Almost a year ago Derrick Bateman was in town with NXT for an event at the Miami - Dade County Fair and Exposition. That night the talented athlete in WWE’s developmental program didn’t get the opportunity to perform, but was seen watching with the crowd.
Fast forward to today, Bateman is now Ethan Carter III, one of the exciting new stars at the forefront of TNA Impact Wrestling. The on-screen nephew of company president Dixie Carter will be one of the featured names when the Lockdown pay-per-view comes to the University of Miami’s Bank United Center on Sunday, March 9 in Coral Gables.
Since his debut at TNA’s marquee show Bound for Glory in October, EC3 has been given one big opportunity after another. In the span of a few short months, Carter has had confrontations against legends including Sting and Kurt Angle, as well as earned himself a tag team title shot in the “Feast or Fired” competition. With his impressive physique, catchy theme and cocky personality, he has made the most of his TV time and won over fans.
“I am absolutely a hundred percent going to show the naysayers I’m worthy of the spotlight,” Carter said during a media call to promote TNA’s One Night Only PPV #OldSchool, premiering 8 p.m. EST Friday, Feb. 7.
“You saw me sitting on the sidelines [in Miami]. For a man like myself or any person with any pride for what they do, sitting on the sidelines is the absolute worst thing that could happen to somebody. For whatever reasons those may be -- no reason to get into them -- being given the spotlight and ‘proverbial ball’ and being allowed to run with it, I’m very happy with and proud. I plan on running with this ball as long as humanly possible.”
The fact that the acquisition was introduced to the television audience in such a grand way as a member of the Carter family is an indication TNA thinks highly of his abilities.
“Pressure-wise, if you truly care about what you do like I do, you’ll feel anxiety and pressure to do a good job,” Carter said. “Given this wonderful opportunity, I feel like the pressure has been alleviated, and I have freedom to be myself. I’m ready to rock. I don’t feel pressure anymore as much as I feel hashtag Blessed at the opportunity.”
The 30-year-old honed his skills working the independent scene and at Ohio Valley Wrestling, former WWE developmental territory. With Johnny Curtis [Fandango], he captured the Florida tag team championship in Florida Championship Wrestling (WWE’s other developmental program). During his seasons on NXT, he was given experience in appearing on a televised wrestling show alongside many current WWE superstars.
“When we were in developmental, Johnny Curtis and I had similar build,” Carter said. “He was there a little longer than I was at the time…Any time I get to work with a talent like that is awesome. We thrived off of each other and drove each other, which was a lot of fun. Working with Daniel Bryan, who I have no shame in saying is one of the best wrestlers in the world. We were able to, under the radar, do a lot of unique and fun things, as far as backstage scenarios and segments. It was awesome.”
The hungry talent was released from WWE in May 2013. TNA saw a potential star in the making. He has since made a smooth transition from his former employer.
“It’s not necessarily difficult in the sense of at the end of the day you are entertaining people in front of the camera and in the ring. So that’s similar,” Carter said. “One thing I’ve been granted in TNA was the ability to have the freedom to sort of experiment with this character and try things my own way, as opposed to being given specific directions. So I’m having a lot of fun and hopefully proving what I can do with the character in how I think he would react, as opposed to being controlled, I guess you could say.”
Carter was the first of an influx of new faces on the TNA roster.
“I absolutely believe there is a youth movement,” Carter said. “I’ve only been here six months and can only speak of what I’ve been doing. It’s unique what they’ve done with me. I’m very fortunate the way they presented me upon arrival, which I think is newer than what they’ve done with talents in the past. I’m very thankful for that…MVP is a seasoned veteran and needs no introduction. He is a wonderful talent who is going to cause interesting stories to develop.
“I’m looking forward to that. With the Wolves [Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards] coming in, those are two of the top wrestlers out there. Having them on the roster can only make things exciting and intriguing.
“I’m very proud and happy for Magnus. He has certainly earned his stripes in this company and is very deserving of carrying. Sometimes you are better when you’re being chased.”
Carter has enjoyed his working with Rockstar Spud, TNA’s “British Boot Camp” winner who serves as Dixie’s chief of staff on-screen. The two work well off one another. Carter thinks they have natural chemistry and says the Spud we see on TV is the same Spud you see at the gym, restaurants and other places outside the ring. Despite the entertaining segments they’ve shared together, he will probably look elsewhere when he decides to cash in his tag team title shot briefcase.
“As much as I love Rockstar Spud, as cute as a button as he is and feisty and fearsome as a lion as he may be, I might need somebody that might not get destroyed every time we compete,” Carter said.
For the man himself, EC3 is a combined effort with creative. He is very happy and extremely proud of his work in TNA.
“Whether it’s in-ring promos or in the ring, I’m competing against guys I’ve never thought in a million years I would get a chance to,” Carter said. “Guys like Samoa Joe. Guys like Sting and Kurt Angle. I think it’s only the tip of the iceberg of what you’ll see.”
He recalls being influenced by names from different eras in pro wrestling from Sting, Rick Rude and Mr. Perfect to The Rock, Steve Austin and Kurt Angle. He says he was a fan of anybody who has shown pride and passion in their work and craft, resonating on screen. Before really fighting against some of TNA’s elite, Carter garnered victories over those with less than stellar win-loss records.
“I’ve faced such a litany of competition. Shark Boy, Curry Man, Norv Ferman,” Carter said. “Without Dewey Barnes there would be no EC3 and without EC3 there sure as hell would be no Dewey Barnes. Epic rivalries in any sport, you look at the Yankees versus the Red Sox or the Lakers versus the Celtics. Those are epic sports rivalries. Dewey Barnes versus myself is no different.
“Granted I’ve beaten him 31 times in a row, but that doesn’t take away the fact that we are very competitive against each other. He brings out the best in me, and I bring out the best in him.”
Carter appears grateful for the time he has been given to evolve his character so far. He is thankful for getting to work with Sting.
“When it did actually happen, there was a brief moment in the ring talking and Sting came up to confront me,” Carter said. “For a split second, it was kind of surreal looking into his eyes…Then you snap out of it and realize this is business and an opportunity you worked your whole life for. This is where you belong, and this is where you get it done.”
Carter is doing just that during the start of his tenure in TNA. He has goals for himself, which includes becoming “the man” in the company. He looks to the future and Lockdown. When Miami comes up, it’s not Justin Bieber’s run-ins with the law that come to mind. Even though he is billed from Boca Raton, Carter is an Ohioan from Willoughby, a suburb of Cleveland.
“I did hold on to a Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James jersey I owned,” Carter said. “Then he left Cleveland under circumstances which I thought were terrible. I took that jersey to Miami and gave it to a man randomly.”
• See Ethan Carter 3 on TNA’s One Night Only #OldSchool pay-per-view 8 p.m. ET Friday, Feb. 7. Bully Ray, Tommy Dreamer, Abyss and Jeff Hardy are also among the stars in action.
• TNA Lockdown, the first TNA pay-per-view in South Florida, occurs 7:30 p.m. EST Sunday, March 9 from the Bank United Center in Coral Gables. For ticket information and updates, visit www.tnalockdown.com.
• Follow Ethan Carter III on Twitter @EthanCarterTNA.
• Follow me on Twitter @smFISHMAN.