On November 6, 1992, a 20-year-old Shaquille O’Neal made his NBA debut for the Orlando Magic, picking up 12 points, 3 blocks, and 18 rebounds against the Miami Heat — the astir successful an NBA debut since Bill Walton successful 1974. After a week of games, Shaq became the archetypal idiosyncratic successful NBA past to beryllium named Player of the Week successful his archetypal week successful the league. He would proceed to acceptable records successful his debut year, becoming the archetypal rookie to commencement successful the NBA All-Star crippled since Michael Jordan and winning the 1993 Rookie of the Year successful a landslide vote.
Five months earlier, connected June 3, 1992, 100 miles southeast of Orlando successful Vero Beach, Florida, the existent AEW TBS Champion, Jade Cargill, was born. Like Shaq, Cargill was athletically talented from a young property — a three-time precocious schoolhouse hoops Team MVP who helped her teams to 2 territory championships. She continued to excel successful hoops astatine Jacksonville University — wherever she graduated with a societal subject grade — being named to the Atlantic Sun Preseason First Team and starring successful rebounds and steals for the 2012-13 season.
Not seeing a agleam fiscal aboriginal successful women’s basketball, Cargill yet enactment her hoop dreams connected hold, choosing to rise a household with her partner, MLB All-Star Brandon Phillips, and gain her master’s successful kid psychology. But Cargill remained athletically inclined, continuing to enactment connected her spot conditioning portion besides landing gigs arsenic a fittingness model. Eventually, her hoops past would travel backmost into the representation erstwhile she crossed paths with Shaq successful an wholly antithetic sporting arena.
Once again, the determination was Florida, this clip the Daily’s Place amphitheater successful Downtown Jacksonville — the open-roofed venue that housed Tony Khan’s All Elite Wrestling during the pandemic. On March 3, 2021, astir 3 decades since Shaq’s NBA debut, the hoops icon made his pro-wrestling debut alongside Cargill, besides making her archetypal in-ring appearance, unrecorded connected TNT successful beforehand of 1.1 cardinal viewers.
This lucifer was the culmination of a divisive storyline that saw erstwhile AEW stars Cody and Brandi Rhodes embroiled successful a vitriolic warfare of words with the NBA fable and the pro-wrestling newcomer. Teaming with Cody for the nighttime was the fiery up-and-comer, Red Velvet, stepping successful for the large Brandi to instrumentality connected the imposing duo of Cargill and Shaq. As with immoderate celebrity-involved wrestling match, the imaginable for catastrophe was ever-present — adhd connected apical of that a rookie making her in-ring debut, a car clang spectacle was apt and adjacent anticipated successful immoderate circles.(AEW)
To the astonishment of many, the lucifer was a resounding occurrence — an entertaining blockbuster chockful of shocks and thrills. And portion Shaq mightiness person grabbed the aboriginal headlines for his performance, which included an awesome clang landing done a table, Cargill was the existent star. After all, this marquee lucifer was designed arsenic a level to present Cargill to wrestling and present wrestling fans to Cargill. Sure, Shaq was the sanction that brought them into the building, but he’d soon beryllium backmost jaw-jacking with Charles Barkley from the comfortableness of his workplace desk. Cargill was the 1 with a multi-year AEW declaration who would person to look the ruthlessly opinionated wrestling fans week successful and week out. It was a high-pressure concern — proceedings by bodyslams and suplexes.
The lucifer had its flaws and hiccups, to beryllium expected of someone’s first-ever match, but Cargill carried herself with the assurance of idiosyncratic who belonged. With a assemblage that looked chiseled by Michelangelo and eye-catching platinum blond hair, she commanded attraction the infinitesimal she walked onto the stage. It was evident from this 1 lucifer that Cargill had the imaginable to beryllium thing peculiar successful the satellite of wrestling — she had that unquantifiable ‘it’ origin that conscionable can’t beryllium taught.Jade Cargill’s Entry into Pro Wrestling
Wrestling wasn’t connected the docket for Cargill conscionable a fewer years prior. In college, she had goals of becoming a psychologist, oregon a lobbyist, with a peculiar absorption connected wellness care. While increasing up, she was drawn to wrestling’s Attitude Era and empowered by badass women similar Chyna and Jacqueline, but a vocation successful pro-wrestling was a wholly alien concept. That changed erstwhile she met WWE Hall of Famer and existent AEW broadcaster Mark Henry. The erstwhile strongman has had a distinguished in-ring vocation successful his ain close but has possibly recovered adjacent much occurrence arsenic a endowment scout, liable for uncovering aboriginal stars, including existent WWE Women’s Champion Bianca Belair.(AEW)
Impressed by her cognition and athleticism, Henry acceptable Cargill up with a WWE tryout. Her travel erstwhile again took her to Florida, wherever she was 1 of respective athletes successful attendance astatine the company’s Performance Center successful Orlando. “Henry told maine however superior [the wrestling business] was,” Cargill said successful an interrogation with Muscle & Fitness. “He told maine astir the clip absorption that I would person to do, the dedication… being connected the roadworthy each the time. When I went [to the try-out], I saw that it wasn’t arsenic casual arsenic I thought it was, but I emotion challenges, and this was thing that I picked up and didn’t privation to enactment backmost down.”
Cargill rapidly caught the wrestling bug and present had a caller extremity to acceptable her caput to — she was going to go a pro-wrestler. But she was going to bash it connected her ain terms. Being independently affluent by this point, wealth was not needfully going to beryllium the deciding origin successful her vocation choices. With that successful mind, it’s possibly unsurprising that she turned down a declaration connection from WWE — partially owed to an off-putting interrogation process that saw her grilled astir her committedness to the company.
“They were like, ‘we privation you, we are going to motion you. But we are benignant of disquieted astir however atrocious you privation this,” Cargill recalled connected the Talk Is Jericho podcast. The treatment turned to Cargill’s past two-year-old girl and however the young parent would equilibrium her location beingness with her enactment life. Cargill had considered each of this already and thought astir the precautions. “He was like, ‘yeah, yeah, yeah. I get what you’re saying, but this is your household now; I privation you to cognize that.’ I was like, ‘I get it, I wholly recognize that, and I person thought astir it, and I privation it. I’ve been grooming for this; this is what I want.”
Cargill wasn’t lying; she was determined. After her WWE tryout, Henry had enactment her successful interaction with a fig of wrestling schools, and she started grooming astatine the Face2Face Wrestling Academy successful Atlanta, tally by Richard Borger, Heath Slater, and Teddy Long. She was retired determination giving it her all, taking the bumps and earning the bruises, truthful WWE doubting her committedness near a sour taste.(AEW)Superstar oregon All Elite?
While Cargill was perusing her 100-page WWE declaration and considering whether oregon not to motion connected the dotted line, she was invited to be an AEW taping successful Jacksonville. The upstart promotion had debuted its play tv amusement Dynamite connected TNT successful October 2019 and was disconnected to a tremendous start. However, the pandemic shutdowns of 2020 stifled immoderate of the company’s momentum, peculiarly with nary unrecorded crowds successful attendance. To assistance make immoderate ambiance astatine the shows, AEW started utilizing roster members and extras astatine ringside. It was usually Austin Gunn stealing attraction with his overenthusiastic heckling, but 1 Wednesday nighttime successful September 2020, fans’ eyes were drawn to a gangly blond positioned astatine ringside.
Viewers continued to wonderment who this mysterious pistillate was arsenic Cargill became a regular astatine AEW events. Meanwhile, Cargill’s bully person and chap pro-wrestler EJ Nduka urged her to motion her WWE contract. Nduka himself had signed a improvement woody with WWE successful August 2019 and couldn’t recognize Cargill’s hesitation. Well, Cargill would soon motion a declaration — conscionable not with WWE. After weeks of appearing successful the assemblage astatine AEW, Cargill yet made her mode into the ringing to interrupt Cody mid-promo. It was authoritative — Jade Cargill was All Elite.
“I came [to AEW], got the experience, and I felt calm,” she said connected TIJ. “It made maine consciousness astatine easiness astir the determination I wanted to make. I didn’t person to relocate; I felt astatine home. I could telephone [Tony Khan] and speech to him, and helium knew my name. He knew my purpose, helium knew that I wanted to bash this, and that mattered to me. I wasn’t conscionable a number. He knew precisely who I was, and that made maine consciousness comfortable.”
Cargill’s determination came arsenic a daze to Nduka. “I retrieve erstwhile I told him I was reasoning astir coming [to AEW], helium couldn’t judge it. ‘Why would you ever take AEW implicit WWE?’” Cargill recalled him saying. WWE had been the lone crippled successful municipality for astir 20 years, astatine slightest successful scale, tv exposure, revenue, and marque recognition. For many, similar Nduka, WWE was the eventual dream. AEW was inactive successful its embryonic stages; sure, it had fiscal backing, a large TV deal, and an awesome roster, but it was (and is) a caller and increasing company. However, Cargill didn’t spot that arsenic a negative; she viewed it arsenic portion of the challenge.
“Yes, the different institution was pissed disconnected that they sent maine a 100-page contract, but I made the champion determination for my household and for myself,” she explained. “I’ve ever been a believer and I’ve ever been an underdog. I emotion being the underdog and we’re hungry. I privation to beryllium portion of thing that is bare and wants to alteration things. That’s wherefore I came here.”
She besides felt much information astatine AEW astatine a clip erstwhile WWE was releasing dozens upon dozens of wrestlers owed to company-wide “budget cuts.” One of those released was Nduka, who was fto spell from WWE successful May 2021, having ne'er adjacent had a accidental to debut connected television. “He was truthful for this company, and look astatine him,” Cargill said. “I’m like, ‘damn, that sucks. You were each astir [WWE], we talked astir this, you tried to person maine to travel over, you conscionable had a baby, your woman passed the barroom successful Florida for your career.’ It sucks. I cognize I made the champion decision.”
In that aforesaid year, erstwhile different athletes from Cargill’s WWE tryout were either released from the institution oregon inactive performing drill signifier successful the Performance Center, she was connected prime-time TV, fundamentally learning connected the job. Of course, determination were stumbling blocks, but Cargill showed betterment with each lucifer she had. She was present regularly grooming with AEW’s QT Marshall and wrestling fable Dustin Rhodes, adding caller tricks to her repertoire. With that in-ring acquisition came a amended consciousness of her quality and an quality to link with the audience. A masterful pairing with the sleazy ‘Smart’ Mark Sterling lone added to the Jade Brand presentation, giving her a sidekick to bounce disconnected and flex her promo muscles arsenic she climbed up the ranks successful AEW.
“Can it beryllium nerve-wracking? It tin be. Being compared to radical that person been doing this for 5 and 10 years,” Cargill said of her clip successful AEW truthful far. “But radical are experiencing thing earthy close now, and I’m not lone connected a travel myself, but everybody is connected a travel with me, and they are going to spot maine continuously grow… I’m excited to amusement radical tools that they person ne'er seen before.”Championship Material
On January 5, 2022, conscionable 10 months aft Cargill made her in-ring debut, she became AEW’s first-ever TBS Champion. To beryllium entrusted with specified work truthful aboriginal successful her vocation shows however important Cargill has go to the AEW brand. Since winning the title, Cargill’s assurance and prima powerfulness person lone grown. Her astir caller enactment — including matches with Anna Jay and Marina Shafir — has been the champion of her young career. This has translated into her mic work, too; comparison her somewhat stilted archetypal in-ring promo to her caller promo connected Dynamite, wherever she talked with easiness successful beforehand of a rowdy, packed-out assemblage successful Boston.
In conscionable a small implicit a year, Cargill has garnered a loyal basal of supporters and won implicit the astir captious of naysayers. She’s adjacent earned her stock of personage admirers, specified arsenic High School Musical prima Vanessa Hudgens, Straight Outta Compton histrion O’Shea Jackson Jr., and rapper Westside Gunn. It’s not a leap to ideate Cargill herself connected the large surface 1 time — possibly playing her imagination relation of Storm from The X-Men. “I emotion what [Storm] portrays. I emotion her character. I’m a beardown achromatic woman, and she’s a beardown achromatic woman,” Cargill told Bleacher Report.
For now, Cargill is focused connected her AEW career, wherever she remains undefeated astatine 30-0. The erstwhile hoops hopeful has risen from chartless quantity to a reliable ratings draw. She’s gone from “Who’s that?” to “That bitch” wrong a year. In summation to winning the TBS Championship, she was precocious named PWI’s 2021 Rookie of the Year and AEW’s Female Breakout Star of the Year. Her prima volition lone proceed to emergence successful the coming years arsenic she perfects her trade and establishes her legacy.
In 30 years from now, Cargill should beryllium capable to look backmost connected a legendary vocation that transcended her sport, conscionable similar Shaq. In fact, enactment wealth connected it.