AEW wrestler and commentator Paul Wight joined Insight With Chris Van Vliet to talk about his career. A big talking point was Wight revealing who created the name ‘Big Show’, and the fact that he wasn’t high on the ring name at first.
“That was Vince,” Wight said. “When I first came into WWE I was Paul Wight. I just don’t think Vince liked the spelling of my name or just my name. But what would Vince know about marketing? But he walked by me one day and he goes ‘so how’s The Big Show today?’ I go ‘I’m good but who the hell is The Big show?’ He goes ‘you! You can walk, you can talk, you’re an athlete. You’re The Big Show.’ He walked off and I thought ‘oh dear God I hope that is not my wrestling name.’ But it was.
“I think back then it was the attitude and the Monday Night Wars. But over the years, like anything, if you do it long enough you can make it your own. But it’s now a little hard to rebrand. I have a great Big Show autograph. My real signature is good, but I don’t want to put that out there. I don’t want to own a timeshare in the Bahamas. I’m just trying to figure out that new identity, and I have some input on my character. Hopefully I won’t change 2 or 3 times in a match now.”
Wight also talked about being offered movie roles earlier in his WWE tenure and being forced to turn them down. The biggest one was a potential role in the Academy Award winning film Gladiator, which was set up for Wight through actor Nicolas Cage.
“There were so many projects I couldn’t do because of the WWE schedule,” Wight revealed. “When I first signed with WWE, Nick Cage reached out to me because his son was a big fan of me. Nick Cage was trying to hook me up with this Russel Crowe movie. But it was being shot in Spain so I would have to be in Spain for 6 weeks for it. But I’m thinking ‘Russel Crowe is going to be a star, Nick Cage wants me, I’ve got it.’ I go to ask Vince and he says ‘I’m paying you to be a wrestler, not an actor.’
“So that was the end of that. So then it’s like ‘yeah you are paying me a lot of money to be a wrestler, I will go back to work sir.’ There wasn’t as much crossover in the wrestling business then. For a while, WWE was very against wrestlers crossing over into movies. Then eventually they got into the program. So I am there watching Gladiator, that would have been good to be a part of. But now with AEW I can be a part of all sorts of projects. Having that freedom to build the Paul Wight brand is good. Because it’s their intellectual property, so when you leave you have to rebuild yourself.”
The conversation also turned to why Wight left WWE, where he had worked since 1999, to join AEW in February of this year. According to Wight, it’s because there was nothing left for him to do under Vince McMahon’s umbrella.
“I had to leave WWE,” Wight said. “There was nothing there for me to accomplish. There was nothing there for me to do more of. I still like lacing up boots and I still like getting in the ring. Luckily Tony Khan gave me that opportunity.”
Wight continued, talking about how WWE was no longer the right fit for him. In the end Wight isn’t upset with WWE about it and that ultimately it was a case of two entities having different ideas for the future.
“I was there for 4 decades,” Wight said. “For me, I just wasn’t ready to be in a position that I was getting, not pushed into, but it was the only opportunity available to me. I just felt like at the time that’s not for me. I didn’t leave mad or p****d off or anything like that. It’s a business, you have to do what’s best for your business and they have to do what’s best for theirs. They have their plan and what they want to do moving forward. If you don’t fit then you seek life elsewhere.”
Wight also admitted that he wasn’t sure if his wrestling career would continue following his WWE release. He explained that Chris Jericho was the one to put him in touch with Tony Khan, and the rest, as they say, was history.
“I didn’t know if I was going to get a job after leaving WWE, and I didn’t know if I was going to be in wrestling again,” Wight revealed. “I was working on some TV stuff and some movie stuff, so I didn’t pursue talking to anybody until after my WWE stuff. I had some conversations with Jericho, who is a dear friend. I said ‘do you think AEW would be interested in talking to me?’ He said ‘well, you should talk to Tony Khan.’ I met Tony a long time ago, so I had got his number from Chris. I shot Tony a text after my deal was done and we talked on the phone for a couple of hours. Tony Khan has weird hours, he’s one of those guys who can be up from 1 a.m. until 4 a.m.
“That conversation was exciting. We talked about the future of wrestling and psychology and helping the younger talent. Also character building and plans for AEW, all those things. He actually got me super excited on the phone, which I haven’t been for a long time. I have been a good cog in the machine and been a good solider, fought long and hard and through pain. So it was hard for me to have someone else who owns and runs a company to inspire you further. I am the luckiest man on the planet right now. I get the chance to be part of an organization that is growing, which is great. I get to have input and build something, which is important. And I get to have fun and I get paid.”
You can watch the full interview below.