By Chuck Carroll
Chris Jericho has a best friend. His name is Kevin Owens. Big E has a best friend, too. I’m not sure his name is Adam Gettis. In fact, he may not even be in the top 10, or even top 20 for that matter. But they do know each other. In fact, their friendship — no matter where it ranks — extends back to college where they both played football at the University of Iowa.
Gettis went on to play guard in the NFL, currently for the New York Giants, while Big E became one-third of your two-time WWE World Tag Team Champions The New Day.
I caught up with Gettis in between lifting sessions at the Giants training facility. His passion for pro wrestling is well known in locker rooms around the league. I first learned of his fandom when he was in Washington and I was covering the Redskins. Our mutual affinity for WWE helped us forge an immediate bond. Whether or not I’m among his 20 best friends is debatable, but we do share the occasional text during pay-per-views.
His thoughts on the world of pro wrestling are as unique as the characters in the ring. And there’s a decent chance he tries to follow in his friend’s footsteps and become a wrestler himself. But his WrestleMania moment will have to wait until he’s done laying the smackdown on the gridiron.
Gettis was kind enough to give us a glimpse into the WWE’s popularity among NFL players. It’s no surprise that it’s bigger than you might think. What is a surprise is the revelation that Big E taught an Olympic sport in college that’s about as far away from football as you can get. No, it’s not rhythmic gymnastics.
Were you surprised to see Big E wind up in the WWE?
No. He definitely had an interest [when we played football together at Iowa]. It used to be me, Mike Daniels and Big E. We would talk wrestling all the time. He was an animated guy. He had an idea that he wanted to be in WWE. You see him on TV… he’s just a monster. He’s benching 650 pounds and squatting 700 pounds. He’s just a monster in the ring, and he’s always been that way.
How close is the Big E character to the real Ettore Ewen outside the ring?
When he’s around other people, he’s pretty cooled down and a little reserved. But when he’s with his buddies, he’s the same way he is on TV. Just a fun-loving guy who likes to have a great time.
And here’s a fun fact. He was actually a teaching assistant for one of the gym classes I took at Iowa. That’s something about him that nobody probably knows. He taught badminton. That’s just Big E for you.
Wait! Did you say Big E was a badminton teacher?
Yeah! He was a teacher’s assistant for sports classes. I think he did badminton, volleyball and a couple other sports. You’re going to have to fact-check me on that one, but I know he was my T.A. for a bit.
Was he any good at badminton?
Not at all! He taught it well. He gave a couple quizzes here and there. He played it with us a little bit, but I don’t think he’s Olympic material.
The New Day are more than a year into their tag team title run. Are you surprised it has lasted this long?
Yeah, 400-plus days. I definitely thought they were going to lose at Clash of Champions. I thought they were going to lose at 399 days. But they got the momentum going, so why not ride the wave? I think that’s what they’re going for at this point.
How long do you think the run will last?
That’s a good question. If anything maybe January for the Royal Rumble. I don’t think they’ll hold it all the way until WrestleMania.
Give us your thoughts on the brand split. Thumbs up or thumbs down so far?
I’m all for it. Thumbs up. They’re giving SmackDown more ratings on Tuesday, and they’ve given the show some big names which helps the brand. My favorite part about the brand split so far is that Heath Slater has a championship. Who would have thought?!
That’s what I love about the brand split. It gives other wrestlers an opportunity to get over with the crowd.
Do you think WWE made the decision to make SmackDown live on Tuesdays when they’re not running against the NFL?
I think so. Me personally, I don’t even watch Monday Night Football anymore. I’m tuned in on RAW. I tape it and watch it again, too. From what I saw, I guess WWE has more followers watching wrestling and tweeting about it than football. So, I think it’s working.
How many WWE fans are there in the Giants locker room?
I think there’s one more, Kerry Wynn. Anytime there’s an event in the city, he always asks me to hit him up. We’ll go to the Prudential Center or Madison Square Garden to check them out. My other buddies, they’re not on the team anymore, but George Selvie used to be a huge wrestling fan. I’m sad that we lost him.
I find that hard to believe. Only two players out of the 61 in the locker room are wrestling fans? There has to be a lot of closeted fans.
I agree 100 percent. Every time I start talking about wrestling, everybody wants to jump in and give their two cents. It’s like they used to like wrestling back in the day during the Attitude Era. All of the sudden you’ll hear a couple people talking about Roman Reigns here and there. I’m like, “you probably watch wrestling now. You just don’t want to say it.” I know some guys are real real big closet wrestling fans.
What about around the rest of the league?
I’ve been with a few teams and I feel like the consensus is probably four or five guys per team. When I was with the Steelers anytime WWE had an event in Pittsburgh 10 or 11 guys would go every time. They loved it. They won’t tell you they loved it, but they loved it. Washington had a couple guys, here we’ve got a couple guys. It’s probably four or five guys that keep up with it and aren’t afraid to talk about it in the locker room.
What players should WWE be scouting for a future in the ring? Victor Cruz maybe?
(laughs) Nah. I’m going to go with big John Jerry. I know Mark Henry is probably going to retire pretty soon, and they need another big man other than Cass. Big Show is probably going to retire soon too. They need some more big men going into WWE, and John is 6 foot 6, 345 pounds and can move like a cat.
Does he have the personality to match?
Oh, yeah. He’s hilarious. He’s got that New Day thing mixed with Enzo and Cass type of personality. He’s a big personality.
What’s the best angle WWE has going right now?
I gotta go with the Canadian Connection — Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens. They’re great on the mic together. The segment they had this week with Big Cass and Enzo is the biggest they have going right now. It’s awesome.
Give me your earliest prediction for the WrestleMania main event.
I’m going to go on a limb here and say Big Cass gets a big push going into the new year. I’m pretty sure the company loves him. They’re waiting for him to get another singles run. He’ll get one, and then it’ll be Big Cass versus K.O. at WrestleMania. I just have a feeling about it. I don’t know what it is, but I think it’s coming.
Interesting, but what does that mean for Enzo?
That’s the thing. Does he get a singles run in the cruiserweight division? I don’t know. He’s a talker, but Big Cass can hold his own. So, I’m not sure. [I think if he went there] the personality would die down a little, but I can’t see him doing anything else on RAW unless they try to give him a little push at one of the titles.
Chuck Carroll is former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented Robert Griffin III with a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.