That’s the role that the Willoughby, Ohio native plays each week in front of more than a million viewers on Spike TV’s TNA Impact Wrestling.
Carter is the storyline nephew of TNA President Dixie Carter, and the role’s been a good fit for the 31-year-old Hutter. Since debuting last October at TNA’s biggest annual pay-per-view, Bound for Glory, Carter has feuded with the likes of wrestling legends Sting and Kurt Angle.
He’s beat every opponent put in his path, and he continues to be one of the weekly highlights on TNA’s program. By all accounts, he seems to be on the fast track to a TNA World Heavyweight Title reign.
It’s been quite the rise for Hutter, who first started wrestling in the early 2000s in various Cleveland-based independent promotions. He was later signed to a developmental deal by the WWE and made his debut on the WWE program NXT as Derrick Bateman in 2010.
Yet his first real opportunity came once he joined TNA Wrestling, and it’s an opportunity he’s not ready to relinquish anytime soon.
I caught up with Carter, who goes by “EC3” for short and also happens to be a diehard Cleveland sports fan, this past Saturday at a TNA Wrestling event in Washington, Pa.
Steve Orbanek: Okay, I’m just going to throw it out there. What’s going to be first? Is it going to be Johnny Manziel bringing a title to the Browns, LeBron bringing it to the Cavs or EC3 bringing that TNA title to Cleveland?
Ethan Carter III: Well, that’s a great question. I think for the sake of all Cleveland sports fans, it’s going to be the King. Let’s not lie. I mean, I’m guaranteed to win. But Cleveland has had a few wrestling champions before. You’ve had the Miz, Dolph.
Orbanek: Continuing with that, I think one of the cool things, especially in the last few years, is that we’ve seen a lot of wrestling talent come from Cleveland. You’ve got yourself, the Miz, Luke Harper, Ziggler, Crimson with a “C”, not with a “K” if you know what I’m talking about. But a lot of these guys started out in PWO (Pro Wrestling Ohio), and what is it about Cleveland and wrestling? I’ve never seen a time where there’s so much wrestling talented coming out of Cleveland. Any idea why that is?
Carter: I think, within the sense that everyone hates Cleveland, everyone hates Cleveland because people from Cleveland have something special. There’s a unique way of living if you come from this area. It’s blue collar, but there’s also a humility involved. There’s this ability to laugh at your own misfortunes as we’ve done with our sports teams for many years, so I think it makes you an interesting person. No matter where I go in the world, I love being from Cleveland and I love representing it. But I also don’t mind not being there all the time there too. All of those guys you mentioned are special in their own way too. The Miz, Dolph, every one of them came up differently through different ways and had some really good success doing it. I think that’s a testament to each individual’s skills.
Orbanek: Now, your last year has been kind of crazy. You debuted last October in TNA, and just look at you now. You’re definitely a main event player here, and it’s kind of a turnaround because I believe you were released back in May 2013 from WWE. Can you talk about your past year? How has this been for you to be in a position like this?
Carter: The only thing that’s changed with me is that an opportunity was given as opposed to not given. I’m very thankful for it, and I plan on running with it because this is what I’ve been waiting for my whole life. I’m not shocked with the amount of success I have had personally, I’m just shocked at the amount of opportunity and leeway this company has granted me and given me the ball to run with. I can’t be anything more than thankful because it’s been an awesome ride. I really look forward to continuing our success. I feel very good about the future. It’s proven in the numbers, we’re going up, and everyone seems to really be bringing their “A” game on the entire roster from the newer talent we’re using to the veterans. This is like family, and it’s awesome.
Orbanek: Are their wrestlers that you model yourself and your style around?
Carter: A great coach I once had, Dr. Tom Prichard, when I was in developmental said to pick five of your favorite guys and pick and choose a little elements from them, incorporate them and use these five things that are unique and different, put your twist on it and there you go. You look at a lot of different guys. To play favorites is hard now because growing up, I loved the entertainment aspect as much as I loved the wrestling aspect. I try to incorporate entertainment in every facet and be multi-versed. As a kid, I would look at Warrior. Then in the 90s, it was Stone Cold and the Rock. In the 2000s, from being in the WWE, I got to learn from John Cena and see his work ethic and how he handles himself as a professional. Then over here, I got to wrestle Kurt Angle, who was a guy in the 90s and 2000s who made me want to become a wrestler. So you take all these elements, roll them up into one, put your twist on it and there you go.
Orbanek: How does it feel when you hear stuff like, for example, Vince Russo recently said on Twitter, “How did the WWE drop the ball with EC3.” You have to hear that all the time where people say “This guy is incredibly talented, has it all.” How does that all make you feel? Do you have a chip on your shoulder about that?
Carter: I’ve always had a drive and a strong work ethic. That added a chip to my shoulder, but it hasn’t changed me at all. It’s nice to hear, and I hear that from people in the company, but it doesn’t matter because what I am now is a TNA superstar. They have given me the ball, this is my home, this is my family, and this is all I care about. It’s great to have accolades, and I like that people respect what I can do, and I hope I have a million fans out there, and I hope they all watch TNA and we continue going forward. But yeah, they dropped the ball. Whatever. I ain’t mad at it.
Orbanek: Are you at all worried about the rumors you hear about with TNA and the possibility that they could lose their television deal?
Carter: No, because one thing I think with the Internet is it likes to pick on this company as it always does. Any misinformation will be misconstrued. God bless wrestling, and I love wrestling. It’s my life. But man, wrestling fans are horrible sometimes. Not all of them, but there’s a vocal minority out there. And it’s like why, if you love something, would you hate something about it? I love Cleveland sports and we have off years, but I don’t start hating the teams. So no, I’m not worried about it. I think every two years, these negotiations come up and these rumors happen. We’re moving to Wednesday nights, which I think is a great idea. As far as our future, I have a full faith that we are going in the right direction and whether it’s Spike or somewhere else, we are going to be an asset.
Orbanek: One of the things you’ve done since debuting in TNA is work some high-profile programs. Sting worked his last program in TNA with you. You worked with Kurt Angle until he got hurt. You came in right away, and worked with these high-profile guys. How was that for you, and what did you gain from that? How cool is it to say, “Sting’s last TNA match, I took him out.” “Angle, possibly his last TNA match, I took him out.” How’s that been for you?
Carter: It’s a great opportunity that they trusted me and were like, “Here’s an opportunity? Can you hang?” The thing with Sting is it was awesome because wow, it’s Sting. Holy smokes. The matches were short and meh but to be able to work the vocabulary and the talking angles, that was so important to me. That changed me and even in the middle of doing it, I could feel myself improving standing with him as we talked. I felt it for real. I felt, “Here’s a guy, and this is what ‘being over’ is like.” I could feel a different reception from the crowd towards him. It’s different when you’re in the ring with a guy like that, so that was awesome. Again, I thank TNA for having faith in me. Kurt, same thing, and I just wish we had more time. I wish his knee wasn’t injured, but he’ll be back, and I’ll be waiting. I don’t think he’s done by a long shot.
Orbanek: I listened to a podcast with you a few months ago. It might have been Colt’s, but you were talking about how you’re getting your degree now. It seems like you’re preparing for your life after wrestling and realize this isn’t forever. Do you have plans for after you stop wrestling?
Carter: I wish I was kind of smart because I wish I went to school when I was growing up. But fortunately, it’s easier to get an education now with the advent of the Internet. It’s cool to keep your mind working, and I keep it fresh with this. As far as post-wrestling, I don’t know because when I did that (podcast), I was pretty demoralized and desensitized by a horrible industry, but now I’m having success and having the time of my life. So what does that mean for the future? I don’t know, but we’ll see. I’d like to keep in the field because I love this so much. Perhaps that means I transition to some kind of creative aspect once my in-ring days are done. We’ll see. Or maybe I could just be one of those crazy old actors in a commercial. But any aspiring wrestler should have a backup plan because there’s not a lot of places to work and it’s not for everyone. So, having said that, stay in school and rock and roll.
Orbanek: What’s your ultimate goal here in TNA? Do you want to be that world champ? That top heel? You ever want to have a run as a face?
Carter: My No. 1 goal is for this place to be as successful as I can possibly make it and whatever that takes out of me, so be it because I want to be the franchise guy, the company guy, the guy who’s on the road all the time. I want them to be sending me wherever I need to be. Of course, I want to be champ and I want to be the guy. But I want this place to be a huge success, and I think in addition to me, there’s a lot of guys who have this mentality and also have the tools to do it.
Orbanek: Alright, I’ll move away from wrestling now and just have a couple more questions. How into Cleveland sports are you? On a podcast, I heard you talking about the Alomars. I knew you knew your sports because you were able to distinguish them, and I could tell you’re pretty tapped into the Cleveland sports scene. How much of it do you follow?
Carter: All of it. I sit at home, and I’ll watch Indians games on my computer.
Orbanek: We were at the game last night actually.
Carter: Yeah, you stay the whole time?
Orbanek: Yep, we saw the walk-off. It was Rock and Blast night too, so some crazy fireworks.
Carter: I haven’t seen an Indians win, and they had a good year last year, and it’s still interesting this year, but I haven’t seen them win in like five years. I’m pretty in touch, and Sandy Alomar is my favorite baseball player. Actually, this one time at the old Municipal Stadium, I believe it was 1992, I was honorary bat boy for a day. I got to take a picture with Sandy Alomar, and the reason I chose him was because I was like, “Oh, I take Taekwondo, and you karate chopped that pitcher when you charged the mound.” He was like, “Oh hey kid!”
Orbanek: So, when you heard LeBron was coming back, give me a feeling for what you felt. I’ll tell you what, I was on vacation in Colorado and I kid you not, I read that letter and had a tear. So when you heard he was coming back, what was your response?
Carter: It was a very well-construed letter. It was very good. Looking back on it now, the whole Decision thing was the wrong thing to do, but we’ve had free agency before, and I don’t think there would have been as much animosity if it were handled in a better way. There would have been animosity, but I don’t think to that degree. It’s hard to go from cheering for the San Antonio Spurs so LeBron doesn’t win one to be like, “Yes, he’s back!” But, at the end of the day, I am a Cleveland Cavaliers fan, so if we have the best player in the world, of course I am going to be happy for that. Go Cavs!
Orbanek: Out of the three, Browns, Indians, Cavaliers, which one is your favorite and which one do you follow most closely?
Carter: I follow them all pretty diligently. If I had to pick one, it would be the Indians just for my father’s sake. The Browns like to really poop the bed a lot, and I hate the fact that Clevelanders are so blindly delusional and loyal to them. My dad owns a restaurant in Kirkland and just the other day, he’s like, “Why are the Indians on? They suck.” I’m like, “Oh, what do you want me to put on?” He’s like, “I wish the Browns were on.” And I’m like, “How do you think the Browns are going to be this year?” He says, “I dunno, probably 8-8.” “You know the Indians are .500,” I say. He’s like, “Yeah, but that’s different.” But why hate on a team. For my father’s sake, I’d love to see the Indians win it. But I’d just take one from any team. Because Everybody Hates Cleveland, and I can’t wait to shove it up their *clap* asses.
Here is a series of clips from one of Carter’s most memorable moments since joining TNA Wrestling in October 2013.