The evolution of EC3
This past Saturday at NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia, Ethan Carter III (EC3) made his long-awaited, and much-speculated return to WWE, being shown for the first time sitting among the others in the WWE Universe. For some members of the WWE Universe, this is their first time seeing EC3, but this is not his first taste of the WWE spotlight. I decided it would be a good opportunity to take a look back at how EC3 has evolved over the years to make it back to the WWE spotlight.
Many fans may not know, or in some cases remember the name Derrick Bateman, but that was the original name EC3 competed under in his original run in WWE NXT. He was signed to a WWE contract back in 2009, where he originally reported to developmental territory Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW), winning the FCW Tag Team Titles along the way with Johnny Curtis (now known as Fandango) in August of 2010.
Bateman would first be introduced to a wider audience during the fourth season of WWE's original NXT model, which saw developmental talent paired up with a main roster pro and competing in a mixture of matches and challenges. The original incarnation of NXT was certainly something not many fans care to remember, mainly because we all knew it was predetermined and just felt silly with the ridiculous and over the top challenges.
But those involved took their opportunities to shine. Bateman was teamed up with Daniel Bryan, who would guide him to the final three of that season before Bateman was eliminated from the competition. He would go on to briefly appear on Smackdown, where he would have one match which saw him lose to Ryback.
Bateman would return to NXT during the fifth season of the show, which was named NXT: Redemption. He initially came back with Daniel Bryan but was soon dropped by Bryan after Bateman's character developed more of a villainous attitude. Probably his most memorable storyline in NXT was with Maxine and Johnny Curtis, which saw a love triangle between the trio. It was not perhaps the most compelling television but it gave Bateman screen time and some character development. Bateman would continue to sit in the mid-card until he was eventually released from the company in 2013.
It is clear from an interview with Fin Martin, published on WhatCulture, that Carter was never fond of the Bateman character as he stated “... in all honesty, Derrick Bateman deserved to be shot out of a cannon into the sun. Derrick Bateman was never going to work. This was a necessary thing for me. This was necessary to happen for me to evolve and create who I am today...Who I am today, I truly believe, is one of the premier sports entertainers/wrestlers around."
I find myself agreeing with Carter in this statement as the Bateman character felt very one dimensional and didn’t ever seem destined to become WWE’s next big name. There were definite limitations to the character and it's growth as WWE seemed to see him as more of a mid-card, comedy guy, but Carter did what he could to make the best out of the situation, a quality that separates those destined for the next level from their peers. It was unfortunate he was released in 2013, but equally, it was the beginning of the making of EC3. As one door closed another would quickly open in 2012, in the form of a contract with Impact Wrestling.
EC3 would make his official debut at Bound For Glory in October 2013, arriving in the company as the spoiled nephew of then Company President, Dixie Carter. While he was able to use his already developed comedy timing, the opportunity the explore and develop his own character allowed EC3 to flourish creatively, making him one of Impact Wrestling's top heels. He saw big things in his future, even when he was asked to be NXT's resident court jester. He told former WWE writer Kevin Eck, in an interview "I fully knew what I was capable of being; it just wasn't an opportunity granted." No longer bound by the scripts and shackles of WWE, EC3 was able to show the world just what a terrific talent Impact Wrestling had gained and that WWE had completely let miss their radar.
Carter spoke of the opportunity Impact Wrestling gave him to develop his character with Dean Ayass of WhatCulture, saying "they're allowing you to feel your character and develop your character your own way, so, if you see something your character wouldn't say verbatim that's on a sheet of paper, you can change it so it makes sense coming from you." You have to wonder what could have been for EC3 had WWE let him find his voice as Derrick Bateman, but sometimes it's better to take some time away from WWE, prove yourself and come back stronger, with Drew McIntyre being a fantastic example of this.
He made an impact within the company almost instantly, feuding with the likes of Kurt Angle, Bobby Lashley, and Bully Ray early on. But the peak of his time in Impact Wrestling came in June 2015, when he defeated Kurt Angle on an episode of Impact to capture his first World Heavyweight Championship. He would hold the championship for just over three months before losing the title to Matt Hardy in a three-way dance at Bound For Glory in October 2013, after being betrayed by special guest referee Jeff Hardy, whose services he had previously won the rights to one month earlier.
Hardy's run with the title was short-lived as EC3 would file an injunction against the champion on the episode of Impact following Bound For Glory, banning the champion from television for a month and meaning he had to vacate the championship. This move saw the creation of the Impact World Title Series, which Carter would compete in defeating the likes of Bobby Lashley, Mr Anderson, DJ Z, and Davey Richards. He would face Matt Hardy in the finals and win his second World Heavyweight Championship during Impact Wrestling's debut episode, aired live on Pop TV, in January 2016. He would only hold the title for two weeks, losing the strap to Matt Hardy on Impact in a Last Man Standing match.
His stock on the rise, Carter would add a further championship to his resume in August 2017, when he would defeat Moose to become the Impact Grand Champion by a split decision (the match outcomes for this championship were decided by a panel of judges). He would hold the championship until October 2017, when he would lose to Matt Sydal at the Genesis event. His last match for the company was in January 2018, when Carter was a participant in the Feast or Fired briefcase match. Carter would end up obtaining the Fired briefcase and thus bring to an end his four-year run with the company.
The departure of EC3 from Impact Wrestling is another huge loss for the company, who have in the last eighteen months seen the likes of Drew Galloway, AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Eric Young, Bobby Roode, and Rockstar Spud all jump ship to WWE. EC3 established himself as one of the companies top heels and his shoes will be incredibly difficult to fill. But their loss is the WWE Universe's gain and I for one can't wait to see what EC3 does not only in NXT but when he eventually makes his way up to WWE's main roster.
There are many reasons to be optimistic that EC3's second run with WWE will be much better than his first. He's been away and established himself as a guy who can be creative and knows how to get his character over. I hope that in NXT he is given some of the freedom he had with Impact, as this will very quickly allow him to rise to the top, which is where he deserves to be. A feud with the likes of Roderick Strong or Velveteen Dream may be a good place to start for EC3, but I'm sure whoever he goes up against in his first feud he will make his mark on the WWE Universe from the word go.
To quote EC3 in his first WWE interview since returning; “After all those years, I know who I am now, and there’s a victory in that. I look very much forward to the future.”