Interview conducted by Kevin Kelly June 1999 for WWF Raw Magazine It's not about size, but rather it's about impact. The Big Show has made a tremendous impact everywhere he has gone in life. From the college hardwood at Wichita State university to perhaps the most memorable car salesman Ford Motor Company has ever seen, Paul Wight has always been notable. But The Big Show, as you are about to learn, wants to redefine the way he is perceived - to transcend what it is to be the biggest. KK: What were you like as a child? PW: As a kid, I always entertained my family. I was the type of kid who told a lot of jokes and tried to make everybody laugh. I tried to make everybody laugh in school and consequently I got into a lot of trouble. I was one of those kind of kids that annoyed the hell out of everybody, but you still loved me. KK: What was your home life like? What did your parents do? Did you have a lot of friends? What sports did you play? PW: I played a lot of sports in school. It was a way for me to interact with a lot of kids. I grew up pretty far out in the country. KK: In what state? PW: South Caroline - so there weren't even a lot of neighbors around. I had a few friends growing up. My mom worked for the local sheriff's office...she was a deputy. My dad was a mill right/superintendent at the Savannah River Plant. KK: So, as you got older and Mom was working at the sheriff's department, did you ever get in trouble? PW: There's a funny story about the first girl I ever kissed - I got arrested. KK: You got arrested? PW: I was 12, she was 11. It was at a roller skating rink and the only problem was tha at age 12, I was six feet two inches and 220 pounds with a chocolate milk moustache. Even though I probably looked like I was 18 or 19, I was still a 12-year-old kid. I will never forget the security guards at the rink arrested me. It terrified me. Here I am in tears at 12 years old. I had never been in trouble in my life! This guy wanted to see identification and I didn't even have a library card. I'm 12 years old! My mom - being the angel she was - came to my rescue and cut a huge promo on this guy and tried to spare me whatever mental damage I might have suffered. KK: Were you alwyas comfortable with your size, being the biggest kid in class? PW: Yeah, I never took advantage of it. I was never a bully. I was the guy in seventh or eighth grade that, when the high school kids were beating up on my friends, used to beat up the high school kids. It was one of those things where I would always be the type to look out for the underdog. Sometimes it doesn't work out in my job because I'm the guy I hate. In real life, I would root for the underdog. I've always been comfortable with my size. I've never used it to bully people around. If anything I've never made light of my size. I've always made people feel comfortable, being funny and maling people relax. Most of the time the first thing people do when they see me is that they suck their underwear up into the unknown and they can't talk. So, I have to try and loosent hem up. KK: Ralph Sampson was a center in basketball at seven feet four inches and he always had dreams of playing point guard. When he played for the Houston Rockets he would bring the ball up the court and things like that just because he wanted to be something different and something that he wasn't. Can you relate to that? PW: Totally. I played basketball in high school and my big thing was that I always wanted to be a shooting guard. I always wanted to be the guy who came down and pulled the three pointers - even though I was the guy who came down and slam-dunked all the time, when all the guys who shoot three-pointers wanted to dunk. You always want to be something different. I don't think anybody is really totally satisfied. You just learn to adjust and learn to accept what you have and to use it to the best of your ability. You know, I always wanted to be a Marine Biologist when I was a kid and do work with sharks and things like that. That was my big interest when I was a kid. But there's something about a seven-foot, 500-pound guy in scube gear that doesn't work. I am shark meat! I look like a big seal in the water - it doesn't work! KK: Being one of the biggest men in professional wrestling, you're always going to have that label, you're always going to be the "big guy." Do you want to try and recreate yourself? Do you want to change people's perception of you and your ability in the ring?" PW: Without a doubt. That's always been my goal, even growing up. The first thing people do when they see someone of my immense size is they automatically assume you're got a lesser intellect or that you're not very coordinated. For me, I've always been the type that's always worked hard at being, for my size, extremely quick and coordinated because just flat-out I hated getting laughed at as a kid. So, I did the extra things. I did the jumping rope and the extra drills to be faster and to be quicker. In this sport, I'm somewhat of a freak for my size to be able to do the things I do. I mean, I can do kip-ups and things like that, which doens't really fit my character, so to speak, that the sports-entertainment world is used to. THey're used to a guy like me being a lumbering brawler, let alone a guy who can be the total package, so to speal - who's quck, athletic and smart. If that was the case, everyone would put the belt on me and change the channel because the game's over. I work within my boundaries and I try to slowly bring along new things so that people tuning in will hopefully see something new that they didn't expect from me. I just try and keep everybody happy and also protect my career, because I want to be around for a long time. If I do everything int he first six months it doesn't leave a whole hell of a lot to show. KK: Where did you play college ball? PW: When I played sports in college I transferred around a lot. I went through junior college first because I had gone to a small high school and thoroughly dominated my school in South Caroline. I averaged triple doubles. I went to junior college and got into a really tough league in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. I was All-Conferance there. Then I went to Wichita State and went Division One. You know, we had a really tough schedule. We played Kansas, Oklahoma State, Alabama, Utah, Florida, Notre Dame and a lot of the teams that were in the big leagues. So, for me it was good exposure, but it was kind of a rude awakening. No matter how good an athlete I am, I was 320 pounds and to be quite honest, some of the athletes in the other colleges were unbelievable. Fifiteen years ago I think I would have been a phenom. Right now, I'm just another big slow guy. KK: Did you get any offers to play pro ball? PW: I thnk I had stuck with it I would have done better, but it's just one of those things for me - I had to face reality. I really didn't have my heart in the game anymore. My father passed away while I was in college and it really took the wind out of my dails. I was really close to him. And the coach I was really close to, they fired him midway through the season and replaced him with a coach who wanted a different kind of ball club. So, he got rid of all the guys I was recruited with. And it was just one of those things where it put a real foul taste in my mouth, so I just kind of gave it up. KK: After college, how did you get into this profession? PW: I was basically working different kinds of jobs. I sold cars in Wichits, Kansas. I was known as "Tall Paul" - you couldn't forget me! I'd pick up the car so you could walk underneath it and check out what was underneath. Believe me, it was hard because people would absolutely die when I walked up to them... [At this point, Stone Cold Steve Austin has a comment.] SCSA: Oh, bullshit! PW: Oh, f@#$ off, Austin! [Laughing] So I tried that and did very well over the summer. You know I had a gift for gab. Then Christmas comes around, and that was my first time making a lot of money quick. I made three or four grand teh first month! I was like..Oh, my God! I had a nice apartment, nice furniture, a nice car, I was making money pretty steady...I was on top of the world. December rolls around, and nobody buys cars for Christmas. And they don't buy cars in Janaury because they're getting Christmas bills. When I made fifty bucks for December and January I figured I needed to find a new damn job because I'm getting pretty hungry and tired of eating Spam and baloney. I did some bail bondsman work for a friend of mine - following guys and picking them up. There was a friend of mine in Wichita, Kansas, who owned an electronice business, and he had a friend in Chicago who promot3ed bands and athletes and what-not and he told me that I had to meet this guy, Jimmy. He said that Jimmy and me were cut from the same mold. I had never met this guy before and he had never met me, but his friend, John, was a mutual friend and he said we were just alike - personality and everything. He said we were like brothers. So, I met Jimmy and he has bought out a whole bunch of electronics equipment and gave me a job loading equipment. And I told him I was so broke at the time I was eating toothpaste sandwiches...that's how broke I was. But I was too damn proud to ask anyone for money. I tolf Jimmy, "You can pay me by buying me dinner." So, when he paid me I bought him dinner, because I was really thankful for the work. We hit it off. The one thing I was always impresed with was that Jimmy was always very honest with me. He told me, "I don't know what I can do for you. I'll try to maybe get you to play football with the [Chicago] Bears or something like that, but if everything else fails I'll give you a job with my company and at least you'll eat everyday." To me, that sounded damn good. On the plane ride out I was talking to Jim and said, "Maybe I should give this professional wrestling thing a try." I had always been a fan and watched it and, you know, I knew the ins and outs of it a little bit. Like any fan on the outside, unless you've laced up a pair of the boots you have no idea what this sport is like. So, I told him, "I don't know if I'd be any good, but I might be one of those guys who gets beat up...they gotta make something." [At this point D'Lo Brown interrupts and gives his current 1-800-COLLECT commercial a plug] D'Lo: Hey, you can save a bundle by using 1-800-COLLECT! PW: Thanks, D'Lo...[laughing] That's one problem with doing an interview in the hall - everybody gets in the damn way. The first gimmick I did, I was going to call myself Paul Bunyan. I was going to get this really hot chick in a blue dress and call her Babe. Needless to say, it worked for a while. And it got me a lot of dates because I met a lot of cute girls and promised them the Babe spot, but it never turned out. Of all things, Jimmy was doing a live karaoke show on the "Morning Drive" with Danny Bonnaducci from The Partridge Family. So, Jimmy had a spot where Danny was going to play Jimmy Hart and Hulk Hogan in a charity basketball tournament and he needed a secret partner. Well, I played college ball, so Danny brought me in as his secret partner. The whole angle behind it was for me to meet Hulk and see about maybe getting a job. He met me..and Hulk's a very good friend of mine and he's been a big influence on me. Television is one thing, but in real life he's probably one of the greatest people I know. He's been like a big brother to me. Hulk said I had a big dollas sign written on my forehead, only I didn't know it. He said I could make a lot of money doing this. They got me a tryout with WCW and that's how it all started. I trained down six months and my first match was against Hulk Hogan and they put the belt on me. There was no BSing. I'm in the mix and I'm in the middle of it and here I am. It was good...I was very green and didn't understand how a lot of the politics worked and how a lot of people helped me along the way. Diamond Dallas Page was one of teh guys who helped train me. Sting helped teach me a lot in the ring, because I soent a lot of my program time when I first started with Sting. He was one of the best at working with bigger guys and helping them along and it turned out. I started out as the "Son of Andre" - which tome at the time, in all sincerity, I wasn't very comfortable with . You know, I always admired Andre. I always loved to watch him and everyone had so much respect for him in the business that for me - being the snow-nosed damn rookie coming in as the "Son of Andre" - not only was it hard boots to fill. I never liked the perception of lying to people - and I'm sure in every job you probably have to do a little bit of lying - but that was really hard for me to swallow and run with. I never met the man. I didn't know him and believe me, deep in my heart, I wish I would have met him. Hulk loved him so much and said I could have learned so much from him. For me, it was a very hard thing to deal with. But you like the paycheck, so you make the very best you can with it. The thing was...when I started out down there, a lot of people who were trying to help me knew about this business and a lot of people in charge didn't have a damn clue what to do with me. I mean, when I first started I chokeslammed everybody, A to Z. Well, that lasted for a few months, and then we would run out of talent. Then we had to start doing other things and it left me in a very compromising positiong. There wasn't anything done for marketing: there wasn't anything done to identify me as a character. I basically became - because the role was easy to mold into - kind of the thug for hire. Consequently, I became the type of person that I don't think wrestling fans could ever trust. Just when I'd get that momentum behind them I'd run out of opponents and then..Oh God,t here I go, I've got to be a bad guy again. And I stayed a bad guy because it was comfortable. It's a lot easier to get people to hate you than get them to love you, unless they get to know you. It was hard for me because my real personality is that I'm a very fuinny guy - very straightforward. I'm not a prick. I guess I can be - I'm sure I haven't made everybody happy all the time. But to get personality and charm over on camera is hard, especially now that I am in the Big Show and I am "the Big Show." Hogan told me a long time ago...when I was frustrated about a lot of things he said, "The only way you're really going to make any money and make yourself what you really need to be is you've got to go to New York." KK: Now, the story is that he was helpful, instrumental in some respecs, in getting you up here. PW: Well, instrumental in the fact that I was asking him, "What should I do?" Because it was a situation where a lot of guys down there are established...they have their characters, they ahve their positioning in the networks. And a lot of the people that have control didn't see me as a viable talent. They basically saw me as a "flash in the pan" and I was done. It was very frustrating for me. I was 26 years old at the time, and I was trying to figure out, Jesus, this can't be it. I can do so much more, just give me a chance. But the thing was, they were pretty much burned out on ideas. They've never made me a gian. They never made an Andre the Giant. They never made a Hulk Hogan or a Macho Man Randy Savage. They enver made talent. They made Sting, they made me and they made Goldberg. That's it! Every big star in wrestling has basically come from [the WWF] with the exception of a few, such as Ric Flair, Arn Anderson and those guys. I think a lot of htem boosted their careers when they did come here. The Federation is synonymous with wrestling superstars. When I met with these people and tlaked to them, it was a situation where they saw a lot of talent in me and saw a lot of potential. And for once in a long time I felt needed and felt I had a chance to grow. KK: Were the last few days at WCW pretty tough? PW: They were very tough. Of course, there was a lot of pressure on me from my boss - and we all know who he is - because all of a sudden he realized that perhaps I wasn't the "lump of shit" that he thought I was. And he was getting some pressure from upper-level executives above him who wondered, "We found this guy, we trained him, we developed him -why are we losing him? Why doesn't he want to sign with us?" Well, it's not a question of anger; it's a question of I want to go wtih a bigger and better deal. I've got a wife and a little girl to take care of. There's a future and I have to plan for them. My future, as I see it, is here. After getting here and seeing how incredibly organized everything is and how much the talent is respected here...you know, in WCW it's a television company that has a wrestling show. Here, it's a sports-entertainment company -period- that's on television. And the talent is treated like what we are - we are talent. We do draw the tickets and we do put the asses in seats and we do make people buy the Pay-Per-Views and we do entertain the crowd. And we're treated with a lot more respect up here as far as pay scale, as far as just in the way of general help. Our travel department, when I was down in WCW, was just a damn nightmare to get anything doen. It was a nightmare to get a ticket - you're screwed! They tried to fly me coach or on a charter in like a commuter plane or somehting. I mean, sorry, my ass doesn't fit but in so many seats. Up here, I don't like to fly through Atlants. The Federation's travel department goes out of its way to make sure I don't have to fly through Atlanta. I walk around all the time with my mouth hanging open going, ""My God, this is the way people get treated?" I feel like a star now. Before I felt like a piece of meat that was on television and then I went back to my humble little outhouse. Up here, I do feel like a star. And when you're treated like a star, your work ethic improves and your product most definetly improves. I think you can see a definite correlation because the fans understand that. Obviously, we're blowing them out of the damn water in the ratings because our product is what people want to see. They know we're out there working hard. They know everybody cares about putting out a viable product here. In that place, everybody's damn glad to get a paycheck and go home and nobody really cares. And I think that's the biggest difference.