I met the Big Show last week. He was large. The experience was also large—too large for my brain to grasp as it was happening. The Big Show, for all that everyone says about his slowness and corniness and lack of fictional1 moral alignment, is still a gosh darned professional wrestler in the WWE, and one with a storied career, at that.
This is the guy who threw Stone Cold Steve Austin through a steel cage, who impersonated the Hulkster, who surfed on his father’s casket.
He’s the guy who did all of those things, and he’s the guy I met last week.
Everyone always says that Big Show is a Really Nice Guy™, but I can confirm that he’s a really nice guy even when he’s dead tired. The poor giant flew in to Manila that morning, posed with jeepneys in the 9 AM Manila Humidity of Death, gave a slew of media scrums before lunch, and was in the process of doing a whole afternoon of one-on-ones. My interview was at 3:45 PM. When I entered the room, he was seated next to a tableful of empty Red Bull cans, with giant eye bags on his face, and as warm and honest a smile as he can muster.
(Now, when I say “my” interview, I really mean CNN Philippines’ interview. CNN correspondent Paolo Del Rosario called me up the week before and asked me to tag along with him for the interview because, like most humans, he no longer keeps up with the wrestling product, and he needed my help to ask the heavy-hitting Sportz Entertainment questions. Also, I think he felt sorry for me because he knew I’d be missing the live event that Big Show was here to promote. Thanks again, Pao.)
When it was my turn to speak, I congratulated him on the previous week’s (fictional) WWE Draft. “I was sitting at home watching when I saw it,” he said. “Number 13? I thought Vince was ribbing me! I didn’t even think I was gonna get drafted!”
That was surreal for me—a professional wrestler answering my question and referring (ever so subtly) to the backstage machinations of the art.
I followed up:
Mikey: When Mauro Ranallo announced the draft pick, he said “The Big Show still has a lot to prove when he comes to Monday Night Raw.”
Big Show: (interrupting) A lot to prove? That’s optimistic!
Mikey: Yeah, I’m thinking, you’ve done everything there is to do in the business! Is there anything else you actually want to prove?
I expected him to go back to the fiction and start talking about winning championships or competing with the young guys. Instead, he very graciously continued to open up the curtain. He talked about how much he loves what he does—whether he’s performing in silly angles (“and you’ve seen me on the short end of really some really strange stories”), wrestling in dark matches, or dancing on the grandest stage with the biggest stars in the world. What Big Show wants to prove is that he is willing to do whatever the program requires, because he loves it. (My theater teacher brain geeked out and whispered: there are no small roles, only small actors.)
At that point, Paolo nudged me to hand him back the microphone because we had run out of time. Big Show ended his spiel, Paolo thanked him for his time, Show thanked us and said it was a great interview.
When Paolo introduced me to him earlier, he mentioned that I actually carried my World Heavyweight Championship belt replica during my wedding. After the interview, I asked Show to sign it. He asked if I wore it while I consummated the marriage, and I said no, of course not, but I didn’t tell him that the belt actually doesn’t fit me if I relax my belly.
While he was opening up my silver Sharpie, he told me that the original version of that belt was his favorite—the WCW title that he won from Ric Flair on his very first show. “Yeah,” I said, dorky wrestling fan that I am, “and you had to go around the airport wearing it that night,” referring to the story he told on the Stone Cold Podcast earlier this year. He laughed, signed the belt, wished me and my wife and my future child well, and posed2 for a picture.
Then I shook his colossal hand, and left.
I felt buzzed after the experience—that awesome fan experience feeling that I hope every person gets to experience a few times in his or her life.
On the way home, I realized that I only got to ask one question, and that I didn’t get to tell him about how I wanted to be like him when I was growing up, and how older kids would make fun of me by calling me “Big Show”, and how I looked up to him because he was a big guy and he embraced his bigness even if people around him are almost always apprehensive, and how my wife was 30 weeks pregnant but my baby’s size appeared more like 32 weeks because I’m about to have a large baby, and does he have any parenting advice for raising a large child?, because growing up as a large child must have had its challenges, and he was a large child, and I was a large child, and my baby will be a large child.
I also realized that it’s still true: I still do want to be like Big Show. Like him, I want to bust my ass off loving what I do, with a smile on my face, knowing in my bones that there are no small roles, only small actors. In this way—this way that I fight every day to be—the World’s Largest Athlete is simply the largest of them all.