What began as a simple conversation backstage turned into one of the most remarkable transformations in sports entertainment history. This isn’t about a clean-cut, wholesome good guy suddenly getting in touch with his dark side. Nor, is it about an evil villain disrobing a dark cloak after finally seeing the light. In a fictitious world, where larger-than-life colorful gladiators do battle inside of a 20′ x 20′ Coliseum, such changes are to be expected. But this particular plot twist occurred away from the bright lights and glitz and glamor of international television. This was a journey of introspection, soul searching and determination that played out away from prying eyes. File it under nonfiction.
Paul “Big Show” Wight has always stood out in life. So much so that he felt like an outcast during his formative years. By the time Wight was 12 years old, he stood a towering six feet, two inches tall and tipped the scales at 220 pounds. Even when the young giant attempted to make friends, flabbergasted adults chopped his dreams of fitting in down to size.
“People pre-judged me, people left me out of activities,” Wight told me. “If I was on the playground, some parents would pull their kids off the playground, because you know, here’s this monster kid.”
The exclusion was heartbreaking for Wight whose feelings paralleled those of a typical 12-year-old. To heal the emotional wounds, he turned to sports and began developing a personality where his unique stature became like a magnet for friendship. He was no longer the outcast. He was suddenly the star attraction and the kid who everyone wanted to have on their team.
He was the monster that everybody suddenly loved, and he held on to that persona with both of his oversized hands and didn’t let go. It was a grip that would only intensify over the years, especially as he transitioned into the world of professional wrestling and became a WWE Superstar.
“For the longest time, I felt, to perform in my career, I had to be the Big Show,” he said. “I had to be the biggest guy in the ring. I had to be 500 pounds, I had to be a giant.”
Getting to seven feet tall came naturally, but growing to weigh the quarter-ton he thought his character should be required poor training and even worse eating habits. As his career advanced, so too did his waistline. Outsiders could say that his size had become both his biggest asset and his biggest liability. Performing physically demanding maneuvers night in and night out can take a toll on even the smallest of frames, but for a man of Wight’s size the pounding can be downright crippling.
Wanting to extend his career, the aging veteran began wrestling with the idea that it was okay to be smaller and maybe he could still be the Big Show without weighing five bills.
“As my career started winding down, so to speak, I realized I didn’t need that any more. I didn’t need that to be successful,” he concluded. “I needed to be lighter, I needed to be in better shape. And it was just a personal challenge.”
In a short time, his belly vanished and the jelly was replaced by six-pack abs. The transformation was uncanny.
So how did all of this happen in less than a year?
“The whole thing is John Cena’s fault,” Wight said.
Yes, there was introspection and conversations in the mirror, but it was a chat backstage at a show that really set everything in motion. Here is how the future WWE Hall of Famer recounted their conversation.
“John Cena and I were watching the show in a monitor. Usually if you go to our shows, if John and I aren’t working, we’re sitting there watching the show together. John and I were just cracking jokes on each other, and I made the comment about a giant with abs, who’d want to see that? And John Cena looked me square in the eye and said, ‘Yeah, a giant with abs. Who would want to see that?'”
“And he walked off. But the way he said it, he challenged me that I couldn’t do it. And it really upset me so bad that I got my act together that week and started in. It took me a little over a year and I dropped 90 pounds.”
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t interject anything personal into this column, but I will tell you that as a man who lost 265 pounds I was fascinated by this. And when I told him that I maxed out at 420 pounds by eating 10,000 calories worth of Taco Bell every day — I’m only 5 feet 6 inches tall and had a 66-inch waist — he was equally captivated. There’s a respect that former fat guys have for each other. There’s a brotherhood of sorts, and it’s almost like being in an exclusive club.
The route to weight-loss success is different for everyone. There is no one-size-fits-all plan. Yet, there are still undeniable similarities in each journey — even for a guy who’s enormously tall and another who’s rather pint-sized. In this case, it is food addiction and treating high-calorie meals as though they’re a warm blanket on a cold winter’s day.
So what was Wight’s path to success?
“With me, it was all through diet. I couldn’t do any cardio at the time, because I had a really bad hip, so I did it all through diet and finding a nutritional plan that worked for me.”
“I think that’s the thing, you have to get a point in your mind where you can ask for diet advice, you can ask for meal plans. You have to make a commitment in your mind that you’re ready to do it. And it’s a different journey for everyone. Sometimes some of us, I always associated food with comfort. Thanksgiving, holidays, family, you’re having a bad day, you eat something good because it comforts you. You have to learn to find another way to comfort yourself and give yourself, basically give yourself a hug without giving yourself bad food that’s gonna make you worse in the long run.”
As for what Cena says now…
“He gives me a thumbs up, you know. I know that John Cena loves me, though he’ll never admit it in public, John Cena loves me. At least I think he does… maybe? Possibly? Probably? Could be.”
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News & Notes
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Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch has been added to the card of the WWE Super Show-Down in Australia on October 6.
Nia Jax has been spending time at the WWE Performance Center recently, according to PWInsider’s Mike Johnson. She is rehabilitating an injured leg, which has kept her out of the ring of late.
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WWE is resurrecting its Mixed Match Challenge series for a second season. It will stream live on Facebook following SmackDown beginning September 18. The tournament finals will be held at the TLC pay-per-view on December 16.
The first season of MMC was viewed more than 35 million times in the United States, according to WWE.
Chuck Carroll is a former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality who now interviews the biggest names in wrestling. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.