The Big No.

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For twenty years, Paul Wight, a.k.a “The Giant” a.k.a. “The Big Show” has been a staple of pro wrestling television on Monday night. He debuted in 1995 (billed as the son of Andre the Giant) as part of the “Dungeon of Doom” stable that came together to put a stop to Hulk Hogan’s shenanigans. I can’t say I blame their intentions, but their methods were lousy.

Still, soon after debuting Wight won the WCW World Heavyweight Championship from Hulk Hogan. That’s quite a feat considering the very short list of people ever to beat Hogan for a title. Of course it wasn’t without controversy: The match was promoted as one where the title could change hands on a DQ, and sure enough it did.

Of course WCW would vacate the title on account of the circumstances of the victory. That’s WCW in a nutshell: Worthless championship reigns and vacated titles.

Wight would win back the title from Ric Flair and hold it until Hogan and the nWo came calling.  Not one month later, Giant himself was in the nWo going on about Ted DiBiase’s money. Or something like that. His promo to explain his actions is infamous for its sucktitude.

It starts about 5 minutes into the video and features Wight rambling on about how he was sick of living small-time and wanted the money the guy bankrolling the nWo (DiBiase) could provide. The promo was interrupted multiple times by Hogan’s trademarked hotdogging and grandstanding, and by the time Giant has totally lost the interest of the viewer, Hogan just cuts him off and basically tells him to wrap it up. The whole thing started hot, turned boring and then ended awkwardly.

This is where you say “Oh I see. There’s a pattern here.” Because yeah, there’s a pattern.

Wight’s entire wrestling career has been a series of hot starts, awkward middles and disappointing conclusions. When he debuted in the Dungeon of Doom he was, other than Vader, the only guy in the whole gaggle of goobers to actual look competent enough to threaten Hulk Hogan. He then essentially lost the Hogan feud, despite winning the title, and feuded with an overweight and in-poor-health Loch Ness, won the title back only to turn around and drop it to Hogan, and then join Hogan. He then became the latest unneeded guy to join the trio-stable, but it didn’t matter because the trio had already started to balloon, and by this point it was only a few months old.

The next couple years were a big pile of “meh” for Giant. He feuded with Kevin Nash and Goldberg, but on the losing side of both. Despite his size, athleticism and charisma, Wight was making a fraction of the money the big names were pulling in. When he asked for a raise, WCW executive Eric Bischoff turned him down and even let him out of his contract, less than two months away from WWF’s WrestleMania XV. His WCW career concluded with disappointment, but his WWF career began with much promise.

Rumored to have been signed as the potential next big opponent for Steve Austin (for WrestleMania 16 a year later), Wight–now dubbed “The Big Show, Paul Wight”–debuted as the newest stooge of Vince McMahon. He became part of the Corporation and joined in its primary aim to rid the WWF of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. So there’s kind of a pattern here. His debut was memorable, as he ripped his way through the ring canvass and stood in between Vince McMahon and Steve Austin (the two were in the midst of a cage match to decide whether or not Austin would main event WrestleMania). Almost as soon as he debuted, however, Vince McMahon lost a lot of interest in the big guy. He ended up in a throw-away WrestleMania match that was supposed to be a bigger deal than it ended up being, and then danced around the midcard for most of the rest of 1999, before finally getting his contractually-obligated perk: The WWF Championship.

The highlight of his six week reign with the top title was a feud with Big Bossman. The highlight of that? No question, it’s this:

I can’t understand a word Bossman said here, but I’m pretty sure it was hilarious. This was supposed to be hilarious, right? Because it was so stupidly funny, it beats anything the Dungeon of Doom ever did.

After dropping the title back to Triple H, and being the first one eliminated in the bloated WrestleMania 2000 main event, Big Show lost almost all of the heat and momentum he had acquired when he debuted. He became a midcard joke–even getting kicked off the main show and being forced to move to Ohio Valley Wrestling (one of WWF’s farm territories at the time) to train–and rarely sniffed the title picture until after the brandsplit and his move to Smackdown.

After his move to Smackdown, then-head writer Paul Heyman decided to rehabilitate Big Show into a monster heel to help carry the main event of his show. He went so far as to give Big Show the title by beating the then-undefeated Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series. Once more he was given the ball and once more he failed to live up to the potential the company had for him. Not a month later the title went to Kurt Angle, leading to the big Angle vs Lesnar match at WrestleMania XIX. As for Big Show, he was given a match that–on any WrestleMania since–would have been considered the best consolation prize possible: A match with Undertaker. These, however, were the dying days of the BikerTaker era, and Big Show’s match with Undertaker (technically a handicap match alongside A-Train) would be the worst match on the card and among the worst “streak” matches Undertaker has had since the 90’s.

While he had some memorable moments and matches (most notably a great stretcher match against Lesnar at Judgment Day 2003, and also a Smackdown match that saw Lesnar and Big Show do a superplex spot that ended with the ring collapsing to the ground), he was almost always on the losing end of them: He lost the stretcher match. He was the one getting superplexed.

By the end of 2003 he was out of the main event picture once more and was the United States champion working with midcarders to help them get over.

Speaking of, he lost the US title at WrestleMania XX to some nobody who never amounted to anything. That event marked his fourth WrestleMania in six years with the WWF/E. He was nearing the end of his initial eight-year contract with the company; a deal that was thought to have been worth a considerable amount. Whether Vince McMahon personally thought the giant had lived up to the kind of money and screen time invested in him is unknown. For what it’s worth it would not be until 2006’s WrestleMania 22 that Big Show finally won on the biggest stage (as part of a tag match alongside frequent collaborator Kane). It’s clear the fans were not treating him like the second coming of Andre the Giant the way the powers had hoped. When his contract was set to expire in February of 2007, the WWE didn’t bother to re-sign him.

But, like always, Vince got the itch, and brought Wight back for what would be his most high profile angle since his initial debut: A feud with boxing superstar Floyd “money” Mayweather. Even then he was not part of the initial plan: Originally it was to be Floyd and Shane McMahon vs Rey Mysterio and Oscar DeLahoya. When DeLahoya backed out, Big Show was re-signed to another long-term deal.

And the first thing he did was eat a knockout punch by Mayweather and take the pin.

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He would win his second WrestleMania match in 2010, in Phoenix, once again in a tag match. It would not be until 2012’s WrestleMania XXVIII that he would finally succeed in a singles match; he beat Cody Rhodes to win the Intercontinental Championship, securing a Triple Crown and a Grand Slam title in the process. It looked like he had finally found a place as an established name on the midcard scene, the way it seemed he was to be portrayed back at WrestleMania XX.

Instead, within a couple months of winning the IC title, Show was back to being pushed to the main event with yet another feud with John Cena. The multi-month program was loathed by fans, as it mainevented PPV shows over CM Punk’s WWE title reign. There was a real push for new talent by the fans, and in a lot of ways 2012 was the year where those calls were heard and answered, but when it counted the big, slow, lumbering superstars of yesterday still had a strong grip at the top of the card.

Up and down Big Show went. After his feud with Cena was finished (with him on the losing end), he was moved down to the World Heavyweight Championship scene, winning the belt and holding it for almost three months before dropping it to Alberto Del Rio in early 2013. Soon after losing, again, at WrestleMania, show took a few months off and returned in the fall as an antagonist of The Authority.

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When Daniel Bryan’s WWE title win and main event run was declared dead, Vince and co. made a bold and totally unexpected move by replacing Bryan with someone twice his size and half as talented. Bryan was sent down the card and Big Show was given a prime 1-on-1 title match against champion Randy Orton at Survivor Series.

You can imagine how that sat with the crowds.

The 2013 Survivor Series was the least-bought edition of the show in its twenty seven year history. It has been said that the utter failure of the show–a traditional “big four” PPV show–was the impetus behind Vince’s decision to pull out of the PPV market and move all PPV events to the upcoming WWE Network. So if you want to be cruel, you can thank Big Show for essentially dropping the value of a PPV event from $60 a month to $9.99.

Of course it’s not his fault. After all those years in the company, the creative “geniuses” that run the place should have known that he was never going to be the main event fixture they want him to be. Big Show’s 2013 push was met with a mixture of indifference and hostility, depending on how hardcore the crowd was at each Monday night stop.  But after fourteen years of Big Show being met with indifference, you’d think everyone would be used to it sick of it enough to stop doing it.

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A year after his big Survivor Series match against the Authority, Big Show joined Triple H and turned against Cena (who else), beginning his latest stretch of time around the mainevent of WWE.

Lost in all the negativity surrounding his role as the “muscle” of the Authority is the fact that in early 2014, in the lead up to WrestleMania XXX and especially at the event itself, Big Show was actually used better than he had been…possibly ever in the WWF/E. His continued failures when given a chance to be in or around the main event proved that he would never reach the potential the top brass saw in him back in 1999, but he’s still a giant. He’s still a natural attraction. He just needed booking that recognized the role he was best served to play. At WrestleMania XXX he had it.

And, of course, it came in a loss.

Yet, despite how often he loses at WrestleMania, and despite how lightly he is regarded by fans as a legit threat whenever he feuds with a top guy, when Cesaro picked him up, carried him to the top rope, and dumped him over to secure his win and the Andre the Giant trophy, it was–to repeat myself–the best Big Show had ever been used.

Most thought, going in, that Big Show had a good chance of winning the match, due to his being a giant akin to Andre. But what better way to pay tribute to Andre than to use his huge physique to put over someone who has a future in the company. Being tossed and then giving a post-match handshake really made Cesaro and should have established the Swiss Superman as a top player in the company (nevermind that the company squandered him for the rest of the year). Show once again took time off after WrestleMania, and had he stayed away with the final image fans have of him being a torch passing moment to Cesaro, his WWE career might have been remembered more favorably than deserved.

Instead he came back and joined the Authority and it’s been all downhill from there.

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Since his heel turn at the 2014 Survivor Series, Big Show has been the worst-booked character in WWE. In fact, he’s in the midst of a stretch where he is one of the worst-booked characters in WWE history. When you consider the huge disparity between how little fans want to see him compared to how much he is featured…it’s staggering how blind the company seems to be to how toxic his character has become. Even in the past, when the WWE would get behind him and the fans would reject it, there was never the kind of frustrated backlash against it like there is now. A lot of it is just leftover bitterness over his being Bryan’s replacement in the WWE title feud against Orton, but a lot more of it is about how tired fans are of seeing him in and around the main event scene, time after time and failure after failure.

The reaction to his dominating the Royal Rumble should have been an eye-opener. The entire Rumble was booked around Big Show dominating and Roman Reigns coming down to slay the beast, win the match and save the day. Reigns’ being rejected is a different issue (though it is related to the same problems that see Big Show pushed to the top of the card against fans’ desires). The sight of this 40+ year old superstar (who moves at half the speed of his younger days and is half as popular–at best–as he used to be) dismantling all of the hardcore fans’ favorites that were left in the match (Wyatt, Ambrose, Ziggler), was a disgusting sight that really riled the already-angry Philadelphia crowd into a rage.

A lot of people have misread and/or passed off the rejection of the Rumble finish as “people were mad that Bryan didn’t win.” No. People were upset Bryan didn’t win. People were annoyed that Reigns was obviously going to win. But people were mad that Kane and Big Show were made to look so strong against so many guys that are viewed as some of the best young talent in the company. It felt like the WWE was sacrificing these beloved lambs at the altar of these tired, old, broken down vets that fans were sick of seeing around the top of the card.

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In probably the most glaring example of WWE’s obtuse understanding of the situation, the always-amazing night after WrestleMania featured, in it’s closing segment, Big Show (and fellow-tiresome partner Kane) in a tag match against Randy Orton and Roman Reigns. It was the worst post-Mania Raw main event segment in a decade. It was either an example of supreme stubbornness or willful spite against the fans. Either way, the crowd wasn’t having it; fans in attendance hijacked the mainevent with “this match sucks” chants directed at the whole proceedings, as well as a “please retire” chant directed specifically at Big Show.

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Here’s the thing: If you are genuinely sick of Big Show, and not in the “he’s a heel so I’m supposed to hate him” sort of way, but if you really hate how overpushed and unpopular his character is, then a “please retire” chant is not going to change anything. That short of chant is just going to be interpreted by the “genius” Vince McMahon and his band of merry yes men as “good heel heat.”

If you really want to send a message, keep it simple and clear: Just chant “boring” over and over and over non stop. Every match. Until the people in charge realize that it’s not 1999 anymore.

Big Show–Paul Wight–is an automatic Hall of Famer. He’s had a great career, all things considered. He’s the most decorated “giant” in wrestling history, and will go down as the second most famous wrestling giant of all time. His legacy is decided. Did he live up to the hype? Not usually. But on the few occasions where he was used correctly, he really shined.

It’s a shame that he keeps being forced into the main event scene, forced to work as a top heel for top babyfaces to feud with, and forced to go out in front of apathetic (and sometimes aggressively anti) crowds night after night. It would be nice if his final years were spent working away from the brightest spotlight and away from the main event. He is no longer equipped to be a guy who can help get someone over. Until that reality is understood and changes are made with his booking, the fans are going to continue turning their noses up at him. They’re going to continue reacting angrily to his many main event runs, and they’re going to respond with the same simple answer to his every push:

A big No.

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  • Henry Higgins III

    Why is there no mention of his great run as ECW Champion?

    • Matthew Martin

      It’s a minor footnote in his whole career.

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