Big E is lucky he’s not paralyzed. Look up Stone Cold Steve Austin, Hiromu Takahashi, Hayabusa, Nikki Bella, Sabu, Hardcore Holly, Paige, and Edge. All professional wrestlers who suffered major neck injuries and had their careers and lives changed because of it. The former WWE Champion and member of the New Day is one of the company’s most popular stars and nearly had a decade’s worth of accomplishments end Friday night. He broke his neck because of a botched, dangerous wrestling move.
Somehow Big E, whose real name is Ettore Ewen, doesn’t appear to have sacrificed his career. He tweeted out videos from his hospital bed, visibly wearing a large neck brace. Big E said late Friday night he can feel all his extremities but self-reported the doctor’s diagnosis of a broken neck. Another video posted by Ewen on Saturday morning went into more detail. His C1 and C6 vertebrae are fractured, not displaced. Luckily, he has no spinal cord damage, no ligament damage, and no surgery is required. No timetable has been given for a possible return to the ring. Past professional wrestlers who suffered similar injuries had several months of recovery before lacing up their boots again.
The gruesome injury occurred during a live episode of Smackdown! where Big E was wrestling in a tag team match alongside stablemate Kofi Kingston against Sheamus and Ridge Holland. After the tussle spilled outside the ring to the thin layer padding covering the arena floor, the 6-foot-1, 250-pound Holland tried to execute a belly-to-belly suplex to the 5-foot-11, 285-pound Big E. The Olympic-style throw traditionally causes the wrestler taking the move to go from their feet, flipping over their head, and landing on their back. The 36-year-old Big E never made the full rotation, ending terribly.
Big E landed on the top of his head and laid on the padding motionless before the cameras cut back to the ring, where the match quickly ended. Big E wasn’t seen again on the show. WWE commentators Michael Cole and Pat McAfee, standing mere feet from Big E, looked distressed at his condition, mentioning several times before the end of the segment how serious his injury looked. Before cutting away, Cole said Big E was being tended to my emergency medical personnel. He was strapped to a stretcher at ringside before being taken out of the arena and to a local hospital. On his way out of view, Big E gave a thumbs up to the Birmingham, Ala., crowd.
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Not surprisingly, much like his wrestling persona, Big E is in as positive of spirits as possible several hours later. Multiple reports said one of the several wrestlers to visit him in the hospital was Holland.
“For real, it’s meant a ton to me that so many of you have been so kind and reached out, stopped in to see me, texted me,” Ewen said in his video posted to social media. “I feel like I sound like a broken record, but I am very grateful, and I’m going to be alright. It’s a blessing.”
There’s a reason WWE has some sort of “don’t try this at home” announcement during every show. Professional wrestling is a phenomenal art form, where the painful maneuvers look real but are choreographed. Holland and Big E knew the events that were meant to happen and tried to deliver the best entertainment possible to the live crowd and national television audience watching on Fox. It’s hard to place blame on any individual for the situation, but if Holland wasn’t confident he could deliver the move correctly to Big E, why try it? It’s only another man’s livelihood at stake.
It’s a horrible look for Holland, who has had past issues with in-ring safety. During an August 2020 match against Johnny Gargano in NXT, Holland performed a move where he dropped his competitor on his head. In miraculous fashion, Gargano didn’t miss any ring time, competing at a company pay per view three days after the match aired on television. Holland has only been a professional wrestler since 2016 and signed with WWE in 2018. After Friday’s incident, it’s clear some part of his training was missed, or worse, he’s extremely reckless in the ring.