AEW EVP Cody Rhodes recently spoke with Austen Lane on Action Sports Jax On ESPN690 after his AEW Dynamite tag team match against NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal. He described what it was like to take open-hand chops from Shaq.
“Those big hands and those overhead chops, the only comparison I would have is Paul Wight, formerly The Big Show, or even the Great Khali, but I’ve never seen hands like Shaq’s,” Rhodes admitted. “I might have been planning on taking a few more, and then after I felt that first one, absolutely not.
“That’s the most pain I’ve ever felt on a chop to the point where if you lower your chin enough on anything like a chop and you get touched by those fingers, it can knock you right out. So I was lucky I survived. I still do have a handprint though. I’ve got a battle wound from the big man.”
Rhodes then talked about the challenge of being in a match with a non-active wrestler in Shaq and with two wrestlers with a lack of experience in Red Velvet and Jade Cargill. He also gave his thoughts on whether he would want Shaq back in AEW.
“Absolutely, and I know people were plenty skeptical. I understand why,” Rhodes said. “I’m part of the hardcore audience myself. I love pure wrestling as it is, but I love doing things that have a hook to them and have a sizzle to them to help drive to the pure wrestling. The same show that Shaquille O’Neal was on was a show featuring Tully Blanchard, and I’m always surprised when people doubt me.
“I don’t mean to sound braggadocious, but I don’t go into anything without a gameplan, without being extremely organized, and I assumed a lot of responsibility with a completely new talent in Jade, a pretty untested talent in Red Velvet and then Shaq, who’s not a wrestler. After it was over, I can tell you, he’s got the bug. It happens. I’ve seen it happen to older wrestlers. I’ve seen it happen to people coming for the first time. Stephen Amell, very similar situation.
“He’s got the bug. We didn’t converse much, but I said, ‘I think you’re a wrestler now,’ and I really mean that. I’d love to have him back. There’s obviously matches that people want to see. He takes the training very seriously, and that’s all good for us. Shaq at brings different eyes to our product and perhaps those eyes stay and see some of the pure wrestling that our hardcore audience and that are owner and founder Tony Khan love so much himself.”
Cody then gave his thoughts on Paul Wight in AEW. He also talked about his long history with Wight as well.
“I’m typically one of the first people that people reach out to because we shared locker rooms together and if they’re curious, and I’m never afraid to just chat with somebody and and see where they’re at mentally,” Rhodes stated. “With him, that’s one of the main giveaways, I know how motivated he is because there wasn’t really much negotiation. He talked to me, and then he moved on to talking to Tony Khan. And they were quite a match.
“His benefits that he provides the locker room are endless essentially, and that lack of negotiation tells me he’s very hungry, and he wants to be part of this and he wants to be part of this now, almost as if it’s an emotional decision. And full circle is a great way to put it because people who followed my career will know that I was not happy with what happened with my rivalry with Big Show and where it led to at WrestleMania creatively. It’s actually the beginning of my downfall at the company, but the part they didn’t see was the three to four months where I was basically married to this giant on these live events, and there’s only a few people I ever learned as much from.
“It was so valuable to me, and then I see him already talking to guys backstage. And I can see his sincerity, and they’re going to learn so much from Paul. And I really can’t wait to see him go because the attraction that is that man, and that giant and his athletic ability, it truly is an attraction. It’s a head turner, and I can’t wait to see him in an AEW ring in front of our fans. I know he’ll feel it like he’s never felt it before.”
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit Action Sports Jax On ESPN690 with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.