Celebrity involvement has always been part of pro wrestling for the longest time. We accept it and treat it in many different ways. Begrudgingly, dismissively, understandably, excitedly, critically, lovingly, acceptingly, and bitterly. It’s a mixed bag of emotion and engagement when it comes to celebrity involvement. At times, our reactions depend on our feelings and opinions on the celebrities themselves. The more the celebrity themselves are into it, a fan or respectful toward the business the better it usually comes off and fans will give them a pass in the commentating, announcing manager, and special guest roles they are placed in. Stephen Amell is a good example of this. His matches may not have ever set the world on fire, but the effort was always there. On the other end, if they clearly are disinterest, only there for a paycheck/to promote a recent work, it can be a disaster. The RAW celebrity co-host era is riddled with examples.
Celebrities stepping into the ring to wrestle, is always a mixed bag mostly received with groans, complaints, ridicule, and disdain. When it works though it works fantastically (WrestleMania I for example with Mr. T in the main event).
When it’s awful it’s downright pathetic (Jay Leno wrestling?)
A lot of time you can argue it’s right down in the middle, not awful but not good enough to warrant ever happening. Celebrity involvement in wrestling for better or worse is here to stay and is never going away. That doesn’t change the constant hesitation and huffing and puffing that goes into whenever it’s heading our way.
So there was a lot of debate, discussion, and discourse when it was hyped up that Shaq would wrestle on an episode of AEW Dynamite teaming with Jade Cargill against Cody Rhodes and Red Velvet (originally Brandi Rhodes but pregnancy changed the booking. Here’s hoping for a healthy child!).
Some of the critiques and questions were valid. The build was lacking and not well executed, what would Shaq. ultimately bring to the table? Would Cargill and Red Velvet live up to the hype and spotlight that was brought upon them? The build was definitely and legitimately not done well, but the questions for everything else were answered empathetically in the positive.
Shaq & Jade Cargill vs. Cody Rhodes & Red Velvet was undoubtedly a commercial and critical success. It exceeded all expectations, including my own, and had one of the most energetic COVID crowds I’ve had the pleasure to experience. The crowd added a lot and meant a lot to the viewing. I don’t know if the match would’ve worked as well without a crowd, I’d argue it definitely wouldn’t. This match had the most if not the most crowd energy I have seen of any match during the pandemic and it made it stand out and even more special. The crowd was hyped, was energized, and played their part beautifully, and reminded us how important their involvement in a match can be.
Shaq came prepared to work hard. he looked great, his presence is undeniable, and he was into it and gave his 100 percent. He didn’t do extremely much but what he did looked great, sounded great, and did exactly what it needed to do. The moment he landed a vicious-sounding chop to Cody I was immediately on board with this match. I about jumped off of my couch when he gave a tribute to Brodie Lee (R.I.P you beautiful man) and then delivered one hard as fuck powerbomb unto Cody Rhodes. It was pretty damn fantastic. Shaq also had the highlight reel spot of the night along with Cody when Cody crosse bodied over the top rope and crashed Shaq through two tables.
No doubt a spot made for sports shows, it was the holy shit moment the match needed and it delivered it in near flawless execution. Props to Shaq for not simply being a willing presence, but being a willing force who got to get his moves in but also was willing to take a big and fun bump near the end for us to remember.
Shaq and Cody’s interactions drew the spotlight, but once the spotlight shone the real success of the match would reveal itself. The real success of the match came courtesy of Red Velvet (straight from your Mama’s kitchen) and Jade Cargill absolutely slaying it at that moment. I’d argue they took this moment and made it belong to them. This is not about deserving a moment, they worked their butt off and proved they earned it, that they deserve it, and to have the opportunity to receive more in the future. They made it clear through their efforts that AEW has something truly special in BOTH of these women. It’s not just wrestling ability and athleticism, which they both have in spades and abundance. It’s the look, the charisma, the presence. AEW better realize that they got something special in both competitors that they should seize upon in the future. I really want a singles match/feud between the two in due time.
They were placed in potentially an anxiety-inducing situation. A guaranteed large television crowd as part of a largely hyped-up match. A match that would no doubt be talked about and analyzed from every single angle. A hot crowd just eating up everything going on. It could be easy for a competitor in this situation to slip on a banana peel and slide and stumble their way through this match as their nerves got the better of them. If there were nerves neither showed it. Both Jade and Red velvet excelled, To hell with that, they stole the damn show. I was impressed with both and I hope they have rightfully long and bright futures in AEW.
Red Velvet has it, and it can be refined, improved, expanded, and worked on even more. She arguably had one of the big highlights of the match with her moonsault to the outside which looked incredible. She has a lot she can offer and considering how she ran with this chance, she deserves to show it off. As for Cargill? Cargill takes a backseat to no competitor in this match. Shaq was the draw and the star, but Cargill was the workhorse and the person who benefits the most from her team. Shaq did his job, Cargill demonstrated how talented she was and why she belonged after weeks of criticism, doubt, and questions on her abilities and skill. She was undeniably incredible. I look forward to seeing what else she ends up doing, and I hope it’s a lot. They should be both considered future champions in AEW.
I can say with little doubt or hesitation this was the most fun I’ve had with wrestling in the COVID-era. An absolute knockout success. I would entertain the thought(s) that this was the best celebrity involvement match of all time. At the bare minimum, it’s the best in recent times not just in match quality but in pageantry, crowd excitement, highlights, and how it successfully highlighted and elevated two competitors in Red Velvet and Jade Cargill. The match lived up to the billing, to the hype, to the spotlight it was given. Shaq and Cody did their part, and both deserve due credit for the match coming together. I don’t shorten or dismiss their deserved praise. In the end, though the real success, the true success is what it did and meant for Red Velvet and Jade Cargill. Both were incredible in what was an incredible moment for both of them. Wrestling is not a fair, perfect, or just world, but I hope it doesn’t go unnoticed, I hope it doesn’t go unrewarded, and I hope both careers go nowhere but up after this. This match was everything I didn’t know I wanted, and in the end, gave me everything I needed. This match lived up to the show’s name. It was truly dynamite.