NBA Hall of Famer. Rapper. Actor. And, as of tomorrow, professional wrestler.
These are just a few of the job titles previously held by current NBA on TNT analyst Shaquille O’Neal. This Wednesday, March 3rd, the man known globally as Shaq Daddy will step inside the squared circle for his first-ever traditional match, a tag team bout pitting he and his partner Jade Cargill against Red Velvet and former TNT Champion Cody Rhodes.
It’s a feud months in the making. On November 11th, Cargill made her All Elite Wrestling debut, interrupting Cody and issuing a warning to he and his wife, Brandi.
“I think one week I heard you say you were the giant killer,” Cargill oozed. “I know a giant, a real giant, and you know what his name is?”
The mere mention of the name was enough to send shockwaves through the wrestling community. O’Neal’s previous appearances in the world of professional wrestling were entertaining, if anything, and the prospect of one of the world’s top athletes stepping inside the squared circle was always an appetizing one.
After years of false starts, that pipe dream comes to fruition tomorrow night.
However, after years of teases, what inspired him to make the jump from the hardwood to the canvas?
“I’ve got nothing to prove, but little cupcake Cody [Rhodes] challenged me,” O’Neal commented when asked what he has to prove. “It was my fault; I ended up being interviewed by his lovely wife, and I mentioned Jade [Cargill, his tag team partner] because she’s a new up-and-coming superstar. I guess she got mad and threw water on me and I guess a man’s supposed to protect his wife.
“I thought it was over, but he challenged me at my job on TNT.”
It was on TNT that the Cupcakes moniker first reared its head. While perhaps not a fitting moniker given Cody’s leave-it-all-in-the-ring modus operandi, it’s certainly more than applicable when considering Rhodes’ tag team partner goes by the name of Red Velvet. An incredibly talented wrestler in her own right, Velvet has taken on and defeated the likes of Diamante, Leva Bates, and Vertivixen through her time in All Elite. Her inclusion in the feud following Brandi’s pregnancy announcement a few months ago has been seamless, and only adds to the advantage in experience that she and Cody hold over Cargill and O’Neal.
However, that fact doesn’t phase the 15-time NBA All-Star.
“I don’t need to train for cupcakes and red cinnamon bun, or whatever her name is,” the legend laughed when asked the difference between training for basketball and professional wrestling.
However, said the four-time NBA Champion, his lack of training doesn’t mean that Rhodes and Velvet should be sleeping soundly.
“He’s going to need help,” O’Neal said solemnly of his Wednesday night opponent. “He’s probably going to have his friends probably jump in and all that stuff, but that ain’t going to matter.”
“I’m not coming to wrestle,” concluded O’Neal. “I’m coming to fight. I’m going to show you what power looks like in AEW.”
“I’ll be there March 3rd. Don’t worry about it.”
AEW Dynamite airs Wednesday nights on TNT at 5pm PST/8pm EST. Thank you to All Elite Wrestling for providing all press materials.