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The Big Show Embraces Role as Special Olympics Global Ambassador
The Big Show fell prey to Randy Orton’s RKO this week in the main event of SmackDown Live, but the 7-foot giant continues to champion WWE in all of his professional endeavors.
He was recently named as Special Olympics Global Ambassador, allowing the 46-year-old Paul Wight—who has wowed wrestling audiences for over two decades as the Big Show—to make an even greater footprint on behalf of the WWE outside of the ring.
“As a goodwill ambassador, I will be able make an impact both locally and globally,” said Wight. “Everywhere I set foot to do my job and wrestle, I can also take time, get involved, meet some athletes, and bring awareness to Special Olympics all over the world.”
Wight has showcased his array of talents in WWE as the Big Show for the past 19 years (“Who ever thought a small town kid from South Carolina would ever get to see the world wearing spandex?” Wight joked), but also found a deep passion and joy in his volunteer work with the Special Olympics. His first foray came in 2014 at the USA Games in New Jersey, and he quickly became enamored with the athletes that transform Special Olympics into one of the most dynamic groups in the world.
“My time with Special Olympics has made me a better person, especially in terms of respect for others,” said Wight. “Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own lives that you forget what else is out there, until you experience something that moves you emotionally. I get moved by the athletes at the Special Olympics. I’m proud to be a part of Special Olympics and I’m proud of the athletes, and I am a better person for being around these athletes.”
Due to his monstrous size and stature, Wight can relate with the Special Olympics athletes in ways most cannot.
“In some ways, I do identify with the Special Olympics athletes,” shared Wight. “Because of my size, because of my presence, I’ve always been judged before people got to know me. I was 6’2”, 220 pounds at 12 years old, and when people found out I was only 12, I still remember how differently they reacted. Sometimes, people would assume that I wasn’t intelligent or capable, and that was challenging for me to overcome. As a human being who wants to be part of society, I want to make friends, I want to make people comfortable around me, and I want to learn from people.
“That’s what really hits home for me when I work with our Special Olympians, because some people also have preconceived notions that are simply outdated and not true about these amazing men and women. These individuals are so capable, and one of the main important things I get from working with Special Olympians is their honest-to-goodness sincerity.”
Wight is bringing added understanding and attention to the Special Olympics’ “Inclusion Revolution”, a campaign designed to end discrimination against those with intellectual disabilities.
“If you want to see the true embodiment of overcoming and determination, spend some time with Special Olympics athletes,” said Wight. “We should never limit or prejudge. We’re educating people around the world with the ‘Inclusion Revolution’ that there is absolutely no reason to say a person cannot do something. These athletes are living proof that they can overcome any obstacle. It’s great for the rest of us in the world to take a good, hard look at that inspiration.”
Wight’s new role as Global Ambassador represents a dynamic opportunity to step deeper into the Special Olympics community and make a lasting impact with the athletes.
“If you’re a fan of WWE, if you’re a fan of mine, see if you can volunteer your time,” said Wight. “If you can donate time, there are tons of different ways to be supportive.
“Let’s face it, with everything going on in today’s world, if we’re focused on a goal of inclusion and acceptance for everyone, then the rest of the world would be a lot better off. I’m going to lead the charge with handshakes and smiles, but if we have to, we’ll knock a few heads around to make sure everyone is on board.”
Shawn Michaels’s Return Imminent
This week’s Raw made it official: Shawn Michaels will return to the ring on November 2 at the Crown Jewel show in Saudi Arabia.
Michaels proved again this past Monday that he can still cut one of the best promos in wrestling, and his upcoming tag match—with Triple H against The Undertaker and Kane—is a necessary step in his return.
The comeback story arc is not complete without a return date against The Undertaker. Michaels lost his unforgettable WrestleMania 26 encounter against The Undertaker, which put ’Taker’s then-undefeated 17-match WrestleMania winning streak up against Michaels’ career. In order for Michaels to return in full, he first has to avenge his loss to The Undertaker.
Sources close to WWE have hinted that the Saudi Arabia show will not be the only return match for Michaels. If that is, in fact, the case, then Michaels can build to another feud culminating at WrestleMania 35.
A popular question is whether the 53-year-old Michaels can still work at a high level. Father Time is undefeated, so Michaels will undoubtedly be a step slower, but he can still shine in a match with the right opponent. There is zero chance that the ultra-competitive Michaels—who still teaches and trains in the ring at the WWE Performance Center—would ever come back unless he could still perform.
Looking beyond the DX-Brothers of Destruction tag team match, the key for Michaels will be finding the right opponent for a singles match. Only two men make sense: his former student Daniel Bryan, who is likely to work with The Miz at WrestleMania 35, or a dream match against AJ Styles.
The Phenomenal One vs. The Heartbreak Kid? That would be a fitting return to the “Showcase of The Immortals” for Michaels.
In other news...
• WWE’s Crown Jewel show in Saudi Arabia will occur under a new cloud of controversy, as Turkish investigators believe that missing Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in a preplanned murder that allegedly took place in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The supposed murder was ordered, per The New York Times, by the highest levels of Saudi Arabia’s government.
WWE’s business dealings with the General Sports Authority of Saudi Arabia, which next includes the Nov. 2 show in Riyadh, are lucrative for the company but the multiple human rights issues may override any profit motivation.
Chris Murphy, the junior senator from WWE’s home state of Connecticut issued a sharp rebuke of the Saudis.
A situation as abhorrent as this—where Khashoggi was openly critical of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and allegedly murdered for his criticism—has to make WWE seriously question whether the money is worth its relationship with Saudi Arabia.
• Chris Jericho returned to New Japan this past Monday at the King of Pro-Wrestling show in Tokyo, ambushing Los Ingobernables de Japon member EVIL.
LIJ leader Tetsuya Naito was quoted in in last Wednesday’s Week in Wrestling that he plans to beat Jericho so badly that he will never again wrestle in New Japan, and the current IWGP Intercontinental champion was happy to respond.
“I can’t wait to kick the s--- out of Naito again,” Jericho told Sports Illustrated. “It was a lot of fun last time. I believe he got carried out on a stretcher when it was all said and done, so I can’t wait for him to try to kick the s--- out of me again.”
• The main event at New Japan’s King of Pro-Wrestling was a triple threat match for the IWGP title between champion Kenny Omega, Cody Rhodes, and Kota Ibushi.
Aside from Jay White’s addition to the Tama Tonga-led “BC OG” Bullet Club, the title match served as the highlight of the show.
The match took its toll on the friendship of Omega and Ibushi, and the role of Rhodes in this match cannot be overstated.
Rhodes manipulated his way into the match, playing into the insecurities of both Omega and Ibushi. The entire angle is an example of New Japan storytelling at its finest, highlighting a tumultuous relationship between Omega and Ibushi, with Rhodes serving as the catalyst for the storyline reunion of the Golden Lovers earlier in the year and now foreshadowing a break between Omega and Ibushi.
There were multiple fascinating layers to the match, only the third triple-threat match for the IWGP heavyweight title in New Japan history. The first took place in 2005 when Brock Lesnar defeated Masahiro Chono and Kazuyuki Fujita to start his controversial reign as IWGP champ, and the second taking place nine years later in May 2014 at Ring of Honor’s War of the Worlds show in New York City in a match between then-IWGP champ AJ Styles, Kazuchika Okada, and Michael Elgin.
Any match with Rhodes, who is the current NWA champion as well as IWGP United States title holder, includes his storied lineage, plus there was the brilliant psychological and in-ring work of Omega and an athletic marvel in Ibushi, who delivered a corkscrew moonsault onto Omega that did not seem humanly possible.
The match needed Rhodes and his attempts to interfere in the friendship of the Golden Lovers as well as walk away with the IWGP title. A sequence where Rhodes snuck a pinfall attempt on the champ when he and Omega were delivering a double suplex on Ibushi perfectly captured Rhodes as the opportunistic heel.
The match marked only Ibushi’s second chance at the IWGP heavyweight title, with his first shot ending in defeat at the hands of AJ Styles in 2015 after Omega distracted him. Omega also cost him the victory in this affair.
After Ibushi knocked Rhodes out of the ring with a kick to the head, Omega came from behind to deliver a reverse rana, a Jay Driller, a V-trigger, and his patented One-Winged Angel to pin Ibushi for the victory.
• John Cena was the guest on this week’s SI Media Podcast with Jimmy Traina, and he touched on a number of fascinating topics.
Cena addressed the reputation that he has held talent back, whether he runs his own social media accounts, and even gave insight on Roman Reigns’ current position with the company.
• Scorpio Sky will team with his SoCal Uncensored brethren Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian this Friday at Ring of Honor’s “Glory by Honor” show in Baltimore to challenge the Young Bucks and Cody Rhodes for the ROH Six-Man championship.
“We’re going to walk out with that gold,” said Scorpio Sky. “I love doing six-man tags with Frankie and Chris. I think we’re all over with the crowd individually, but when you bring us together, it just takes us to a whole other level.”
After SCU wins the titles, Sky already has an opponent in mind: WWE SmackDown tag team champions the New Day—permitting the match takes place in his beloved southern California.
“That’s the only place it can be,” said Sky. “They may have to come to our turf, or maybe we’ll go to their turf. Without saying a ton, you just never know what is going to happen when contracts run out.”
A longtime star in California, Sky’s breakout moment took place this past September at All In during the Zero Hour preshow in the opening match with Kazarian against the Briscoe Brothers.
“It was the best night of my career,” said Sky, who is 35-year-old Schuyler Andrews. “It was a culmination of a lot of hard work. I’m very close with Cody and I’m very close with the Bucks, and I was in the car with them as they were getting the show together in the year leading up to it, and I was just happy to be a part of the show. To end up having a match and then having the opening match, which is a very important part of the show that sets the tone for the entire night, it was a huge moment.
“I thought I was going to be nervous, but I just felt ready. I’m still buzzing from it, especially for that crowd to react the way it did. That’s something I’ll never forget.”
Following Friday’s show in Baltimore, Sky is on the card for ROH’s television taping this Sunday in Philadelphia at the old ECW Arena. He will also wrestle at the NWA 70th Anniversary show on Sunday, October 21 in Nashville as part of a tournament to crown NWA’s new National Heavyweight Champion, which is a title with rich lineage and defended by legends in Paul Orndorff, Larry Zbyszko, Ted DiBiase, and Dusty Rhodes.
“My recent success has a lot to do with my character,” said Sky. “It’s not off my wrestling, but off nine words: ‘This is the worst town I’ve ever been in.’ That phrase has taken me all over the world. I’ve been wrestling for 16 years, and I’ve reached a height higher than I ever thought possible.”
• Brian Cage is ready to take another step toward wrestling superstardom.
The massive Cage has starred in Lucha Underground, and brings a look and style unlike few others in wrestling with the combination of his size, strength, and agility. Cage had a standout performance during the All In pre-show “Over the Budget” battle royale, and he now looks to elevate himself in Impact Wrestling.
“I felt like I really got to showcase myself at All In,” said the 34-year-old Cage. “Tommy Dreamer came up to me afterward and said I MVP’d that match. There was magic in the air with all those true diehard fans. It was such an abundance of fun and appreciation that I’ve never seen before at a wrestling event.”
Cage will be in action at the Bound for Glory pay per view on Sunday in a six-man tag with Pentagon and Fenix against Ohio Versus Everything’s Sami Callihan, Dave Crist, and Jake Crist.
The six-man tag could be viewed as a difficult chance to shine, but that notion was again rendered obsolete at Ring of Honor’s recent Death Before Dishonor pay per view in the 10-man tag featuring Bullet Club Elite’s Young Bucks, Cody Rhodes, “The Villain” Marty Scurll, and Hangman Page against Chaos’ Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Rocky Romero, Chuck Taylor, and Beretta. Along with Jay Lethal defeating Will Ospreay in the main event, the 10-man provided the most compelling action of the night with fast-paced action that allowed all ten performers to shine.
Bound for Glory represents an opportunity for Cage, as he plans to impress the live crowd at the Melrose Ballroom in New York, as well as the pay per view audience and the decision makers at Impact.
“Depending on who you’re in there with makes or breaks it, and OVE has a nice formula for amazing six-man tags,” said Cage. “I have no doubt that the six of us are going to tear the house down. We can steal the show, it’s ours to take.”
While the world title will one day be in Cage’s sights, he is currently relishing the chance to represent Impact as its X Division champion—a title once proudly worn by WWE champion AJ Styles and Ring of Honor champ Jay Lethal.
“I’ve always been a fan of the X Division and I always wanted to be a part of it,” said Cage. “I know I’m bigger than most of the guys, but it’s a style and not a weight class, and I love to perform that style. To me, the X Division has been the core of Impact, and my all-time dream match is AJ Styles, and he was one of the pioneers of the X Division. I can’t wait to defend the title against Pentagon, Fenix, Rich Swann, and some former champions, too.”
• “Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard” and co-host Conrad Thompson returns this Friday at noon ET with a look at the career of WWE Hall of Famer Rikishi.
“Rikishi was in the company a longtime before he was ever that character,” said Thompson. “We’ll look at the Headshrinkers, the Samoan SWAT Team, his evangelical street savior gimmick, the Sultan, and we’ll finish it off with the decision to make him Rikishi and how that came to be.”
Thompson will dig deeply into Rikishi’s run in Too Cool with the late “Grandmaster Sexay” Brian Christopher and Scotty Too Hotty.
“We’ll look at what Vince wanted to accomplish with him as Rikishi, the similarities with Yokozuna, and the run of Too Cool,” said Thompson. “Some people remember their run and dismiss it, but when you look at the crowd reaction of the time, in my opinion, Too Cool is possibly the second most over act as far as crowd response and interaction. Clearly, The Rock is head and shoulders above everybody in 2000, but after that, you could make an argument that Too Cool is the second hottest act.
“They kind of threw the baby out with the bathwater with Rikishi’s heel turn in 2000 that was connected to running over Steve Austin at the ‘99 Survivor Series, and his career never really recovered. He floundered for the rest of his run before he was let go, and he never had a sustained run anywhere else. He’s never quite the same, and you can’t help but wonder if they should have let their run as Too Cool last longer.”
Tweet of the Week
Is there currently a more captivating heel in WWE than Becky Lynch?
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.