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WWE’s Titus O’Neil cheers on Lightning in New York: ‘I’m definitely a heel in this territory.’

The wrestler and community activist rooted for his hometown Lightning in Game 6 at Nassau Coliseum.
WWE global ambassador and Tampa community leader Titus O'Neil takes a selfie with two young fans during Game 5 of the semifinals at Nassau Coliseum.
WWE global ambassador and Tampa community leader Titus O'Neil takes a selfie with two young fans during Game 5 of the semifinals at Nassau Coliseum. [ EDUARDO A. ENCINA | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Jun. 24, 2021

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Titus O’Neil’s professional wrestling career brought him to the Nassau Coliseum many times in the past as a performer. Wednesday night, the Tampa resident was a spectator, rooting on the Lightning in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup semifinals from his seat right in front of the glass.

“I’ve been in this arena a lot of times over the past few years and this fan base is pretty awesome when you come out for wrestling,” he said of the Nassau Coliseum crowd. “But right now, I’m definitely a heel in this territory.”

O’Neil traveled north to attend the funeral service of famous car dealer Billy Fuccillo in Syracuse, but decided to see some friends in the area and watch the Lightning on the road. O’Neil has attended several Lightning games at Amalie Arena, but hadn’t yet watched them play in Long Island.

“I sent messages to several of the players and coaches, letting them know I would be here,” O’Neil said. “My exact words were to kick their bleeping ass.”

O’Neil tweeted earlier in the day that he hoped to shut the Coliseum down. The Lightning entered the game up 3-2 in the series and could have eliminated the Islanders from the postseason and ended their tenure at the 49-year-old venue. (The Islanders are moving into a new building in Belmont Park.) But their 3-2 overtime loss extended the series to a do-or-die Game 7 Friday night at Amalie Arena.

“Hopefully we can go all the way and become back-to-back Stanley Cup champions,” he said. “(Brayden) Point has been nothing short of spectacular. He’s been unbelievable during the playoffs, and obviously Vasy (goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy) has been ridiculous throughout the entire season and especially during the playoffs.

“We have a great core of players who have played together for a long time. And the younger guys have kind of rallied around those guys. The culture is right in Tampa right now. That’s why we call it Champa Bay.”

O’Neil spent time engaging with fans and taking selfies while watching the game. At 6-foot-6, 270 pounds, he’s hard to miss, even in a crowd of more than 13,000.

O’Neil, a former University of Florida football player whose given name is Thaddeus Bullard, has had a busy year. Earlier this week, he was nominated for ESPN’s Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award for a second straight year. He hosted this year’s WrestleMania alongside Hulk Hogan in Tampa and received the WWE Hall of Fame’s Warrior Award for his community contributions. He was also named WWE Global Ambassador.

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