Gable Steveson, the heavyweight freestyle wrestler who won a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last month, has signed a multi-year contract with WWE, Steveson told ESPN.
The 21-year-old has signed a NIL deal with WWE that will see him attend the University of Minnesota for his senior year and defend the Division I national heavyweight championship. WWE will set up a distance learning center for Steveson near campus where he will learn the intricacies of working in the ring with WWE coaches.
He will also have access to the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida, where his brother, Bobby Steveson, currently trains. After Gable Steveson graduates in May, his multi-year talent contract with WWE will begin; he will be a full-time artist with the company (but will also appear in WWE’s lineup during the school year).
“I’ve been in WWE since I was very young,” said Steveson, WWE’s first gold medalist since Kurt Angle. “I was on guys like Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman for a really long time. So growing up watching them, me being an artist on the wrestling mat, I felt like it was the right choice.”
The 6-foot-1, 265-pound Steveson had talks with the UFC and also considered pursuing a career in the NFL; he was a hot commodity after the Olympic gold medal in Tokyo, a last-second victory over Geno Petriashvili which he celebrated with a back flip.
Sources told ESPN’s Marc Raimondi that the UFC wanted Steveson to gain experience in the regional MMA scene before potentially bringing him to Dana White’s Contender series to compete for a contract. The formula would have been similar to what the UFC did with former NFL All-Pro Greg Hardy. But Steveson said, “We never talked about it, so I have no idea.”
“We’ve all seen his physical capabilities before and during the Olympics,” said Nick Khan, WWE President and Chief Revenue Officer. “What we’ve also seen is that Gable has as much charisma as he has ability. Both commercialization and ability are of great importance to us.”
“It’s just the start line and far from the finish line. So our investment is based on what we think of Gable now and how much bigger we think he can get.”
WWE has a rich history of transforming top freestyle wrestlers into Main Event Superstars. Angle won a gold medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and turned that success into a long run as both a WWE Champion and reigning. Lesnar, who like Steveson won the National Championship at the University of Minnesota, is currently signed to WWE, where he is billed as one of the company’s biggest stars.
Steveson calls the former UFC heavyweight champion a “great mentor to me” and sees a WrestleMania match against Lesnar in the not-so-distant future.
“Being able to learn how to take bumps and with the wrestling history that I have right now, I think I can adjust to all of that really quickly,” Steveson said. “I think with the charisma, the confidence and the attitude that I bring to the wrestling mat, it will translate very quickly in WWE, and I feel like I can… go on screen and have a good role. and know what to do perfectly. “
In the meantime, Steveson will focus on the varsity wrestling mat, where he will attempt to defend his national championship while completing his studies. He grew up in Apple Valley, Minnesota, watching Paul “Triple H” Levesque spit water in the air at WrestleMania as a member of D-Generation X. Now he will learn the trade of a superstar. WWE, and that same man is going to be an integral part of his development.
“Gable impressed us a lot before he became an Olympic gold medalist in the United States,” said Levesque, WWE executive vice president for strategy and global talent development. “He has all the tools to be a generational talent: a world-class athlete with size, speed, determination – and the ability to captivate an audience with his incredible charisma.
“The introduction of NIL allows us to create a more direct path from college to WWE, a benefit to the athletes as well as to the WWE Universe, as Gable will have an immediate presence with our company while working on it. graduation and defense of his national championship. The future is bright for him in WWE. “
Steveson said his defining moment “may come sooner than you think.”
What about this very important finishing move?
“I think I have one in mind,” he said. “… It’s crazy how long I’ve been following them and now I’ve reached the point where I’m going to walk past WrestleManias and SummerSlams, and people are going to do my signature look when I’m ‘I’m an old man too.”