Titus O'Neil recently spoke with Chuck Carroll of CBS Sports to promote his new "There's No Such Thing As A Bad Kid: How I Went from Stereotype to Prototype" book and talked about how Vince McMahon, Triple H and WWE Hall of Famer Michael "PS" Hayes helped him surprise a young cancer patient named Elijah Aschbrenner, who is no longer with us. He was asked if there's been one specific kid from his time with WWE that left a tremendous impact on him.
"Yeah, there have been several. Unfortunately, one of them is not with us anymore. His name was Elijah Aschbrenner," Titus said. "I met him about five years ago or four years ago. When I met him, he'd beat cancer six times at the time. I met him in Atlanta. He's from Charlotte. We went backstage. I brought him backstage. He had his hair colored, and things like that. I just really developed a really great relationship off the bat with him, and his mother, and his brother too, Sam. I still talk to them to this day.
"I guess probably three weeks prior to him passing away, I didn't, obviously none of us expected it, because he was doing so well, but his birthday … I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in Albany, New York. This was before the brand split. We used to have to go to both RAW and SmackDown television. I wasn't slated to do anything on TV, and so I wanted to surprise him with, I have some 24-carat headphones on when I was Face-Timing with him, and he's, "Oh, those are really nice headphones." I was going to send them to him that Monday, but something just told me, "Hey, just go down and surprise him for his birthday," which was that Monday night. I didn't have anything to do for Tuesday, so I asked Michael Hayes and Vince [McMahon] and Triple H if I could fly down. I gave them the reason as to why, and they, without hesitation, told me yes."
Titus continued, "I got into Charlotte about 9 o'clock and walked into the room. They had a birthday cake made up of the very first picture that me and him took. He was surprised. He didn't know that I was coming. He hadn't seen the cake yet. It was just awesome. This is a great family, but to see how he impacted the Carolina Panthers, the world of NASCAR in the Charlotte area, his neighborhood.
"Three weeks later, I get the phone call that he's gone. His mom called me about 30 minutes after that and said, "You know, I don't know how I'm going to get through this. You're the only person I know that could possibly help us get through this. Would you mind officiating the funeral?" I was like, I've never done that in my entire life, and I don't like funerals. I've only gone to three in my entire life, much like hospitals. Now I go to hospitals, and I don't have issues, but I used to have an issue going to hospitals, because my grandmother died in a hospice from breast cancer. I watched her erode away. It was just very difficult for me to go to the doctor's office or a hospital for a while, much like a funeral home. But we went. I flew up and I did it. I was so proud and happy that I did. It just gave me a whole other perspective on how powerful people can be regardless of race, religion, or background. When you're just being a good human being, people will gravitate to you. They will love you. They will embrace you. They will celebrate you. Then they also want you to be in their corner as well when they need you the most. I was very happy and fortunate enough to have the opportunity to be one of those people for them at a time that they needed somebody the most."