Ezekiel Jackson spent seven years in WWE, starting out at developmental territory Florida Championship Wrestling in 2007 before making it to the main roster as part of the ECW brand in 2008.
The 36-year-old is a one-time world champion having won the ECW Championship on the last ever episode of WWE’s version of ECW. He is also a one-time Intercontinental Champion.
We caught up with Jackson to talk about working with The Rock and CM Punk, his WrestleMania moments, his release from the company and much more.
How did you first get into the sport of professional wrestling?
I graduated college in 2000 and I was planning on going to law school. I then actually ran into Teddy ‘The Tank’, who used to be 4×4 in WCW, he told me he had a wrestling school in Brooklyn, The Dog House. I went there to train and the likes of Homicide, Low-Ki and Xavier Woods were there at the time, I sat down and talked with the guys and my first night bumping, I was hooked, that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Who were the wrestlers that you enjoyed watching whilst growing up?
I’ve been a fan since I was eight-years-old, the first time I saw wrestling was through a neighbours window, Iceman Parsons was on, this was in 1987, and I’ve been a fan ever since.
Ultimate Warrior was always one of my favourites growing up, I was a Hulk Hogan fan because he was a good guy but the intensity that Warrior brought was on a different level. I was also a big fan of all the muscular guys that I thought I would never be, likes of, Don Marco, The Barbarian, and Haku but I ended up being one of them. Those are the guys that I really emulated and just watched and enjoyed.
You joined WWE’s developmental territory Deep South before moving to FCW in 2007, what was your time there like?
I was at Deep South in Atlanta for a month before they came to us and told us that Deep South would be shutting down and that we would be moving to Florida. I had just moved to Atlanta with my wife and my baby and then a month later we had to move again. I was one of the first guys that started in Tampa, so to see where they started out from FCW to what NXT is now is unbelievable, it is something that we couldn’t have imagined.
What was it like when you made your television debut on SmackDown?
I was an advisor for Brain Kendrick, it was an awesome moment. My mum was still kind of disappointed that I didn’t go to law school, the Saturday morning after she saw me on SmackDown, she spoke to me and told me she understood why I made the choice that I did. For me it was like I died and went to heaven, that is the kind of level of appreciation I have for that debut.
How did it feel making your in-ring debut on WWE television?
I remember it was a match against Super Crazy, about a month after I had debuted, I was elated, I was just really happy everything was going in a positive direction. As soon as I walked into the building that night they told me I was going to be having a match and I was like, ‘YES!’.
During your time working with Brain Kendrick, you got to work with guys like Jeff Hardy and Triple H, what was that like?
The first time we had a staredown it was post-match with me and Triple H, who was WWE Champion at the time. I was like, here I am a month and a half into my time on the main roster and I’m starring down with Triple H, and I was like, ‘holy mother of god’, it was my dream becoming a reality. I was living my dream and getting to share the ring and be on TV with people that I had been watching for years, wanting to emulate and meet them, and there I was working with them!
You joined the ECW brand in 2009, what was it like working with the likes of William Regal and capturing the ECW Championship?
I’ve been a fan of William Regal since his WCW days, I would watch him and yeah you could see he was this snob character but when he unleashed hell, you saw it, you felt it, and you would think to yourself, I don’t want to be in there with him. To be working alongside William Regal was a great in for me and that pointed me in the direction of the ECW Championship.
I then began working with Christian and I felt my wrestling elevated tenfold, because Christian is a phenomenal entertainer and athlete. I felt like I owned the world when I worked with Christian because it was so much fun. People ask me to this day, what is my favourite match during my time in WWE and my answer is always the same, it was against Christian at a house show in Mexico City. It was the first night I didn’t have to do a squash match and we had a blast.
It was great winning the ECW Championship at the last ever ECW show, that moment no one can take that away from me, I was a champion in WWE.
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You were a member of The Core, what was that experience like?
When The Core thing happened it was a surprise to me, because I was just coming back from an injury. The NEXUS was running rampant on SmackDown and Raw, and here I was on SmackDown with another faction. On my re-debut, I had to take out Big Show, with a Hulk Hogan style body slam on Andre ‘The Giant’, and it was like holy crap I’m back.
To be supported with guys like, Heath Slater, Wade Barrett and Justin Gabriel was great, we had such a good laugh together. We had the opportunity to get in there with likes of The Rock and CM Punk, and it was fun, I really enjoyed being part of that group.
What was it like when you became Intercontinental Champion?
First of all, I won that title on Father’s Day, and it was a couple of years after I had buried my dad, so it was very emotional for me. At the same time, I was thinking about all the people that had won the Intercontinental title, guys like The Rock, Bret Hart, all the way back to Pat Patterson. This title meant so much to so many people, I was ready for what comes next and it was very exciting.
How were you told about your release from WWE?
I had surgery in January for a hernia that I had developed over the past year being home and lifting heavy. I received a letter saying that my contract was going to be ending on April 6th and that was it, till this day I still haven’t had a phone call from anybody from WWE, so it was bittersweet.
I got to attend and enjoy WrestleMania 30 with Hulk Hogan, The Rock and Stone Cold starting the show, I was a little disappointed with the streak ending. At the same time that was my last day with the company, I enjoyed my time there and I wish I could have another chance but I believe things happen for a reason and I’m ready for whatever is in store for me.
What were some of your personal highlights from your time in WWE?
WrestleMania 27 on April 3rd, 2011, I got a chance with The Core to have a match and it was exactly one year after I buried my dad. On April 3rd, 2010 I was burying my Dad in Long Island, New York and a year later I’m walking out in front of 70,000 people at the Georgia Dome, Atlanta, to wrestle at WrestleMania.
What was Vince McMahon like as a boss?
With Vince, in a way you held him in such high regard because he has accomplished so much with his business, he has done so much for this business. I found him to be very personable but no matter who you are and how cool he is this guy is still your boss. In a way, I respected him for everything he has done and I treated him as a boss, if you passed him in the corridor you would shake his hand or give him a hug and talk to him for a second or two but he was always just so busy, I never wanted to take up too much of his time because he has got a big business to run.
Do you think a return to WWE is possible or could TNA be an option?
I’ve basically been inactive since July 2012, I got to be a part of WrestleMania 29 in New York which was cool being from New York and I spent three weeks at NXT last year and that has been it since July 2012.
I’ve left my door open for anything; I’m in the mind frame of whatever comes now I’ll do. I love wrestling and I love training, which I’m focusing on a lot with the website and I’m getting into motivational speaking. I’m trying to use whatever talents I have to not just help myself but to help benefit other people.
For more information on Ezekiel Jackson, you can follow him at @RycklonS.