Shaq was in full effect last night on AEW Dynamite as the Hall of Fame center teamed with newcomer Jade Cargill and defeated Red Velvet and Cody Rhodes in a mixed tag team match. It was wild. It was crazy. It was much better than expected.
Cody and Shaq started things off, and Shaq used his monstrous size advantage to overpower him at every turn. Cody tried some technical wrestling to take the big man out of his element but to no avail. Shaq made him pay with some overhand chops. Shaq caught Rhodes charging in and countered with a back body drop.
Later on, Shaq was knocked off the apron and received an unprovoked chair shot from Austin Gunn, sitting in the front row. Shaq went crazy and clubbed Gunn with a forearm smash that sent him over the barricade. Shaq proceeded to beat up the rest of the Gunn family and Rhodes family associate QT Marshall. Then, Red Velvet hit a moonsault onto Rhodes and Cargill on the floor.
After some nice back and forth action between Cargill and Velvet, Rhodes was tagged in, and Shaq had to come in as well. Shaq put his hand up, calling for a test of strength. Cody acted like he accepted the challenge and kicked Shaq in the stomach. Shaq came back with a knee lift and followed up with a powerbomb. Cody rocked Shaq with a right hand and body-slammed him for a nearfall.
Cargill hit Velvet with a spinebuster, but Cody broke up the pin at two. Then, the moment that gained mainstream coverage. Rhodes dove over the top rope and took out Shaq as they both crashed through two tables on the floor. It was surreal. In the ring, Cargill hit Velvet with the Glam Slam for the win.
Shaq was loaded into an ambulance during the commercial break. However, back from the break, Tony Schiavone tried to get a word with what would have been an injured Shaq. Schiavone opened the ambulance door, but Shaq was gone.
All four performers deserve a world of praise for crafting such an entertaining spectacle.
Red Velvet is green, made some rookie mistakes that only a trained eye would notice, but she more than held up her end in the biggest match of her career.
Cody Rhodes was a true ring general and did a great job hiding Shaq’s weaknesses and highlighting his attributes.
Shaq is a natural entertainer, and it showed. He did more than I expected, but I never thought he would go through a table. I hope we see him again.
Jade Cargill came to impress, and she delivered. This was her first wrestling match. I remember how much pressure I felt in my first wrestling match, an indy show at my local YMCA. I can’t imagine the pressure Cargill must’ve been under making her debut on national television, teaming with Shaquille Freaking O’Neal. Cargill is athletic, looks like a star, and has a fabulous ring presence. As Jim Ross would say, she has a tremendous upside.
There is a small detail in the construction of the match that led to its success. Mixed Tag Team Matches don’t allow men and women to fight each other. Usually, if one wrestler tags their partner, the other team’s wrestler runs in immediately to keep the action going. Here, both team members were tagged in, regardless of the no-contact rule between different genders. This allowed everyone to pause, reset, get their barring and begin the next act of the match. This approach would normally look awkward, but Cody led the charge and made it work.
934,000 viewers tuned into AEW Dynamite to enjoy in-ring action from the NBA legend. Shaq netted a 103,000 viewer boost, giving Dynamite its highest rating of the year. It’s a significant number, but it would have been higher if AEW had promoted the match more effectively. In a weird twist of fate, the number didn’t help the show stay in the top 5 of the coveted 18-49 demographic, landing in sixth place.
A wrestling match with Shaq not breaking a million viewers while losing top residency in the demo is a little concerning. However, the overwhelming feedback the show is receiving is undeniable. Hopefully, AEW will piggyback off the show’s success and use this as a launching point for Jade Cargill’s development as a professional wrestler. Red Velvet should be proud of herself, and Cody Rhodes pulled off a miracle.
As for Shaq…After that table bump, he’s gonna need some Icy Hot.