Meet Ethan Carter III, the man that fans of TNA Wrestling love to hate. You can't blame 'em, since there's much to detest about the character. He's a pompous prick in the third degree with a privileged upbringing, chiseled looks, a ripped physique, and a one-percenter attitude. And like most elitist cads, Carter's more than happy to tell you how he's superior in every way, probably after knocking you senseless with his aptly named finishing move, the “One-Percenter
Oh yeah, and he also got his start in TNA thanks to old-fashioned nepotism, as he's the storyline nephew of the company's legitimate owner Dixie Carter, and was recently crowned the wrestling promotion's current world champion after conquering Olympic hero Kurt Angle less than two weeks ago.
Needless to say, TNA fans have plenty of reasons to boo Ethan Carter III, better known by his nickname “EC3,” whenever he graces their screens every Wednesday night on the company's flagship program, Impact Wrestling.
It being professional wrestling and all, fans actually love to jeer a good villain, which is part of the fun. And the man behind Ethan Carter III, grappler Michael Hutter, certainly digs being the villain and committing such dickish behavior as assaulting former lackey turned foe Rockstar Spud or cutting a scathing promo proclaiming his superiority. In fact, Hutter admits there's a little bit of EC3 inside him, which is usually cranked up to 11 whenever he's in character. “I am exactly who I play on TV, just way more brash,” Hutter told New Times during a recent interview over Skype.
And when Hutter visits Phoenix this weekend to appear and perform at the Clickjab Wrestling Summer Bash at Celebrity Theatre on Saturday, July 11, Hutter says he'll be in character, for the most part. That means you can expect a little EC3 attidude during either the event's afternoon autograph sessions or his title defense later that evening against independent wrestler Handsome Kino, one of seven matches scheduled to take place at Summer Bash.
For all his onscreen villainy, the true story behind Hutter's ascension to the top of the TNA mountain is, ironically, a tale of redemption that's quite heroic. After six years of toiling and training in the developmental system of competitor WWE, where he portrayed a character named Derrick Bateman, Hutter was cut loose. In October 2013, the WWE's loss became TNA's gain, as Hutter debuted as EC3 and began both his reign of terror and an undefeated streak that stands to this day.
His tale of vindication and triumph might be cut short, however, and not from being bested by a “worthy challenger,” as Hutter says.
If you happen to follow the behind-the-scenes gossip of the pro wrestling world, no doubt you've heard the storm of rumors and bad news that's swirled around TNA in recent years, ranging from stories about unpaid production workers, canceled television tapings and live events, low morale in the locker room, or reports that cable channel Destination America (the current TV home of TNA) will drop Impact Wrestling come September.
When we asked Hutter about some of these rumors during our interview, he chalked them up to being just that, more or less channeling author Mark Twain by stating that rumors about TNA's impending demise have been greatly exaggerated.
“Of course, [it's] all rumors, because rumors aren't based in truth. The thing about [TNA], people just tend to believe 'em — unwarranted, unjustified,” he says. “And that's fine. I can handle any rumor we have.”
Besides tackling this and other tough issues regarding TNA during our interview, Hutter also discussed how his character draws from such legendary wrestling villains as Gorgeous George, what it was like to get kudos after his big title win from current WWE champ Seth Rollins, and how he supposedly takes his new belt with him everywhere he goes – even to the tanning salon.
So, congrats on the big win... champ.
Much obliged. Thank you very much.
That sunset flip/pinning combo at the end of your match with Kurt Angle was pretty sweet. Did y'all rehearse that a lot beforehand?
Nah... it was natural instinct from years of training in warehouses and stuff of that nature.
What's it been like working with Kurt, an Olympic gold medalist and one of the biggest legends in both amateur and pro wrestling?
It's been the greatest honor of my life to be able to work with that man and do what we did together. It's not often you get to have the dream match you envisioned when you were 8... a child watching wrestling. If it wasn't for Kurt Angle, I would've never made it this far because I never would have pursued wrestling because he's the kind of guy... the guy that made me love it. And to have that match with those stakes on the line, it meant the world to me.
And he was more than happy to put you over, right?
Yeah. Hey, you win some and you lose some, and I won that one. On any given day it would've went either way.
Were you disappointed at all that your match with Kurt Angle wasn't on the Slammiversary pay-per-view and was on the regular Impact TV show?
You know, we're at a point in the business where, I mean, everything leading up to that match has been perfect in the build for it that I couldn't be disappointed, per se. The only thing is that the crowd at Slammiversary was so good that I would've liked to have that match in front of that crowd, but I think the crowd we had was great as well. So it ended up not really mattering. But we had a very special crowd at Slammiversary, there was a lot of loyals and die-hard that could've made that match [better], if it could've been made it any better, which it couldn't have been.
How did it feel to get a shout-out from WWE champ Seth Rollins after your big win?
For him to do that... it was cool, because the way WWE handles social media and tries not to say anything else about any other [wrestling] company. You know, I got a lot of texts from a lot of those guys, but [Seth] went out on social media and said that. That meant a lot to me because we did both go through the [WWE developmental] system together and we have a ton of respect for each other and he's awesome. It was cool that he went out of his way to do that.
You think about world champions — he's WWE world heavyweight champion and I'm TNA world champion and I think that banter between the two of us is pretty special from a respect standpoint. It's between two hard-working professionals who fully respect where each other came from and the work ethic we both have to be represented by our respective companies.
I just thought it was cool because 30 years ago, you'd never see Ric Flair give a shout-out to Hulk Hogan or vice-versa.
No, but that was a different time and a different day and sometimes there's a respect amongst the boys, even if we're in different places, we're in the same game, we still have it for each other. And that's cool. It's just a cool thing to do.
Has winning the TNA world championship been vindication for yourself after getting cut by WWE?
You know, every second of every day I'm motivated by whatever's happened to me in the past. It's vindication, in a sense, but my vindication's coming just being successful with where I am and who I represent. My vindcation came when these people gave me an opportunity and they believed in me, invested in me, and hopefully I paid off for them.
Your undefeated streak is probably the biggest undefeated streak since Goldberg's back in the '90s. Do you think TNA has handled your streak better than WCW did with Goldberg?
I think it's two completely separate entities. Goldberg was a monster babyface who ran through the competition, while EC3 is an entitled, smarmy kind of a jerk who lucked into a lot his [success] but has become battle-tested in the process and has solidified himself. But we're two different entities. He's a monster and I'm a champion that doesn't lose, but there's been some help along the way. I can hang, but sometimes I choose not to.
Realistically, how long do you think your winning streak could go? I mean, you have to eventually lose sometime, right?
Eh, who's to say? I will say, well, it could go six months, it could go a year, it could go four years, it could go eight, it could go 10. I will hold on to this thing until there's somebody who's hot and ready to dethrone me who puts in the effort I do, who strives like I strive and wants to thrive like I do. Someone that can challenge me, and whoever that may be, I do not know when he will come. But when he does, it will be great.
Where do you see you see your storyline going next? Are you going to be challenged for the title by Rockstar Spud or will you give that storyline a rest for awhile?
I think if he were to challenge me, it would happen. Not in the near future, but somewhere in the distance because there are a few guys that are ahead of him on the food chain that I have to run through and solidify this title reign. But if Rockstar were to ever get a shot, I don't think there's a better place than one of our favorite markets, and that being in London, England. And I actually believe we'll be in Birmingham this year, which is his hometown, so I would have no problem defending the title against him in his hometown.
You're also defending it against against Handsome Kino in a match at the Clickjab Wrestling Summer Bash this weekend?
Yeah. He challenged me for the TNA world title on Twitter so I will be defending it against him.
Needless to say, you're bringing the belt with you to Phoenix, right?
I will have it with me. I carry it everywhere, from the dry cleaner to the grocery store to the gym to the tanning salon to dinner. I wouldn't leave it at home, it will be with me in Arizona.
Do you wear it around your waist or carry it proudly over your shoulder?
Well, if I'm competing, I wear around the waist, but if I've got a suit on, I guess I've got to keep it over my shoulder. It would just look ridiculous around the waist.
Are you going to be in character at the Summer Bash, because you're doing a meet-and-greet in addition to wrestling.
I am my character. There's no real difference between the two. I am exactly who I play on TV, just way more brash.
I think it was The Rock who famously something to the effect that the best characters in wrestling are people who are themselves only with "the volume turned way up." Is that true in your case with EC3?
I believe it is, and The Rock was pretty damn successful being like that and hopefully I can garner just a fraction of that success. But I believe, fully, that in wrestling, the best characters are extensions of your personality. It has to be real to you, you have to feel it. Invest in yourself, invest in who you are. That's what makes it special.
With the prickish heel that you play in TNA, are there parts of such classic wrestling villains as Gorgeous George or "Million-Dollar Man" Ted Dibiase in the mix?
Yeah, absolutely. I try to be a student of the game and I can't tell you everything I take from different performers, but some things I've seen and used and tried to make them my own in some way. I mean, those are two great examples of the great antagonists in [wrestling] history that I would definitely derive things from.
Last week, Pro Wrestling Illustrated, even though it's sort of a kayfabe-oriented publication, announced they were no longer considering the TNA championship to be a "world" title. What's your reaction to that?
The wrestling business is speculative. If they were a governing body of any sort of promotion in wrestling, maybe it would be something .But to me, that's just outside noise and does not affect me one bit. If they don't think I'm a world champion, they could talk to me about it, I can tell them why, and we could respectfully disagree. But, it doesn't affect my business one bit, it doesn't affect my paycheck one bit, it doesn't affect my company one bit, and just as if I said, "PWI isn't legitimate wrestling journalism," it would not affect their business, it would not affect their paychecks, it doesn't affect anything. It's all opinion based. And everyone's warranted to their opinion.
The last several months, TNA has been putting on some great matches. Do you feel extra motivated going out there because the in-ring product has been great lately?
Yeah, especially being on top right now, I have to stay motivated, I have to be the hardest worker because I have the most responsibility and I do not want to give that up. I want the ball, I want to run with it. We have some great, fantastic talent that if they come chasing after it, I want them to bring the best because I'm going to bring my best. And if we both bring the best, we'll bring the best out of each other.
Does having Ring of Honor on Destination America an hour before your program, Impact Wrestling, also motivate you guys to outperform them as well?
I think I want to say it wouldn't be motivation to outperform them because they provide a different sort of take on wrestling. I mean, at the end of the day its both wrestling, but they have great talent over there that deliver great matches, but sometimes we have to sacrifice for the sake of a great match — anybody can go out and have a great match — we have to sacrifice that sometimes for the sake of telling the stories we want to tell. So, we're different in that sense, but having any competition is motivation and if they're great, we're great — again — they're best will bring out our best and we'll bring out the best in each other.
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There have been a lot of rumors lately about the morale in the TNA locker room being down because of all the supposed uncertainty behind the scenes with the company. What's your take on those rumors?
Well, my morale's high as can frickin' be, isn't it? Look, a lot of people read into rumors that may come from unwarranted sources. This is all speculation. As far as I know, the people that want to be there are going to be there, they're in it to win it, and they are motivated, and their morale is where it should be. Morale's based on what you bring up yourself, and if you have low morale, then maybe you shouldn't be there. And if your morale's high and you want to work hard and succeed, then you should.
Of course, their all rumors, because rumors aren't based in truth. The thing about [TNA], people just tend to believe 'em — unwarranted, unjustified. And that's fine. I can handle any rumor we have.
Do you think the writing is on the wall for TNA and that its destined to go out of business after September?
No. Why would I think that? We're internationally in so many markets. Domestically, do I know what the direct future holds? I have a pretty good idea, and I think we're going to be just fine. But people have been saying this company has been going out of business for 13 years and it continues to go. We're doing some of our best work now and the people doing it won't let it fail.
Do you have a backup plan just in case?
Why do I need one? I just said no. TNA isn't going anywhere.
Ethan Carter III is scheduled to appear at Clickjab's Summer Bash on Saturday, July 11. Prices for the autograph sessions and meet-and-greets, which start at 2:30 p.m., vary per wrestler. Tickets for the matches, which begin at 7:30 p.m., are $15 to $44.
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