Shaquille O’Neal is used to starring on TNT’s primetime programming, just not in this way.
The “Inside the NBA” analyst took part in a mixed tag-team match, performing alongside Jade Cargill, a former fitness model and college basketball player. O’Neal and Cargill faced Cody Rhodes and Red Velvet in the bout, which lasted roughly 12 minutes and kicked off AEW’s “Dynamite” television show.
O’Neal and Rhodes began the match, with the NBA analyst showing off some of the skills he picked up during visits to Rhodes’s “Nightmare Factory” wrestling school. O’Neal tied up with Rhodes using a collar and elbow grapple, multiple chops and a back-body drop early in the match.
Cargill and Red Velvet dominated most of the action, taking advantage of the spotlight and their biggest opportunities of their pro wrestling careers thus far. The rules of the match stipulated that the male competitors can only share the ring with each other and vice versa for the women.
The second spurt of action between Rhodes and O’Neal saw the former Lakers center execute a powerbomb on Rhodes. Prior to the maneuver, O’Neal appeared to pay tribute to the late Jon Huber, known as Brodie Lee in AEW, who passed away suddenly late last year.
Rhodes quickly rebounded, landing a body slam on O’Neal reminiscent of the iconic WrestleMania III match where Hulk Hogan body slammed Andre the Giant. It was a fitting moment as O’Neal told the Associated Press that moment was seminal in his professional wrestling fandom
The most significant spot of the match came shortly after as Rhodes leaped over the ropes, forcing both him and O’Neal through two tables set up ringside earlier in the bout. The moment put O’Neal out of action for the rest of the match and Cargill would eventually score the win for her and O’Neal, hitting a finishing move and pinning Red Velvet.
After the match — as a part of the show — O’Neal was eventually loaded into an ambulance on the premises at Daily’s Place in Jacksonville, Florida. Seconds later, as AEW commentator Tony Schiavone went to speak with O’Neal, the back of the ambulance was empty.
The bout was teased for several months on social media, “Dynamite” and even TNT’s “Inside the NBA.” O’Neal appeared on an episode of “Dynamite” last December, being interviewed by Rhodes’s wife, Brandi. Originally set to be a match involving the husband and wife, Brandi Rhodes announced her pregnancy and was replaced in the match.
The tag-team match wasn’t O’Neal’s first foray into the world of professional wrestling. In 2016, the 7-foot NBA legend took part in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WWE’s flagship event, WrestleMania. In the match, O’Neal came face-to-face with Paul Wight, then known as “The Big Show.”
O’Neal had previously appeared on World Championship Wrestling and TNA Impact while he was still playing in the NBA. O’Neal joins fellow former NBA players Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone as in-ring competitors. Rodman and Malone took part in a WCW versus NWO angle in 1998 during the height of wrestling’s “Monday Night Wars.”
More on Yahoo Sports: