By Alex Zakrzewski, Online Editor/Photos provided by Al Stavola
Jackson picked up his first set of weights at age 15 and has been a gym rat ever since. While attending the University at Buffalo, he joined the powerlifting club where a friend suggested he take his developing physique and try his luck at the Teenage Mr. Buffalo competition. He quickly took to the sport and went on to compete at a number of other contests including the 2002 Musclemania World Championships where, prior to his finals posing routine, he proposed onstage to his girlfriend. “I learned a lot of discipline from being a bodybuilder,” he says. “How to stick to a strict diet, stick to a regimen and how to perform onstage in front of people.”
Road to the Ring
A former ECW and WWE Intercontinental Champion, Jackson’s dream of wrestling superstardom began while growing up in Guyana. After watching his first match through a neighbor’s window, he was hooked for life. It wasn’t one wrestler in particular that influenced him but rather the towering muscularity of performers like Hulk Hogan, the Ultimate Warrior and Dino Bravo that left a lasting impression. Not surprisingly, Jackson has built himself into one of the most imposing figures ever to enter the squared circle.
Strictly Business Training Philosophy
“I feel like there’s a camera watching me at all times, so I can’t cheat, I have to go all out, stay focused all the way through the workout. I enjoy doing it but I don’t like to talk; I don’t like training partners and I don’t like people coming up and talking to me. I put my headphones in and go to work.”
Jackson trains his entire body in three consecutive days before taking a day or two off depending on how he feels. Day one is a push day in which he hits his chest, shoulders and triceps; day two he hits legs; and on day three he focuses on his back and traps. “I train heavy — basic stuff. I don’t like anything too fancy because what worked back in the day still works. I’m big on deadlifting, heavy pressing and a lot of free weights. I’m not much of a machine guy.” As he’s been gifted with naturally big arms, Jackson doesn’t worry too much about his biceps. During his bodybuilding days he even had to stop training his pipes for a while because they were getting too big!
A solid bodybuilding background has ingrained Jackson with the discipline to stick to an effective nutritional regimen. Despite being on the road most of the year, he makes a point of getting 6–7 meals a day, three of which are shakes. Otherwise, Jackson leans towards eggs, fish or chicken as well as “Zeke’s Healthy Chili”, a homemade recipe that includes both ground chicken and turkey and yields him 35 grams of protein per serving. Other supplements include branch chain amino acids and glutamine to help protect his body from the wear and tear it’s regularly subjected to.
Jackson’s finishing move is the “Torture Rack”, a brutal submission maneuver that requires him to lift an opponent faceup on his shoulders, hook his head and legs with his arms and pull down as if to split the unfortunate adversary in two. Only the strongest performers can pull off the move, as it requires tremendous overall body strength and a strong core in particular. “If you don’t have a strong core to keep him up, he could fall down and crush your head,” Zeke says with a laugh. As an indication of just how strong Jackson is, among those opponents unlucky enough to have felt the wrath of the “Torture Rack” is The Great Khali, the WWE’s 7′1′′, 347-pound Indian Superstar!
Life Away From the Ring
The WWE schedule is very demanding and when at home on his days off, Jackson focuses on spending as much time as he can with his wife and kids. “We travel so much that just that opportunity to get home and spend time with the family, makes a whole world of difference,” he says.
Weight: 280 pounds
Bench Press – 550 for two reps
Deadlift – 550 pounds
Squat – 500 pounds
Proudest Personal Best
35 wide-grip pull-ups. “I was fresh. Just stretched a little and jumped up. I just wanted to see what I could do and 35 [reps] was it!”