If you heard the names Ettore Ewen, Kofi Nahaje Sarkodie-Mensah and Austin Watson, you wouldn’t think much about them. Obviously they are from diverse backgrounds, but honestly, we wouldn’t spend time imagining the person who has that name. But what if we said Ettore Ewen, Kofi Nahaje Sarkodie-Mensah, and Austin Watson were people who have spent the better part of the last decade, or longer, developing their craft inside and outside the ring? Many fans that follow the WWE may not know that Ettore Ewen, Kofi Nahaje Sarkodie-Mensah, and Austin Watson have gone by various aliases in the past.
During their time wrestling in independent promotions, Ewen, Sarkodie-Mensah and Watson were known for their various wrestling styles, and their ability to captivate an audience due to a diverse skill set and unrelenting attack. They were being noticed, and it was only a matter of time before they transitioned from the independents onto a much grander stage.
Much like anyone else’s career that undergoes a change, Ewen, Sarkodie-Mensah and Watson’s travels to different promotions throughout some of their careers have led them to go to a number of different of places. Whether it was competing in Japan or North America, Watson, Ewen and Sarkodie-Mensah really did everything they could to stand out while trying to evolve. Today, these wrestlers, who are as technically savvy as anyone in the ring, have gotten noticed because of their personality. They are among the most talked about WWE superstars today, and often many fans will chant that these guys “rock.” We give you 11 things you need to know about Etten Ewen, Kofi Sarkodie-Mensah and Austin Watson, better known as Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods, collectively known as The New Day.
11. Big E played as a defensive lineman for the NCAA Iowa Hawkeyes
It doesn’t come as any surprise given Big E’s size and shape that he would be able to use it to his advantage. He not only competed for his high school’s wrestling team and was named the “ironman of the year” but he was also a talented football player as well. When he graduated from his high school, Big E went to the University of Iowa where he was a defensive lineman. As part of the Iowa Hawkeyes football team, he competed during the 2006 season, his sophomore year at the school. He had been a part of the team the two previous seasons. However, injuries prevented him from playing. It would have been interesting to see if Big E’s collegiate football career could have been parlayed into something more. After he graduated from the University of Iowa, Big E ended his football career to take up other career pursuits.
10. Kofi Kingston was billed from two different countries, and raised in another
One of the most remarkable things about New Day member Kofi Kingston, starting with his rise in the WWE in the late 2000s, was the confusion over where exactly Kofi Kingston was from. Upon making his debut with the company, he was billed as being from Jamaica. The idea originated in his admiration for reggae music, and in particular Damien Marley. But after his initial introduction to fans they began to announce his actual Ghanaian heritage, and this became more and more prevalent during the World Cup of 2014. As time has continued to pass, more has been made about his heritage. But the reality is, he was raised in the United States, as his family immigrated to the country when he was only an infant.
9. Big E defeated a future WWE World Heavyweight Champion to capture the NXT Championship
Though he arrived on the WWE main roster in 2012, Big E was still actively a part of the WWE’s NXT brand, and even held the NXT championship, a title that not many on today’s roster can claim to have held. What was even more remarkable about this was that he held that title while pulling double duty on the main roster, acting as Dolph Ziggler’s muscle during Ziggler’s short-lived alliance with AJ Lee. Before being called up to the main roster, Big E defeated a future WWE World Heavyweight champion to capture the title, none other than Seth Rollins. Rollins was the inaugural NXT champion, having won a tournament to capture the title. Big E has also captured singles titles as a part of the WWE’s main roster.
8. Kofi was trained under Killer Kowalski
The name Killer Kowalski is legendary in professional wrestling. The names he has trained are among the very best today. One of the members of The New Day had the privilege to receive his training and tutelage. As part of his initial training in professional wrestling in the New England area that he was raised in, New Day member Kofi Kingston learned the fundamentals at Kowalski’s wrestling school in Maiden, Massachusetts. His school has produced a number of talented wrestlers in the WWE, including Damien Sandow, Triple H, Fandango, and former WWE wrestler Joanie “Chyna” Laurer. Frankie Kazarian, one half of the Ring of Honor tag team The Addiction, also trained under Kowalski.
7. They were initially introduced as a faction managed by Xavier Woods
During the July 21st edition of Monday Night Raw, the tandem of Big E and Kofi Kingston suffered a loss. This was part of a recent losing streak that they had endured. It was also at this time where Xavier Woods came down to the ring with microphone in hand, dressed all in white, and made very specific statements to them to build them back up. He made statements like they could not get ahead “by kissing babies” and it was their time to shine. That same week, with Woods managing them, they won. However, after this the idea was quickly scrapped and disappeared from television, and was only seen developing during the WWE’s house shows. Some believed that the gimmick would have a very black militant feel, much like the Nation of Domination. However, regardless of what the plans may have been, they were scrapped.
6. Kofi is trained in a specific discipline of the martial arts
Kingston has earned his notoriety by using a high-flying style that he uses inside and outside the ring. What is little known about him is that he also trained in Brazilian martial arts disciplines, and has a background in Capoeira. Upon exploration of this particular discipline, it is clear to see how Kingston weaves this form of combat into his style. He is agile in the ring, and his movements are effortless. These complex movements certainly reflect the Capoeira discipline. The discipline incorporates elements of acrobatics and dance. It apparently has origins in the West African culture, and is also known for swift, quick and challenging movements. It uses primarily strength, leverage and speed, plus an array of kicks.
5. Xavier Woods is currently working towards Ph.D, graduated with a Master’s and Bachelor’s degree
Often times when we see wrestlers in the ring we only see a part of whom and what they are. A number of wrestlers think beyond wrestling and what their careers make look like when they are finished in the ring. For one member of The New Day, it became just as important to prepare for a life after wrestling as it is was to prepare for active competition. The money earned by some wrestlers don’t financially prepare them for the future, and given the hazards of their occupation it becomes important to lay the foundation for a future through education. For one particular member of the New Day, he has not only earned two separate degrees, but is currently working towards his Ph.D in educational psychology at Capella University. That member would be none other than Xavier Woods. Woods has earned a master’s degree in psychology and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, all while attending Furman University. It is remarkable to think that the trombone player within the New Day could eventually be a Doctor.
4. Big E has set power lifting records
After his collegiate football career came to an end, Big E turned his focus to power lifting, and started competing in 2009. His first competitive meet was in 2010 during the United States Open championship in Florida. Due to his sheer size, he was competing with the top heavyweight lifters in the field. It was during his power lifting career that Big E broke Florida state power lifting records in the 275 lbs weight class. His records included the deadlift and his combined totals. He was able to deadlift 749 lbs, and his total weight lifted on the day totalled 1850 pounds. This astounding accomplishment was only exceeded by his winning the following year with even higher deadlift and combined weight lifted totals. Despite having all of his records broken the following year, that does not change the fact he at one time held the Florida State deadlift and combined totals, as well as all four powerlifting records within the 275 lb weight class.
3. The “unicorn” pony merchandise is tied to one of the members being a “Brony”
For anyone unfamiliar with the term “Brony,” it is someone, typically an adult male, that is fan of “My Little Pony.” Much like Star Trek has Trekkies that attend conventions, cosplay and collect Trek memorabilia, a Brony does something similar with all things tied to My Little Pony. In the earlier part of 2015, Xavier Woods identified himself as a Brony, as he wore a Pegasus pony t-shirt and stated that he was part of the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fandom. It was that same pony that was used as part of the New Day merchandise recently. The ongoing use of unicorns, their gestures and even professing to have “unicorn magic” are all tied into Woods’ real fandom for the characters. It was initially Dolph Ziggler that had called Xavier Woods out on this towards the end of last year. The “unicorn stampede,” where each member tags into the ring and stomps on their opponent was also named after this theme.
2. Xavier Woods is a huge gamer
Wrestling and video games today go hand in hand. In the case of one particular member of The New Day, his fandom has been taken to even greater heights. This member has begun a Youtube channel called UpUpDownDown, named after the directions of a video game controller. It is on this program where the host, Xavier Woods, invites any number of different people to play video games. This has included anyone from WWE performers such as former WWE World Heavyweight champion Seth Rollins and members of the Team B.A.D faction, to different video game personalities, to personal friends. Woods’ love of all things video games is also permanently etched in ink. He has a tattoo of what is called the “Hylian royal crest,” which is from the video game series The Legend of Zelda, on his left forearm. His passion is evident in all that he does.
1. Their gimmick has been criticized for being racist
When they first appeared, they were a “face” faction that high fived and jumped around, seeking approval from the fans; a gospel-inspired group promoting the power of positivity. The problem was that their positivity was so over the top that it reinforced a stereotype that is often associated with African Americans on the roster. News publications have pointed out the blatant racial stereotypes that they have used in the ring. Whether it was smiling and dancing, or the pantomime of shooting dice when they get into the ring, African American wrestlers often fitted a stereotype. They are playing craps because that happens in the “hood.” Some may have criticized the positivity simply because it was obnoxious, but to others it was still another case of African Americans with a dancing gimmick that was more offensive than actually funny. They haven’t done very much to dispel that criticism either, as they often play up to these characteristics by having over the top celebrations and dancing to the ring before each of their matches.