The World Wrestling Entertainment return of Paul "Big Show" Wight was upstaged by an even bigger name.
Boxing champion Floyd Mayweather confronted Wight on last Sunday's "No Way Out" pay-per-view show. The undefeated welterweight was dwarfed by the 7-foot, 400-pound Wight, but Mayweather did land some punches that legitimately bloodied Big Show's nose.
Mayweather then appeared on this week's "Monday Night Raw" (9 p.m. EST, USA Network) and accepted Wight's challenge for a March 30 bout at "Wrestlemania 24" in Orlando, Fla.
A match pitting Mayweather and Rey Mysterio against Wight and Shane McMahon (who reportedly negotiated Mayweather's WWE appearance) was originally a possibility. Mysterio, though, is believed out of "Wrestlemania" -- and what would have been a sizable payday -- because of a torn right biceps.
WWE seems likely to pit Mayweather and Big Show in a wrestler-vs.-boxer match. Incidentally, Wight was training in boxing while contemplating a career change during his 14-month WWE hiatus.
WWE owner Vince McMahon Jr.'s father also promoted the same kind of bout on a major show in 1976. In one of the most memorable matches of its time, Andre the Giant defeated boxer Chuck Wepner via countout after dumping him over the top rope.
McMahon Jr. has used boxers at previous "Wrestlemanias" in various capacities, most notably Muhammad Ali (I/guest referee), Mike Tyson (XIV/ringside enforcer) and Eric "Butterbean" Esch (XV/knocked out Mike "Bart Gunn" Polchlopek in a "Brawl for All" match).
Tyson's main-event appearance was a smashing success, boosting the "'Mania" pay-per-view buy rate and also helping to raise the profile of emerging star "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. Tyson counted Austin's pinfall of Sean Michaels and then KO'd the "Heartbreak Kid" with a punch afterward.
Mayweather appeared in two boxing matches last year that drew a combined 3.4 million pay-per-view orders. But Mayweather may not be able to carry such magic to "Wrestlemania," which was already expected to draw in the range of 1 million worldwide orders. WWE traditionally hasn't had much crossover appeal to boxing fans, while the promotion's mainstream image remains tainted from the fallout of last June's murder/suicide by Chris Benoit.
Still, Mayweather was wise to get involved with sports entertainment than another legitimate fighting genre like the mixed martial arts. After improving his boxing record to 39-0 with last December's TKO of Ricky Hatton, Mayweather spoke about wanting to get involved in the MMA ventures being started by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Mayweather, though, would need years of training in jiu-jitsu, wrestling and kickboxing to avoid being the kind of one-dimensional fighter who gets dismantled in today's MMA world.
Mayweather's appearance was the second consecutive major surprise on a WWE pay-per-view show, as John Cena returned from a torn pectoral muscle to win last month's "Royal Rumble." Such unadvertised happenings could help once again make WWE pay-per-views into "must-see" events -- something that had become increasingly rare as the promotion increased its show lineup.
"Smackdown" is getting smacked down on CW, as the WWE staple will stop airing on the network in September. "Smackdown" could land on MyNetwork, which is largely comprised of former UPN affiliates that once carried the show.
A Total Nonstop Action Wrestling story line took on some real-life overtones when Chris Harris -- who had trashed the promotion during scripted interviews -- recently left for WWE. He and James Storm were a quality tag team as AMW (America's Most Wanted), but Harris fizzled as a solo performer once the duo split.
Scott "Raven" Levy also has left TNA after five years with the company. On his Web site (theraveneffect.com), Levy has expressed interest in opening an Atlanta-area pro-wrestling school.
Nigel McGuiness vs. Austin Aries will headline Ring of Honor's "Rising Above" pay-per-view show that debuts March 7 on InDemand and other pay-per-view providers. A free 10-minute preview is available at www.rohvideos.com.
(Alex Marvez writes a syndicated pro wrestling column for Scripps-Howard News Service. Contact him at alex1marv(at)aol.com.)
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