If safe to say that not a lot of people were looking forward to Shaquille O’Neal’s match on All Elite Wrestling. A story that built for over a month and hyped to the moon held the promise of stardom, but not good wrestling — but we were all proved wrong Wednesday night, when Shaq not only surprised us with his skill, but he was actually awesome.
Shaq and Jade Cargill vs. Cody Rhodes and Red Velvet should have been a mess, because we’ve seen this kind of thing before. 1998’s Road Wild pay per view in WCW was the epitome of terrible wrestling/NBA crossovers. Karl Malone and Dennis Rodman competed in the main event in a sloppy affair that mostly consisted of them stomping around the ring, throwing a few bad punches, and using almost no wrestling moves. Shaq was different.
It wasn’t just that Shaq moved pretty well in the ring, but that he showed an understanding of ring psychology. That’s the art of telling a story during a match, and having everything serve that purpose. For much of the match he looked like an unstoppable monster, like the villain in a horror movie, but when it made sense for him to sell (make moves look painful) he did it extremely well.
The match was so good that over at Cageside Seats it was called a “match of the year.”
“That was sports entertainment at its finest. I was excited going in, but this match rocketed high above my expectations. The action and showmanship were electric. The action stayed simple without lots of fancy moves. The big hits were executed with great emphasis to pop a reaction.”
Above everything else it was fun. Shaq was the marquee, but this match was really designed to establish Cargill as a future force in the women’s division, and give more exposure to Red Velvet. To that end it worked perfectly, and when it was all said and done Shaq didn’t just go through the motions, he went through the tables.
I don’t want or need to see Shaq wrestle every week, but damn this was fun to watch — and set a high water mark for celebrity wrestling matches. I still can’t believe that it all worked so well.