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Paul Wight says WWE nixed plans for him to star in 'Gladiator' with Russell Crowe + praise for AEW execs, his weight loss, why he left WWE, Shaq, CM Punk and more

All Elite Wrestling

All Elite Wrestling

Chris Van Vliet recently interviewed AEW star/former WWE star Paul Wight this week. Wight talked about CM Punk's return, why he left WWE for AEW, his incredible weight loss, a possible match with Shaquille O'Neal, and more!

You can watch/listen to the entire interview by clicking below and scroll down for transcribed highlights.

On CM Punk's return:

"It's probably the biggest and most anticipated return ever. You think about the biggest impactful moments in wrestling. Like 'Were you there when Hulk Hogan slammed Andre The Giant?' 'Where were you when Steve Austin cut the infamous 3:16 promo?' When Hulk Hogan came to WCW, the NWO was formed. There's so many moments in history, and I'm guaranteed I am leaving a lot of special moments out. But I think this is one of those moments, it's in Chicago, it's sold out. It couldn't be served up anymore to create an incredible wrestling moment. It reignites the wrestling industry. There are so many wrestling companies that are springing up and doing well. All the companies are growing, recovering and the fans are searching out. Now you are getting to that competition of let's give the best product to our fans. Let's turn it out and give authentic, unique, diverse talent. And I think now is the time to put the spotlight on us, we are ready to shine."

On a possible match with Shaquille O'Neal:

"I think that will happen now because there is not as much red tape. He's already competed with Cody Rhodes. It was him and Jade Cargill vs. Cody Rhodes and Red Velvet. That was an incredible showing for Shaq, so hopefully we'll be able to cut some more red tape and make it happen. He's been hitting the gym lately, Shaq is pretty big right now. He's huge Shaq, that's the best way of looking at it. I think he is nervous about me so he is putting on a bit of size. Whereas I am "Tall Paul" the car salesman [laughs]."

On his amazing weight loss:

"I got as low as 370 lbs. Right now, I am at about 408 or 410. I'm still keeping it low. COVID and the pandemic put a big hit in the training and stuff like that. Now that things are starting to work I am getting things back together. It's fun, you know how to get there, so it's about gearing up and getting there again. Get your diet in order, then make the commitment to get your cardio in and all that stuff. When I was at 500lbs, I was a quarter ton of fun for 15 years. When I say 400, I still feel a little light in the pants. But to stay around 375 would be good."

On how much he is enjoying doing commentary:

"Oh my God you have no idea! I'm having a great time doing the commentary on Elevation. But if I've had known about the live Rampage on TNT I would have pushed for that spot. At the time, my opportunities were the new show Elevation, so I jumped at it. I am having a great time working with Tony Schiavone and working with the younger talent, but man, I have been chomping at the bit to get back in the ring. There's so many talents I want to work with and spend time in the ring with. I want to pass that knowledge along and still have fun. One of the biggest reasons why I made that transition is because I still want to compete in the ring."

On why he left WWE for AEW:

"I had to leave WWE. There was nothing there for me to accomplish. There was nothing there for me to do more of. I still like lacing up boots and I still like getting in the ring. Luckily Tony Khan gave me that opportunity."

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On WWE not being the right fit towards the end of his run:

"I was there for 4 decades. For me, I just wasn't ready to be in a position that I was getting, not pushed into, but it was the only opportunity available to me. I just felt like at the time that's not for me. I didn't leave mad or p*ssed off or anything like that. It's a business, you have to do what's best for your business and they have to do what's best for theirs. They have their plan and what they want to do moving forward. If you don't fit then you seek life elsewhere."

What he has left to accomplish in wrestling:

"My bucket list? I don't really have a bucket list. I've never been a guy to say 'I've got to do that.' I'm not a goal setter. I know some guys wake up every day and they have goals and checklists. I try to enjoy every day and be thankful for every day. Whether I get to go out and compete or be around the talent, it's a good day. I've got some TV and movie projects on the side, so that's all picking up speed now. I don't have anything to complain about, I just take every day and enjoy it. But as far as opportunities go, I won't turn anything down but the sheets. I'm like Samuel Jackson. I'll say yes to everything. I look forward to whatever opportunities are available. After Rampage in Chicago, the wrestling world will get knocked on it's ass. The scuttlebutt is true. Maybe attitude-era ish again."

On the possibility of retiring after leaving WWE:

"I didn't know if I was going to get a job after leaving WWE, and I didn't know if I was going to be in wrestling again. I was working on some TV stuff and some movie stuff, so I didn't pursue talking to anybody until after my WWE stuff. I had some conversations with [Chris] Jericho, who is a dear friend. I said 'Do you think they [AEW] would be interested in talking to me?' He said 'Well, you should talk to Tony Khan.' I met Tony a long time ago, so I had got his number from Chris. I shot Tony a text after my deal was done and we talked on the phone for a couple of hours. Tony Khan has weird hours, he's one of those guys who can be up from 1am until 4am.

That conversation was exciting, we talked about the future of wrestling and psychology and helping the younger talent. Also character building and plans for AEW, all those things. He actually got me super excited on the phone, which I haven't been for a long time. I have been a good cog in the machine and been a good solider, fought long and hard and through pain. So it was hard for me to have someone else who owns and runs a company to inspire you further. I am the luckiest man on the planet right now. I get the chance to be part of an organization that is growing, which is great. I get to have input and build something, which is important. And I get to have fun and I get paid."

Praise for AEW executives:

"It was scary leaving WWE. But even now I am in AEW, I've been there for a long time. Kenny Omega is an executive VP who busts his ass backstage in the company, helping everyone who has earned that spot and put AEW on the map. Chris Jericho helped put AEW on the map. Cody Rhodes is a big guy backstage that helped align things with AEW's community directive with a lot of the talent. The Young Bucks are in an executive position there. It's not just the stuff they do on TV it's all the stuff they do behind the scenes too. I'm not the big star in AEW, I don't have 4 decades of putting asses in seats and drawing money. I'm like the new guy that has to earn his stripes, and I dig it. But I can't wait to get out there and prove why I've been in this business so long."

On Vince McMahon not letting him star in "Gladiator" with Russell Crowe:

"There were so many projects I couldn't do because of the WWE schedule. When I first signed with WWE, Nick Cage reached out to me because his son was a big fan of me. Nick Cage was trying to hook me up with this Russell Crowe movie. But it was being shot in Spain I would have to be in Spain for 6 weeks for it. But I'm thinking Russell Crowe is going to be a star, Nick Cage wants me, I've got it. I go to ask Vince and he says 'I'm paying you to be a wrestler, not an actor.' So that was the end of that. So then it's like yeah you are paying me a lot of money to be a wrestler, I will go back to work sir. There wasn't as much crossover in the wrestling business then. For a while, WWE was very against wrestlers crossing over into movies. Then eventually they got into the program. So I am there watching Gladiator, that would have been good to be a part of. But now with AEW I can be a part of all sorts of projects. Having that freedom to build the Paul Wight brand [is good]. Because it's their intellectual property, so when you leave you have to rebuild yourself."

The origin of the "Big Show" name:

"That was Vince. When I first came into WWE I was Paul Wight, I just don't think Vince liked the spelling of my name or just my name. But what would Vince know about marketing? [laughs] But he walked by me one day and he goes 'So how's The Big Show today?' I go 'I'm good but who the hell is The Big show?' He goes 'You! You can walk, you can talk, you're an athlete. You're The Big Show.' He walked off and I thought oh dear God I hope that is not my wrestling name. But it was. But think back then it was the attitude and the Monday Night Wars. But over the years, like anything, if you do it long enough you can make it your own. But it's now a little hard to rebrand. I have a great Big Show autograph. My real signature is good, but I don't want to put that out there. I don't want to own a timeshare in the Bahamas. I'm just trying to figure out that new identity, and I have some input on my character. Hopefully I won't change 2 or 3 times in a match now."

If you use any portion of the quotes from this article please credit Chris Van Vliet. Also, be sure to subscribe to "Insight with Chris Van Vliet" on your mobile device by clicking here if you have an iOS device or here on your Android device.