Well…

IMG_1602
(Nothing to do with anything, but I love the black Woven Nylon Apple Watch Sport band!)

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.

This is the guy who wore a diaper once (no, twice).

He sumo wrestled Akebono, fought “Money” Mayweather, and tag-teamed with 2009 Chris Jericho (a.k.a. The Best Jericho).

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.)

IMG_1622
The Big Show with CNN Philippines’ Paolo del Rosario

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.

1917761_1221138893061_2337405_n
Stomach in! (Photo: Ana del Castillo, 2009)

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.

IMG_1619.jpg
“Big Show 2016”
IMG_1611
The World’s Largest Athlete and the World’s Biggest Dork
IMG_4433.JPG
The camera really does add ten pounds (there were two cameras pointed at us)

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.


  1. “kayfabe” ↩︎
  2. pose = sat there ↩︎
Advertisements

Even hidden in the most squalid Parisian halls, wrestling partakes of the nature of the great solar spectacles, Greek drama and bullfights: in both, a light without shadow generates an emotion without reserve.

– Roland Barthes, “World of Wrestling”, Mythologies

Discussion: Commentary and Commercial Breaks

K Sawyer Paul, responding to my response to his response to Matt Saye:

That’s only a problem if you listen to commentary, and it’s subjective. If you don’t like Michael Cole, then this exacerbates the issue. But if you have no problem with Cole (he’s been employed long enough to suggest some people quite like him) then this doesn’t hold ground.

The commentary being a (or greatly adding to the) problem isn’t necessarily due to Cole being Cole; it’s because the announcing itself is very rarely commentary on the wrestling match (the technical aspect, the in-ring narrative, or the illusion of competition), but on tangential matters outside the ring. The pre-break spiel directly pertains to the in-ring action, so shifting from Lauranaitis is a better GM to Will Kofi keep his momentum? We’ll find out when Raw rolls on makes the commercial break all the more jarring.

I must admit that Jim Ross was guilty of the same thing back in the days when they were transitioning from play-by-play commentary to the current “WWE storytelling” announcing style.

Sawyer continues:

…with other scripted TV shows, we’re not actually missing any of the content when they go to commercial. With wrestling matches, we, the TV audience, is actually being robbed of part of the match.

You can suggest that not much happens during the break, that we’re actually saved from watching rest holds or whatever. But to a wrestling fan, the kind of person who likes the technical aspects of the art, we don’t care if we’re missing something bad or good; the fact that a piece of the match is missing is grating.

He goes on to suggest that it would be best to avoid cutting content altogether whenever possible, such as on taped shows like SmackDown. I totally agree. No one believes that show is live, anyway.

I would theorize that WWE believes that full, uninterrupted matches should only be seen by paying audiences, whether at a live show, a pay-per-view showing, or on a DVD set. But many matches featured on sets that were originally shown on free TV still don’t include the section of the match cut by a commercial break.

I guess all we’re left with is that WWE just doesn’t “get” wrestling fans, or Vince McMahon personally likes screwing with them. Both of which aren’t new theories at all, but each has as much weight as any wrestling-related theory I’ve ever heard.