In the tangible depths of the wrestling industry's famed Monday Night Wars, Valentine's Day of 1999 was a pivotal moment, with WWE steadily outpacing WCW in a fierce battle for ratings supremacy. In this electric atmosphere, Paul Wight, known by many as "The Giant", unmistakably signalled his departure from WCW, gravitating toward Vince McMahon's thriving WWE enterprise.
The move, while a palpable blow to the Ted Turner-backed WCW, surprisingly elicited support from then-WCW President Eric Bischoff despite the glaring optics of losing a colossal talent to the thriving competition. Elaborating on the scenario in "83 Weeks," Bischoff shed light on his disposition towards Wight's exodus.
A conversation riddled with candidness and subtle warmth revealed that when Wight disclosed his intent to negotiate with McMahon and apprised Bischoff of a guaranteed million-dollar-a-year offer from WWE, Bischoff's response was one of genuine congratulations rather than desperate retention.
Bischoff Balancing a Giant's Narrative
Looking back on the chronological events that crowned Wight as WCW World Champion in his arresting debut match in 1995, Bischoff disclosed the creative roadblocks that engulfed Wight's journey by 1999.
His fondness for Paul was evident, declaring him "a good guy", yet Bischoff's creative conundrum presented a formidable obstacle. The peculiar challenge lay crafting a narrative arc for a 7-foot, 400-pound giant that struck a harmonious balance between imposing dominance and evoking sympathy.
"You can't prop him up to dismantle everyone because who remains to challenge him? Simultaneously, stirring sympathy for a man of such imposing stature and prowess is equally challenging," elucidated Bischoff, acknowledging the creative labyrinth entwined Wight's character.
He confessed that, despite his unwillingness to see Wight depart, he did not overtly attempt to forestall it, understanding the intricate creative puzzle could not be swiftly resolved. While not solely instrumental, Wight's departure played a role in WWE's soaring success, with "WWE Raw" subsequently doubling "WCW Nitro" in ratings by mid-1999.
A testament to Wight's unparalleled talent and McMahon's acumen, Wight would later headline WrestleMania the following year, inscribing his name in the annals of WWE history. The episode remains an intriguing chapter in the legacy of the Monday Night Wars, a deft merger of competition, camaraderie, and the unbridled journey of a giant in the wrestling world.