Late last month, WWE announced a partnership with the Special Olympics to participate in a program called Play Unified, which “fosters friendships, understanding, and inclusive communities among people with and without intellectual disabilities by uniting them through the power and joy of sports.”
We had a chance to talk to one of WWE’s ambassadors for the partnership, the 7-foot tall, 500-pound Big Show, to ask him about WWE’s role in Play Unified. We also took the time to ask him who he likes in WWE’s New Era, why he’s always switching alignments, and what could’ve possibly been going through his mind when he was a participant in the legendary Yeti attack on Hulk Hogan back at Halloween Havoc ’95. We have our priorities.
Here’s what the seven-time World Champion had to say, and we appreciate him not punching us in our faces.
Special Olympics and WWE announced an international partnership, can you tell me a little about that?
The Big Show: Yeah, WWE has a longstanding relationship with the Special Olympics, and we’re helping them spread the word, so to speak, on their Play Unified campaign. It’s a goal of creating change through sports, and WWE and athletes all around the world are jumping on board. In some countries that aren’t quite as up to speed as we are in the U.S., we’re ringing Special Olympics awareness to them with the Play Unified campaign through the WWE brand.
You figure WWE is globally known … I think we’re in like, 170 countries, and I’m pretty sure I’ve wrestled in all of them at some point in my life. [laughter] Some of the countries we’ve been working with, China, Germany, India, Mexico, the United Kingdom … with our global platforms at WWE, with our network, with our website, with our social media, we can help spread the word of this Play Unified campaign and help create a little bit of change. More inclusion and acceptance.
When do you think WWE Superstars became cultural ambassadors? 40 years ago you wouldn’t have seen the Iron Sheik doing this kind of thing, what do you think the connection is and why are pro wrestlers such good spokespeople for really serious causes like the Special Olympics?
The funny thing is, is that it starts at the top, with Vince [McMahon]. WWE’s always had a part in the local communities and starting small and working up. I think the biggest change for us is how our product has changed, and how the perception of our product has changed. You know, there were still a lot of things going on with kids and stuff like that even back when Bruno Sammartino was champion in New York. I know that Bruno was very involved in the New York area with kids in the neighborhoods, families, [telling them about] going to school and staying out of trouble and doing the right thing. WWE’s always had kind of a presence and an influence. Now that we’re this global monster that we are, through social media and stuff like that, I think people are more aware. There’s more awareness as to what WWE does as a whole, and that makes the difference.
The reason that WWE is able to help so much is that we do have that global impact. But in a lot of countries, they aren’t really aware of all the work that the Special Olympics brings to the table. I’ve worked with the USA Games, I’ve worked with the World Games, and it’s not just about the athletes doing well. You’re there to see the athletes compete and it really gives you a good feeling, but what you don’t see behind the scenes is a lot of the volunteers and sponsors with medical care, dental care … a lot of these kids when they’re able to come to these Special Olympics events, there are doctors who are there that are volunteering their time to give these kids checks ups and stuff like that. There’s a real concern in taking care of the Special Olympics athletes as a whole, so I think all-in-all that’s the kind of thing that’s really wonderful about Special Olympics, and why it’s such a good thing to be a part of.
For me, I’m always about giving back to my community, being involved in my community. Growing up, my mom was a cop and my dad was a mechanic, so I was in the community about as big as you can get. Now that I’m older and have a little bit of influence or whatever you wanna call it, it’s good thing to be a part of an organization that’s also so community conscious as WWE. Vince has a saying, “putting smiles on people’s faces,” that turned into a little bit of a slogan on our social media and TV and stuff, but that’s been his philosophy from the get-go. Vince has got a couple of philosophies; “Treat every day at work like your first day at work,” and, “Remember your job is to put smiles on people’s faces.” So, it starts from the top.