After a triumphant victory at capturing the WWE Intercontinental Championship on SmackDown this week, Big E can now say the sky’s the limit on where he can go as a singles competitor. But before Big E and the panel from Talking Smack could discuss his seven-year journey to the top, the new champion thanked Paul Heyman for his kind words two weeks, and for having faith in his potential now that he’s away from his New Day cohorts.

“I honestly do want to thank you, Paul. I do appreciate those words because sometimes you know something, but then hearing it from someone [else], it really hits home,” Big E gratefully said. “Sometimes you just gotta be reminded that you got the juice. So, I do appreciate that.”

When the New Day split up during the two-day WWE Draft in October, Big E now believes it was the best decision, although he misses the fun times he had with his former teammates.

“Yeah. It was the right decision,” he replied. “I mean, it wasn’t a decision; y’all split me up! Kofi was still able to become a World Champion with us by his side. But we took the lemons they gave us, and we did our best to make a lemonade drink. That would be palatable. It was not our decision, but that’s the nature of the business. You take what you’re given, and you better run with it.”

Seven years ago, Big E won the Intercontinental Championship from Curtis Axel on Monday Night RAW. With a 167 day reign stamped to his first reign, he looks to surpass that during his second reign with the title.

“I was probably a year into my main roster run, and I knew I had the ability, and I was ready. I feel like [now] I’m on another level of ready,” he noted. “If you haven’t advanced in your craft in seven years, you just sat around, and you’re still the same, and you plateaued, then do something else, move on. So, I feel like I’ve made those steps in seven years to be even more worthy and better at every facet of this job. That’s been my goal.”

Two weeks ago on Talking Smack, Paul Heyman planted a seed in Big E’s head that if he were to focus hard on his singles push, he may just become the newest challenger to Roman Reigns’ Universal Championship. This week, Heyman complimented Big E for his efforts on reaching his goal of becoming a two-time Intercontinental Champion. But now, he wanted to see if Big E had any desire or took into consideration the opportunity he was dangling over Big E’s head before about facing the “Tribal Chief” for a bigger title.

“Here’s how I see it: You just said it was your first step. Yes, I agree. The first step towards what? I know what the answer is: It’s your first step towards Roman Reigns. It’s your first step towards the Universal Championship,” Paul Heyman reiterated from his initial statement two weeks ago. “It’s your first step towards being the absolute, number one, box office attraction, the top champion of WWE today…My God, what a first step.

“I said to you two weeks ago you’re going to be a singles champion. I told you that’s where you needed to go. I told you Sami Zayn was a great step for you. And what did you do? You mowed him down, and you took the Intercontinental title away from Sami Zayn. And now, you’re going to learn, in your heart, just how much you love being a singles champion. And then you’re going to fall in love with it all over again to the point that you’re going to say, ‘That Intercontinental title is beautiful, wonderful. But it’s not the Universal title.'”

Heyman continued with his statement of how he sees Big E becoming a big draw and WrestleMania main eventer if he continues to focus on his singles run in the new year.

“That’s what you want. You want to be a WrestleMania main eventer, and you can be,” Heyman reassured Big E. “You want to be the Universal Champion. I understand you want that opportunity. Here’s how I look at it: Big E, you are a big box office. You’re a magnificent athlete, and you’re someone I would love to one day see in the ring with Roman Reigns.

“Big E walked into 2020 as someone that if Roman Reigns turned to me and said, ‘What do you think of the challenge of Big E?’ I’d look at him, and I’d say, ‘Tag-team wrestler. The best one on the planet. But a tag team wrestler.’ I can’t say that anymore. Your first step in your journey that we talked about two weeks ago, that’s your trajectory; you’re on your way because 2021 is now around the corner. And Big E, when it comes to my evaluation of you, it’s a new year, yes it is.”

You can watch Big E’s full interview on the WWE Network. If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Talking Smack with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.