WE'VE ALL HEARD OF PERFORMERS WHO ARE "LARGER THAN LIFE"-- IN THE CASE OF WWE'S BIG SHOW, THAT'S MORE THAN TRUE. AT A STAGGERING SEVEN FEET TALL AND 470 POUNDS, BIG SHOW CAPTIVATES AUDIENCES AROUND THE WORLD BY FLIPPING CARS AND CHOKESLAMMING WORLD CHAMPIONS THROUGH THE RING... LITERALLY. CONSISTENTLY ONE OF THE BEST PERFORMERS ON THE WWE ROSTER, BIG SHOW HAS GONE FROM PENTHOUSE TO OUTHOUSE, AND BACK AGAIN. AS WRESTLEMANIA 21 APPROACHES, NIGHT WATCHMAN GOT A CHANCE TO FIND OUT THAT THE ONLY THING BIGGER THAN SHOW'S MASSIVE FRAME IS THE LOVE HE HAS FOR THE SPORT OF WRESTLING.
Night Watchman: I just wanted to start out by saying that we here at tastes like chicken are all really big fans of yours. You seem to be the one wrestler that we all agree is a great performer, and love seeing every week.
Big Show: Thank you very much. That means a lot. Thank you.
NW: It seems like you do really well with the crowd, and Iím sure that has to do with the character of Big Show and the great storylines you get. But how much input do you have when it comes to storylines and who your rivals are going to be?
BS: When you say "does well with the crowd", what are you talking about specifically? You mean the fact that the fans like me?
NW: Yeah. It seems like whether youíre a heel or a face, everyone really likes your character and the feuds you get into, and definitely the performances.
BS: (laughs) Well, thank you for that. I do have some input in that, but weíve got such a great staff, too: Brian Gerwertz, Dave Lagana, Stephanie [McMahon], and, of course, Vince [McMahon] and Michael Hayes. There are a lot of great people who are putting together my stuff-- John Laurinaitis and Arn Anderson-- I got a lot of people with their fingers in the pie, so to speak. So, we try to work together for whatís best for the SmackDown! programming, and whatís best for the show. It works out. So far I havenít done anything thatís made we want to go home and throw a short rope over a tall tree and hang myself, so everythingís been pretty livable so far.
NW: (laughs) It just seems like if you had to make a highlight reel of SmackDown! in the last year, it would be hard not to include the Eddie Guerrero laxative burrito.
BS: (laughs) The burrito, the septic truck... yeah. And then we got back to being serious with Eddie getting tore up on that lowrider. Iíve been real lucky. I think coming to SmackDown! was real good for me. I needed a change from RAW. I got real stagnant over at RAW, between going to Louisville [Ohio Valley Wrestling] and then trying to work back into the program. The biggest hurdle that Iíve had to overcome was earning the respect of the guys that I worked with. Because I did have a lot of breaks that a lot of the guys didnít have, and, quite frankly, I donít think I made the most of those opportunities at first. I think coming to SmackDown! gave me a chance to start over, so to speak; have some good matches with some guys, and do some good things like the [Royal] Rumble with [Chris] Benoit, and the feuds with Brock [Lesnar], Eddie [Guerrero], and Kurt [Angle]. It allowed me to earn a lot more respect from the guys in the locker room, so that made a big difference. Plus, my attitude changed a lot, too. It was hard when I first came up here because, honestly, the talent when I came in was so good. With Stone Cold and The Rock, the tag situation with Billy Gunn and Road Dogg, they were such an incredible tag team; it seemed like everybody up here was awesome. I felt a little bit behind, and it took me a couple of years to get my stuff together, but now I feel like I belong. I contribute some-- thatís a pretty good place to be. Not too many people can go from the penthouse to the outhouse, and then make it back to the penthouse.
NW: Thatís true. When you first came into the majors at WCW you were fighting Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair, and you were winning titles. Did that cause a lot of resentment with the other wrestlers?
BS: I think it did cause resentment. How could it not? These guys had worked hard and were there before me. I was just a snot-nosed punk kid off the streets that basically came into their locker room and their industry. Iím already working with guys that some people never have a chance to work with their whole career, let alone their first match being against Hulk Hogan. A lot of good things came out of it, but I didnít get the opportunities to step and fail like you do when you start out. When you start out smaller, you can make mistakes, learn from them, and learn to grow. All my mistakes were made right in front of everybody, so there were a lot of expectations put on my shoulders. I had size, I had the ability to talk, and I had athletic ability. But trying to coordinate it all and put it all together, that was not an easy thing. Trying to put all that into a cohesive character that can draw money and at the same time be halfway decent to be around... it was hard trying to find a balance. You see that happen with a lot of guys that are young. They come in, they get the big push, and it all goes to their head. Itís hard not to when you donít understand everything around you. I think it was, for me, good to get knocked down a notch or two; to go to Louisville and learn from my mistakes, and come back with a better attitude of what the production people go through, what our cameramen go through, what our media people go through to set up our public relations and media events. Understanding that this is one big synergy of hundreds of people working towards a common goal. Itís not just about you. Thatís the biggest lesson that any Superstar could learn; itís really a team effort. If youíre not part of the team, you donít make it; thatís for sure.
NW: I think many people looking at it from the outside think that itís just about showboating and fancy moves, but they fail to realize that you have to be able to get along with people and respect everyone. There is a lot more going on than what it seems like on the surface.
BS: Oh, yeah. This is a business about egos and paying your dues. And there are so many guys that have paid their dues in so many different ways, between working small independent shows and struggling for years before they made it here. Some guys are second and third generation and understand the work that it takes to give yourself to this business. A lot of times you donít understand when it gets handed to you right away. You donít realize, "Hey, this is really hard to get here. This is not easy." The main thing is just having respect for yourself, the business, and the people that came before you. One of the guys said to me that his goal was to leave this business in better shape than when he found it, and that should be a goal for a lot of Superstars. Because all the Superstars that came before us-- Hulk Hogan, "Superstar" Billy Graham, [Jimmy] Snuka, Lou Thesz-- all of them paid for us to have the loyal fan base that we have now. To have the media monster that we have now was the blood, sweat, and tears of guys that came before us. As long as you keep that in mind and understand that this is a privilege to be in this business; itís not a right, itís a privilege. If you treat it as such and be respectful to it, it can be very good to you.
NW: You see a lot of documentaries about the damage wrestlers have incurred later in their careers. For example, Stone Cold has really bad knee problems from wrestling. Do you worry about what kind of shape youíll be in later in life?
BS: Maybe Iím too much of an optimist-- I donít know. I mean, Iíve had herniated discs in my back and still worked. I had knee surgery this past summer, where they actually drilled holes in my kneecap and moved it over because Iíd worn it down to the bone-- I still wrestled anyway. I was supposed to have the surgery done last year right after WrestleMania [XX], but with Brock leaving I had to stay on and do some other things until we found a creative way to get me out. We lost a big part of our show [Brock Lesnar] that just decided he wanted to go and play football, so I had to suck it up and get through it for our programming. The outside world canít understand the amount of wear and tear that our guys put on their bodies every night. Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio, The Undertaker, JBL, anybody on our card, all of our guys put their bodies on the line every night, and weíre talking four or five nights a week. Theyíre bumping, theyíre running, theyíre getting slammed, getting chokeslammed, tombstoned, power-bombs, and doing dives off the top ropes. There are so many things theyíre doing every night to blow our crowdís minds, that their bodies are just getting torn down. To sit back and think, ďOh, I might get hurt or I might be in a wheelchair when Iím 60....Ē You know what? Iím not worried about it. I wear my knee pads, I try not to step in any holes in the ring, and just try to go out there and do the best I can. I donít think you can let yourself get all caught up in that negativity and still do your job the best you can. If you're out there worried too much about yourself, youíre not giving yourself to the company.
NW: You just said you guys are doing shows four and five times a week, and I just finished reading the new WWE book, Are We There Yet?, which is filled with stories from the road. Traveling in planes, being cramped up in the backseats of cars for hours on end-- thatís got to be terrible. What is the schedule like, and when do you actually get some time off?
BS: Well, usually our schedule for SmackDown! is Saturday through Tuesday, and weíre off Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. We get in Wednesday afternoon, and we leave Saturday afternoon. Sometimes you have international tours, and then youíre gone for ten days at a stretch. And then some of our guys, like [John] Cena and Rey Mysterio, they'll do media days on top of that to promote upcoming shows. So they might leave on Friday, or they might not even go home. They might just go do Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday for media days, because there are so many people that want to talk to them that they donít get much time for a home life. Thatís part of the sacrifice that goes into being a top Superstar. Your family has to be patient and understand that theyíll see their husband or daddy when he gets time for them. Business just really does come first. Iím lucky I changed things up a little bit this year when I came back from knee surgery. Iím actually leasing a bus this year, and have a bus driver that drives to all the towns. I got tired of going to a rental car counter and having a guy look at me with a straight face and offer me a Taurus. "You want me to skateboard to the arena?"
BS: So, I do the bus leasing, which allows me to take my wife with me now. Sheís more comfortable, and Iím definitely more comfortable because Iím spread out. Iíve got my own shower. I can stretch out. The cramping was what was killing me the most. For me, even a big SUV is small; Iím cramped up. Some of the shorter commuter flights-- like this weekend, the guys are flying from Columbus to LaGuardia to do a show in Danbury, Connecticut, and itís 650 miles. Iíll crawl into the back of the bus after the show in Columbus, sleep, and Iíll be in Danbury at 2:30 the next day. My driver will drive all the way through, so itís working out a lot better for me. Itís expensive, but I keep explaining to my wife, "We can write it off."
NW: Going along with that, and with the story you tell about the bathroom in Japan in the book--
BS: (laughs) With the wall falling out?
NW: Yeah. I realize itís different in Japan, but what is it like to live in a world designed for a six-foot-tall person when youíre seven feet tall?
BS: Itís got itís positives and negatives. The negatives are I canít go into a store and buy clothes, Iím not going to be comfortable at a booth in a restaurant, some chairs are not strong enough to hold me-- I weigh 470 pounds-- and movie theatre seats are sometimes too small. They're not made for me because Iím not your average bear. By the same token, because I am unique and I am different, I have a wonderful career. I have a wonderful job in which to accentuate all the things in my everyday life that are negatives-- I can turn them into a positive. Believe me, if everyone was my size, who knows what Iíd be doing. Iíd probably be pumping gas somewhere-- Iím definitely not going to be building space shuttles for NASA. The whole algebra, trigonometry thing... nah, not me.
NW: I know what you mean. (laughs) When did you first realize that you were growing and that you werenít stopping where everyone else was? That has to be something difficult to deal with growing up.
BS: At 12 years old I was 6'2", 220 pounds, and I remember getting sent to the office after recess. My shirt got torn in recess playing football, like you do when youíre a kid. Well, I had a hairy chest at 12, and I remember the art teacher was a little bit of a snob; she was an older lady who got completely flustered because my hairy chest was exposed in class. I think the old windbag got excited and embarrassed; either way, I remember being mortified because of the way she went off on me. I felt like such a freak going to the office. Thatís when I knew I was different for sure. Then I was 6'8" in eighth grade, and I was 7' as a senior in high school, so I definitely knew life was going to be different for me. I was one of those kids that couldnít be in the back of the class and whisper, (in a deep voice) "Hey, what did you get for number four?" because my voice carried so bad.
BS: I remember the first couple weeks of high school I went through the lunch line and got different things. Like, other kids got the pizza and blah, blah, blah... but I was getting a chef's salad with a big glass of iced tea, and the other kids were drinking milk. The poor people in the lunch staff thought I was a teacher, so they were giving me the teacher lunches.
BS: I was like, "Why isnít this lady punching my lunch card?" I wasnít going to complain; I was a poor kid. I thought, "Hey, if I can scam a free meal, all right!" I didnít know I was eating teacherís meals. Finally, they put two and two together and figured out I was a student. Yeah, it was pretty awkward. But you know what? It happens. Sometimes people expect a lot more from you. When I was younger it was always tough because I might have looked 20 at 14, but, you know, I was still a 14-year-old kid. It was a lot of growing pains, but all in all Iím very happy with how everything turned out. I got a pretty hot wife, three cool dogs, and a good job.
NW: When were you bit by the wrestling bug?
BS: I was always a fan. I was bit by the wrestling bug as a kid. I remember when Lex Luger debuted. We were watching Georgia Championship Wrestling, and Ric Flair was talking about "The Phenom", and Lex came out, and I remember my dad and I were like, "Holy smoke! Look at that guy!" I had never seen anybody on TV with muscles like that at the time. At the time, he was so shredded. There are 30 guys in our locker room right now that look better, but back then it was unbelievable. The biggest punishment for me growing up was either taking away my basketball, or telling me I couldnít watch wrestling. If I didnít see my Ric Flair dose every week, I was upset. I used to talk trash like Ric Flair all the time. At the basketball court, when Iíd dunk the ball, Iíd be like, "Whoo!" and strut. At the free-throw line Iíd tell other kids, "Look, in order to be the man youíve got to beat the man." Iím shooting free throws and talking trash like Ric Flair! All I needed was blond hair and a pair of dark sunglasses.
NW: (laughs) You know, thatís one thing thatís missing from wrestling now. There isnít all the trash talking like there used to be.
BS: Yeah. I think itís migrated a lot from the whole attitude era, with Stone Cold and stuff like that. Itís not so much talking trash on the microphone; itís more taking care of business in the ring. Itís just migrated. Plus, honestly, itís hard to find the great talkers that you used to have back in the day. You had Arn Anderson, J.J. Dillon, Ric Flair, Tommy "Wildfire" Rich, Cowboy Bob Orton, Michael Hayes-- these are the guys that I grew up watching-- just prolific, wonderful talkers on the microphone. In our era, we have Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and The Rock. A lot of the fine art of conducting an interview, so to speak, is a little bit lost. Itís a real art. I talk to Triple H all the time, and The Undertaker, too, and there are very few, what I call "artisans" left in our business. Weíve got a lot of blacksmiths that are very good and very skilled at what they do, but an artisan is a guy that could make a sword that could cut through an anvil, and there are very few of those guys left. Because there is so much transition of talent, and the new talent coming up didnít experience what the older talent went through: working for several different companies, East Coast/West Coast, working in North Carolina, Portland, Texas, Tennessee, and Florida. There were so many different places. Dusty Rhodes-- one of the greatest talkers of all-time, entertaining as all get out-- the experience just isnít there now like it was for those guys back then. Nowadays, these kids are thrown into the television limelight right away. Kind of like I did-- you make your mistakes in front of everyone. You donít have a chance to hone your craft and appear polished. The older guys appeared so polished because they had been doing it for ten years before you really got to see them. Before you made it to the WWE, back in the old days, you had probably been working seven, eight, nine years, and were polished. Nowadays, just because of television and WWE voraciously eating up its competition, now guys have to work a lot harder to appear good, because everything they do is right in front of the world to see.
NW: And if they do make mistakes there isnít another place to go to get that kind of exposure.
BS: Yeah. Itís not like they can put a mask on you and send you out as "Man-tar". (laughs) If you flub up, itís there for the world to see. These guys nowadays really have to get their act together if they're going to make it.
NW: It seems like WWE has a lot more playful vibe now; it gives you more of a knowing wink. Iím thinking of those great trailers for the Royal Rumble where they parodied West Side Story, or the WrestleMania 21 spots where they parody famous movies. Before it seemed very protected, and there was more of a mean ďwrestling is 100% realĒ vibe.
BS: Well, yeah, I think thatís a difference, too. Before, the old-timers worked so hard to protect every single square inch of the industry. From the heels to the babyfaces not staying in the same hotels or eating in the same restaurants, to, god forbid, riding on the same airplane. Now, because we all do so much as a unit, and it basically is what it is-- itís World Wrestling Entertainment, a publicly owned company-- weíre here to entertain you. Weíre here to suspend your reality. Now, thatís good and bad. Itís good because it gives us a lot more freedom for different types of characters, but itís bad because itís also hurt a little bit of the product-- a little bit, I think-- as far as the execution of some things. Now, before I get misquoted, let me clarify this before I have the entire locker room skin me alive and hang me by my toes and pour gasoline on me, or poop in my bag or something--
BS: But what Iím trying to say is that, because the business is so exposed, because the Internet and everything else, it took away a little of the mystique of the old business.
NW: Yeah, I agree.
BS: But as everything evolves, everything changes; and if you donít change, you become stagnant. So now weíve got such characters that are so funny. Even Eddie Guerrero, whoís a second or third generation, is so funny in the ring because heís allowed to get that personality across. Eddie before was such a great technical wrestler; just a go, go, go guy in the ring, and he was fantastic. But now you see so much more personality of Eddie, and itís really wonderful. Honestly, I think one of the most entertaining guys we have is Eddie. Not only is he a fantastic wrestler in the ring, but he also has the ability to do those little things that make you laugh and think, "You know what? Iíd do that, too. I would crack somebody in the head with a chair, and then lay down and act like it wasnít me." Thatís the beautiful part about growing and expanding.
NW: One thing that I wanted to ask you about was when you left to go have knee surgery, where you had to quit because you lost a match. Which, by the way, was probably the most amazing episode Iíve ever seen of the show. But I have to ask you about Torrie Wilsonís car. Did you flip that car by yourself?
BS: What they did is, we have a wonderfully brilliant stunt coordinator-- tongue-in-cheek on that-- named Ellis Edwards. Ellis is kind of like a real life chihuahua hopped up on crystal meth. The guy talks 90 miles an hour, and he really does know what heís doing; heís really safety oriented. They actually found the car and let the air out of the passengerís side tires-- it helps a lot. Itís not really that hard to flip a car once you get it past a certain point. Obviously, with full tires I probably would have been S.O.L., but to let you in on the big secret, they let the air out of the tires. Granted, I play the role of the giant, but thereís a little bit of torque there, too. However, slapping the windshields out and all that, that was all me.
NW: The acting and the performance in that scene really sold it, too. To this day, if you say to Wayne, our Editor-in-Chief, ďWhy are you laughing at me?Ē like you did, heíll start to tear up.
BS: Oh, thatís funny. You know, whatís funny about that is that Vince helped produce that piece, and the nice thing about Vince is that he really lets you get involved and feel the moment. Thatís why Iím so excited that weíre doing these WWE films. Some of us are going to start getting some great opportunities to do films, because there are a lot of us who can do drama and do emotion and be funny. Weíre all action heroes; every one of us can play an action hero on TV. We can do our own fight scenes, our own stunts. Some of the little clips that weíve done for those WrestleMania Goes To Hollywood shorts-- the Basic Instinct thing with Stacy Keibler-- I think she did a fantastic job! For the brief time that was going on, I forgot they were wrestlers. Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit... and Christian was hysterical. (laughs)
NW: (laughs) Yeah, he was great!
BS: I mean, they really did a great job, and I think thatís the thing weíre able to do right now. We can kind of shove it up Hollywoodís ass and say, "Look, weíve got some guys that are talented, so watch out."
NW: Are you doing one of those?
BS: Iím not as public as Stone Cold, obviously. Iím not the name that he is, but weíre really looking at trying to find a good comedy so I can have some free reign. Because I like to be funny, and we had a great time doing the Saturday Night Live thing with The Rock. Luckily, Vince is a supporter of my comedic timing. He also says I have the worst timing on the planet because Iím the guy that will call right in the middle of a major business meeting, or call Vince when heís on the john, for crying out loud. I have perfect timing no matter what. Itís the kind of stuff that can get you in trouble, but luckily the boss laughs it off and says, (mimicking Vince McMahon) "Aw, thatís Big Show." So luckily heís got a good sense of humor, too.
NW: As far as the WrestleMania Goes To Hollywood skits go, are you filming one of those trailers, as well?
BS: I just shot my trailer this past Tuesday.
NW: Can you give me a hint?
BS: Nope. All I can tell you is that itís balls-out funny. Itís really funny.
NW: (laughs) I canít wait to see it.
BS: Iíll give you one hint: think De Niro. Taxi Driver. "You talkin' to me?" Thatís all Iím going to say. Other than that, Iím not saying anything under penalty of having my fingers smashed with a hammer.
NW: (laughs) Do you know what you're doing in WrestleMania 21 yet?
BS: Not yet. Iím kind of in a situation now where I had a great run with JBL. I had a great feud with him, and he is an incredible talent. Whether you like the guy or not, youíve got to respect what he did by putting his body on the line at No Way Out. That guy has talent, thereís no doubt about it. Without kissing his ass on the Internet, heís a talent to be respected in the ring, and out of the ring, too. Heís a really smart guy. Other than that, heís the eternal ball-breaker; Iíd love to put a Ziploc bag over his head. Other than that, my hat goes off to him. This is John Cenaís time now to get ready for 'Mania, so I wish him a lot of luck with that. I know him and John [Bradshaw Layfield] will tear the house down.
NW: One last question, and this should be an easy one for you since you said earlier that you have three dogs. In your professional opinion, do dogs have lips?
BS: Do I think dogs have lips? Absolutely. Dogs have lips. I have three dogs, four cats, five birds, a fish, and a turtle.
NW: Wow! They donít all go out on the road with you, do they?
BS: (laughs) No, they donít. Iíve got a 75-pound boxer, a 90-pound German shepherd, and a two-year-old, 110-pound English mastiff-- heís growing every day. I like big dogs, because I know that if I sit on the couch I wonít accidentally sit on them and kill them. There are no chihuahuas in little sweaters running around this house. My dogs would eat it as an hors d'oeuvre. Believe me, our cats are all pretty tough from hanging around with these three dogs.
NW: (laughs) Theyíd have to be!
BS: Iíve got one cat thatís 22 pounds; heís so fat, when he sits down his hind legs point up in the air. He looks like Boss Hogg.
BS: Heís the fattest, grumpiest cat you've ever seen in your whole life. Heís grumpy! When he comes to the water bowl the three dogs move.
BS: We ought to do the Jurassic Park thing when he walks through the house-- the water glass with the little ripple in it when he walks. Heís a fat little bastard! Hey, if I can call him fat, heís fat.
NW: (laughs) Thanks for doing this interview.
BS: Thank you very much. And thank you guys very much for the compliments. I really appreciate it.
AND CLICK HERE TO READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH BATISTA!