For the first time since 2014, Big E will embark on a singles run without The New Day by his side. At the 2020 WWE Draft, then-SmackDown Tag Team Champions Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods were drafted over to Monday Night RAW, while the blue brand retained Big E. Speaking on OutKick Live, Big E said that while he is upset he won't have his boys with him, he is grateful for their natural split.
"I can't recall any other faction that was able to break up, to split the way we were," Big E said. "And that's something that meant a lot to us. We always wanted to portray this very real sense of brotherhood, of three guys who genuinely wanted the best for each other. You never had the betrayals, the hitting each other with a chair, the backstabbing. We got to do something unique - we got to be ourselves. And for that, I'm really grateful."
The former Intercontinental Champion says he has a lot of fond memories with The New Day, but one of his favorites is being by Kofi Kingston's side when he finally won his first WWE World Championship.
"We were able to do something really great, you know, with Kofi becoming World Champion," Big E said. "A guy who had been deserving of that opportunity for many years but, you know, a guy like Kofi typically never gets that chance because he's viewed-- he's typically viewed as a guy like, 'Oh, he can go', and we all know he's good. But there's 'a ceiling' to where he can go in pro wrestling, and I'm really proud of the fact that we were able to break through a lot of those glass ceilings."
While it's hard to imagine The New Day as anything short of a success story, Big E recalls their early days when himself and Woods were looked at as guys that were holding Kofi back. According to Big E, a fellow "Big" superstar even approached Kofi about ditching the group.
"I remember there was a conversation with Big Show," Big E said. "In 2014, where Big Show saw where we were, and he said-- he pulled Kofi aside in front of me and Woods and said, 'Kofi, what are you doing with those two idiots?' referring to me and Woods. He essentially said, not even joking around, that this is a sinking ship, you're better than this, you're World Championship material. So I remember Kofi being, and rightfully so, the guy a ton of people had a lot of respect for, a guy that Big Show clearly thought was better than being saddled with this group.
"I know that the three of us really just believed in ourselves as a collective, as a unit. We decided that we're not going to let anyone sway us. We call those people wedge-drivers. And that's the one thing I love - I really trust Kofi and Woods. There was never any point, I thought, that they were going to go behind my back and pitch to break us up."
Unlike many factions, The New Day genuinely operated as three equals. While some factions have claimed to run leaderless, not many can rightfully claim they operated without one man truly leading the pack. Big E says their equal mentality is one main reason why they stayed so fresh for so long.
"There was never an attempt by any of the three of us to say, 'I'm the leader. I'm going to be above the two of you,'" Big E said. "What I think allowed us so much success is we have this like, revolving door of guys. Like, sometimes I realized I needed to step back because this was Woods's moment to shine, or this was Kofi's moment to shine. We had to take a step back and let the others shine so the group could continue to grow, continue to stay interesting. I think groups grow stale, tend to grow stale, when it's always about one guy and the other two are clearly just the minions."
Since his singles run started earlier this year, many have penciled Big E in as a future World Champion. According to E, SmackDown's top prize is the number one goal on his radar right now, but he still intends on representing The New Day.
"Being a World Champion is obviously number one, that's always the goal," Big E said. "And I said this many years ago, like, if you're goal isn't to be World Champion in WWE, if your goal isn't to be at the top, then what are you doing here? And I often think of the many years when I would play football when you play for the name on your jersey. You don't just play for your first name, you play for your family, and that's how I perceive this run. Even though we're on different shows, we're still The New Day. That's how I perceive it - I'm playing for the name on the back of my jersey.
"I've seen far less deserving people than I get a World Title opportunity," Big E said. "In the same vain, I have no problem jumping through the hoops, overcoming those hurdles on the way there. And I think, too, from a fan perspective, when a title run really feels deserved - like, our guy jumped through A-B-C-D-E and now has clearly shown he's ready - I feel like there's more investment. So, I have no problem doing all those things either, because when I get that opportunity, I really want it to feel deserved."
If you use any portion of the quotes in this article please credit OutKick Live with a H/T to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.