A couple of weeks ago Chris Jericho had Paul Wight, aka The Big Show, on his podcast in what turned out to be a very entertaining and interesting interview. Some of the fallout has already covered by numerous wrestling outlets, such as the rigged ring expose with Brock Lesnar and the real scrap with Giant Khali, but what I want to cover goes a little further than that.
A number of times during the interview Mr Wight mentioned the copious amount of times he’s turned face and heel and the inconsistent nature of his character persona. Therefore, I want to look at The Big Show himself: the wrestler, the character and the – in my opinion – underachievement of both.
Now, I am not hating on The Big Show nor am I aiming to show any disrespect but (and there’s always a but) The Big Show should be one of the greatest figures in wrestling history and he is nowhere near that. So I am going to delve into the reason as why this is the case, looking back at his career in WCW and WWF/E to show that greatest mishandling of a character in modern times, and try to find out is it the fault of WWE or the man himself in making the world’s largest athlete the world’s biggest jobber?
In the podcast with Jericho, the two are discussing their run as tag-team champions, and Jericho mentions that he distinctly told Vince (McMahon) that had The Big Show had to be remembered as a monster again. Wight agreed.
“Its funny how many different roles I fill here,” he said. “One week I’m putting every one over and the next I destroy the entire locker room. It’s weird here after sixteen years I’m like a jack of all trades and master of none. One day I’m cutting promos wearing Pee-Wee Herman outfits, then the next I’m cutting intense heel promos, and then I’m crying in the ring. I’ve done so much flip-flopping and shit I’m still dizzy! I wake up and go, ‘am I a good guy or bad guy today?’ I’m the epitome of routine.”
This sums up the situation of The Big Show perfectly and it is straight from the horse’s mouth. If he and Jericho know, and openly realise it, then it shows that his persona has meandered to the point where no one can take him seriously and therefore remains to be one of wrestling’s most squandered opportunities this side of the WCW Invasion epic botch.
The best way to look at the mishandling of Paul Wight is to separate his career chronologically and dissect each and every moment that hindered rather than helped his character’s growth and longevity, starting with where it all began: WCW.
In WCW, The Big Show – then known as The Giant – was booked and depicted as a monster, a destroyer, and debuted in what has to be one of the best/worst things you’ve ever seen,where he was immediately thrown into feud with Hulk Hogan, which shows the high hopes that were pinned on his young yet massive shoulders.
Yes, in his debut match vs Hogan for the big gold – at Halloween Havoc ’95 – the unstoppable, monstrous giant defeated the champion, but only after severe interference from Jimmy Hart, Lex Luger, and a mummy – bandages and all! Now, I don’t know about you, but this is not how I would’ve booked the world’s largest athlete to look as a monstrous heel and bona fide threat to Hulkamania on his first ever match. Instead, they opted to make The Giant look weak due to his inability to defeat Hogan fairly. So, from day one, things didn’t begin as they have, but then this was WCW and nothing had to make sense and his was opponent was Hulk Hogan who never ever liked losing clean hence the heavy interference.
The Giant continued to go after Hogan but after an extremely one-sided victory against Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair, which by the sheer shock of the title change and the fact that Flair was the greatest heel of all time turned him mega face.
Soon after the nWo formed and changed the face of wrestling forever, and to complete their takeover of WCW they needed the title and therefore a babyface Giant took on the mega heel of Hollywood Hulk Hogan in a World title match. Then, weeks after losing the title to Hogan, The Giant turned heel and joined the nWo. It was around this time that The Giant started coming to the ring smoking cigarettes – be it Wight’s poor attitude or WCW’s creative input, it looked extremely bad either way you look at it.
Not a good look (unless your the Sandman, as it suited his character and ECW’s “fuck you” style) and in WCW’s case it just made The Giant look like he didn’t give a shit. Take Halloween Havoc ’98, for example. As he walks to the ring with Scott Steiner he is smoking a cigarette that no one comments on, and therefore what was the point? It wasn’t part of his character like The Sandman, it wasn’t referenced at all.
Four months later, The Giant was kicked out of the nWo, resulting in another babyface turn (see the pattern forming?), teaming with Sting, Luger, and The Four Horsemen against his former gang members, and especially Kevin Nash. The feud is known for two things: Kevin Nash’s no show at Starcade ’97, and the botched jackknife power bomb at Souled Out ’98, which nearly killed him when Nash dumped him on his neck. In the same year, the nWo split into two faction and The Giant joined nWo Hollywood, thus turning heel (again).
The Giant was involved with many wrestling legends in his WCW career, from Randy Savage to Ric Flair and Kevin Nash to Goldberg, holding the World Heavyweight Championship twice and the Tag Team Championship three times along the way. The Giant was big time in Atlanta, yet he received considerably less than the other headline acts that surrounded him and therefore sought to ply his trade up north.
Alas, the Stamford years have not been kind to Mr Wight as he has been continually mishandled by creative from day one, but the blame cannot entirely with the writers – Wight’s weight and attitude have not helped matters either. Let us take a look…
In 1999, the WWF signed Paul Wight to a ten-year guaranteed contract, apparently worth $950,000 per annum, and on February 14th he made his debut at St Valentines’ Day Massacre ’99. He ripped through the ring, picked up Steve Austin, and threw him through a steel cage in another spot as a top heel against the top babyface. Vince had big plans for Paul Wight that unfortunately have never come into fruition no matter how hard both parties try. The momentum of his debut was scuppered almost instantly when on the following night’s Raw he was referred to as “The Big Nasty”, a name that not only rings of a superstar lost sporting a shirt with the ironic slogan of “no gimmicks needed”.
He was soon repackaged as “The Big Show”, a moniker that still baffles me to this day. I mean what is a Big Show? An elaborate theatrical presentation? A star studded carnival? A blockbuster movie? All I know is that he has the worst entrance music ever and some pretty dire ring attire to boot, especially as the waist line had begun to expand.
Despite being in The Corporation as the enforcer, he failed to make any long-standing impact, often being used as a lackey, the guy to keep Mankind away from The Rock. Therefore, he just kind of existed rather than being elevated, because you had The Rock, Austin, Mankind, the Undertaker, and HHH all way ahead of him in the pecking order. So, within a month of his WWF/E debut, he was turned babyface in an altercation with Mr McMahon in what must have been an misguided attempt to freshen up his character, connect with the masses, and find his place.
After a brief stint with the rival stable, The Union, with Mankind and Test, it became clearer that creative were having problems with his character and what they did with him again got him lost in the mix of the clusterfuck that was The Corporate Ministry. When that stable disbanded, The Big Show joined forces with The Undertaker – for no real apparent reason apart from them both being strong. In reality, it was to transport the mentor/protege backstage friendship between the two onto the screen, and to reinstate his powerhouse status as they were referred to as “the most dominant force in WWF.” It may have worked sightly, as they captured the Tag Team Championships and featured in many of the programmes top storylines, but being placed with Paul Bearer and ‘Taker, two personalities far superior to Wight’s, he was left out in the cold with Mideon and Viscera.
Another month and another babyface turn loomed on the horizon as a feud emerged with The Big Boss Man when he tricked Show into believing his father had died of cancer, insensitively mocking him by secretly filming and showing his tearful reaction. Distasteful? Just wait. It was then confirmed that The Big Show’s father had really died and during the funeral, to which apparently you wear ill-fitting leather suits, Boss Man – complete with pick-up truck – interrupted by running The Big Show over and then towing the coffin away, as an infuriated, grief-stricken, leather-clad son clung to the moving casket. So Wight went from feuding with The Rock and Mankind to The Big Boss Man and Albert, in an angle revolving around cancer. A highlight this certainly was not.
Yet this absurd and stupid angle resulted in a title shot, albeit via default replacing an injured Austin, pitting The Big Show versus The Rock versus HHH, at Survivor Series ’99. The match was very good, and resulted in Show winning his first, yet rather lacklustre, WWE World Heavyweight Championship, and also marked WWE’s awareness of his weight gain as he began wrestling in t-shirt. To make you aware of the lack of legitimacy of his premiere reign, his first opponent in defence of the coveted title was The Big Boss Man at Armageddon ’99, damaging his run from the get-go. WWE realised their error and rectified it when he dropped the title to HHH on Raw a month later, and this was far from a prestigious run. Then came The Rock’s promo for Royal Rumble ’00, where he called every participant a “jabroni”. This hurt Show’s feelings, and so began a beef with Rocky and another heel turn. The turn was completed when he and The Rock both fell out of the ring at the same time, but The Rock was named as the victor, and a disgruntled Show – in order to prove the that he was the winner – provided a video tape that he used as evidence to show that The Rock’s feet did actually land first. Officially gone was the monster that was to rip through WWE, and all that remained was a really big, really sensitive, whiney, moaning shadow of a man that now looked pathetic rather than powerful.
Despite this, he was aligned with Shane O’Mac and involved in the “McMahon In Every Corner” fatal four way headline match at Wrestlemania 2000. Wight’s first ‘Mania, and he was in the main event a position that all professional wrestlers yearn for, yet there seemed something quite underwhelming about it all. Show had been there just over a year and he had already turned five times, and undergone just as many persona alterations that had severely weakened his character and scuppered any momentum he had. The fact that he was the first one eliminated only solidifies the point.
If creative who didn’t know what to do with him before, then they really didn’t have a clue now and the following chapter of The Big Show’s WWE career was not a good one. The Big Show began mimicking other wrestlers and characters, costumes and all. First there was The Showster, then Shownan the Barbarian, Showkishi, and other equally ridiculous titles that they could fit the word “show” into. This led to Shane, in a confusing segment, not only berating The Big Show but also the WWE’s shortcomings, when he referred to Show as an “unmotivated slob” and a person that fans will never care about. So what did the WWE have him do? Smash Shane? Nuh uh. Unleash the sleeping monster we all know and wanted him to be? No way, man. Show’s sensitive soul couldn’t take this level of verbal assault and he cried.
This was bad but things were about to get worse as the months of reckless booking, sub-par performances and expanding waistline culminated in the humiliation of being sent down to OVW, WWE’s development territory at the time, to shed the pounds and improve his in-ring ability. This demotion must have been to hard to take – Wight had gone from title reigns and Wrestlemania to 100-capacity halls and learning the fundamentals of wrestling. The WWE, trying to secure their hefty investment in The Big Show, embarrassed him into action, a bit of Jim Ross-style “tough love”, if you will.
The Big Show returned at Royal Rumble ’01 to a somewhat subdued pop, but a pop nonetheless, but all that was to change when The Rock dumped him out rather quickly. A raging Show dragged him out and choke slammed him through the announce table. “What the hell are you doing you big sonofabitch?! We gotta work here,” slammed JR, as another heel turn was implemented, but to no real avail as he was back to just to hanging around, being big, winning matches because of his size and losing matches because of aimless booking and WWE’s inability to carve out anything of merit for him to do.
Even the Invasion angle saw him became largely irrelevant in the weeks and months that followed. After a brief run-in with Shane, he ended up treading water in the midcard and facing C and D level opponents on C and D level shows like Heat and Metal in the epic tag team of Billy Gunn and The Big Show, aka The Show Gunns. Of course, I jest, it was another example of what not to do with one of the most, albeit potentially, exciting genuine giants in wrestling history. Oh, and did I mention that this involved another babyface turn? Well it did. And guess what? No one cared.
He was rescued and re-used in November by becoming part of the Team WWE versus Team Alliance match at Survivor Series. But, like in so many of his big matches, he was eliminated early. Another major angle he was involved in looked good on paper but in reality it was another mismanaged opportunity that The Big Show could have been a important component in. As a former member of the WCW locker room he would have brought much needed authority to the whole Invasion angle, which had an uphill battle from the beginning due to a lack of major WCW talent. Yet the WWE’s team of writers thought it better to nullify Show’s involvement instead of using the former WCW Champion.
What next for the floundering giant? Well after the whole Invasion angle had left fans rather disappointed, thinking about what could have been, WWE creative thought they needed something to lighten dampened spirits by giving the world what it needed… another Big Show heel turn! Yes, The Big Show turned heel by choke slamming Austin and joining nWo 2.0. The WWE nWo run was forgettable and The Big Show’s involvement even more so.
A draft pick to Smackdown was a saving grace, as it had him facing fresh, young opponents that he had worked with previously in OVW. The main break came when he began feuding as the heel against Brock Lesnar over the World Championship. It seemed as if both Show and WWE were determined in this being a new beginning, WWE had him end Lesnar’s undefeated streak, becoming a two-time World Champion in the process, and Show went from wearing a single strap leotard to a double strap leotard. Everything seemed good at long last. However, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, and he lost the belt to Kurt Angle a month later and then teamed up with A-Train to lose against The Undertaker at Wrestlemania XIX, before renewing his feud with Lesnar again for the WWE title. Yet it became clear that Show was there only to rocket Lesnar’s already fledgling credibility. The feeling was that The Big Show was too much for Lesnar to handle but he beat the hell out of him tossing him around, and displaying jaw-dropping power moves only Lesnar can do – The Beast F5’ing 700lbs seemed effortless and amazing. Despite the loss, Brock was the monster that The Big Show could have – and should have – been, and mainly because of the work rate of Lesnar the feud was exciting and memorable which culminated in the fantastic ring explosion.
Remaining heel, The Big Show’s next opponent was Eddie Guerrero. They feuded over the WWE United States championship, which involved the hilarious (eye roll) segment where The Big Show ate a lot of burritos because he’s fat and then shat himself in the ring. Not exactly how a supposed monster should be booked, this is Boogieman/Bastion Booger territory, and no one wants to be there. However, he did win the US title but again it was only to make another person look good. This time that person was John Cena…
The opening match of Wrestlemania XX saw Show being used as the another victim of impressive strength as Cena lofted him not once, but twice on to his shoulders, planting him on the mat with an FU for the 1,2,3 and the US title, launching him to superstardom from wrestler to superhero. Lifting and slamming The Big Show became a right of passage to that next level, and after jobbing to both Cena and Lesnar – the future of WWE – his work here was done. After throwing Torrie Wilson off the stage, he left WWE for a long time, the most underutilised and wasted character of all time. The Big Show wasn’t seen on TV for eleven months, when he returned to Smackdown in 2004. Like most returning superstars, he returned as a babyface and feuded with Kurt Angle, who tranquillised him with a dart gun and then shaved his head. A warm welcome back this was not.
The degradation continued as John Laurinaitis thought it wise to book him in a sumo wrestling match against Japanese sumo superstar Akebono, in order to boost pay-per-view buys in Japan. Supposed to be a spectacle, the match is about four minutes, and the sight of Big Show in a mawashi is fucking gross. The sight of him rolling around on the floor, in what is basically a giant thong, is even more so. Akebono was victorious, as every special guest is, but this made The Big Show’s Wrestlemania losing streak 0-6, which is a depressing figure considering that he was supposed to be the most dominant force in WWE. Yet the bookers wanted us to remember this by keeping him in the title picture, and feuds with Shawn Michaels and HHH, only to fall victim to the future COO’s sledgehammer. Creative seemed keen to keep this momentum going, and had him winning the WWE Tag Team championship with Kane – defending them the following year saw The Big Show gain his first Wrestlemania victory.
After dumping the titles to The Spirit Squad not long after, there was again nothing for The Big Show to do, so creative used their tried and tested formula and had him jump to ship to ECW, turning heel in the process. We now know the WWE’s ECW 2.0 was a watered-down disaster, but at the time many fans – including my brother and I – were clinging on to the hope that, with Heyman on board, it would be worth a watch. Then The Big Show was crowned the champion. The live fans flipped out – similar to Hogan joining the nWo, the ring was littered with trash – and the air was filled with boos. But this was not because a beloved babyface had shocked the wrestling world by turning heel, this was because a once proud, innovative, and cherished product – and the wrestler chosen to lead it – were shadows of their former selves. ECW and The Big Show limped along until he dropped the belt at December to Dismember ’06, as injuries were instrumental in another lengthy absence and it was also reported that his WWE contract had expired.
He returned at No Way Out 08, 100 lbs lighter, and instantly turned heel by attacking Rey Mysterio. Rey was saved by Floyd Mayweather Jr and The Big Show towered over him and laughed as he got down on his knees and welcomed the boxer to attack. Mayweather obliged and landed vicious, sharp punches to The Big Show’s face, breaking his nose for real. It is a great moment and the look of genuine fury on Wight’s face is pretty scary, and set up another Wrestlemania spectacle. The actual ‘Mania match wasn’t good by any means, but it was interesting due to the freakish dimensions on display between the two fighters. It was a high profile outing and garnered media attention around the world, and despite the loss things were looking good for Mr Wight. Alas, in his absence, another giant had entered the WWE universe – Giant Khali – and the two were destined clash. After ‘Mania they did and the result was so bad that it turned The Big Show babyface as the crowds were unable or unwilling to accept Khali.
Another babyface turn surely meant another heel turn was due, and five months later he turned heel by saving uber-heel Vickie Guererro from The Undertaker. The two entered another feud involving Last Man Standing, Casket, and Cage matches, all of which Show lost, therefore making an entertaining feud seem rather pointless from his perspective. A glimpse of what could’ve been came when Jericho needed a new heel tag partner, and The Big Show’s name came up. Despite being called “Jeri-Show”, they made a great tag-team, and both look back upon this time fondly, mainly due to Jericho’s persistence and determination to make The Big Show a monster again.
After years of self-inflicted and booking bullshit, his persona had suffered irreparable damage but Jericho’s charisma and creative flair managed to use The Big Show in a positive and progressive manner, resulting in the duo capturing both brands’ Tag Team championships for 140 days, and working exciting and passionate matches. Something that cannot be commonly said about The Big Show. What happened next was rather confusing, though. In the run up to Bragging Rights ’09, in what seemed to be a babyface tease’ The Big Show defeated Jericho, who was the captain of Team Smackdown to earn a spot on Team Raw. Weeks later, at the PPV, Team Smackdown beat Team Raw due to The Big Show turning on Team Raw. Jeri-Show then lost the straps to DX but The Big Show won them back with The Miz – as “ShoMiz” – and then lost them again and turned babyface by punching The Miz.
The Big Show was placed back into the title chase when WWE needed someone big to make Mark Henry look like a bona fide warrior. Henry has been treated far worse than The Big Show, with humiliating and embarrassing storylines that were made to make him quit, yet the “World’s Strongest Man” persevered and his reward was a World Heavyweight Championship run. The Big Show had helped make Cena and Lesnar look devastatingly powerful and now it was Mark Henry’s turn. They had them recreate the ring-collapsing spot Show had done with Lesnar in 2003 but with less shock and impact. The Big Show did capture the belt from Henry at TLC, but was knocked out and Daniel Bryan cashed in his Money In The Bank briefcase to make it the shortest title reign in WWE history (forty-five seconds).
The Big Show as a face or a heel is not something that lasts very long, and a few months later – after being fired by John Laurinaitis – he returned to aid John Cena, who was having his own problems with Mr L, and turned heel by KO’ing Cena instead. A few months later, he then turned babyface as he helped Randy Orton and Sheamus against The Shield. At Wrestlemania 29, The Big Show, Sheamus, and Randy Orton lost to The Shield when Orton was pinned after stealing a hot tag from The Big Show. After the match, a frustrated Show knocked out Orton and Sheamus for repeatedly refusing to tag him in the match, therefore turning heel. Coming quick and fast was another babyface turn, as The Big Show returned to help Mark Henry and Rob Van Dam fend off a Shield attack.
The Authority then threatened him with bankruptcy if he didn’t do their bidding – that made him cry several times – and he KO’d Daniel Bryan in the main event of the Battleground PPV. A few minutes later he also KOd heel Randy Orton as the show went off the air to switch back to babyface AGAIN. Then he turned heel for the umpteenth time to join The Authority, as an enforcer along with Kane and J&J security, who remain by Seth Rollins’s side while The Big Show doesn’t, and there is no explanation as to why. After a hit and miss feud with Roman Reigns, he has fallen into a three-way dance involving Ryback, The Miz, and the WWE Intercontinental Championship that has seen him flip flop (his own words) between babyface and heel once more. That makes thirty-plus turns in his twenty year career with WCW/WWE.
The Big Show deserves a medal. He has gone from monster heel to star-maker, being a good guy or a bad guy for the cause, and looking weak and stupid in the process. That his 4-9 Wrestlemania record features two losses to non-pro-wrestlers only highlights Paul Wight’s years of generosity and what a company guy really is. Dubbed the “Largest Athlete in the World”, he has been constantly defeated and derided in one way or another to the point when the fans have begun chanting “please retire” but while the WWE still need Superstars to put over there will always be a need for once promising Paul Wight, the World’s Largest Jobber.