Q&A: ‘The Big Show’ Paul Wight on His Netflix Sitcom, Recovering From Injury and Returning to WWE

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If you like The Big Show, you’re going to love The Big Show Show.

The Big Show Show, which premiered this week on Netflix, is “The Big Show” Paul Wight’s opportunity to star in his own sitcom. The show is based around his career in wrestling, but also creates a new narrative as a husband and father of three daughters.

The show has elements of Boy Meets World and Full House, and even co-stars Family Matters icon Jaleel White. There are also references and cameos from some of Big Show’s rivals from his quarter-century spent in wrestling.

The Big Show also made his WWE return this week, challenging new WWE Champion Drew McIntyre to a post-WrestleMania match that aired Monday on Raw. He spoke with Sports Illustrated to discuss the Netflix show, share his thoughts on the beginning of the McIntyre era in WWE and express his feelings toward WrestleMania.

Justin Barrasso: You had a surprise match that aired Monday on Raw, as WWE revealed post-WrestleMania footage of you challenging and wrestling Drew McIntyre. What impresses you most about McIntyre? And what makes him the right choice to be the face of WWE?

“The Big Show” Paul Wight: I know a lot of people have been giving me grief, saying I’ve had more heel turns than NASCAR [laughs]. I want people to understand that me challenging Drew after WrestleMania wasn’t about a heel or face turn. I’ve been a WWE competitor for four decades, and a lot of the locker room was my responsibility—that’s what happens for the old guys.

I was a fan of Drew’s 10 years ago. It didn’t work out, and that happens, but the way he’s come back and conducted himself, with all his focus, I wanted to show people the Drew McIntyre that I know.

And I can testify that Drew’s Claymore Kick will knock a few fillings loose. He’s one tough son of a gun. I’m really proud of him, and he’s the champion that Raw deserves. There are a lot of interesting matches with him in the future that I’d like to see.

JB: Will there be any heel turns on The Big Show Show?

PW: [Laughing] This is the softer side of the Big Show, so I don’t think we’ll see any heel turns.

JB: Social distancing is affecting everyone. In a stretch of time where people are home and searching for new content to watch, your show stands out. But before we get into the show, how does the Big Show social distance?

PW: I’ve been practicing social distancing for 25 years. I don’t go out to malls, I don’t go out in public. I kind of hide like Bigfoot.

JB: It’s such a difficult time, but hopefully your show can bring some happiness to people. The Big Show Show is so soft and sweet, and the kids play their roles so incredibly well. There was a playful Mick Foley joke in the opening scene of the pilot—how important is it that your fans from wrestling feel welcome here with this new project?

PW: It’s very important. Our creators, Josh Bycel and Jason Berger, are both WWE fans. And our writers are great, too. They understand the product, they understand my era, my generation, and they understand me as a character. To have that synergy to take the Big Show out of an environment, one with spandex and a squared circle, and into a family setting. They’ve done a fantastic job of bridging the Big Show character you’ve seen for years into the Big Show on The Big Show Show. It’s an easy transition for our fans to come over, be entertained, and help escape.

JB: Did you ever imagine that your career in pro wrestling, and battling through all of the injuries that have only been amplified by a person with your size, would lead you here as the star of a children’s show on Netflix?

PW: Absolutely not. I could never have envisioned a blessing like this. I had no idea where my career was going to go. When I started in WCW [in 1995], I was brought in and built as an opponent for Hulk Hogan. I had very little training for that match. The rest of it was kind of like getting thrown in the water—if I swam, it was up to me. If I didn’t, it wouldn’t have been that big a deal. The business was a lot different back then. Luckily, I swam and survived. Along the way, I’ve been able to build my Big Show character and build my relationships with the people at WWE, who understood there was a lot more to the Big Show than what people saw on TV.

To get the opportunity with this Big Show Show, and still be able to interact with the fans because it’s a live audience situation, and it’s really a peak behind the curtain of the Big Show character and what it would be like with three incredible, powerhouse daughters and a spunky, rambunctious wife. I have to pinch myself all the time—I can’t believe I’m this lucky and this fortunate. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity.

JB: Not only was Monday a chance to cross-promote your new show on Raw, you also looked great. How has your body recovered from a difficult stretch over the past two years that included multiple hip surgeries?

PW: Yes, it was five hip surgeries, so my body has been through a lot. The first one, I had surgical complications with a surgical infection, which means the metal was dirty and we tried to combat that. Finally, we had to do a full replacement, and IV-lines for antibiotics and all these things I went through.

When we were shooting The Big Show Show, I had just had my full hip replacement about two-and-a-half, three months before. For me, I was going through a lot. I look a little chubby there, too. The reason being is I had been battling with the hip. Now I’m back down to 372, and my weight is really good, like it was before I went in for my surgery two years ago. Physically, I’m in a better place than I was a couple years ago. It’s weird to say I’m in better shape at 48 than I was at 42, but it’s true. And I always travel with my boots, just in case WWE creative needs me.

JB: I know you mentioned earlier that the wrestling business has changed dramatically over the past two-and-a-half decades, but your lack of ego has always stood out throughout your career. You’ve always been willing to bump and sell for your opponents as they knock down this mighty giant.

I know this is your show, and your name is on it, but your role is to, in wrestling parlance, bump and sell for your co-stars and allow them to shine. Has it been fun to bring your wrestling mentality, focused on making those around you look good, into this show?

JW: It’s funny. I didn’t have a model to work with when I first started. I knew I wasn’t Andre. I wasn’t The Undertaker and I wasn’t Kane. To me, Undertaker and Kane are the greatest big men of all-time, and Andre is the greatest giant of all-time. I had to find the way that I wanted to work. There were other people who were selfish and it was all about them, and those guys had bright careers that were very intense for a short amount of time. But I was grateful every day I got to walk down the ramp. I’m just a small-town kid from South Carolina, and I got to do the most amazing job and travel the world.

My rule is, always, get my opponent over and get my match over, and if I do those two, I’d get myself over. That was my A-B-C. First I got who I was working with over, then we’d get the story over, then I would get myself over because, if I did the first two, the third was automatically going to happen.

Going into this show, I applied the same work ethic, kept my ears and eyes open, talked less and listened more. I learned so much from my co-stars. Allison Munn is just absolutely fantastic to work with. I couldn’t ask for a better veteran actor, someone who has paid her dues and worked the shows she’s worked. She’s been so willing to help me with the script, timing, and just little acting secrets. The girls are so talented, too. I knew right away from our first read that we had something really special. I think a lot of WWE fans are going to love this new venture in my career with The Big Show Show.

I’m extremely humbled and extremely grateful. Everything I ever could have asked for is in this show, and we turned out one heck of a great show.

JB: The wrestling business can be invigorating as well as intoxicating, but you have managed to hold onto your spirit and optimism. The show hints at a difficult past where you were constantly on the road away from your family, missing integral moments for your loved ones. How meaningful is it for you to play a fun but realistic role on the show?

PW: These are my stories. A lot of times we’d have shows on December 26, and that meant I’d miss Christmas day. I’d miss birthdays, anniversaries, graduation events. I missed so much with my own daughter. I was always on the road. When I got home, it was like I was a general getting a briefing of everything that happened while I was gone, from boys in school or stories about what she did with her friends. That was difficult. But it allows me to come from a place of authenticity here, having a chance on the show for my character to make up for that time lost.

Our show is very sincere. The topics we address are thought out, and I thought our writers did a great job.

JB: Before we jump back into wrestling, I’d be remiss not to mention you are working with a sitcom icon on the show in Jaleel White, who was Steve Urkel on Family Matters. What has stood out most about working with Jaleel?

PW: Jaleel is amazing. That guy is so funny. He literally has me laughing every time he’s around, and he knows how to poke out the absurdity in so many things and has me laughing all day. I’m so thankful to work with him.

JB: You mentioned performing in front of a live studio audience. On the subject of wrestling, it’s designed to work in front of a live fan base. But obviously that is not a possibility right now. How proud are you of your WWE peers for making the most of performing WrestleMania during a global pandemic?

PW: I’m extremely proud of everybody, top to bottom. There are a lot of people that go into producing a show, and they did it in the Performance Center with a limited number of staff, and the medical team is going above and beyond. I know that social distancing is in effect, but obviously when you’re competing in the ring, you’re going to cross paths. But we’re doing everything the safest way we can to give our audience a chance to escape. A lot of families are quarantined together, people are quarantined, and our product has always been about telling good stories.

We miss the live crowd. You work all year for that moment at WrestleMania in front of over 80,000 fans. But if you look back at the ’70s and early ’80s, they were done in very small local TV markets, and sometimes there weren’t crowds watching live. This is an incredible experience for the younger talent to focus on the in-ring product. You’re going to have to work a lot harder without a live audience. You can look at this as a way to get better. It’s a chance for talent to step up and seize the moment.

JB: The Big Show Show premiered this week. Why should the whole family watch the show together? And how grateful are you that people are tuning in to watch?

PW: This is a unique, full family show. There is someone for all ages to identify with within the show. Dads are going to relate to having children and a powerhouse wife. There is something for everyone, and we’re a family you want to be a part of. The core of this show is love and support, and I think that’s going to hit home with a lot of families—and hopefully provide some comfort during this difficult time.

I am overwhelmed with gratitude that people are watching. This has been a dream of mine for a long time, but it can be tough when you’ve never done it before. I’m so thankful for everyone. I’ve got messages on social media from Denmark, Australia, and New Zealand, which means a lot.

For a kids and family show to do this well, it means a lot. I’m super proud that during this crazy time of confinement, with this terrible situation going on, people are able to find comfort in something that I’ve put my heart and soul into.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.