Titus O'Neil

Titus O’Neil pinpoints the location where the slide occurred. Photo Provided

The Titus Worldwide (or is that Titus Worldslide) brand has never been more relevant.

But the popular WWE superstar had to travel more than seven thousand miles to put his official stamp on it.

Most fans by now have heard about Titus O’Neil’s memorable entrance at WWE’s Greatest Royal Rumble event last weekend in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. While he stole the star-studded show, it was purely by accident.

The Titus Worldwide leader made an auspicious entrance as number 39 in the 50-man Royal Rumble match when the 6-6, 270-pounder tripped on the mat at the end of the ramp, his running momentum sending him sliding head-first under the ring.

To add insult to injury, he had to crawl backwards to get up and face the humiliation.

As thousands of fans watched at King Abdullah International Stadium while countless others tuned in on the WWE Network, it soon became clear that this was a moment that would definitely find a place in the book of all-time funniest wrestling bloopers and blunders.

The commentary team of Michael Cole, Corey Graves and Byron Saxton struggled to hold in their laughter, with Cole proclaiming that it could be the “greatest moment in Royal Rumble history.”

While it may not have been the greatest moment, it surely had to be the right at the top of the list of the most hilarious botches in WWE history. And that covers a lot of ground.

Even WWE CEO Vince McMahon reportedly thought it was so funny he was crying in the production area, replaying the blooper during the broadcast more than a half-dozen times. In a show of approval, he shook O’Neil’s hand and patted him on the back when the wrestler made his way to the backstage area.

The video quickly went viral, with thousands of fans as well as WWE performers flooding social media.

Tweeted Lina Fanene (Nia Jax): “Braun might have won the #WWEGRR but @TitusONeilWWE stole the damn show!!!! I’ll finally say it! TITUS ...WORLDWIDE!!!!”

“I’ve been watching wrestling my whole life...and @TitusONeilWWE’s entrance at #WWEGRR may have been the best thing I’ve ever seen,” mused Zack Ryder.

One fan asked: “How is @TitusONeilWWE not the main ‘eventer’ every pay per view yet?”

Unfortunately O’Neil was unable to make any eliminations before Braun Strowman, the eventual winner of the battle royal, dumped him over the top rope.

But that’s not what most fans will remember Titus O’Neil for this particular night.

Even Fred Ottman, best known as Tugboat and Typhoon in WWE but always remembered as The Shockmaster for his historic tumble through the set in WCW, got in on the fun.

Ottman was scheduled to make his company debut during “A Flair for the Gold” segment during a 1993 Clash of the Champions event. His debut didn’t go well, to say the least, when he crashed through a wall between two sets of bargain basement pyro and promptly fell on his face, losing his glitter-glued, “Star Wars” Stormtrooper helmet in the process

“I still have the helmet in my house,” Ottman said in an interview last year. “It is the holy grail whenever I do the comic cons, and the new action figure. It was a humiliating night, but people are still talking about it.”

Ottman even posted an image on social media showing O’Neil on his way to the ring wearing The Shockmaster’s sparkly Stormtrooper helmet. Another meme featured The Shockmaster passing the torch to O’Neil.

O’Neil, though, has no desire to incorporate his epic fall into a storyline or turn his miscue into the second coming of The Shockmaster.

“I hope not,” he says. “I think the beauty in the whole thing is that they get it now. It happened, it was funny, and there are still ways we can create to be entertaining, but not necessarily dwell on it. It’s just like in life. Once I get over a situation, I’m over it. I’ll refer to it every once in a while, but I’m not going to harp on it.”

Epic misstep

What I wanted to know was just what was going through Titus O’Neil’s head when he tripped and began sliding into a moment that he knew wasn’t going to end well.

Embarrassed? For sure. But O’Neil, realizing the incident could have been much more serious, recovered nicely and handled it like a true pro.

“I’ve got to give you a PG version,” he laughed. I’ll just say ‘Damn!’ Let’s put it that way.”

O’Neil explains he simply “went with it” as he was sliding under the ring headfirst. “When I got up, I did almost say ‘I’m OK,’” just to assure everyone that he wasn’t seriously injured.

Did he think it was going to go viral and garner the publicity it has?

“Yeah,” he answers without hesitation. “I sure did. I knew that once people realized that I was OK, especially starting with my own locker room, then the jokes and the memes were going to start coming. Some of the memes I’ve seen are just so good.”

O’Neil, whose real name is Thad Bullard, says he’s been bombarded with messages from fans, friends, fellow wrestlers and even a University of Florida fraternity brother who put together a video clip with music.

“It’s been everywhere,” he says. “It will definitely live forever.”

It was a momentous week for O’Neil. He received a Bridge Builder award from an organization he works with in Tampa on April 26. On April 27, he “crashed and burned,” as he put it, in Saudi Arabia. On April 28, he took part in International Pay It Forward Day, for which he serves as an ambassador. And he celebrated his 41st birthday on April 29.

Being an astute businessman and leader of his own brand, the former University of Florida football star knew just how to make hay out of an embarrassing moment.

While millions of fans were watching his blunder on social media, O’Neil was already formulating his business plan.

O'Neil took to Twitter, where he revealed that WWE had put out a T-shirt which commemorated his fall during the Rumble: “Rumble Stumble Slide … Do it Worldwide.”

“Get That MERCH ready!!! I’m about to slide … These extra checks right into the bank,” O’Neil posted.

The commemorative shirts reportedly are selling like hotcakes.

“I’m buying some for my gang,” tweeted Hall of Famer Mark Henry.

“You’re going to sell SO many of these,” posted Rob Van Dam.

Getting back up

Falling on his face and getting right back up isn’t foreign to O’Neil. In fact, it’s been a motivating factor his entire life.

Recently profiled in this space, the former Florida Gators defensive end, philanthropist and all-around good guy is the product of the direst of situations. His mother was raped at a very young age and was just 12 when she gave birth to him. Growing up, everyone told him he would be dead or in jail by the time he was 16.

O’Neil, though, had other plans. He turns to a favorite saying that goes: “There is no such thing as a bad kid.”

A devout Christian, he says his purpose on Earth is to change as many lives as he possibly can, because his life was changed by other people. More than an athlete or sports entertainer, he is someone who has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of those less fortunate.

“People invested in me when they had nothing to gain in return. Every day is an opportunity to return the favor for others,” he says.

Pro wrestling doesn’t define who he is, nor will the botched entrance in Saudi Arabia. But like pro wrestling and WWE, he will most likely use the experience as a way to teach others that it’s not about falling down, but rather how you get back up.

“This presents a wonderful opportunity to just do what I’ve been doing throughout my life. Fall down and get back up. It’s OK to laugh at yourself. It’s great that WWE wanted to push the fact that I did get up and turn it into a positive thing. They know as well as anybody that it could have turned out completely different. That’ll definitely be implemented in some of my inspirational talks. That’s for sure.”

“If I were a different type of person, I would have acted like that was my plan the whole time,” adds O’Neil. “Jennifer Hudson fell on the steps at the Oscars. So I’m in good company.”

For now, O’Neil plans to ride the wave of momentum.

“I hope it opens up an endorsement from Slip ‘N Slide,” he joked, referring to one of the memes that shows him in a Slip ‘N Slide ad. “Don’t forget we’ve got Summer Slam coming up.”

It’s safe to say that Titus O’Neil will not be slip-slidin’ away anytime soon.

Reach Mike Mooneyham at bymikemooneyham@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter at @ByMikeMooneyham and on Facebook at Facebook.com/MikeMooneyham.