Wight remains a proud WWE Ambassador, and he is enjoying legitimate success outside the ring with his new Large Watch watch on Netflix. He also has a knowledge and understanding of pro wrestling that few others have, and he’s been watching closely as Orton continues to deliver some of the best work.Talk with Illustrated sports, Wight discussed Orton’s rebirth, a behind-the-scenes promo last week on Brut with Ric Flair, and the talent he envisions becoming the next stars of WWE.Justin Barrasso: Your relationship with Randy Orton dates back two decades. Anyone who has watched Orton knows how talented he is in the ring. His work is as smooth and crisp as ever, but he’s been at the top of the game for the past six months, and the schedule with Edge has been extremely compelling. What enabled him to elevate his work throughout this period?
“The Great Show” Paul Wight: Randy has this perfect combination of looks, height, and athleticism. He’s also a third generation artist, so knowledge and psychology are steeped in his DNA. As a child he would sit at the table and listen to his father, “Cowboy” Bob, and Randy didn’t even realize the knowledge he was absorbing.
Ever since I first met Randy I could tell there was something different about the kid. You just knew this guy was a main event player. Now, when you have that kind of success early in your career, sometimes it’s a good thing, but sometimes it’s a bad thing. Randy had a hard time with that. As wonderful and easy as Randy made it all seem, now is he firing all cylinders. His promos have been over the last few months, and he really believes in what he does.
Randy intervened. I’ve always said Randy wasn’t John Cena. I called Cena “Captain America”. He wanted to work hard and be the leader. Randy always wanted to be the best in the ring, but he didn’t want to be a leader. So that’s the biggest difference I’ve seen. Randy took on this leadership role. His presence in the ring and his presence behind the scenes is much bigger and much more concrete than I have ever seen.
JB: What did you think of Match Edge-Orton de Backlash? Vince McMahon made a bold move by selling the fight as “The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever,” but that slogan ended up driving pay per view and brought the match to the main event.
PM: I thought it was an amazing concept. I also thought it was a really great concept. The greatest game of all time? There were a lot of good games so you better deliver. And not having the crowds, that makes it so much more difficult. Bigger games usually have thousands of people in the crowd who are also invested. You feed off this energy. They didn’t have that, so it was the most difficult environment possible. These big bumps are a lot easier in front of a big crowd, so I commend Randy and Edge for committing to them. Considering the circumstances, it was probably the greatest game of all time.
JB: Last week’s behind-the-scenes promo with Ric Flair was a highlight for wrestling fans who remember your fights with the “Nature Boy” from the mid-90s. near Ric makes you feel young again? And, with your shared story, did the promotion mean a little extra to you?
PM: I always feel very honored to work with Ric. I love to tease ‘Taker when he’s around that it’s great he’s back because that means I’m the youngster again. He quickly turns the bird over to me, and that’s the end of this conversation. With Ric, it’s different. On my first road trip to WCW, I think we were at baggage claim in Dayton, Ohio, and Ric walked right up to me and asked what type of car I was driving. I had a convertible Cadillac, and Ric said, “So I’m riding with you. All I could think of that day was, “I’m driving around Ric Flair”.
That night Ric said to me, “Alright, kid, we go to this place, then we go to this place.” He kept me from going out until 4 am, then woke me up in the morning to go to the gym. Even now, Ric is still larger than life. He brings his charm to our programming now, and it’s wonderful to be on the same screen as him.
Last week with Ric, it’s actually one of my favorite promotions that I’ve been doing for a long, long time. We were both very sincere and very honest about what we were talking about. It wasn’t your typical backstage wrestling promo. They were two guys who understood each other, respected each other and tried to play with each other’s minds. I found it to be awesome and one of my favorite segments for a long time.
JB: You were also a big supporter of Drew McIntyre as a WWE Champion. Being a babyface champ can be a challenge, especially with Drew’s size, which instantly makes him the favorite instead of the underdog. What did you think of his race so far with the belt?
PM: Right now it’s Drew’s time. He really slipped into that role in a pretty solid way, especially given the circumstances. He does everything we need a champion. Hopefully Drew has this race with a crowd and full arenas. People are going to really kiss him, he shoots all cylinders.
JB: Chris Jericho used to call himself WWE’s Nostradamus because of how he could identify the next star group on the roster. You also have an incredible spirit for wrestling. Is there anyone from the current roster who you think will be one of the best stars in WWE?
PM: There are a few guys where I see unlimited potential, and I saw it with my own eyes when I had a game against them a few weeks ago. Andrade and Angel Garza, there is so much potential there. Garza has a lot of fire, and you could see that a few weeks ago when Randy lifted him up against the headboards. Then he got back in the ring and looked great. Garza is tall, he’s athletic, he’s good looking, all of that translates into becoming a top guy.
I watched Becky Lynch put on years that no one else on the list had. I remember watching her games live, and she took each of those games to another level. Without saying a word, you could see her struggle and fight to win a match. This is what helps you become a top talent. Andrade and Garza have these intangibles. They have a lot to offer, so we’ll see what happens.
JB: Wrestling is unique as it has mainly been the same forum for generations, but the goal remains to create something unique and special in this ring. How are you going to do that with Randy Orton this Monday in your unauthorized match on Brut?
PM: This is a highly publicized main event for Monday evening gross, so we’re going to remove everything except the kitchen sink. Not literally, like in the hardcore days where we were rolling a kitchen sink into a basket, but that’s going to result in me taking this “Legend Killer” and trying to curb its momentum. Orton took out Edge, he took out Christian, and he’s the most dangerous man in WWE right now. We’ll see if my chokeslam gives it meaning.
Justin Barrasso can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.