First, let’s deal with the elephant in the room: lest anyone think otherwise, EC3 insists “I have never murdered anyone and buried their body behind a shed.”
Next, let’s deal with the other elephant in the room: the fact that nobody has ever suggested that EC3 murdered someone and buried their body behind a shed.
“But you should start with that,” he suggested. “Unfortunately, that’s the kind of headline that gets attention, that kind of clickbait. Real substance never really works. So if we start with a headline that EC3 murdered somebody, people will click on it, and then they’ll read onwards, and be like, ‘What’s Free the Narrative?’”
And then they’ll learn that it’s the title of his newest project, an avant-garde cinematic wrestling experience that tells the story of EC3 and others trying to take control over their careers, their future, and their personal stories, through the violent media of professional wrestling. The movie, an independent production by EC3 and his partner JC, allowed EC3 the opportunity to express himself creatively in an industry that he says is lacking that quality.
“We know the wrestling industry is devoid of creativity,” he explained to SlamWrestling.net about the motivation for the film. “People like to complain about ‘Creative’ but nobody really does anything, especially from the aspect of a wrestler. I wanted to create and be creative in a different way.”
The movie doesn’t follow a linear plot. Rather it’s more a collection of matches featuring EC3 and various other wrestlers – some well-known, others less so – in an empty building that resembles a warehouse and has a very ‘RAW Underground’ feel. Most of the matches are heavily-edited, and the focus is more on who the participants are, with a narrator detailing each of their personal motivation for controlling their own narrative.
The closest thing to a storyline is the build-up to the climactic confrontation between EC3 and Matt Cardona. The premise being that they meet up a year after being fired from WWE, having taken very different paths and in very different places in their lives. When EC3 demands to know if Cardona is happy with the way things have turned out, the chasm between the two of them is wider than ever, leading to the confrontation.
It’s a definite case of art imitating life in this, as EC3 effectively created the narrative after being released by WWE, in early 2020. Shortly thereafter, he released a number of ‘Control the Narrative’ vignettes where he challenged people to tell their own story. The phrase was more than a catchy wrestling gimmick for him.
“The initial meaning of ‘Control Your Narrative’ was, basically, tell your story. In my former (company), they always talked about telling stories. But as we’ve seen, especially recently, nobody gets to tell their stories. They’re telling somebody else’s stories. The thoughts of portraying yourself and your own reality on-screen are hampered. By micromanagement, by producers, by many cooks in a kitchen where only the head chef’s opinion even truly matters. And even then, that head chef changes his mind constantly. So, nobody was able to tell their story.”
“The big mission was to tell my story – that’s what inspired it. And as I continued producing promos and content, I didn’t know if they were simply auditions for my next job, or if it was becoming something more. Over time, JC and I thought that it was so unique and had such organic growth that we decided to expand on it. We knew it could be bigger and better. We started with one cinematic style match to relaunch the character that I wanted to portray moving forward, and then we (realized) that there were so many different stories that can be told within the wrestling world, and so many different talents, each of them with their own individual story. Hopefully, letting them tell those stories, which are very close to them and are very realistic, hopefully that takes them to the next level.”
In choosing who would appear in the movies to tell their stories, EC3 looked at a number of the people that he had met in the business over the years, looking for people who had interesting stories to tell.
“We featured Jake Logan, who’s a young kid on the indies,” he said as an example. “He met me at a show and he’s kind of like, ‘I’ll pick the veteran’s brain’ and he kept asking me questions. A lot of times with the younger generation, they’ll ask questions, you’ll give them your advice, and they’ll just do whatever they wanted anyway. But he took my advice, and he applied it. He applied it to coming in and learning how to do promos with me and in changing his body, changing his shape, losing 20 pounds; he really adapted. So I wanted to include his story.”
“I knew Bill Carr – William – from the FCW days. He was the most popular, most well liked guy in the locker room. He was the party animal, most lovable guy, everybody’s friend and everybody had kind words for him. But he was one of the biggest casualties of misinformation going from the office down to the talent – they totally screwed him over, and left him out to dry. And he has such talent. He’s a big guy with a big heart, but beyond that big heart is self-deprecation that makes you think that maybe he’s very sad. So there was a story I wanted to tell.”
“[Mike] Parrow is an openly gay wrestler who is a gigantic man, just a beast just a humongous killer. But some people cannot promote him based on who he loves, because it has a stigma or a stereotype to it. His story is that just because of who he is, it doesn’t mean he can’t be a monster killer that he is.“
One of the bigger names in the film other than himself and Cardona is Impact star Moose. EC3 effectively brought the ‘Narrative’ universe to life during that angle, and the two of them competed in a couple of cinematic matches which very much resembled the look and feel of ‘Free the Narrative.’ The esoteric nature of the feud puzzled many viewers given how drastically-different it was from anything else on the show, and some fans were frustrated by the way it played out, not ending in a traditional match.
EC3 appreciates that it may not have been the easiest story to digest on an otherwise traditional wrestling program, suggesting that the compressed time to complete the story – caused by his going to Ring of Honor – didn’t help matters.
“I knew that my Impact term was probably going to be brief, but I did want to revisit my roots. I wasn’t entirely happy with the conclusion of EC3 within Impact, as I wanted to do something different. But within the confines of what we did, I was very happy with some of it. I’m very happy and very proud that it could help Moose get to the next level. Because Moose is a close personal friend, and I saw so much in him. He’s one of the best athletes in wrestling, and legitimately one of the toughest men I’ve ever been in the ring with. But it was never portrayed that way because he tried to be something he wasn’t. I knew that if somebody could guide him, or somebody could ‘control his narrative’, so to speak, that story in Impact was his story to bring him to the next level. That was very true to life, me trying to bring him to the next level.”
As for Cardona, EC3 said that he made the perfect opponent for him in the movie, because they both share a creative mindset and aren’t afraid to push creative boundaries.
“I have a great respect for Matt,” he said. “In some ways, we’re polar opposites, but at the same time, we have a lot of similarities. Especially the drive to pursue something new and unique and push forward.”
In the movie, Cardona’s entrance is a major spectacle moment, paying tribute to Cardona’s love of toys and action figures. The visual of it is quite impressive, and EC3 says it was a major ‘fan service’ moment that he was happy to give Cardona.
“If I was part of ‘Creative’ in a major corporation that was running the biggest show of the year, and Matt Cardona was on my roster – that would be the super special big -time entrance I gave him,” he said. “And what he did – trying something new, taking things to the next level, he definitely deserved the conclusion he got. Because Matt understands that the true purpose of what we do is entertainment. Giving people an escape from reality, especially the kind of effed-up reality we’re in now. Wrestling is something to take your attention away from it and have fun with it.”
EC3 notes that it can be hard for talent to always have that kind of fun, especially when they feel creatively stifled. Which was a main driver for the movie: to help recapture what he loved about professional wrestling, and why he got into the business in the first place.
“When you love something so much, there’s only so much you can do with it. Like, I can only wrestle my matches, or I can only do my promos. By creating something on my own, at least I contributed my vision of wrestling, which is old-school psychology brought to the new world with storytelling as the focus. Emotion and moments is what brought me in as a wrestling fan and wanting to pursue it for the rest of my life. And I think emotions and moments are what’s completely lacking in a lot of wrestling products today.”
In that light, one thing that he wouldn’t sacrifice is the legitimacy and credibility of wrestling. Though the movie is cinematic by definition, EC3 wants to distinguish it from other cinematic matches that fans have seen in the past year.
“One thing that was important that was keeping the integrity of wrestling, of what we do as performers, real. Because I think the cinematic aspect of wrestling totally jumped the shark with (things like) mythical powers and illusions and like hokey comedy. In Free the Narrative, it’s wrestling as you know it, hard-hitting and legitimate, just shot through a cinematic lens. The wrestling is true to what wrestling is.”
EC3’s appreciation for old-school wrestling was on full-display in the match he had against Jay Briscoe at the ROH 19th Anniversary show, one that he says he was very proud of.
“(We told) a grueling, physical story of two men beating each other up, as opposed to having a choreographed looking dance, where nothing looks like it hurts. That’s what I love about wrestling is that old-school mentality, and I think that’s missing a little bit today. I think wrestling has gone way too far out there to be able to fully bring it back to what it was. It’s more about incorporating the new with the (things that have) worked: the basic psychologies of wrestling. What we truly want is to create moments, and to have fans feel emotion. Moves, strikes, holds, everything is a tool to build to a moment.”
In terms of where Free the Narrative fits in that world, EC3 acknowledges that it’s not a substitution for traditional wrestling programming, but does believe it can have an important place.
“I see the Narrative as supplemental content to other things currently taking place in the wrestling world,” he mused. “A place where, if a talent hypothetically gets released and wants to recreate themselves, re envision themselves, reimagine themselves in their own way, they have a place they can come and do it here. And it’s not me micromanaging them, but rather an open forum to create themselves. It was a great relief, especially in super hard times, for me to be able to do that. If I can give that (opportunity) to other people, and want to stick with us and do our thing, that’s awesome. And if they want to move on and take it somewhere else, that’s awesome, too.”
So does that mean we can expect a sequel to Free the Narrative? Or perhaps a series of films featuring other wrestlers looking to tell their stories? Ultimately, that depends on the success of this first one.
“If Iron Man was a bomb, I don’t think we’d have the Marvel Cinematic Universe,” he laughed. “There’s definitely a way I wanted to close (this movie), but (the ending) also gives us room to go somewhere, room to grow. But, there is no backing of this; the (financing) was completely independent.”
“We hope that people will seek it out, and watch it. It’s currently available to rent on Vimeo (see link below, including a special discount for readers of SlamWrestling.net). We’re shopping around for distribution licenses, and we’re hoping it will be on Fite-TV very soon, too. But I think this is also beyond wrestling, in a sense, so there might be interest from independent film festivals and things of that nature. It’s played very well to people that are not wrestling fans – extremely well – and were surprised by that, but it’s very cool.”
“Because this was a true labor of love,” he noted. “It’s something we chose to do because we love it, we have passion for it. And we just want wrestling to be the best creative outlet that it can be. I’d love to hear what people think about it. Whether they love it, or hate it, I’d love to get their thoughts. I know it’s different, but I think people shouldn’t be afraid to be different. People that are different are the ones that change the world. They’re free. They’re unique. They tell their own story. They control their narrative.”
- To watch Free the Narrative, visit FreeTheNarrative.com. Slam Wrestling readers can use the code FREESLAM for a 20% discount.
- EC3’s Twitter: @TheRealEC3
- EC3’s Instagram: @TheRealEC3
- EC3’s Facebook
EC3 / ETHAN CARTER III STORIES