Tonight, NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal steps into the ring for All Elite Wrestling, taking on AEW EVP and former TNT Champion Cody Rhodes in a mixed tag team match live on AEW DYNAMITE at 8 PM ET on TNT.
Shaq answered the following questions:
- What exactly does Shaquille O’Neal have to prove in the wrestling ring? What provoked you to get in the ring against a wrestling legacy like Cody Rhodes?
“I’ve nothing to prove but little cupcake Cody challenged me. It was my fault. I was being interviewed by his lovely wife and I mentioned Jade. She’s an up-and-coming superstar. I guess she got mad and brought her man into it. I guess a man is supposed to protect his wife but I thought it was over until he challenged me at my job on TNT so I’ll be there March 3rd. Don’t worry about it.”
- What is your finishing maneuver? What’s your favorite move to execute?
“My finisher is called the Black Tornado. You’ll see it and he’s going to need help. He’ll probably have all his friends jump in and help him but it’s not going to help. ”
- What’s the biggest difference between training for basketball and training for a wrestling match for you?
“I don’t need to train for wrestling. I’m here at his spot because I’m hoping to see him here so I can knock him out but he never shows up at his own gym so I’m just in here lifting weights. I don’t need to train for cupcakes and red cinnamon bun or whatever her name is. I don’t even know her name. ”
- Who from the NBA do you think could take on a challenge like this? Who has the guts and intensity to step in the ring?
“There’s a lot of guys out there who have the ability but listen, I’m not here to wrestle, I’m here to fight. I’m going to show you what power looks like in AEW.”
Cody answered the following questions:
- You’ve shown plenty of confidence throughout this feud. Do Shaq’s size and stature not intimidate you whatsoever?
“Shaquille O’Neal is over 7-feet tall, he is somewhere between 350 and 400 pounds, and is in great shape. If anything, I wouldn’t say was false confidence on my behalf but it’s more wrestler confidence. I know the formula for selling a match and perhaps that’s all it is. Perhaps it’s just false bravado, it’s just big loud talking and a lot of wind, based on I want people to see Shaq in an AEW ring’. I think the person who leaves AEW at night and goes to the Nightmare Factory and trains, that being me, has a different outlook on it and I have wrestled some of the better giants in the industry. I’m sure I can’t say his name at this moment but I couldn’t be more prepared for this match. It’s a simple stick-and-move type of match. I hate to reference Goro and Johnny Gage but it ain’t all that different. This guy’s not going to be able to keep up with my wheels. So the moment he is blowing up is the moment he’s not able to pick me up, it’s the moment I’m able to capitalize. I should be confident now that I think about this because I’m a wrestler, he is not, he’s coming into our world. It would be no different than if I walked on the court with him, I would not be expecting to win, I don’t think Shaq is expecting to win. I think Red Velvet’s the ace up the sleeve. Red velvet’s an active wrestler compared to Jade who currently is an anomaly. We just know that she is incredibly strong and has a size advantage, just like Shaq does, on Red Velvet. I think she’s the ace up the sleeve in a match like this.”
- What does bringing a name like Shaquille O’Neal into AEW mean for the future of this company?
“It’s a nice indicator that we’re not playing by any rules, can be anybody. There are these traditional wrestling companies and wrestling rules and conservative wrestling organizations that, if you look at them, you know very much what you’re going to get there, it might be a cookie-cutter element to that, and I don’t mean to disparage but I mean when it comes to AEW, we don’t have those rules. Shaq wanted to have a match with me, he’s the one who put it out there on social media and floated it out there in the first place. I think, be careful what you wish for because AEW will absolutely give it to you.”
- This is a mixed-tag match with Red Velvet as your partner. What are you most looking forward to in teaming with her?
“Unbeknownst to many is Red Velvet is not completely signed at AEW. Red Velvet’s on a kind of a retainer deal, a tier zero essentially, and this might be too much inside baseball but you asked. What’s most exciting is when Arn Anderson presented her live on Dynamite and she pretty much dropped the mic and let us know who she was and left, didn’t wait for some glad-handing and some hugs and to make it official. She rose to that occasion, I anticipate she rises to the occasion in a match like this. I have all the confidence in the world in her, as this is Brandi, and I’d love that to parlay into a full career here at AEW. I talk about somebody genuinely seizing the moment in the middle of this dumb, unrelenting pandemic. That doesn’t matter where you fall on the political spectrum of it, it is unrelenting, please end. In the process of this AEW haven’t let up one bit, we’ve continued to provide content and we’ve continued to provide ridiculous match-ups, not unlike this one, myself Red Velvet versus Jade and Shaq, but I really do think Red Velvet who is filling in for Brandi will make it clear that she’s not a fill-in, that she’s not a substitute, that Red Velvet is going to matter here at AEW.”
- If you defeat Shaq on Wednesday night, where does Cody Rhodes go from here?
“It’s not really an if. Again, if I walked onto the court with Shaquille O’Neal, I am fully anticipating that I would beat him in. But no, it’s not an if, to me, it’s a win. Me and Red Velvet will defeat Shaq and we will defeat Jade. And it’s back to business for me. I’m not going to ask him for a stake in Papa John’s. I’m not gonna want his Rolls Royce, one of 31 different vehicles he has, I’m not gonna hold it over his head. He did the work, I know that. He’s trained, he’s prepared. He’s not looking at this or looking at our sport as a joke. He’s looking at it with sincerity and love. And I hope a partnership will be formed if anything. Sometimes the best way to bond is through battle. And that’s what’s going to happen. I don’t anticipate that, I think Shaq will get a few shots in and I’m going to feel those. Just look at the size. I’m going to feel those, I’ve got to be able to bounce back. I’ve got to have the chin to be able to come back at him. But at the end of the day, I hope he has a new respect for AEW and a new respect for me and I’d love to see him more.”
- What do you think about Shaq calling you a “cupcake” on national TV?
“He called me a cupcake, he said a few other things, he did a spinning back elbow into some plexiglass, Shaq has a sense of occasion. Shaq knows what it means to build a match. I think he might be far more wrestler than we think but I’ve been called far worse than a cupcake, I really have and maybe that’s what this will come down to when Shaq is looking up at the lights for the classic three-second tan. He’s now an official wrestler and he’s officially 0-1, maybe that’s the first thing I’ll eat when I come backstage. Maybe I’ll have my very pregnant wife hand me a cupcake right in front of big Shaq, to let him know I love cupcakes. I anticipate the war of words will always happen with Shaquille O’Neal and myself, I look forward to it. It’s honestly fun to see someone with such a sphere of influence and such an impressive legacy and continuing just entrepreneur, it’s fun to see his interest in AEW, it really is.”
- What can fans expect from this match?
“Fans, I would hope if they join us for the first time to see AEW and then perhaps come for Shaq, I hope they would stay for somebody like Tully Blanchard who is returning on the very same night at The Crossroads on March 3rd. That’s always the goal when you bring in somebody of such a scope and has such a sphere of influence is that maybe you come for Shaq and then you find someone else that you fall in love with, it doesn’t matter who. Wrestling’s filled with personalities and their job is to relate to you at home, so I would hope that for the AEW fans and new fans that we can just broaden our family. To me, that’s the ultimate goal. For Shaq, he wants to win a match, for me, I want to continue to grow AEW and I’ll do anything I can do to continue to grow our brand and if that means throwing some stuff against the wall that doesn’t stick, that’s okay, it’s a jumping-off point, it’s for lack of a better idea, I’d rather do that than sit there and freeze and do nothing. It’s no secret every Wednesday night, this is a dog fight. The Wednesday night, being opposed on television by another wrestling show, it’s a dog fight and I love it. I absolutely revel in it because I think we have the best show, I think we have the best wrestling show there is but the goal is to make the next week even better, and the next week even better. That sounds so, oh that’s impossible, it’s not because that’s what we’ve been doing.”
Very special Nygma thanks to John Dinsdale – All pics and videos courtesy of AEW