Howard emerged as part of this week’s WWE tryouts in Nashville ahead of one of the company’s biggest annual events, SummerSlam. He’ll also sit ringside at the event. The five-time NBA all-first team selection told ESPN he wants to join the WWE “one day” and is seen doing in-ring work and cutting promos, two vital parts of any professional wrestler’s presentation.
On Friday, Howard could be seen being made fun of by another prospective WWE wrestler stating how he couldn’t help anyone, just how he didn’t help the Lakers make the playoffs this season. The former Orlando Magic star got his chance at a comeback with the diss of a “low-budget pastor.”
Also during the tryout, Howard got to meet Paul “Triple H” Levesque, WWE’s new head of talent relations and creative after Vince McMahon’s resignation last week.
WWE has never expressed a public interest in signing Howard but has incorporated non-traditional performers into its shows for years. The company recently signed popular social-media star Logan Paul to a contract, and he’s wrestling against The Miz at SummerSlam. NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal has made a few appearances for WWE, including as a participant in the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 32. Shaq also made an appearance for All Elite Wrestling last March.
Howard has been far from one of the NBA’s biggest box-office draws for several years. Yet, his mainstream name recognition is higher than 99 percent of WWE’s roster. Taking part in a wrestling tryout doesn’t mean he’s done with basketball. He’s still a free agent after not resigning with Los Angeles. Howard will find a landing spot as his experience will be needed on a team needing a veteran presence in the front court.
Last August, WWE announced it was no longer interested in signing independent professional wrestlers. As a supplement for not signing new talent through smaller wrestling promotions, the company has signed two different groups of NIL deals with around 30 college athletes. The intention of the deal is to eventually train and sign with the company. The most notable NIL participant is Olympic gold medalist Gable Steveson.