Despite being a 25-year wrestling veteran, Paul Wight is still learning new ways to challenge himself, whether it’s educating himself on the art of commentary in All Elite Wrestling or joining the Fast & Furious universe.
Wight spoke with WrestleZone’s Managing Editor Bill Pritchard to promote his role in the new season of Fast & Furious: Spy Racers Mexico, out now on Netflix. Wight voices Palindrome, a bounty hunter character that has “tremendous hair” and a score to settle with the main characters of the show.
According to the synopsis, “the Spy Racers are back – but this time, they are on the run! After being framed for an attack on the agency, the crew find themselves in Mexico City, searching for the true culprit.” Wight says this new role was a lot of fun, adding that he’s spent over twenty years in front of the camera but doing new things like learning to speak Russian for the show gave him an outlet to challenge himself in new ways.
“The ‘Fast and Furious’ people have been so much fun to work with. I had an opportunity and I think I said this before, I had an opportunity to speak Russian [in the series]. And this is part of things about finding different ways to challenge yourself as a performer and do things outside of the norm. Granted, the energy is really high with Palindrome, but also there’s a lot of heart with Palindrome. There’s some subtle nuances with that but also I had to learn how to speak Russian for one of the things we were doing. And for me, I’m just a big redneck from South Carolina,” Wight explained, “so English kicks my butt every day, so the opportunity to work on this and work with a voice coach really nailed that Russian.”
“Like when I heard it back, it’s almost one of those things that I’ll never forget as a performer because it didn’t sound like me. I was like oh that’s me talking. ‘Wow, I sound Russian.’ Holy smokes, you know what I mean? And it’s a confidence booster, believe it or not, when you do that because you know that okay, that’s something I stuck my toe into, so now I won’t be afraid to try for roles that might have that more. It’s funny because yes, I’ve had a lot of time in front of the camera, I’ve done a lot of stuff, movies and television and whatnot,” Wight said, “but you’re always finding ways to challenge yourself. And one of the things that I have with ‘Fast and Furious Spy Racers’ is I just had a lot of fun doing it.”
Wight has also taken on a new challenge in All Elite Wrestling with his role on commentary for AEW Dark: Elevation. Joining Tony Schiavone each week, Wight has a regular role as an analyst for the first time in his career.
“It’s funny because when I first wanted to do this, this is one of the things I talked about with Tony Khan after my contract ended with WWE and I started entering negotiations with AEW, you know, what did I want to do. And he and I both agreed on, I wanted to come in and really understand the AEW product because I had been such a force for WWE for so long, [I had the] WWE way of thinking, WWE way of processing, WWE way of executing things. I really wanted to understand that this is not WWE,” Wight explained, “this is a different product entirely. I wanted to immerse myself as much as possible and kind of forget a lot of the things that I knew, if that makes any sense.”
“I wanted to immerse myself in this product, become familiar with the talent, and color commentating was something I always had aspirations to do. I got a little taste of it here and there in WWE for brief instances, but this opportunity, Tony was like, ‘yeah we got a show we’re gonna launch, ‘Elevation.’ It’d be you and Tony Schiavone’, and it wasn’t a temporary thing,” Wight said. “Tony just had the confidence in me to hit the ground running and go with it.”
While he’s done commentary before, it was never a regular job, and he explained how he’s had to challenge himself to call things as a television analyst and not like a wrestling veteran.
“I’m very lucky to have somebody like Tony Schiavone to work with, who I knew in WCW, so we’ve known each other for almost 30 years. And then to work with him and see his professionalism and see how he does things. And I’ve got JR there too, and JR gives me a lot of insight on things.
Wight explained how he’s had to change his vernacular on the mic, including teaching himself not to use certain wrestling verbiage like “selling” on commentary. He says part of that comes from being an active wrestler, but it’s not something the audience should hear from him as a commentator.
“I’ve had to learn to say things like ‘registering’, or stuff like that. I’ve got to change my own vernacular, but still keep the color commentating as authentic to me as possible. Because my main thing to do it, was to try to help the younger talent tell stories in the ring, of what they’re trying to do in the ring. Why are they working an arm? Why are they working a leg? Why are they attacking the back? Why are they doing the things they do, so that the audience at home that may not be familiar with the psychology of wrestling,” Wight explained. “I can take them on that journey so hopefully, it makes them understand what someone’s doing in the ring and why they go for a high-risk maneuver that may not pay off. And for me personally, it’s really giving me an up-close and personal chance to view all the talent and become familiar with them so that when the time presents itself and I dust off my boots and get back into the ring, that I’ll understand everybody and that I’m working with and how to work with them and enhance them as well.”