Big E on Life After His Neck Injury: ‘I’m Grateful I Have More Healthy Days’

Focused on the present and future, Big E has no time to be bitter or angry over his neck injury

Ettore Ewen–known lovingly around the globe as Big E–suffered a broken neck in March of 2022. It was a gruesome spot during a tag match on SmackDown, one that remains unbearable to watch.

Only months removed from his first run as world champ, Big E had just begun his climb back into the main event picture. The hungry, ambitious, and hard-working Ewen was destined to find a way to reclaim the belt. But suddenly, none of that mattered.

Instead of immersing himself in a new WWE storyline, Ewen was fighting for his life.

“I could have been in a wheelchair, I could not be alive,” said Ewen. “Those are things I was told at the hospital.”

When Ewen suffered his neck injury, he landed on his head during a spot outside the ring with Ridge Holland. The camera panned away as the match continued, yet a feeling of dread replaced the energy from the match. A gripping fear instantly suffocated everyone watching, including those back in the locker room, who were fearing the absolute worst.

Big E and Becky Lynch
Big E and Becky Lynch / Courtesy WWE

Ewen is not filled with anger, bitterness, or regret over the injury. Two years later, he simply has no time for any of that negative energy.

“I’m grateful that I am healthy, mentally and physically,” said Ewen, who turned 38 last month. “I’m not one to spend a lot of time thinking about the past. More than anything, I’m grateful. There is no room for bitterness. That wouldn’t change anything. It wouldn’t unbreak my neck. I’m too busy being grateful in the present. I appreciate people caring and rooting for me.

“I talk to people who broke their neck and they still have headaches, they still have other impairments. I have none of that. It’s obviously not the path I would have taken, but that’s the nature of life. That’s my biggest takeaway: it wasn’t bitterness, it wasn’t anger. It was gratitude. I’m grateful I have more healthy days.”

Big E surrounded by smiling faces
Big E surrounded by smiling faces / Courtesy WWE

At the current moment, there is no definitive answer on Ewen’s future as a professional wrestler. He continues to be an incredibly talented ambassador for WWE, a role he clearly enjoys. But it is possible his is-ring career is over.

“I’m 38,” said Ewen. “I started wrestling at 23, and I didn’t think about this then, but now I’m thinking about life in my 40s and 50s.”

Even though he is not wrestling, that in no way impacts his affiliation with The New Day. Kofi Kingston, Big E, and Xavier Woods will always be instantly synonymous with the group–and Kingston and Woods continue to make magic together in WWE, wrestling this Saturday at WrestleMania in a six-team ladder match for the tag titles.

Since Ewen is still on the injured list, he offered up his spot, thinking Kingston and Woods might feel a replacement was necessary for the group. That idea, of course, was instantly rejected.

“I said to the boys, ‘I’ve been out for two years–if you want to find a new partner, I understand,’” said Ewen. “They very quickly shut that down. I’m proud of what they’re doing. Kofi is in 40’s, and he’s still doing his thing. They’re building a legacy, and I’m extremely proud of them. And I’m proud to still be a member of The New Day.”

The New Day
The New Day / Courtesy WWE

Full of energy, Ewen fills many roles for WWE. As a former collegiate athlete, he is a massive help with new recruits who come from the NCAA. He adds a certain charm to his endeavors, which was visible as he hosted a Philly cheesesteak and pizza eating competition earlier this week between Omos and Otis, and he is also a spokesperson for WWE in their partnership with Snickers.

“Snickers keeps me satisfied,” said Ewen with a smile. “I grew up with Snickers. It’s classic, it’s comfort. And for nine years running, they’re a presenting partner of WrestleMania. It was my favorite candy bar as a kid, and it’s my favorite now, too.”

An ongoing project that is especially meaningful to Ewen is his work as a founding member of Our Heroes Rock!. The team just presented the short film Bridges to the masses, which is an engaging look at the story of civil rights activist Ruby Bridges–and it was already nominated for an NAACP Image Award.

“It’s with my very talented partners Jonathan Davenport and Andreas Hale, and it tells the story of Ruby Bridges through animation and hip hop,” said Ewen. “We have this original song from Rapsody, who I’m such a big fan of. History can be so heavy, so we wanted to make it more engaging.”

Ewen’s role in Bridges is distinct, voicing a nine-foot-tall robot who takes children to a futuristic museum. The forum is an excellent conduit to share even more stories from history.

“Often times, Black History Month comes down to Rosa Parks, MLK, and slavery, and that’s it,” said Ewen. “Our history is so vast, we want to tell more of these stories.

“We thought Ruby’s story is one people can relate to–she’s a six-year-old black girl simply trying to go to school. She’s integrating into an all-white school in 1960 in New Orleans, and she’s met with so much anger. There were teachers who didn’t even want to teach her. But one teacher–Barbara Henry–did the right thing. We think of these stories as taking place 100 years ago, but Ruby is still with us and she’s only in her 60s.

“We hope to tell more of these stories. We want to make learning, history, and Black History learning and engaging.”

Bridges/Our Heroes Rock
Bridges/Our Heroes Rock / Courtesy Our Heroes Rock

Throughout the past two years, amidst all his different projects, Ewen’s affinity for pro wrestling has only grown stronger. He has particularly enjoyed the ongoing Roman Reigns-Cody Rhodes storyline, which also includes noteworthy performances from The Rock and Seth Rollins.

When asked who he wants to win the Reigns-Rhodes main event on Sunday at WrestleMania, Ewen did not hesitate with his answer.

“I’m going to say Cody,” said Ewen. “What he’s done outside the ring, the way he represents the company and himself, he deserves this opportunity. I’m rooting for him. And it’s been amazing. With Cody, The Rock, Roman, and Seth, the way the stories have all intertwined has been beautiful.

“I’m looking forward to watching WrestleMania. And I’m pulling for Cody.”

Justin Barrasso


Justin Barrasso has been writing for Sports Illustrated since 2014. While his primary focus is pro wrestling and MMA, he has also covered MLB, NBA, and the NFL. He can be reached at and followed on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.