Describing the last year for Paul Wight, it would be safe to say that there have been plenty of downs, but not many ups — heck, you can’t even say that it’s been a roller coaster ride for him, because there’s been no hill to climb for eventual descent.
About a year ago, Wight, AKA the Big Show, was sent down to Louisville, Kentucky, to the World Wrestling Federation’s feeder system to work some kinks out. Although in the business for six years, Wight started on the wrong foot, and has been paying for it since, culminating in the demotion 12 months ago.
“My first initial thoughts were, of course, one of heartbreak,” admitted the Big Show in a conference call. “I just came off the knee surgery, and quite frankly, I just laid up at the house and didn’t do as much cardio as I needed to do, and just went to gym to lift weights, ate like a horse, and ballooned up to 480 pounds. I came back two weeks after the knee surgery and my cardio wasn’t where it needed to be to perform at the calibre of the Undertaker’s, Kane’s and Austin’s. I just didn’t have my sh*t together. I had a lot of stuff going on the side, like a divorce I’m fighting, and I think I just lost track of my most important goal, and my most important goal is to be successful.”
Some would think the Big Show getting demoted to be strange. After all, here’s a former WCW champion, WWF champion, a highly recognized name, and someone who has main evented with the current top names of the business. Why did he need to get sent down?
“Quite frankly, I thought I was bullet proof. ‘I’m the Giant,’ I’m this, I’m that, ‘I’m the most athletic guy for my size.’ I listened to all that hype and B.S. and it developed a real bad case of insecurity with me, because I knew deep inside I didn’t have the background of the guys I was working with, I didn’t have the experience, and I didn’t have the knowledge. I didn’t know how to go up to an Undertaker, or HHH, and even though these guys are my friends and want me to do well … I didn’t know how to say, ‘Hey, I don’t know what to do here. I don’t know what to do, I’m lost here, and I’m lost here.'”
Being world champion in a matter of months, as well as being put into a program with Hulk Hogan almost right off the bat certainly didn’t help.
“I experienced success at first in the aspect of popularity. My first match was against Hulk Hogan, I won match of the year, wrestler of the year, and rookie of the year all in the same year. I understand what an accolade that was to be given that from PWI and Bill Apter, and I didn’t understand what kind of a reward that was, and I didn’t know any different. I didn’t know the work and the pain and the sweat, blood and the tears that guys put in this, and never get recognized; to never even get a chance to work for a big company after busting their entire lives doing independent shows and never get a break.”
After all of the peaks though, some valleys were bound to come up. But Show looks at the last valley he just came from, in the form of Louisville, and says it turned out to be one of the most positive experiences in his life.
“I think going to Louisville was the best thing to ever happen to me. I’m not just saying this because I’m a company guy. I swear to God that it’s the best thing to ever happen to me because it actually gave me the chance to experience what 90 per cent of the guys in our business have to go through.”
He continues: “I think going to Louisville has made me be able to say that this business is a learning business everyday. I’m humbled enough now to say if I don’t know something that I will ask for help. And I will, and I want to put the work in. I watch my tapes now, I bust my ass doing cardio, I try to do everything I can to make myself better so that people can enjoy my performance and hopefully not be bored with it. It’s too bad that the first five years I was in this business I walked around with my head up my ass. Going to Louisville really helped me pull it out, and hopefully become a better talent.”
Show almost appears to be a paradox unto himself. It would be safe to say that he currently has his fair share of fans, he has been a main event competitor, held meaningful titles, and was, and probably still is, a hot commodity in the sports entertainment biz. However, for almost every positive action or thing that has taken place in his career, a negative action or happening has occurred shortly after.
Take Show’s recent comeback from Louisville. It appeared he had worked hard, and won his way back onto the WWF roster. Yet, several weeks back, during a promotional segment, Show had said the word “goof” in talking about his opponents Kaientai for a RAW match-up, which was misconstrued as the word “gook,” a racial slur used against peoples in the Asian community. Show steadfastly says he did not say the slur, and that it was all one big misunderstanding. [Ross clears up racial slur controversy]
“I’m telling you the honest to God’s truth, and it sounds so terrible, but sometimes I talk like I’ve got a mouth full of spit; I guess it’s just from having a big tongue … I said the word “goofs,” and when I said the word goofs in the interview the people that were there doing the interview with me, doing the pre-tape, understood the word that I said was goofs, but the people in the truck thought it was too close and thought I said the other. To tell you the truth, in no way shape or form did I know they were going to bleep it out, because that made it sound worse. I would never mean any disrespect to Kaientai, or anyone else of an Oriental background. … I didn’t say the word. I said the word goofs, and it sounded like the other word, and I just really apologize if anyone got offended by that because they shouldn’t, because it was just a screw-up.
“In today’s world there’s no room for that kind of slander, there’s no room for that kind of racism, and you can bet your bottom dollar that if people thought I said it then I deserve every bit of backlash I get.”
Strong words that perhaps show insight into Wight’s new outlook on life. It appears that, through the course of the conference, Big Show has been humbled somewhat. Although he’s been king of the mountain, he’s also been a prince among paupers, and now has a healthy respect for the industry and all that it entails.
Now, it’s time to look back at Show’s past. Most reading this realize he got his start in World Championship Wrestling, as he debuted nearly a year before the highly touted turning point in the Monday night wars — the creation of the New World Order. In the beginning, times were fun, according to the Show, but also not without their pitfalls, as he relates in a humorous story about performing a moonsault.
“It was pretty goofy. The only problem was that I don’t think anybody wanted to lay underneath of me when I landed. We were screwing around with it, and one of the upper-echelon in WCW at the time pretty much reamed my ass out for doing that. I was a rookie at the time, and didn’t really know how to stand up for myself. Basically, they told me I had no business being on the top rope at all; I was a ground attacker, and I was a tank, so stay off the tope rope. Dallas (Page) and Terry Taylor (put him up to it), and it was one of those collective ‘you’ve got so much athleticism show it.’ So I did, and I got my ass chewed out right after it. I haven’t actually hit somebody with it, but it was a glorified miss.”
While WCW did put Show on the map, the whole experience was not one that came off smelling like a bed of roses. Billed as the son of Andre The Giant, Show was one of their main event draws, but was not treated as such behind the scenes.
“I wasn’t making huge money from WCW,” the Power Plant graduate said. “That was an advantage that they had, they could work me to death, because I didn’t know any different to ask for the kind of money that people got paid in that spot. I think at the time Mark Mero, who was Johnny B. Badd, was making five or six times what I was making, and I was the WCW champion, doing main events, and wrestling Goldberg, Kevin Nash and Hogan all over the country. So, in one aspect it hurt me financially, but in the long run, now, I think things are so much better. Working for the WWF, the harder you work and the more you produce, the better you’ll do; it’s more of a work incentive program.”
Ah yes. The WWF, now the only game in town — Show has the distinction of being one of less than a dozen people who have held both the WCW championship, and the WWF heavyweight belt (the others being Kevin Nash, Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Randy Savage, Bret Hart, and Sid Vicious). After experiencing a significant amount of time in both promotions, Show has some interesting observations about the differences in the two companies.
“Leadership. The biggest difference between the WWF and WCW is leadership. There’s one guy in our company that makes the decisions final, yes or no. There’s no committee, there’s no runarounds, there’s no ‘yeah, we’ll do this,’ and then five minutes later it changes. That was the thing with WCW. What was correct today would change by the end of the afternoon. In the WWF, everyone is contributing toward the common good; ‘If somebody has a better idea please throw it forward.'”
He continued: “But Vince McMahon makes the decisions. You work for a boss that, number one, will go out there and lay his ass on the line with those matches he has with Shane, and some of the different matches he’s had with Austin — the bumps and the blades — for him to lay his ass on the line, and expects us to do the same thing, it works. Plus, there’s the locker room leadership. Undertaker and HHH, these guys are so well respected, they’re true genuine leaders. Undertaker, in our locker room, when he speaks everybody listens, and it’s because he’s put in the miles, he’s put in the dues, he doesn’t bull-sh*t people, he doesn’t try to screw someone around — like be a buddy, pat you on the back just so you can do a job for him — which was a lot of that bull-sh*t down in WCW.
“There were a lot of con games down there, a lot of cliques, and a lot of buddies taking care of buddies, and if you weren’t in their clique then nothing happened, and it was this clique against that clique. There’s none of that clique stuff (in the WWF). There’s one clique in the WWF, and that’s the WWF talent; we’re all working together. And if somebody comes in there and doesn’t want to work together, he doesn’t want to go along with the system, then they get bucked out of the system. That’s the biggest difference; I’m part of a team now. I got guys from lower card to upper card where everybody is helping everybody with their matches, with constructive criticisms, with advice, with helpful hints. It’s just a real good environment right now, all the way through.”
Other problems also plagued the formerly Turner-owned WCW, according to Show.
“A lot of problems that WCW had is that they gave out contracts to these guys that it didn’t matter if you worked one day or 365 days, you got paid the same. So that’s going to automatically induce people to be lazy. So I think now, with the WWF’s attitude of ‘the more you work, the better you do, the more you get paid,’ is just a better work-payment-reward ratio.”
Now that he’s in the only game in town, Show says he realizes the onus is on him to perform. As part of that, he knows the proverbial “job” is something he will have to do on occasion. While that may have been something he balked at in the past, Show seems quite enthused about the prospect, and even illustrates his new attitude through example.
“Just a few weeks ago I did the job for the Hardys, and it was tremendous TV. Doing that job for the Hardys was better than any victory I’ve ever gotten myself. The pops were absolutely huge. It was great business, it told a story of how I was a giant and it took all these different moves to beat me. It told the story of how the Hardy Boys were so intense, they fought together, and Lita brought it, and everybody worked together. That was great TV, that’s emotion, that’s the three people chopping down the beanstalk. That’s what people want to see, I think personally.”
Big Show should possibly get a nickname as Big Mouth. Already, this story is running rather long, and the loquacious grappler is still talking up a storm. To finish off, he talks about his current role, and what’s in store for the future, which right now does not include a title belt.
“I don’t think I need to be in that (championship) spotlight because of my physical presence and size. I should be able, quite frankly, to get over without the aid of a championship. I would love to be WWF champion, and I just don’t know what my role is going to be. Right now, I just want to be somebody that Vince McMahon can point his finger at say, ‘Okay, I know I’m going to get a good match out of him, wherever I put him and whatever situation I put him in,’ and just be dependable like that right now. I think I have plenty of time to let my character develop. I don’t have a clue where to take it. Basically, I’m an infant in this business having only been here for six years. Do you have any ideas?”