Three days before Christmas, Charles Thompson Jr. and Shanquis, a special needs student at Long Reach High School, stood next to each other in the school hallway and struck a pose made famous by Randy Orton, a 13-time world champion WWE wrestler. Thompson, a Lightning basketball player, had gifted Shanquis an NXT championship belt, and a recording of their interaction quickly went viral on social media.
On Sunday night, Thompson and Shanquis, whose last name Thompson declined to disclose out of respect for his friend’s family, did the pose once more — except this time, they were joined by Orton. The friends were invited to the 2018 Royal Rumble at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, where they met a host of WWE stars. WWE tweeted a video of Shanquis and Thompson’s experience.
The Long Reach students first met WWE Executive Vice President Paul Levesque and Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon, who presented them with WWE Hero Awards. John Cena, a 16-time world champion, stopped by and gave Shanquis one of his trademark neon green “Never give up” rally towels. “You can’t see me,” Shanquis said, waving his hand in front of his face, imitating Cena.
Then Shanquis’ jaw dropped. “Ohhhh, my god,” he said. Orton walked up to Shanquis and gave him a hug. “You’re famous. You know you’re famous, right?” Orton said, before joining Shanquis and Thompson in doing his signature pose. He gave them both replica WWE championship belts.
Orton left to prepare for his match later that night, but there was one more wrestler who wanted to meet Shanquis and Thompson, who visited the Washington Wizards two weeks ago: WWE champion AJ Styles.
“Cool belt, dude,” Styles said to Shanquis. “Looks just like mine. . . . Can I sign it?”
Yes, he could, Shanquis said. While still wearing his NXT belt around his waist, Shanquis offered his new belt to one of his heroes for an autograph. Thompson stood off to the side, letting his friend soak in the moment.