Paul Wight has opened up about the differences between Tony Khan and Vince McMahon, explaining that it’s easier to pitch ideas to his current employer.
Over the course of his Hall of Fame worthy career, Paul Wight has experienced life working for Eric Bischoff, Vince McMahon and currently Tony Khan. Three men who between them have dominated professional wrestling in North America since the 1970’s.
While Paul Wight broke into the business as part of Bischoff’s WCW, he found his greatest run of sustained success during two-decade long stint with WWE under the guidance of Vince McMahon.
The man formerly known as The Big Show, began by appraising McMahon, before paying tribute to his former tag team partner Chris Jericho.
“They’re all completely unique and different. The one thing they do have [in common] is the ability to manage a lot of egos. When you’re in that position, you have to be able to manage egos and you have to have a vision of where you’re going and what you want to see. Vince was a very solid force to deal with—you did things Vince’s way. Sure, you could barter for something, but Vince pretty much had what he wanted to be done and when he relayed the information to you, there was very little room for debate on it.
I think Chris Jericho is one of the best that I’ve ever seen in my career with the ability to communicate to Vince on how Chris Jericho should do things. I think one of my favourite times in my career was being Chris’ partner, because I never had to do the politicking or the angle arguing or any of that. Chris did all that. Chris had that drive to see his vision.”
Paul Wight explained that life with WWE was very structured, but the environment cultivated by Tony Khan in AEW is totally different.
“I remember Vince used to have in his book who you were working with for the next year. So that was a very structured environment in WWE. To leave that structured environment, with Tony, it is about input. It’s about how do we make my personality and what I want to do fit with what Tony wants to do, what AEW needs. Tony is a lot different in that he has a vision but he is also very appreciative of what you do.
You feel that Tony is growing with you. But his managerial skills are a different world, it’s always people first. He’s still the boss —there’s no ifs, ands or buts about that, the inmates aren’t running the prison by any means—but it’s just a little bit easier environment to pitch your ideas.”
The former World Champion revealed that while you might be able to discuss a particular angle with McMahon, you won’t necessarily change his mind. Adding that he now enjoys greater input in conversations with Khan.
“Sometimes with Vince, because he’s done this for so long and he’s a second generation owner, Vince has a structure on what he thinks works, and it’s pretty much his way. He’s the boss, he signs the tickets, and that’s the way it works. So if you’re going to have an idea contrary to Vince, it better be a really good idea.
And I’ve done things where we’ve talked about it and the idea did have merit and he understood it, but very rarely was I able to change his mind on anything. It just got to a point where I just felt like, “Yeah, well, he probably knows what’s best.”
With Tony, he really takes advantage of my experience and the things that I’ve done and really appreciates my input—and not just on myself but input on our shows and what we’re doing, and talent that’s improving. I understand what Tony is building and that excitement and synergy is an incredibly positive environment to be in. That’s the difference.”
By contrast, life with Eric Bischoff was more full throttle because at the time during the height of the Attitude Era, WCW could do no wrong. Something Wight sees coming to the fore again with AEW’s signing of CM Punk.
“And Eric . . . Eric seemed to me like a guy that was doing everything he could with his foot wide open on the throttle. He put his foot on the gas and there we went, and it was a great time. Back then, you could really do nothing wrong in the wrestling business. I mean, we blew up cars and did all kinds of crazy stuff in the Attitude Era. And then the business changes, it evolves. I think that same energy from the Monday Night Wars we definitely have back now.
I felt that at the United Center with CM Punk coming back. I was like, “You can feel one thing turning around for the positive,” because we’ve been in a lull, of course, during the pandemic. Everybody took a hit. To feel that energy back now and the fans are excited about wrestling again. They’re talking about it. It’s on their brain. It’s a good time to be in pro wrestling right now.”
In February 2021, Paul Wight left WWE after more than 20 years with the company and signed with AEW. In his new home Wight can be found commentating on AEW Dark: Elevation alongside Tony Schiavone. Despite his role as an announcer, he returned to the ring at All Out to defeat QT Marshall.