There was a moment when the giant looked reborn. He moved with grace, bounced his fist off his opponent’s skull, primed himself for victory.
What a way to go out it would be, to retire as world heavyweight champion. The Big Show is winning this wrestling match, pounding Bobby Lashley into oblivion. The only thing left is the Big Show’s finishing move, the devastating ...
Hold it. In a flash, Lashley flips the switch. Now he is pounding the Big Show. One ... two ... three punches and a running elbow that knocks the giant on his back. This is no way to go out — no way to begin the final descent of the Big Show’s career, looking up at a snarling opponent.
Look around. Thousands have piled into James Brown Arena on this night, a Sunday in December. They came for this, to watch this main event and to watch the Big Show, who grew up less than an hour from the arena. In here, he is an attraction. Listed at 7 feet and 507 pounds, he is something to see. He is one of the largest characters in a business of tall tales.
Out there, outside the ring and beyond the spotlights, he is Paul Wight. He grew up in New Holland, a town in rural Aiken County. He was a football player and all-state basketball player at Batesburg’s W.W. King Academy.
In here, he is marketable. His size has earned him millions of dollars, a house on a Florida lake and a diverse career as a wrestler, actor and businessman. Without his looming body, none of it would have been possible.
Out there, his size represents a health risk. Wight is morbidly obese and has an enlarged heart. His work and travel schedules allow little time for proper rest and nutrition, which has prevented many of his injuries from healing. He cannot stand for more than a few minutes. He cannot sit for much longer.
Wight is 35 years old, but his mother, Dorothy, says her only son’s body operates as if it were 40 years older.
Wight’s size was partly caused by a tumor on his pituitary gland, which controls growth and tells most bodies to stop growing at a certain age. The tumor, which prevented those signals from reaching his brain, was removed when Wight was 19 ... and 7 feet tall ... and nearly 350 pounds.
It would seem even if he never wrestles, that Wight will be OK.
Three months after his WWE contract expired, Wight is gone. He is gone from wrestling. Gone from the United States and its demands. Reality, it would appear, can wait.
Dorothy Wight said her son and his wife, Bess, spent last month on vacation in Greece. It is Wight’s chance to relax, unbutton his trousers and exhale.
For now, Wight can wrestle when he wants — and not one match more. A report on a pro wrestling Web site stated Wight wrestled Hulk Hogan, a longtime friend, last month in a small-promotion show in Memphis.
During a news conference before that match, Wight said he no longer would wrestle under the name “the Big Show,” a moniker he jokingly referred to in April as his “slave name.”
Wight said he was tired of living at the mercy of others, presumably promoters who profit from his obesity. It is a role he has played for more than a decade and one he played flawlessly. Wight sacrificed his body and his health in exchange for fame and fortune. It is a trade that eventually wore thin.
Dorothy Wight said Bess, who also works as Wight’s manager, has invested much of the money Wight earned from his various occupations. Dorothy Wight said the couple would have no problem living comfortably, even if Wight never returns to wrestling.
Wight has lived 35 years as a giant, part of a tall tale. He might spend the next decade undoing the damage he did to his body during the past 13 years. Wight said during the Memphis news conference that he had lost 60 pounds since retiring after the December show in Augusta. He said he feels better, mentally and physically, than he has in more than a decade.
“Paul Wight, not the Big Show, is very intelligent,” Dorothy Wight says. “Paul Wight is funny. He’s articulate. He’s a clown. He reads. He’s Stephen King and Star Trek. Heavy stuff. When you get to know Paul the guy, he’s a good, loyal friend.”
Wight came to a crossroad that night in Augusta. There was something about the way he walked up the ramp after losing to Lashley. There was something about the way he paused and stared into the crowd. It was as if he was saying goodbye.
Less than 50 miles from his home, where the growth started and the wild stories of a giant man took flight, Wight turned and walked away. It was in Augusta that Paul Wight took the first steps out of the Big Show’s skin.
Perhaps Wight realized tall tales are better without a sad ending.