In an exclusive interview with The Hindu, Paul Donald Wight, known by his ring name Big Show, looks back at the highs and lows of his career, ahead of his appearance in WWE RAW’s ‘Legends Night’
When Paul Donald Wight II entered the ring as Big Show way back in the ‘90s, he was widely perceived as the successor to Andre the Giant, thanks to his towering figure. Though one of the celebrated stars in the world of wrestling and a favourite among fans, there were certain things that came as additional baggage for Wight, who had to maintain his protruding waistline and the character’s imposing personality of a giant.
“When I started my career I thought I had to be the biggest guy in the locker room because I was the giant; I was the Big Show. Then as the business evolves, the character has to evolve as well. You also have to do what’s best for you physically for your own personal health,” says Wight, in a Zoom interview from Florida, USA.
“After years, with knee and bad hip injuries, I had to find ways to change the way my character looked, ate and exercised. I am always going to be the Big Show whether I’m 500 pounds or 400 pounds. That moniker is going to stay. But I am at a point in my career where I am a lot healthier and happier.”
The Big Show is among the last of the WWE superstars from a previous generation that we have grown to develop a love-hate relationship with, over the years. Wight, who has embodied the character for close to three decades, has had an enviable run and is excited about, perhaps, the last leg of his career.
Although he has not yet retired, he will now be making an appearance in RAW’s Legends Night, alongside legends Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and other WWE stars. “I find it funny that these guys [Hogan and Flair] are Hall of Famers and retired…I am not in the Hall of Fame and haven’t retired, but I have been wrestling for four decades and I am a legend. It’s a unique position to be there,” says Wight.
This year’s Legends Night will be starkly different from previous years, given that we are still in the middle of a raging pandemic, and in the absence of fans at the stadium. But Wight says that it is a business model that they have come to terms with, “You are essentially working for the TV audience. Yes, it’s a nice ambience to have when there is crowd and you will really feel their energy. But after a while, you know you are working towards TV audience; there aren’t going to be any shortcuts and you cannot look at the crowd for help,” he says with a laugh, “Ultimately, you are all along in the ring with a hope that whatever you do translates on screen and people enjoy the show.”
Been there, done that
His character may not be as flamboyant as Ric Flair; he may not come across as animated as Stone Cold or as influential as The Undertaker, but Big Show has become a legend in his own right, partly due to the character’s evolution.
Or, as Wight says, Big Show is someone who has often had “good guy, bad buy” turns. “That is one of the fun things about my character. But sometimes, it’s a lot more fun to be the bad guy to pretend to be someone you’re really not,” he says, adding, “I am really not a ‘bad guy’ persona and I think there’s a bit of cathartic release to play that character. But I have too much of a conscience to play that character. I am a big marshmallow (laughs). I am really doing a heck of an act when I play a bad guy.”
One of the memorable story arcs for Big Show is his rivalry with Brock Lesnar; the duo has had some nasty fights. But Wight finds it difficult to pick a favourite opponent or a feud. “I have had so many incredible opponents and partners and matches. I worked with people like Eddie Guerrero and my first match was with Hulk Hogan, and I won World Heavyweight Championship against Ric in 1996. I have wrestled with John Cena and The Undertaker all over the world, as is the case with Brock Lesnar. There is no way possible for me to pinpoint at one particular memory,” he says.
He attributes his legacy to a loyal fanbase, who even made his Netflix comedy show, The Big Show, which dropped on the platform last year, a success.
“I am humbled and grateful for their love. I know The Big Show did really well in India. You can’t have a career as long as mine without the support and love from fans.”
Wight has been walking a tightrope between his professional career as a wrestler, while pursuing his acting career at the same time. There is no Plan B as such for Big Show at the moment.
“I don’t have any pressure. I enjoy fighting and helping out young talent,” he says adding “I am currently reaping the benefits of my hard work,”
Watch WWE RAW Legends Night Live and Exclusive on January 5, 2021 from 6.30 am IST and the repeat from 8 pm IST, on SONY TEN 1 (English) and SONY TEN 3 (Hindi) channels.