Look very closely and you just might catch a fleeting glimpse of the quantum of humility that rattles around behind the stony countenance of Ethan Carter III. Sandwiched between healthy layers of self-confidence and determination is a sincere sense of appreciation to those who helped him rise to prominence in TNA, from his influential aunt to some hefty hired muscle.
Predictably, though, Carter saves the biggest and best accolades for himself. And with one of the most noteworthy undefeated streaks in TNA history to his credit, EC3 has a lot to crow about. Indeed, life after Dixie Carter’s unceremonious retreat from active participation to the TNA front office last year presented some challenges for EC3, but the young star sees the grand scheme of things with unflinching clarity.
It’s very unfortunate what happened to my dear, sweet aunt,” said Carter. "But it opened the door for me to become the top talent in the company. I appreciated her opening some doors for me. Nepotism is almost a religion in this business, but it is time to put the claims that the Carter name is the sole reason for my success. Don't misconstrue this, as family is one of the most important things in the world to me. But my success is most important."
No longer relying upon nepotism and privilege to keep him safe in TNA, Carter has buttressed his power and skill with the imposing presence of Tyrus (the former Brodus Clay), who accompanies Carter for most of his in-ring appearances and contests. Their relationship is far from complex. In fact, according to Carter, it’s pretty simple.
“A brother’s gotta eat,” Carter laughed. “Tyrus needs a new pair of shoes every now and then. Those gold chains he wears aren’t cheap. He’s a confidant, sure. But he gets paid to do a job. And if I need other support, I can always call in a favor from the BroMans and DJ Z.”
Surprisingly, though, Carter’s pals weren’t on hand in March when EC3 settled the score with his former best friend, Rockstar Spud. Carter faced Spud alone and bested the Brit in a conflagration so brutal that some feared Spud’s career was in jeopardy. Adding insult to injury, EC3 shaved Spud’s head in front of the kid’s hometown of London, England, taunting Spud’s family and friends as they looked on in shock. In Carter’s mind, there was a perverted kind of poetic justice in the bloody climax of their feud.
“I didn’t want to fight Spud,” Carter explained. “Spud demanded to fight me. He insisted on it. And what he got in the end—as difficult as it may have been for fans to see—was entirely his own fault.”
Carter’s early affinity for the squared circle, as well as his experience in reaching the big leagues, bears a striking contrast to the battle-tested EC3 of today. As a kid, he looked up to big-hearted wrestling icons such as Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior. But, like most teen boys, Carter felt the angst and rebellion of early adulthood and eventually looked to different role models. Rick Rude and Curt “Mr. Perfect” Hennig gave Carter a new perspective on how champions should carry themselves and get ahead in the business.
Carter cut his teeth working in northwestern Ohio in smashmouth promotions like Absolute Intense Wrestling. From there, he worked in Ohio Valley Wrestling, gaining valuable insight training with ring veteran “Hustler” Rip Rogers, an experience that Carter remembers fondly to this day. EC3 also served a stint in WWE developmental programs from 2009 to 2012, earning tag team gold in Florida Championship Wrestling and working matches in NXT. Along the way, he suffered more than his share of hard knocks, enduring a laundry list of injuries, including a torn ACL, a torn meniscus, and a patellar dislocation.
“You can feel the risks the very first day,” said Carter. “Injuries made me better mentally and physically. They’ve made me stronger.”
It’s TNA that has proven to be the ultimate proving ground for Carter, and while he doesn’t hand out props to his competitors easily, he does give measured credit to some of the legends he’s faced thus far.
“Oh, I learned a lot from guys like Bully Ray, Kurt Angle, and Sting,” Carter said. “What did I learn, though? Satisfaction. The satisfaction of beating them and wanting more. There were some specifics, though. From Kurt Angle, I learned submission wrestling—how to strategize and how to dismantle an opponent. From Bully Ray, I learned the hardcore style, physicality, and violence. From Sting, I learned what it is to be important and to have a legacy.”
Although he’s quick to look down his nose at potential rivals, Carter is grateful that he has a place among TNA’s movers and shakers. He re-signed with the company after Impact Wrestling was picked up by Destination America, expressing appreciation for the chance to build upon his body of work.
“TNA gave me the best thing any wrestling talent can ask for: one chance,” he said. “In one year, it became more of a home to me than any other place has been in my career. I’m a franchise kind of guy. I’m taking TNA on my shoulders from here, and I’ll make sure we succeed.”
Moving forward, Carter has a lot left to accomplish in TNA and there are some formidable opponents that stand between him and the company’s top title. Bobby Roode, Kurt Angle, Eric Young, and Lashley have all held TNA’s heavyweight title in the recent past, and EC3 knows what to expect when he decides that the time is ripe for a run at the strap.
“I’ve beaten most of those guys,” Carter shrugs. “The main-event picture isn’t crowded because I’m not in it just yet. But I will be. And once I take my best shot, you can be sure I’ll be the one who comes out on top, just like every other time before that.”