Ethan Carter III — EC3 — for short has ventured into uncharted waters lately on TNA Impact Wrestling.
The former world champion has made the transition from despised villain to fan favorite in a matter of weeks. Despite the different response from the audience, the root of the EC3 character hasn’t changed much.
The progression has been organic with the performer earning the audience’s respect in his recent battles with current TNA champ Matt Hardy. The two will battle for the title in a “six sides of steel” match, headlining a stacked card of caged action during the Lockdown edition of Impact Wrestling Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 9/8CT on Pop TV.
“Whether you are an antagonist or a protagonist, I think the most important thing is to remain true to who you are and what got you to where you are,” Carter said.
“So if I was to be this glad-handing, pandering, white-meat good guy, I think I would be rejected. The reason I’m in this position is because the fans started to relate to me and kind of cheered for me. I think that’s because, as the antagonist, I was never saying ‘you people all suck.’ I was just kind of this real big jerk to people they liked. So now that has kind of shifted. Now I am I jerk to people they don’t like, and they like me for it. I think it’s cool, unique and what a 2016 babyface character should be — or what I want to portray.”
EC3 has been a success since he arrived on the scene as TNA president Dixie Carter’s onscreen nephew. Even though he was the top heel in the company, the star wasn’t apprehensive of turning sides.
“I had no trepidation about it because I always thought that for me and my work, I’m better in that role,” Carter said. “Now that the shoe is on the other foot, I feel like the hard work isn’t over, but it will be a bit more fun in this role. So I’m looking forward to it. The only real trepidation I had was for the initial reaction. When I came back in Manchester [England], I think they did a great job throughout the show making sure the fans understood what was going on in case they missed the television because it didn’t air prior in the UK. It caught them up to what was going on. It’s been great ever since.”
The company has done a solid job thus far in building the rivalry between EC3 and Matt Hardy, who has also gone through a character shift. A big moment for Carter was a promo he cut before returning to television for the first time after losing the gold to Hardy. Everything from the verbiage to the mannerisms was effective. Carter’s work generated compliments from fans and colleagues alike.
“I was very happy with the promo,” he said. “It was very important to kick this all off right. Whether heel or face, what fans relate to is what your motivation is. So if you tell them who you are and what you’re about, they can see that. My whole time it was me wanting to be the best. My mindset was I have never been unbeatable, but I just wanted it the most. I think anyone who has ever chased anything in their life or wanted anything in life can relate to someone who would do whatever it takes to be the very best at what they want to do. It was a cool experience. I wrote a bunch of notes down on a piece of paper. It looked like crazy math problems to the naked eye, but I put a lot of thought into it. It was well executed. I’m very happy with it.”
The student of the game studies many of the greatest heroes and antiheroes of professional wrestling. This includes names such as “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Rock, Hulk Hogan, “Mach Man” Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat. Another top figure the 32-year-old looks to as a positive example to follow is John Cena. During his lengthy stint within WWE developmental, Carter got a birds-eye view of him in action.
“He has a realistic mind and has had a great career,” Carter said.
“He is very giving with knowledge with things that can work. Seeing the way he does things and his work ethic, the way he portrays himself is something I likened. As far as being the best me possible, EC3 can do EC3 regardless if you boo or cheer. But I’m going to do it my way and hopefully it catches on. Hopefully, I can find a way to maintain the character’s integrity while portraying this and it all works out. I have all the faith in the world I can do it. So let’s rock ‘n’ roll and let the chips fall where they may.”
Since 2013, EC3 has thrived in an environment where he can be hands-on when it comes to developing his character. Carter has enjoyed the collaborative effort.
“The fears of holding back kind of fade away,” he said. “I don’t want to say there is the creative freedom to the extent I can do whatever I want. But I can do what I feel is right within the confines of what direction the writers want to go in. It’s pretty much worked out for me the whole time. As long as you do it with the mindset that it’s the best for the business and not just the persona. You try to keep everyone included with what you’re doing. I think it’s great to have that creative freedom or ability to develop, which has helped me in two years craft this interesting character that is beyond ‘boo this man’ or ‘cheer this man.’ There is a deeper connection to it.”
During Carter’s TNA career he has already worked with industry icons including Sting and Kurt Angle, as well as Jeff Hardy. His latest rival Matt Hardy is another who lending a hand in taking EC3 to the next level.
“Working with Matt Hardy has been a really great experience,” Carter said.
“Onscreen I despise him obviously, but he has been around the business for a very long time. He is very accomplished. If you’re not picking that brain and soaking it all in, you’re doing your job wrong and don’t want to get better. So having a veteran like that to work with has been a great help. However, what is cool with what Matt’s doing is as much as he wants to help, he still has miles left. He still wants to run with it and reinvent himself. Even when he came back and was the Matt Hardy we know, deep down, he wanted to reinvigorate his character. Now that opportunity has come to do it. He has been excellent in the role. Seeing a guy who has been in this business for so long still hungry to succeed and change is refreshing. He is a great model of excellence to follow.”
EC3’s ascension came at a challenging time for TNA as a whole. These days they are in a rebuilding period looking to grow their audience. Carter is proud to be at the forefront of this endeavor.
“Weird in two years I go from the young, fresh face to the old guy,” Carter said. “It’s great to see what is going on today because through TNA, there have been a lot regime changes and changes to the landscape. I got through 2013 with this new direction being conceived. They always planned for the future. Sometimes you have to take a few steps back to take a few steps forward. I was very fortunate to be that first guy to be developed in this new era and was given the ball so to speak.
“Now watching other guys coming up, these guys are at least as hungry as I was and still am to this day,” he continues. “It’s great to see when opportunities pay off. A guy like Crazzy Steve pitched an idea, and I’ve been in places where you can pitch an idea and it may never see the light of day or the idea can be used for someone else. It has come about and taken off. He has completely reinvented himself.
“A guy who went from basic enhancement talent to a guy who is heavily featured, I think it’s awesome to see. We also have guys like Mike Bennett coming in hungry. We have a guy like Eli Drake who is emerging. Drew Galloway is always busting his ass to be the best. I think it’s the wave of the future. Gone are the days where names are the draws for the shows. Today the brand kind of draws the audience. We have to reinvigorate the brand and take away the supposed cloud that was over us. It’s been gone. These guys are hungry, busting their ass and taking the opportunities and running with them.”
Carter is grateful to TNA for affording him the chance to pursue his passion. They believed in his abilities and made him the focal point on television. It’s a responsibility EC3 didn’t take lightly.
“I put a lot of effort in what I do,” Carter said. “A lot of guys do the same and it may not get the same respect because I feel a lot of times once a mentality is formed it’s followed by a very vocal fan base that really don’t make up their own mind. If that’s the case, so be it. You can’t really change that. You can only do what you can do with what you have. I did what I could. I had a great year. It was probably the best year of my life in wrestling and in general. We are moving on to Pop TV. Since we’ve been there it’s been good, solid. Characters are developing to what I as a fan like to see in wrestling. So I am very happy with what we are doing. So if we had to take a few steps back to take more steps forward, going through it all was definitely worth it.”
Along with being in the business, EC3 has never lost sight of being a fan of pro wrestling. He stays on the pulse of what is going on in other companies and tries to visualize how TNA can stand out in the competitive marketplace.
“There are shows that have great elements attached to them,” Carter said.
“Lucha Underground’s production is incredible. They have great characters. It’s almost as if they are less of a wrestling show and more of an overall television show. That is cool to see something completely different, and I respect that. NXT has great talent and a product with a rabid fan base.
“What we have to do is do the best we can with what we have and what we are. I think we have a mix of all different landscapes. Like a WWE Raw, we have a flagship show. We have seasoned veterans and names that have been successful for a very long time. We have guys who are coming up. We have interesting production components we are incorporating. We have great matches. So I think having all those things can help provide not only an alternative, but an alternative worth watching. I think as long as we focus on continuing to develop characters and telling logical stories and not doing ratings grabbing things. Numbers will go up and down, but they will go up, up and up as long as we stay the course.”
Consistency is no doubt the key to a winning product. That includes maintaining a roster of regulars. EC3 has no plans of hanging up the TNA jersey any time soon.
“What does the future holds? I don’t know what the future holds, but I don’t see any reason why I would be in a rush to go anywhere else,” Carter said.
“TNA has provided me the opportunity of a lifetime to show the wrestling world what I can do and can be. My goal is as long as I’m here is to build this brand and do the best I can any chance I can. Anytime I have a microphone, any time I lace up the boots and am in the ring I want to do better than the last day. I have a lot of things I want to accomplish, but the main goal is where I’m at right now, which is TNA. I want to bring this brand where it should be.”
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Photos Courtesy: TNA Entertainment