EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.
Friday, November 12, 1999
The Big Show's big nothing
An open-ended look into the current state of the career of The Big Show certainly seems like a less topical topic to cover than this weekend's pay-per-view, but if you look a little deeper at events just past and events to come, I think you'll see that there's no better time than now.
I have to admit, I have an ulterior motive in penning this particular piece. When Mr. Wight first made his WWF debut - and even before then - I was trumpeting him as the Second Coming, as if his entrance into the WWF would somehow make a difference in ratings, buy-rates, or whatever. In the short run, I was very wrong. To say that the former Giant's run in the WWF has been lacking momentum would be to master the art of understatement.
In truth, he's been jerked about from place to place, main event to undercard, face to heel, heel to face, back and forth. He's held no titles to speak of. No, two tag team title reigns don't even amount to one singles reign. Not in 1999, at least.
Paul Wight has been a performer without a purpose, almost a wrestler without a script. He's delivered erratic matches against erratic opponents and really come across as, wellÉnothing in particular. If I were to describe The Big Show's character traits as a function of how well he's demonstrated them to the audience since his February debut, then I'd probably just end the column now for lack of anything to say.
I may not have expected that, though, but I didn't expect him to fall to such depths as he's seen so far in 1999. Let's forgive me anyway, since I said it would take awhile, and since it's all in the past.
The time for Paul Wight is now.
When The Big Show joined up with the Undertaker, everyone with a voice in the WWF -- including and especially the Undertaker -- suggested that this partnership would improve Wight's intensity, citing that as having been his main fault up to then. They didn't just tell us, though, they crammed it down our throats. This particular plot aspect wasn't supposed to be a secret.
Unfortunately, the Undertaker's out with an injury so for the time being, there really isn't any way to make that promise come to fruition, as the only real way to do it would have been for the Undertaker to piss off Big Show just a tad too much, and to have Big Show respond by annihilating him in return. Him and then everyone else.
But that's no longer possible.
When the WWF doesn't know what to do with an athlete lately, they give him a stupid angle involving something ludicrous or disgusting, depending on the situation and what they're out to prove. With Wight, the angle was that his father had cancer and the Big Bossman was out to exploit it. Heel heat for Bossman, and the same possible conclusion to this angle as the scrapped Undertaker idea.
Unfortunately, this one reeks. I don't usually say that about an angle, because I can usually find something redeeming about just about everything, but this just sucked. If it didn't offend you with its exploitation of a real life situation that has hurt as many people and families as anything out there, then it probably offended you with its outrageousness, since Paul Wight's father died, albeit of cancer, years ago.
Then, of course, the gimmick came to an end as they diluted the real life value of their ten-bell salute by using it on the fictional death of Paul Wight's long-dead father.
I thought this was disgusting from the start, and as far as entertaining television goes, it wasn't, but that's not my purpose here.
Fortunately, at least, the angle may have worked, as it has set up a situation where The Big Show may be ready to break out and become that monster we all expect him to be.
Take a look at this weekend's Survivor Series card. Specifically, Prince Albert/Big Bossman/Viscera/Mideon Vs Big Show/Taka Michinoku/Sho Funaki/Blue Meanie.
Four large-ish heels against Paul Wight, two relative midgets, and a loser jobber. This seems like a setting which could very well lead to a four-on-one situation for Wight, as his team members will probably go down quickly at the hands of their larger opposition.
If the WWF is going to try to build up Wight as some kind of monster, one very easy way to do it would be to have him face that situation - four on one against - and have him come out of it not only alive, but the victor. He gets mad at the Bossman because of the whole stupid father cancer angle, goes after him several times, but Bossman always gets away, tagging to one of his unfortunate partners. I say unfortunate because they'll probably all receive a pretty quick chokeslam from The Show, leaving Bossman and Big Show by themselves to duke it out. The Big Show with a dominating victory, and bam, he's the character they've always meant him to be.
Then just don't have him job to Kane in a slow, prodding match the following month, and he'll be fine.
There, see? Bad - no, awful - as this whole stupid angle has been, it may actually save the career of Paul Wight. Or make it, depending on how you look at it.
I'd just hate to have been Wight when that angle was thought of.
"Paul, we'd like to run an angle wherein we pretend your deceased father is still alive for about a month or so, tease his imminent death via the same cancer from which he really died, then have him die. If you'll go along with this, we'll have some big plans for you in the future."
Ultimately, Paul Wight is but an employee in a company, one man in a show, and it's his job to do those angles, but speaking as someone who's never consciously known someone dying of cancer, I'm pretty sure I'd hate it if I had. I can't tell if this column's tone is positive or negative. I'm not trying to either way. To me, this is just something that happened.
Besides, it's not like it tells us anything new about the people behind this. I only wish the best of luck to Wight's WWF career, given the sacrifice he's had to make to boost it.
Here's the mail, or as we anglophones say in Quebec, "the mail":
W. Patrick Curry, from firstname.lastname@example.org, writes:
"Loved the article on the indie stuff. I caught the Grand Prix when it came through Nova Scotia last summer. It was a great change of pace from the over the top stuff we are bombarded with on the tube. It really took me back to my childhood days of watching wrestling (good old days, indeed).
The purpose of my letter is as follows. I had a Guest Column for SLAM! printed last week (one of the proudest moments of my life), and got a whole lot of feedback, mostly positive. But a number of them contained the word "kayfabe". Now, from the context of the letters I was able to get the basic gist of what they were trying to say, but can you tell me exactly what it means?
I think it would be an excellent article for you sometime to go through all the terms that are generally used in regards to professional wrestling (mark, heat, job, etc.) and give definitions and illustrations for them. In fact, it would be really helpful to have it as a permanent feature of the SLAM! Wrestling website. It would be an excellent reference for people who are new to this stuff and for people like me who aren't exactly new, but aren't exactly encyclopedias, either."
There's really a lot of lingo in wrestling, and I guess I take it for granted because I've been doing this for (what seems like) so long.
Here are all of the terms I can think of and define in the next fifteen minutes:
First, via request:
kayfabe. Noun. The conspiracy of secrets in wrestling, the illusion that wrestling is real. Kayfabe is the whole aura presented during a wrestling show. At first, the point was to fool the fans, but lately, it's just used to entertain them. Examples of breaking kayfabe include making references to any of the other wrestling terminology, or to the bookers, writers, etc, or, even just to gain a special intensity, if just for a moment, that makes the audience think you really do hate someone. For example, the finish at Survivor Series 1997, even though it wasn't really announced to be a screw-job finish, was an example of breaking kayfabe. Where the word comes from, I have no idea.
Pop. Noun. The positive crowd response to any action or wrestler.
Heat. Noun. Usually, the same as pop but the response is negative. The crowd pops for a Stone Cold Stunner, but it's Triple H who garners the real heat.
To job. Verb. To lose a booked wrestling match, or, in our day, any wrestling match.
Jobber. Noun. One who loses many wrestling matches.
Mark. Noun. Usually referring to those who believe wrestling is real, it has come to mean those who don't know what goes on behind the scenes.
Smart. Noun. Those who do know.
Smark. Noun. A more recent reference to the fact that most people who believe themselves to be 'smarts' are fooled regularly.
To blade. Verb. To use a razorblade to make oneself bleed during a wrestling match. Nine times out of ten, the blood is real, and comes from the forehead, where - unless you're a special someone on the Indy circuit - scarring is minimal.
I can't think of anything else just yet. Maybe I'll compile such a list later on. Thanks for reading everyone, and thanks especially for writing. Let me know what you think about Paul Wight - not his run so far, not his chances, but just whether or not you find him to be a good wrestler/entertainer. Have a great week, everyone!
Send email to email@example.com.