-9’ed by Rey Mysterio. That building is electric. That building is magnetic. I’m very much looking forward to that. I’m very much looking forward to what we can do in there in front of those fans.

Jeffrey Harris: A few months ago, you were hospitalized due to that infection. How are you feeling right now, and how was the recovery process? Was that a scary time for you at all?

EC3: It was scary in the sense that I’d been going so hard, working so hard on so many different things, whether it’s my professional wrestling employment, my projects with the Narrative, whether it’s fitness and creating the fitness and nutrition app, running a print shop in Orlando, I even print my own merch, FreeEC3.com. But was it scary? I almost put myself in that position by over-exhaustion and overwork. I suffered a pretty bad infection. I let it kind of linger. I didn’t really know what was happening. It took a while to figure out. I lost some momentum and some mojo, but with difficulties and setbacks like that, you improve yourself and find yourself moving forward. So at this point, in this juncture, walking into Best in the World, I have been training my ass off to become something relentless and destructive; something more powerful than I ever have been. So, scary? I kind of needed a break, and it was nice to get away from people. But at the same time, absolutely not what I wanted to happen. It did happen. I dealt with it, and I would say, that which does not kill you makes you stronger. That which should kill you makes you impossible to beat. I just thought of that quote. That was pretty good.

Jeffrey Harris: Have you been into anymore Tar-jays [Target] and found anymore figurines that have been thrown in the trash?

EC3: I happen to go a Tar-jay once a week. Tar-jay believe it or not, due to the pandemic, my usual haunts for picking up possible suitors of the female persuasion I’ve lost by people staying away from public places. And I don’t party anymore, so bar maids are out. But Target? Pretty decent. You can get a good look in someone’s eyes, if they’re still wearing a face mask, know if they are cute or not. But I haven’t seen any of my action figures that deserved immediate destruction of the past. But I do see a lot of action figures for people who I should think control their narrative. The other day I saw a Buddy Murphy action figure. Every time I walk in there, I see a lot of Braun Strowman’s face all over the packaging. There’s a lot of narratives that can be controlled. There’s a lot of pasts that could be destroyed.

Jeffrey Harris: When fans see you in Baltimore, Maryland, they are going to learn some uncomfortable truths about controlling the narrative and taking control of their narrative. That knowledge, it might cause some people to be driven insane, or their eyeballs might blow out of their proverbial sockets. Do you have any advice to those fans, who once they see you, their world views will be upended. How will they get a better control over themselves and their own narratives?

EC3: Well, I don’t believe the Narrative is like the ark from Indiana Jones, so I don’t think it’s necessarily going to make their heads explode and eyes pop out, but what I am and who I am is authentically myself. And sometimes speaking your truth will make people uncomfortable, and that’s OK. The freedom to speak, the freedom to act, the freedom to feel doesn’t necessitate don’t feel uncomfortable, but they can discuss it. They can learn from it. They can learn from each other. A lot of times, I’ll have uncomfortable conversations with people Hopefully through them, they can see themselves; the betterment of themselves because facetious conversations and lies, like what’s the point? Sometimes you have to face what you fear the most. What you fear the most is a projection of yourself. So, yeah, eyes will bug. Heads will explode. It will be like, “Dude, this guy is jacked as hell. What is Project Narrative Fitness app? How can you get it?” But at the same time, if the words I say, my actions, my thoughts inspire people to think for themselves or to think differently, I welcome that. Break the hive mind. Be authentically who you are, whoever that may be. Through that, you’ll take back control, you’ll have freedom and find your purpose.

Thank you to EC3 for taking the to speak with us. Fans can buy the Free the Narrative feature event on FITE TV with a special alternate ending. You can check out his merchandise store at FreeEC3.com. He’s also launched a new #ProjectNarrative fitness program and nutrition app. More details are available HERE.

And if you’re enjoying all of our recent interviews with names like Dark Side of the Ring producer Evan Husney, Rob Van Dam, Eva Marie, Alexander Hammerstone, Gino Medina, and The Miz and want to support us getting more interviews with big names in wrestling, please leave us a 5 star review on Apple Podcasts, it only takes a few seconds to do and really helps us out!

If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit the 411 Wrestling Interview Podcast on 411mania.com and please embed our podcast player or YouTube video.

0:00: Intro
1:15: On helping usher fans back in to ROH at Best in the World
3:59: On his matchup with Flip Gordon at the PPV
5:22: On reinventing himself in 2020 after his WWE release
7:43: On turning “essential” into a catchphrase as the word became relevant during the pandemic
9:50: On WWE releasing talent in April, a year after the initial pandemic releases
12:01: On the expansion and future of of the Free the Narrative brand
14:40: On the importance of experimentation and trying new things in wrestling
16:47: On if he will chase the ROH Pure or World Titles after he’s done with Flip Gordon
18:41: On the rise of companies working together for crossovers
20:32: On his short-lived WWE 24/7 storyline with Drake Maverick
21:40: On whether he’ll be part of the ROH Glory by Honor tour
22:17: On being hospitalized earlier this year due to an infection
26:38: How fans can a better control over themselves and their own narratives
29:53: Where to find him online
33:03: Outro

You can subscribe and listen to the 411 Wrestling Interviews Podcast via the above player on Transistor, or on the following platforms:
* Apple Podcasts
* Spotify
* Stitcher
* Google Play