The Good, The Bad and The Big Show

“A lot of people are saying it was the darkest day in WWE history!” – Michael Cole, referring to Big Show’s latest heel turn which happened at Over The Limit 2012.

Now its obvious that quote is nothing more than pure hyperbole, something WWE has often been guilty of in order to sell an angle, feud or match. However it is true that The Big Show has always been one of the more popular WWE wrestlers in recent times, especially with kids who likely view him as a BFG-type character, but there’s no denying that apart from maybe Kane, nobody seems to turn face or heel more often than The Big Show. So while younger members of the good ol’ WWE Universe were no doubt shocked and appalled by Big Show knocking out John Cena at Over The Limit, the majority more likely than not expected it to happen, such is the nature of how Show has been booked since entering the company in 1999. In this article I will look at whether or not this particular turn is any more significant than the others, and if this constant flip-flopping of allegiances has affected Show’s run for better or worse.

“King…that’s Paul Wight! That’s Paul Wight! He’s huge!” – Michael Cole again, at St Valentine’s Day Massacre 1999, when Show made his WWF debut.

By virtue of the fact that he was 7 foot tall and weighed somewhere in the region of 400 pounds, Big Show was always going to be treated as something special once he entered the wrestling business. Upon his arrival in WCW back in that golden year for wrestling that was 1995, he was given the monicker of The Giant, and pushed into the main event picture right out of the gate as part of the legendary Dungeon Of Doom stable. He would feud with Hulk Hogan based upon the premise that Wight was the son of Andre The Giant, who wanted to avenge his father’s death at the hands of Hogan. Yes, it was an utterly ridiculous premise, but he won the WCW World Title from Hogan in his first official match at Halloween Havoc ’95, only an hour after falling off the roof of the arena following a monster truck battle with Hogan. Yeah, the whole thing was utterly stupid, but not many people can say that they won the World Title in their first match.

His subsequent run in WCW suffered from said flip-flop booking, in as much as he drifted in and out of the nWo a few times, but he stood out as The Giant because he was surprisingly very agile and quick for such a big guy. Unfortunately a neck injury he sustained due to a botched powerbomb by Kevin Nash hindered his run somewhat, and he never really achieved the same level of success before leaving WCW in early ’99. He immediately jumped to the WWF and signed a 10-year contract, and the idea that he was a major acquisition was made evident by his interfering in the much hyped steel cage match between Steve Austin and Vince McMahon at the aforementioned PPV – even if admittedly its execution was a little weak, because Show inadvertantly cost McMahon the match by throwing Austin clean through the cage. He arrived as a heel then, aligning himself with arguably the most hated heel in all of wrestling at that time.

“However this relationship failed to last past the end of 1999, as McMahon’s high demands for his personal bodyguard grew increasingly worse.” – pwrestlingnews.com’s profile on The Big Show

Maybe people, including myself, have questioned the booking of Show in his first few weeks in the company. He was beaten by Steve Austin on RAW fairly quickly after debuting, plus he also lost his first high profile match at Wrestlemania 15, losing via DQ to Mankind in a short match. This angered McMahon to the point where he slapped Show, as a result Show would attack McMahon, and so he had turned face only a couple of months into his tenure. This can pretty much be attributed to Vince Russo’s “car crash TV” style of booking, in which turns and swerves were so frequent that you began to expect them on each show – an example of which would be Show joining a stable with Mankind, against whom he had been feuding, along with Ken Shamrock and Test. They were known as The Union, and they inexplicably carried 2 x 4’s with them everywhere, battling against the Corporate Ministry, a ludicrous amalgamation of two stables which had about 15 members or so at one point. Due to Russo’s ADD, The Union didn’t last long and thus did nothing to elevate those who were a part of it. Even more confusingly, Big Show soon joined forces with the The Undertaker, the leader of the Corporate Ministry, becoming tag team champions even after they had battled numerous times against each other. They were an impressive team, but they soon broke up and Show was a plucky babyface again.

“You hear that, Paul Wight! You’re a big nasty bastard, and your momma said so!” – The Big Boss Man, after finding out that Big Show was a bastard child on RAW, which he discovered by visiting Show’s mother at her home.

Yes, soon enough we were treated to this legendary feud, which really kicked into gear after Show had won his first WWF World Title at Survivor Series ’99, a win he had dedicated to his late father. The Boss Man did such dastardly deeds as steal Show’s father’s coffin at the funeral, smash a priceless family heirloom with a hammer, as well as read a poem about Show’s dad being “eaten by worms”. It was undeniably ridiculous, but it established Show as a sympathetic face, and ended at Armageddon ’99 where Show retained his title in a short, but still pretty awful match. However his reign didn’t last much longer, as he dropped the belt to Triple H on the first RAW of 2000, and by the time the Royal Rumble rolled around later in the month, he was back to being a heel again, going up against The Rock.

Show was the runner-up of the 2000 Rumble, which was predictably won by The Rock. They briefly feuded over this finish as Show doctored the footage to show Rock’s feet landed first, but it was obvious that the WWF was heading towards a Rock vs Triple H program for the title, following HHH’s awesome pair of PPV matches against Cactus Jack. Eventually a Fatal 4 Way Elimination match for the belt was booked for the main event of WrestleMania that year, but Show was treated as an afterthought essentially, being eliminated from the contest after only 5 minutes. It would be a while before he got back into the title picture – after ‘Mania he once again turned face (so that’s his 4th turn in just over a year at this point), stemming from his appearance on American sketch show MAD TV, in which he showed he had some comedic chops. He was given an “impersonation” gimmick, the highlight of which was Show dressing as Hulk Hogan at Backlash. It was admittedly funny stuff, but it was a fairly swift decline down the card from WWF Champion to comedy midcarder in a matter of months. He suffered the indignity of losing to Shane McMahon on PPV, then once again aligning with him, but this heel run didn’t last as Show was sent down to OVW to get into better shape after a noticeable weight gain.

“His contract was renegotiated in 2000 when management felt he wasn’t working hard enough, and sent him to Ohio Valley Wrestling, with Jim Ross cutting it down to $1,000,000 a year for 8 years. Eventually Vince got irritated about paying that much for anybody in developmental and they just took him as he was in early 2001”. – tupwrestling.com article on Show, circa 2006

Yes, he did return at the 2001 Royal Rumble having not really got into better shape. He was eliminated by The Rock but got revenge by chokeslamming him through the announce table. Therefore it seemed he had returned as an upper midcard heel, but he spun his wheels in the Hardcore division for the early part of the year, trading the belt with the likes of Raven, Billy Gunn and even Kane at Wrestlemania X7. Even when the InVasion began that summer, Show was a face by proxy but was still mired in the midcard, teaming up with guys like Billy Gunn, Tajiri and Spike Dudley and never really being presented as a major threat to the Alliance. He was part of the 10-man tag match at Survivor Series to end the whole angle, but only as a replacement for Vince McMahon, and once again he was eliminated fairly early in the match. Having been a face for the better part of a year, it was only a matter of time before he would once again join the dark side.

“I’m going to kill what I created! I’m going to inject the WWF with a lethal dose of poison! If anybody’s gonna kill my creation, I’m gonna do it. Me and the n…W…o!” – Vince McMahon’s legendary 2002 promo

The major story at the start of ’02 was the nWo coming into the WWF, namely Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall. It created a major buzz as one would expect, but it soon wore off. The whole storyline was pretty much torpedoed by Hogan getting major pops wherever they went, even after viciously attacking the top faces such as Steve Austin and The Rock. Hogan’s eventual and inevitable face turn took place at WrestleMania X8 (the first ‘Mania since Show’s arrival in the company where he didn’t make the card, instead appearing at WWF New York to scream “Wrestlemania, woohoo!” at little kids), and so in order to try and salvage the nWo somewhat, they added former member X-Pac to the stable, and Big Show soon rejoined too, having turned on Steve Austin in a tag match on RAW. As the company became the WWE, it led to the end of the nWo soon after, as Nash got injured and Hall was released after acting like a jackass on a plane. They tried adding Booker T and even Shawn Michaels to the fold, but it was too little too late. Show did little of note after nWo ultimately folded, until being traded to Smackdown at the end of the year, and it would lead him back to the main event scene after 2 and a half years out of it.

“Brock, I took your agent, I took your title, I took your whole damn life away from you! You know what probably bothers you the most? There wasn’t a damn thing you could do about it. Not only am I a giant, I’m a focused, determined, defending champion with the most brilliant mind in our business today behind me.” – Big Show, after winning the WWE Title at Survivor Series 2002, with help from Paul Heyman

The move to Smackdown paid dividends initially for Show, as he was immediately placed into a feud with WWE Champion Brock Lesnar, leading to him winning the title for the second time at Madison Square Garden after Paul Heyman turned on Lesnar to cost him the match. However as with his first reign, it came across like he was merely a placeholder champion, because at the next PPV – Armageddon – he dropped the belt to Kurt Angle, who went on to feud with Lesnar over the title. Meanwhile, Show entered into another feud with The Undertaker, which also involved A-Train and…Nathan Jones. It culminated in Undertaker beating Show & A-Train in a handicap match at Wrestlemania 19, meaning that Show still hadn’t won a Wrestlemania match yet. However this time he wasn’t relegated to the midcard afterwards, as he would hang around the title scene on Smackdown, challenging Lesnar a couple more times. In all honesty, this may have been his best run in the WWF/E at this point, as he was featured prominently on Smackdown and was presented as a dangerous threat, which he should be. Towards the end of 2003 it cooled off somewhat though.

“You tell Eddie Guerrero that The Big Show put a little special sauce on his burrito!” – Show talking to a Mexican burrito delivery boy on Smackdown, after hocking phlegm on one of them

Show moved on to a feud with Eddie Guerrero over the recently re-introduced United States Title, which on paper seems like it would be enjoyable, however the program was marred by unfunny comedy segments, such as Big Show eating rotten burritos and consequently getting the shits, followed by an infamous moment on Smackdown when Eddie sprayed Show with a sewage hose, covering him in “ca-ca”, as Eddie called it. The match came at No Mercy ’03, and Show won clean in a pretty ‘meh’ match – this would be his first singles run with a secondary title, however he rarely defended the belt during his reign. His next major challenge came in the form of the fast rising youngster known as John Cena, who had connected with the crowd since a recent face turn due to his entertaining rap gimmick. Show was carrying an injury at the time, and thus he dropped the title to Cena in the opener of WrestleMania XX, which meant by this point he was 0-5 on the grandest stage of them all. They did take Show off TV shortly after, he was written off in a segment where he threw Kurt Angle, who had become GM of Smackdow, over a balcony. Of course it looked totally fake, but it was an excuse to give Show some time to heal up. So over this 5 year span, he had turned 8 times, but this period between 2002-2004 was one of his longer heel runs and it led him to some notable feuds and success.

Of course when he returned in late ’04, he was a face. He chose to face Kurt Angle in a match at No Mercy of that year, and after a segment in which Angle shot him with a tranquilizer dart and shaved his head, Show won the match. He would carrying on feuding with Angle and his latest lackeys (Luther Reigns and Mark Jindrak, remember them?), beating the 3 of them in a handicap match at Armageddon. Its worth pointing out that Show was very over here, and his strong run continued here as he once again found himself in the WWE Title mix; the champion this time was JBL, who had held the belt since the previous summer and was insanely over as a heel. He would get a one on one shot for the belt at No Way Out ’05, in a unique and quite brutal match.

“There will be no outside interference at No Way Out, because for the first time in the history of the WWE, this match will be a Barbed Wire Steel Cage match” – Teddy Long to JBL, Rumble 2005

This was probably the peak of this face run for Show, because people desperately wanted JBL to drop the title, and they really got behind Show. The aforementioned barbed wire steel cage match was the main event of No Way Out, and was hotly anticipated. It delivered in as much as it was very hard hitting and bloody, and it had what I honestly believe to be one of the most creative match finishes in WWE history, Show had chokeslammed JBL through the mat, but before he was able to walk out of the cage, JBL had crawled under the structure and technically escaped first, thus retaining the belt. This finish kept Show strong, but once again he soon found himself completely out of the WWE Title picture, starting with a gimmick match at Wrestlemania 21 that would really derail his momentum to be honest.

In February 2005, there was a Smackdown show which took place in Japan, his Wrestlemania match took shape. Akebono, a sumo legend in Japan, would go on to challenge Show to a sumo match – this was done essentially to pique interest with the audience in the Far East, and it had a relatively fun build with Show undertaking tests of strength such as pushing over a jeep. However the actual contest itself was very brief, featured Big Show looking ridiculous in an unflattering outfit, and ultimately achieved nothing in the long run. Again he was then taken out of the title picture, and during the year he feuded with guys like Carlito and Snitsky, before he went on to have success in as Tag Team Champions with Kane. They won the belts at Taboo Tuesday 2005 (remember that PPV concept?) and would go on to have a pretty decent reign all things considered. They were heavily involved in the RAW vs Smackdown storyline which took place at the end of the year, and had wins over the likes of MNM, Batista & Rey Mysterio as well as a successful defense against Carlito & Chris Masters at WrestleMania 22, which was Show’s first victory at the event. He also briefly feuded with Triple H during this time, losing to him at New Year’s Revolution. The night after WM22, he and Kane lost their titles to the Spirit Squad in a major upset, and would soon split up as Kane turned batshit crazy, and thus heel. After this Show didn’t do much until the summer, when he started one of the better runs of his career.

“We have a new ECW Champion…what the hell just happened here?” – Tazz, after Show defeated Rob Van Dam for the ECW Title thanks to another swerve by Paul Heyman

Following on from the overwhelming success of the ECW One Night Stand PPV in 2005, the WWE decided to bring it back the next year, this time to kick off a revamped ECW brand. Show was revealed as a major acquisition for the brand at the WWE vs ECW Head To Head show, and it wasn’t long before he became ECW Champion. RVD won the title at One Night Stand, and presumably was going to have a decent reign until he and Sab were busted for weed. The WWE swiftly punished RVD by having him drop both his world titles in quick succession – Show pinned him on the July 4th episode of ECW, once again benefitting from a Paul Heyman heel turn. The fans absolutely hated this development, and it made Show into a pretty hot heel as a result; he went on to defend this belt against names like Ric Flair, Batista and even The Undertaker. The only problem was that Show was in horrible physical shape at this point, which is why most of his matches were “extreme rules” to cover his limitations. He managed to hold the title until the infamous December 2 Dismember PPV, where he dropped the strap to Bobby Lashley in the first, and hopefully only, Extreme Elimination Chamber match. Following on from this, not only was Paul Heyman booted from the company, but Show also went on hiatus from as well – he said on WWE.com:
“I’m a raw boned bastard that breaks things and moves the immovable objects. When I’m injured, I can’t do those things. I’m much more valuable healthy both mentally and physically, and this hiatus will help me to get there.”

Show wouldn’t return until No Way Out 2008, looking a lot better and initially coming in as a heel. He tried to attack Rey Mysterio, until Floyd Mayweather made the save for Rey and breaking Show’s nose with punches. It soon became clear that Show returned for another high profile crossover WrestleMania match, and sure enough he was booked to face Mayweather at WrestleMania 24. The one problem was that fans started boo’ing Mayweather, due to his cocky demeanour and large entourage which followed him around everywhere, so Show pretty much became a face as a result. After putting Mayweather over in what was an admittedly enjoyable fight, Show would float around the midcard on Smackdown for a while, although he did challenge for the ECW Title a couple of times as well. His next heel turn took place at Unforgiven ’08, where he attacked The Undertaker and formed an alliance with the heel GM, one Vickie Guerrero. He traded wins with ‘Taker in gimmick matches for a while, and it wasn’t long before he was gunning for the World Heavyweight Title. He was placed into a triple threat match for the belt against John Cena and Edge at Wrestlemania 25, but the build for this match was underwhelming to say the least; one notable aspect of it was a segment where a video was shown of Show making out with Vickie, but their relationship thankfully didn’t go any further, as I doubt the audience would’ve wanted to see them two making out constantly. Show then went on a tear as a monster heel again, as he cost Cena the title at Backlash by throwing him into a searchlight in an utterly awesome spot. However he lost to Cena on the next few PPVs, thus proving that he can always be relied upon as a monster for the hero face to conquer .

His most notable run in 2009 would be in another thrown together tag team which seemed to work wonders, as he became Chris Jericho’s tag partner, after Edge suffered another injury and needed to be replaced. Their title reign began at Night Of Champions, and “Jeri-Show” as they came to be known would be featured prominently on TV and PPV, defending their titles frequently and in good matches. Finally they dropped the titles to DX at TLC ’09, which marked the end of Jeri-Show as both men were on different brands and could no longer continue to team. Show then went on to win the titles with The Miz as his partner, and although they managed to defend the belts at Wrestlemania 26, the run wasn’t as long or memorable. They soon dropped the belts to the Hart Dynasty on an episode of RAW, and once again this was the catalyst for Show’s latest face turn.

“There’s only one little thing you need to add to your resume…early retirement!” – Show, before knocking out World Heavyweight Champion Jack Swagger on the 30th April 2010 episode of Smackdown

Yes, Show was a good guy again, and thus soon found himself back in the World Title hunt, but even though he didn’t win the belt from Swagger he was booked as strongly as possible, never actually being beaten by Swagger clean at any point in the feud. After Rey Mysterio won the belt at the Fatal 4 Way PPV in a match Show was involved in, Show carried on feuding with Swagger which didn’t do much for either man really. Show was then once again booked incredibly strongly in a feud against the Straight Edge Society stable – he managed to beat them in a 3-on-1 handicap match at Summerslam, and then went on to not only reveal CM Punk’s bald head to the world, but also pinned him clean as a sheet in the feud ending match at Night Of Champions. This was Show’s first face run where he was booked as a totally dominant force really – he went on to win in a traditional Survivor Series match, and then moved onto another feud with a stable, that legendary foursome known as The Corre. Its not really worth reliving to be honest, as Show got the upper hand on them and soon reunited his team with Kane, a full 5 years after their original run.

So Show and Kane won the titles once again, and then went on to face random combinations of the New Nexus, until they lost the belts to, of all teams, David Otunga and Michael McGillicutty. It was a testament to both men’s enduring popularity that crowds were into the Show & Kane/New Nexus feud, but it was for the best to end it as quickly as possible. Following from this, Show was involved in a goofy backstage segment where he was run over by Ricardo Rodriguez. This seemed to indicate a feud with Alberto Del Rio, which I believe would inspire apathy in even the most markiest of wrestling marks, but it took a different direction when Mark Henry got involved, and we actually got what turned out to be a really pleasantly surprising feud.

“I’ve never seen anything like that in my life!” – Jerry Lawler, obviously lying when reacting to the ring collapsing during Big Show vs Mark Henry at Vengeance 2011

Due to the modern WWE rule that all faces must be colossal douchebags, Show attacked an innocent Henry on an episode of Smackdown, due to his frustration with Del Rio. Being that Henry had been an afterthought in the midcard for quite some time, I and others thought no more would come of it, but Henry interfered in Show’s match against Del Rio at Capitol Punishment, costing him the match after slamming Show through the announce table. In the weeks that followed, Henry also threw Show through a steel cage wall and defeated him clean at Money In The Bank. After the match, Henry would “Pillmanize” Show’s ankle, thus starting his Hall Of Pain and rise towards winning the World Title. This allowed Show to have a few months off, having done a great job of putting Henry over as a ruthless bastard. When Show returned he had a series of matches in which he challenged Henry for the title – the first at Vengeance involved the match going to a no contest after the ring collapsed; while this of course had been done before (with Show and Lesnar, which I neglected to mention earlier), it was still a great visual and the crowd popped huge for it. Finally Show would win his first World Title in 9 years, but the joy was really, really short lived for him.

“It’s a beautiful thing to see that hard work and dedication still mean something in this business, and that even the little guy can have his day in the sun if he just works hard enough and never gives up. I’m almost getting misty-eyed here, this has got to be the feel-good moment of the year for every longtime hardcore wrestling fan out there. Enjoy it everyone, because for tonight at the very least, Daniel Bryan is the World Heavyweight champion” – from 411mania.com’s review of TLC ’11
At TLC, Show did finally defeat Mark Henry in a short and anti-climactic match, but it was all really a set up for Daniel Bryan to cash in his Money In The Bank briefcase on Show, who had been attacked by Henry post-match. This led to a three-way feud for the World Heavyweight Title, in which Bryan became heel and Show run into Bryan’s tiny girlfriend AJ, in a move designed to generate sympathy for a remorseful Show. In the end, Bryan defeated both men in a steel cage match at the Royal Rumble ’12 and this would be Show’s last World Title challenge to date. Instead he moved onto a feud with Intercontinental Champion Cody Rhodes, which was based around Rhodes taunting Show for his lacklustre WrestleMania record. Finally they had their match at WrestleMania 28, which Show won obviously; this meant he had become one of the few people to have held every current title within the WWE. Even though it was presented as a feel good moment, he dropped it back to Rhodes the next month, possibly in anticipation for this latest heel turn, you know…the darkest day one.
“Johnny, I’m sorry for making fun of your voice and it’ll never happen again. ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?” – Big Show, pleading with Johnny Ace not to fire him, on the 14/5/12 edition of RAW

That’s right, Show had been a face for 2 whole years at this point, which is positively aeons when you consider that it is The Big Show. He had been the star of “Knucklehead”, been a large part of media tours and interviews, as well as being presented as a kid-friendly nice guy. However once again, if you need a monster heel for someone like John Cena to overcome, there’s not many better to fit the bill than Big Show. After a segment on the aforementioned RAW in which evil GM John Laurinaitis fired him for making fun of his voice, fans were very upset at this development, which was aided no doubt by Show’s actual bursting into tears as he begged for his job back. However we all know what happened at Over The Limit just a few weeks ago, as Show made his return and shockingly KO’d John Cena, costing him a match with Laurinaitis and ensuring he would remain GM. Its difficult to imagine many were surprised by this swerve, and in fact many people on wrestling forums and sites predicted it would happen.

Now it could be considered a running joke at this point – “when will Show’s next turn be?”, but its worth pointing out that the man is extremely effective in either role, so even though it may not be too difficult to see coming anymore, it doesn’t take long before you fully accept Show in either role, such is the strength of his promo ability and sustained overness. Since 1999 he has been involved in a lot of very silly angles, but its hard to deny that he always makes the best of them and always draws a reaction from crowds, whether it be positive or negative. So far in this heel run he’s been used well, because he explained his actions and justified them, as well as dishing out some harsh beatdowns as well. When the WWE actually makes him look like a huge threat, it works every time. Its well documented that he is 40 years old now, and with his size alone its difficult to imagine he will be able to wrestle for too much longer.

This particular turn has had a significant effect on WWE in kayfabe terms, in as much as he helped the hated authority figure keep his job and instantly targeted the top babyface, but we shall see if it goes any further than their upcoming steel cage match at No Way Out. I expect that before long he’ll end up back in the title mix, and I’m sure that he’ll carry on being treated as a big deal regardless of the match outcome. When the day comes that he does retire, I would think we’ll see him in a few more movies, or maybe getting into stand-up like so many wrestlers are doing nowadays. Just as long as we’re spared “Knucklehead 2”.

Now that would truly be a dark day, Cole.

Joe Ward

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