Shaquille O’Neal wrestled live on TNT tonight, and it was shockingly fun? It’s not anything Dave Meltzer would give five (or six) stars to, but Shaq’s match was a fast-paced, surprise-packed match that expertly booked around the limitations of a 48-year-old non-wrestler.
Shaq teamed up with Jade Cargill, a former college basketball player who is just starting out in wrestling and already seems like a can’t-miss superstar, in a tag match against AEW stalwart Cody Rhodes and young star-in-the-making Red Velvet. There were definitely some smoke and mirrors involved—which is not a bad thing, but merely the sign of a smartly laid-out and worked wrestling match—but Shaq showed way more in the ring that he had any reason to, including a fantastic powerbomb that he delivered to Rhodes (which, yes, given the nature of wrestling and the move was more Rhodes’ effort than Shaq’s, but hey, the big man still played his part as well as he possibly could’ve.)
The highlight, though, and the reason we’re writing this article, was the crazy bump Shaq took through not one but two tables. The big man was standing on the ring apron when Rhodes hit him with a high crossbody over the ropes, sending both men through two tables that had previously been set up outside the ring. The brilliant thing about this bump is that the second table makes it seem even more dangerous, but in reality probably made it safer—with a stuntman as big as Shaq, it takes two tables to soften the blow, and not just one.
Smartly the point of the match wasn’t just a viral moment featuring one of the most popular professional athletes of the last 30 years falling backwards through two tables. The focus of the match was on Jade Cargill, Shaq’s partner, an innately charismatic athlete starting her foray into wrestling who more than held up her end of the match. She scored the pinfall on Red Velvet after an inordinately entertaining brawl, and looked like a million bucks in the process. Shaq wasn’t just there to boost AEW’s rep, but to get mainstream eyeballs on Cargill, and Jade did about as well as AEW could’ve hoped.
If you want to see one of the most legendary and beloved athletes of all time fall backwards through two tables, check out the clips below. And if you are even remotely interested in the one true art of pro wrestling, you might get a kick out of All Elite Wrestling—whose main show airs on TNT on Wednesdays at 8 p.m., and who has a major pay-per-view this Sunday night. (Sadly Shaq will NOT be at the pay-per-view—dude’s got an NBA All-Star game to comment on.)
Here’s a longer excerpt of the match, if you want more context for the table bump. It might help, but also asking for “context” for a wrestling match isn’t always the most constructive thing to do.