“Is Shaq wrestling the Big Show at WrestleMania?” Everyone keeps asking him that. Even we asked him that.
As of now, there’s no clear word on whether or not NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal will lace up a pair of giant sneakers and face the “World’s Largest Athlete” this April in Orlando at WWE’s biggest event of the year. If you’re wondering why people would think this at all, you’re not alone. But to understand Shaq’s connection to the pro wrestling world, you’ve got to go all the way back to 1994, when a young O’Neal, hype for the upcoming release of ‘Shaq Fu’ for the Sega Genesis, stepped into a World Championship Wrestling ring to present a giant glittery belt to his orangest and least racist friend.
Today we’re taking a look at Shaquille O’Neal’s surprisingly deep history in the world of pro graps, spanning three promotions over 20+ years.
1994: Presenting The WCW World Heavyweight Championship
Shaq’s first appearances in the pro wrestling world happened only two years into his NBA career, for World Championship Wrestling in 1994. WCW was bringing in WWF legend and even-tempered friend to all Hulk Hogan and having him main-event their Bash at the Beach pay-per-view against “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair. Hogan vs. Flair had long been a hypothetical dream match for wrestling fans, so of course it was important to dump a bunch of celebrities onto it.
Shaquille O’Neal was the biggest of these, literally and figuratively, and was announced as the man who’d present the WCW World Heavyweight Championship to the winner, crowing wrestling’s ultimate, undisputed champ. Except for the current WWF one. Shaq made no attempt to remain impartial, best illustrated by this promo where he cosplays as Hogan and angrily rips off the Hulkster’s shirt.
Hogan wins, because of course he does, and is actually presented the championship by his good friend and WrestleMania 1 tag team partner Mr. T. During a replay. So when they come back from the replay, Shaq’s holding up Hogan’s hand with the wrong arm while Mr. T hoists the belt high above their heads. Well, high above his head.
Don’t worry, Shaq gets an amazing hug with the Hulkster, superimposed with shots of the crowd and fireworks going off. It’s like something from the end of Somewhere In Time. Hogan would eventually go rogue with the nWo and team up with Dennis Rodman and fought Karl Malone, but wouldn’t reunite with Shaq until much, much later.
2009: Guest Hosting Raw
Over a decade later, WWE brought Shaquille O’Neal onto Monday Night Raw to “guest host,” during that dark period where prime time pro wrestling became a 2-hour commercial for any celebrity that’d agree to do it. Shaq joined such pop culture luminaries as Jon Heder, Hot Tub Time Machine‘s Clark Duke and Jewel’s rodeo cowboy boyfriend.
If you weren’t watching Raw during this period, imagine one of those bad celebrity appearances they do every now and then FOR TWO STRAIGHT HOURS, at the expense of literally everything else on the show. The wrestling world revolved around whichever celebrity had agreed to stop by this week, so if Al Sharpton was the guest star, Santino would pop in to say, “Wow, I love-a the Al Sharpertahhhh!” and then the Bella Twins would show up from both sides and kiss Sharpton on the cheek. It was brutal.
The most notable part of Shaq’s guest hosting duties was when he opened the show cutting a promo on Chris Jericho, and ended the night as the “special enforcer” for a tag team match between Cryme Tyme, Jericho, and his future blood rival The Big Show. WWE Fan Nation’s clip of the show condenses the episode into four minutes, which is the recommended way to watch it. If you’ve seen Shaq’s WrestleMania 32 appearance, please note the double-choke stance they brought out of the mothballs.
Please do not notice Shaq completely punking Show out and calling him “fat boy” a hundred times.
You might’ve enjoyed that and are thinking to yourself, “come on, Brandon, Raw couldn’t have possibly been as bad as you’re describing.” If this is you, please enjoy Cryme Tyme and Shaq saying “money, money, yeah yeah” forever until Santino pops in with his hat sideways and starts rap battling them.
Also, here’s Shaq meeting Hornswoggle, because one of them is very tall and the other is very short. Watch long enough to see Hornswoggle brick a dunk, Shaq shill his Shaq-brand energy chews, and Michael Cole actually say the phrase, “Oh my, that was SHAQILICIOUS!”
2012: What’s Shaquille O’Neal Doing In The Impact Zone?
“We know who THAT is! It’s NEAL SHAXTON!”
The forgotten Shaq wrestling appearance happened in 2012, when Upload with Shaquille O’Neal needed shilling and Hulk Hogan needed angelic basketball help to protect himself from a mysterious pro-wrestling biker gang. ACES AND EIGHTS had just burst onto the scene and were cutting promos on Hogan from behind masks, so Hulk, without even Mr. T at this side, called upon his “Shaq Attack.”
I can’t decide if the best part of this is when they suddenly acknowledge that there’s a camera nearby, or when Hogan leaves the scene screaming, “GAME ON! GAME ON! GAME ON!”
Anyway, fearful of the presence of non-wrestler Shaquille O’Neal, Aces and Eights stayed away and instead called Hogan on the telephone to invite him to their clubhouse. They promise to play “hardball.” Basketballs aren’t hard enough!
2016: Entering The Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal
Shaq returned to WWE last year at WrestleMania 32, entering the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal and getting into another chokefight with Big Show. This time around they were forced to team up, though, double-chokeslamming Kane before returning to their mutual throat-goozling.
They were eventually thrown out together, thanks to the combined efforts of everyone else.
And that brings us to now.
2017: WrestleMania 33 (?)
Shortly after WrestleMania 32 — and I mean during the Backstage Fallout from the show itself — Shaq began teasing a one-on-one match between himself and Show at the next WrestleMania. That turned into trash talk on NBA on TNT, a face-to-face confrontation at the ESPYs and dueling fitness selfies.
Depending on who you talk to on what day, Big Show vs. Shaquille O’Neal definitely is or isn’t happening. They said the match was happening, then Shaq said it probably wasn’t, then reports that negotiations had started up again popped up. Show is in the best shape of his life right now and still calling Shaq out, so who knows? Maybe Shaq will just show up to pin Sami Zayn.
And maybe Hulk Hogan will be there? Man, I hope not.