Paul Wight is returning to the ring Wednesday night … something that might never have happened if not for former NBA star Xavier McDaniel, the first person to tell the Superstar formerly known as Big Show to go into professional wrestling!
Wight dropped by the TMZ offices on Tuesday and sat down with Babcock on the TMZ Sports TV show — ahead of AEW Dynamite’s Like A Dragon Gaiden Street Fight match — where the guys discussed the 7-footer’s start in the sport to his in-ring comeback.
The Wight the Wrestler origin story is pretty crazy.
Paul was a center on the Wichita State basketball team in the early ’90s, but wasn’t exactly Shaquille O’Neal on the court.
Because of his play on the hardwood, McDaniel, a Shockers alum who’d become an NBA star after being drafted with the 4th overall pick in 1985, gave Wight some invaluable advice … and perhaps paved the way for him to become a titan in the wrestling industry.
“X was always pestering me, and he kept telling me I should go into wrestling. I said ‘Man, listen, I’m gonna play in the NBA. That’s what I’ve trained for since I was a kid. This is what I do,'” Wight recounted telling McDaniel (this story starts around the 14-minute mark).
“[Xavier] says, ‘Man, you’re gonna be the only 7-foot dude who gets cut by the Japanese team. He goes, ‘I’m telling you what you need to do. You need to go into pro wrestling and be Andre The Giant‘s son.’ He says, ‘Man, you look like Andre. That’s what you need to do.'”
“Xavier McDaniel saw the vision on the wall long before it ever happened.”
Shortly after, Paul linked up with Hulk HoganandEric Bischoff … and the rest is history.
Now, Wight’s wrestling again at 51 years old (it’s been a bit since he’s performed in the Squared Circle, though he’s been signed to AEW since ’21) … and he’s teaming up with Kenny Omega, Kota Ibushi, and Chris Jericho to take on Hobbs, Konosuke Takeshita, Kyle Fletcher, and Brian Cage.
How much longer will he wrestle? Check out the full interview — we asked him.
In addition to Wight’s match on Dynamite, AEW Full Gear, a PPV event, is going down this Saturday … and Paul previewed some of the matches he’s most looking forward to!
Anna Ward is a writer for All Work All Play Podcast, where she covers sports, education, and tech.
She's a lifelong fan of the Red Sox who enjoys playing tennis and running when she can. She lives in Boston with her husband and two children.