Q&A: The Big Show Praises Randy Orton Ahead of ‘Raw’ Meeting

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The Big Show is back on Raw, and he meets Randy Orton this Monday in an unsanctioned match.

Show, who is 48-year-old Paul Wight, has been with WWE since February 1999. He is a celebrated past of WWE’s past and present, and his roots in the business connect back to some memorable moments in World Championship Wrestling, winning the world title in 1995 and later joining the New World Order alongside “Hollywood” Hogan, Kevin Nash, and Scott Hall.

Wight remains a proud WWE ambassador, and he is experiencing some legitimate success outside of the ring with his new Big Show Show on Netflix. He also has a knowledge and understanding of pro wrestling few others possess, and he has been watching closely as Orton continues to deliver some of the best work.

Speaking with Sports Illustrated, Wight discussed Orton’s renaissance, a backstage promo last week on Raw with Ric Flair, and the talent he envisions becoming WWE’s next top stars.

Justin Barrasso: Your relationship with Randy Orton dates back two decades. Anyone that has watched Orton knows how talented he is in the ring. His work is always so smooth and crisp, but he has been performing at the top of game for the past six months, and the program with Edge has been extremely compelling. What has allowed him to elevate his work throughout this stretch?

“The Big Show” Paul Wight: Randy has that perfect combination of looks, size, athletic ability. He’s also a third-generation performer, so that knowledge and psychology is soaked into his DNA. As a kid, he’d sit at the dinner table and listen to his dad, ‘Cowboy’ Bob, and Randy didn’t even realize the knowledge he was absorbing.

Ever since I met Randy, I could tell there was something different about the kid. You just knew this guy was a main-event player. Now when you have that kind of success early in your career, sometimes that’s a good thing, but sometimes it’s a bad thing. Randy struggled with it. As wonderful and easy that Randy made everything look, it’s now that he is firing on all cylinders. His promos have been off-the-charts the past few months, and he really believes in what he’s doing.

Randy has stepped up. I’ve always said that Randy is not John Cena. I used to call Cena ‘Captain America.’ He wanted to work hard and be the leader. Randy always wanted to be the best in the ring, but he didn’t want to be a leader. So that’s the biggest difference I’ve seen. Randy has embraced that leadership role. His presence in the ring and his presence backstage is much bigger and much more concrete than I’ve ever seen.

JB: What did you think of the Edge-Orton match from Backlash? Vince McMahon made a bold move in selling the bout as “The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever,” but that tagline ended up driving the pay per view and brought the match to the main event.

PW: I thought it was an incredible concept. I also thought it was a really ballsy concept. The greatest match ever? There’s been a lot of great matches, so you better deliver. And not having the crowds, that makes it so much harder. The greatest matches usually have thousands of people in the crowd that are also invested. You feed off that energy. They didn’t have that, so it was the most difficult environment possible. Those big bumps are a lot easier in front of a big crowd, so I commend Randy and Edge for committing to it. Considering the circumstances, that probably was the greatest match ever.

JB: Last week’s backstage promo with Ric Flair was a highlight for wrestling fans that remember your battles with the “Nature Boy” dating back to the mid-90s. Does being around Ric make you feel young again? And, with your shared history, did the promo mean a little extra to you?

PW: I always feel so honored to work with Ric. I like to tease ’Taker when he’s around that it’s great he’s back, because that means I’m the young guy again. He promptly flips me the bird, and that’s the end of that conversation. With Ric, it’s different. My first road trip in WCW, I think we were at baggage claim in Dayton, Ohio, and Ric walked straight up to me and asked what kind of car I was driving. I had a Cadillac convertible, and Ric said, ‘OK then, I’m riding with you.’ All I could think that day was, ‘I’m driving around Ric Flair.’

That night, Ric told me, ‘All right kid, we’re going to this place, then we’re going to that place.’ He kept me out until 4 a.m., then woke me up in the morning to go to the gym. Even now, Ric is still larger-than-life. He’s bringing his charm to our programming now, and it’s wonderful to be on the same screen as him.

Last week with Ric, that’s actually one of my favorite promos I’ve done in a long, long time. We were both very sincere and very honest about what we were talking about. It wasn’t your typical backstage wrestling promo. It was two guys who understand each other, respect one another, and were trying to play with each other’s mind. I thought it was great, and one of my favorite segments in a long time.

JB: You have also been a big proponent of Drew McIntyre as WWE Champion. It can be a challenge to be a babyface champion, especially with Drew’s size, which instantly makes him the favorite instead of the underdog. What have you thought of his run so far with the belt?

PW: Right now, it’s Drew’s time. He’s really slid into that role in a pretty solid fashion, especially given the circumstances. He’s doing everything we need a champion to do. I hope Drew gets to have this run with a crowd and full arenas. People are really going to embrace him, he’s firing on all cylinders.

JB: Chris Jericho used to call himself the Nostradamus of WWE due to the way he could pinpoint the next group of stars on the roster. You also have an incredible mind for wrestling. Is there someone from the current roster you think is going to be a top star in WWE?

PW: There are a couple guys where I see unlimited potential, and I saw it firsthand when I had a tag match against them a couple weeks ago. Andrade and Angel Garza, there is so much potential there. Garza’s got a lot of fire, and you could see that a couple weeks ago when Randy jacked him up against the headboards. Then he got back in the ring and looked great. Garza’s got size, he’s athletic, he’s good looking, those things all translate to becoming a top guy.

I watched Becky Lynch put in years that no one else on the roster had. I remember watching her live event matches, and she took every one of those matches to another level. Without saying a word, you could see her struggle and fight to win a match. That’s what helps you become a top talent. Andrade and Garza have those intangibles. They have a lot going for them, so we’ll see what happens.

JB: Wrestling is unique because it has been predominantly the same forum for generations, but the goal remains to create something unique and special within that ring. How will do you that with Randy Orton this Monday in your unsanctioned match on Raw?

PW: This is a heavily advertised main event for Monday Night Raw, so we’re going to pull out everything except for the kitchen sink. Not literally, like back in the old hardcore days when we’d wheel out a kitchen sink in a shopping cart, but it’s going to the culmination of me taking on this ‘Legend Killer’ and trying to curb his momentum. Orton took out Edge, he took out Christian, and he’s the most dangerous man right now in the WWE. We’ll see if my chokeslam knocks some sense into him.

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