Big Show embracing the twilight of an illustrious WWE career

The Big Show could not confirm or deny his long-rumored Wrestlemania match against Shaq, but he did have a few barbs to throw at his fellow 7-foot giant. Brandon Wade/AP Images/WWE

If you looked closely at The Big Show's return to Raw on Dec. 6, you may have noticed something.

"I'm not really The Big Show anymore," he told ESPN.com. "I'm kind of ... I don't know, The Slim Show?"

The Big Show, whose real name is Paul Wight, remains a towering presence (even for WWE standards) at just over 7 feet tall. But the former college basketball player at Wichita State recently took an extended period of time to step away from the spotlight and re-evaluate himself physically.

The results have been quite staggering.

Despite being billed as a number of different mythical heights and weights during the years, The Big Show admits the heaviest he has ever entered a WWE ring was 537 pounds. But today, thanks to a new workout regime heavy on swimming and biking, and a recommitment to nutrition, he's under 400 pounds for the first time since 1995.

"The past four years, I'm not sure if anyone has noticed but I've been struggling with some really bad injuries," The Big Show said. "WWE and Vince [McMahon], because of the great and incredible new crop of talent we've had, have given me the chance to step back a little bit and give these guys a chance to develop their brand and become the superstars they can be.

"But it also gives me a chance to maintain some things, and take care of some stuff."

The Big Show, who resides in Miami, credits the support system he has at home, from his trainers to his family. And a big key was finding a nutritional plan that he can believe in.

"Through diet and exercise it has been a blessing," he said. "I'm on board with it, I understand it and I'm motivated to do it. The results are happening. I feel great, I feel younger. I'm definitely not as sluggish as I was before. The ability for me to compete at a better level is definitely in sight and I think that's reinvigorating for me."

At 44, The Big Show knows the time he has left in the ring is limited. In the majority of interviews he has given during the past year, he has talked about finishing out his contract through 2017 before hanging up his boots for good. But thanks to his recent physical transformation, he considers it more of a fluid situation.

"I'm not going to go out and try to be a world champion or have some kind of dominating title run," The Big Show said. "I've had those years, I've done that. I understand this is a new era and there's a new changing of the guard.

"I know I still have some time left on this contract. It depends on how my role is going to change. WWE is home, it's a family. I'll always be a part of this as long as I can contribute in some positive way. But I know there's a time when the sun sets on everything."

As far as his remaining goals inside the ring, The Big Show says he has a list of two or three superstars he would love to work with and says fans should stay tuned to seeing that in the near future. But the one opponent The Big Show has been most linked with is retired NBA star and Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal.

The two giants of their respective industries are just about the same height and were born just one month apart. They also have history within the WWE, which began when O'Neal guest-hosted Monday Night Raw in 2009 and got physical with The Big Show inside the ring. Seven years later, at WrestleMania 32 in April, O'Neal was a surprise entrant in the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal and teamed up with The Big Show on a chokeslam of Kane before the two escalated their own feud.

Three months later, on the red carpet outside the 2016 ESPYS in Los Angeles, The Big Show officially challenged O'Neal to a match at next year's WrestleMania in Orlando, Florida. O'Neal accepted the invite, turning to the camera to say, "I'm in. Vince McMahon, Stephanie McMahon -- I'm in."

Nothing official has been announced as of yet for next April, however, and The Big Show was unable to confirm; all he would say is that O'Neal "knows the invitation is there." At the very least, The Big Show says he's ready and certainly appears to be preparing himself physically for another high-profile match, even if he was unable to say the same about O'Neal.

"I'm a little worried because I've heard that Shaq has got like really fat," The Big Show said. "If he's going to go into WrestleMania bigger than me, I'm going to lose my moniker as 'The World's Largest Athlete.' I hope he is well, I hope he is healthy.

"He might want to lay off the cheeseburgers a little bit and get in the gym because I know that my record at WrestleMania against celebrities isn't that good, but it would be a shame if he showed up fat and out of shape and took the first loss. I'm okay with that, too. Matter of fact, I'll send him some cheeseburgers. That would probably be a better idea. How's that for talking smack?"

Until then, The Big Show has made a decision to embrace the end of his career instead of dreading it, realizing that it's more important to take a step back and enjoy his many in-ring accomplishments than reside in bitterness.

"I've worked with incredible people from [Hulk] Hogan to [Randy] Savage to [Ric] Flair to Arn Anderson, The Undertaker, 'Stone Cold' [Steve Austin], The Rock, John Cena -- everybody that has ever been anybody in this business, I've had the chance to compete with in the ring," he said. "So that's an incredible career to be thankful of, and now I'm going to try and finish up with 110 percent effort, a lot of pride and a good attitude and just be thankful and enjoy every day I get to compete with the incredible talent that we have."