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How WWE’s Gable Steveson became your favorite wrestler’s favorite wrestler

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How many 275-pound men do you know who can do a backflip?

While you’re ruminating on that seemingly trivial question, let’s take this thought exercise a step further: How many 275-pound men do you know who can backflip, capture the attention of Triple H and Ric Flair with their athletic prowess, win an Olympic gold medal and sign a multiyear deal with WWE before graduating college?

I reckon not many aside from Gable Steveson come to mind.

That’s because the tantalizing heavyweight freestyle wrestler is one-of-a-kind, a bona fide original.

“When and if I can win, put on a good show for America, that flip is coming,” Steveson teased to NBC Chicago of his signature post-victory backflip ahead of his awe-inducing run at the Tokyo Olympics in August.

In due time, the ultimate showman made good on his promise.

There’s a fine line between confidence and hubris, and Steveson walks it masterfully. The 21-year-old’s keen sense of self and his belief in his otherworldly abilities is what enabled him to cruise through the first three matches of his Olympic debut without giving up a point.

It’s a feat that’s particularly impressive when you consider one of his opponents was Taha Akgul of Turkey, the defending Olympic champion. Steveson — The University of Minnesota Gophers’ heavyweight, reigning NCAA Division I National Champion and winner of the Dan Hodge Trophy — made light work of Aiaal Lazarev of Kyrgyzstan in his opening match, taking only 2 minutes, 2 seconds to win 10-0. He followed that up with an 8-0 drubbing of Akgul before winning his semifinal match against Lkhagvagerel Munkhtur of Mongolia 5-0 to advance to the men’s freestyle 125kg wrestling final.

“He’s the best heavyweight wrestler to probably ever step foot (on the mat),” Steveson said of Akgul after their quarterfinal showdown last month. “But his time is up. I came here for business. I came here to win. … Ain’t nothing going to be given to me. I’ve got to go get it.”

And that’s exactly what he did in an incredible comeback win over Geno Petriashvili — the 2016 bronze-medalist and three-time world champion (2017-19) of Georgia — in the final.

Steveson was born in 2000, and America hadn’t won an Olympic gold medal in men’s heavyweight in his lifetime (Bruce Baumgartner, 1992). If you know his story, it’s not surprising that the Apple Valley, Minnesota, native would be the one to get it done.

That is not to say the Team USA standout’s mom set this all in motion by choosing to name her son after wrestling legend Dan Gable (Steveson’s middle name is Dan), who was a two-time national champion wrestler at Iowa State and an Olympic gold medalist in 1972.

Who am I kidding? That’s exactly what I’m saying. The whole thing felt preordained. Maybe that’s why the charismatic superstar was so fearless and brash about what he intended to do. He was born for it.

“You can see that when the lights get bright, Gable comes to perform,” he told the Associated Press. “And I think that’s number one with me. And I think that’s what people can expect with me wherever I go.”

If the wrestler choosing to address himself in the third person and the above quote gave you strong Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson vibes, you’re on the right track. The pinnacle of athletic achievement, winning an Olympic gold medal, was just the first item on a long list of aspirations for Gable — a stepping stone on the way to his ultimate goal: Becoming a WWE superstar.

It’s not presumptive to say the wrestler’s plan to use the accomplishment to springboard his WWE career was a resounding success. On Thursday, Steveson signed a NIL deal with WWE that will allow him to attend the University of Minnesota for his senior year and defend the Division I national championship at heavyweight. WWE will also set up a remote training facility for Steveson near campus where he’ll learn the finer points of in-ring work with WWE coaches.

While only time will tell if he will eventually be afforded opportunities like The Rock or Steveson’s mentor, fellow Minnesota great and WWE champion, Brock Lesnar, his ascension to superstardom feels about as certain as a post-victory backflip.

“When you’re a kid, you don’t really know how to make it to the WWE, but when I got to the University of Minnesota, I learned how Brock went about things and how to make connections,” Gable told Gopher Sports.

“My relationship with Brock has been awesome. It’s outstanding that a guy like that has noticed me and has gone out of his way to be there for me and guide me in the right direction.”

It was never a matter of if Steveson would go down the professional wrestling route, but when. Which is the same energy I’m bringing to the question of whether we will ever get to see him face off with Lesnar.

Steveson has already made a ton of noise in the professional wrestling space without ever stepping in the ring. From appearing in the crowd at NXT TakeOvers and WrestleMania to waving at Vince McMahon on Twitter (and eventually meeting up with him at SummerSlam 2021 after his Olympic victory), Gable kept his name top of mind among the WWE brass and stars alike.

Then there was the famed picture of the Team USA standout with Roman Reigns and his manager Paul Heyman.

“The picture of me, Paul (Heyman), and Roman Reigns is gonna go down as maybe one of the best wrestling photos in history,” Steveson said. “Just because the path that I’m taking with it and the path that Roman Reigns has set in stone being a champion, that’ll probably never be defeated again. The path that Paul Heyman has done for wrestling. He’s probably the greatest spokesperson. (He’s going to the) Hall of Fame.”

Steveson’s expectations for his future are larger-than-life, but why shouldn’t they be? Thus far he has been a walking, back-flipping testimonial for the benefits of doing it big.



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Olympic gold medalist Steveson signs with WWE

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Gable Steveson, the heavyweight freestyle wrestler who won a gold medal at the Olympics last month, has signed a multiyear deal with WWE, Stevenson told ESPN.

The 21-year-old signed an NIL deal with WWE that will allow him to attend University of Minnesota for his senior year and defend the Division I National Championship at heavyweight. WWE will set up a remote training facility for Steveson near campus where he’ll be able to learn the finer points of in-ring work with WWE coaches.

He’ll also have access to the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida, where his brother, Bobby Steveson, currently trains. After Gable graduates in May, his multi-year talent contract with WWE begins; he’ll be a full-time performer with the company (but also appear on WWE programming during the school year.)

“I’ve been on WWE since I was really young,” said Stevenson, WWE’s first gold medalist since Kurt Angle. “I was on guys like Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman for a very long time. So growing up watching them, me being an entertainer on the wrestling mat, it just felt like it was the right choice.”

The 6-foot-1, 265-pound Stevenson held talks with the UFC and also contemplated pursuing a career in the NFL; he was a hot commodity coming off the Olympic gold-medal win in Tokyo, a last-second victory over Geno Petriashvili that he celebrated with a backflip.

Sources told ESPN’s Marc Raimondi the UFC wanted Stevenson to gain experience on the regional MMA scene before potentially bringing him onto 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. Stevenson said “we never talked about that so I have no clue.”

“We all saw his physical ability prior to and at the Olympics,” said Nick Khan, WWE President and Chief Revenue Officer. “What we also saw was that Gable has as much charisma as he does ability. Marketability and ability are both of great importance to us.”

“This is just the starting line and nowhere close to the finish line,” Khan added. “So our investment is based on how much we think of Gable now and how much bigger we think he can become.”

WWE has a rich history of transforming top freestyle wrestlers into main-event Superstars. Angle won a gold medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and parlayed that success into a long run as both a WWE champion and headline act. Lesnar, who like Stevenson, won the national championship at the University of Minnesota, is currently signed with WWE where he’s featured as one of the biggest stars in the company.

Stevenson calls the former UFC heavyweight champion a “great mentor to me,” and envisions a WrestleMania match against Lesnar in the not-too-distant future.

“Being able to learn how to take bumps and with the wrestling background I have right now, I think I can adapt to all of it really quick,” Stevenson said. “I think with the charisma and the confidence and the attitude that I bring to the wrestling mat, it will translate over to the WWE really fast and I feel that I can … go on screen and have a good role and know what to do perfectly.”

In the meantime, Gable will focus on the college wrestling mat, where he’ll defend his national championship while completing his studies. He grew up in Apple Valley, Minnesota, watching Triple H spit water in the air at WrestleMania as a member of D-Generation X. Now, he’ll learn the craft of a WWE Superstar, and that same man will be integral to his development.

“Gable impressed us well before he became a U.S. Olympic gold medalist,” said Paul “Triple H” Levesque, WWE EVP, Global Talent Strategy & 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 athletes as well as the WWE Universe as Gable will have an immediate presence with our company while working towards earning his degree and defending his national championship. The future is bright for him in WWE.”

Stevenson said his breakthrough moment “might come sooner than you think.” And as for that all-important finishing move?

“I think I got one in mind,” he said. ” … It’s crazy how long I’ve been following them and now I’ve reached that point where I’m going to be walking out in front of WrestleManias and SummerSlams and people are going to do my signature look when I’m an old man, too.”

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Olympic gold medalist Stevenson signs with WWE

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Gable Stevenson, the heavyweight freestyle wrestler who won a gold medal at the Olympics last month, has signed a multi-year deal with WWE, Stevenson told ESPN.

The 21-year-old signed an NIL deal with WWE that will allow him to attend University of Minnesota for his senior year and defend the Division I National Championship at heavyweight. WWE will set up a remote training facility for Stevenson near campus where he’ll be able to learn the finer points of in-ring work with WWE coaches.

He’ll also have access to the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida, where his brother, Bobby Stevenson, currently trains. After Gable graduates in May, his multi-year talent contract with WWE begins; he’ll be a full-time performer with the company (but also appear on WWE programming during the school year.)

“I’ve been on WWE since I was really young,” said Stevenson, WWE’s first gold medalist since Kurt Angle. “I was on guys like Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman for a very long time. So growing up watching them, me being an entertainer on the wrestling mat, it just felt like it was the right choice.”

The 6-foot-1, 265-pound Stevenson held talks with the UFC and also contemplated pursuing a career in the NFL; he was a hot commodity coming off the Olympic gold-medal win in Tokyo, a last-second victory over Geno Petriashvili that he celebrated with a backflip.

Sources told ESPN’s Marc Raimondi the UFC wanted Stevenson to gain experience on the regional MMA scene before potentially bringing him onto 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. Stevenson said “we never talked about that so I have no clue.”

“We all saw his physical ability prior to and at the Olympics,” said Nick Khan, WWE President and Chief Revenue Officer. “What we also saw was that Gable has as much charisma as he does ability. Marketability and ability are both of great importance to us.”

“This is just the starting line and nowhere close to the finish line,” Khan added. “So our investment is based on how much we think of Gable now and how much bigger we think he can become.”

WWE has a rich history of transforming top freestyle wrestlers into main-event Superstars. Angle won a gold medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and parlayed that success into a long run as both a WWE champion and headline act. Lesnar, who like Stevenson, won the national championship at the University of Minnesota, is currently signed with WWE where he’s featured as one of the biggest stars in the company.

Stevenson calls the former UFC heavyweight champion a “great mentor to me,” and envisions a WrestleMania match against Lesnar in the not-too-distant future.

“Being able to learn how to take bumps and with the wrestling background I have right now, I think I can adapt to all of it really quick,” Stevenson said. “I think with the charisma and the confidence and the attitude that I bring to the wrestling mat, it will translate over to the WWE really fast and I feel that I can … go on screen and have a good role and know what to do perfectly.”

In the meantime, Gable will focus on the college wrestling mat, where he’ll defend his national championship while completing his studies. He grew up in Apple Valley, Minnesota, watching Triple H spit water in the air at WrestleMania as a member of D-Generation X. Now, he’ll learn the craft of a WWE Superstar, and that same man will be integral to his development.

“Gable impressed us well before he became a U.S. Olympic gold medalist,” said Paul “Triple H” Levesque, WWE EVP, Global Talent Strategy & 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 athletes as well as the WWE Universe as Gable will have an immediate presence with our company while working towards earning his degree and defending his national championship. The future is bright for him in WWE.”

Stevenson said his breakthrough moment “might come sooner than you think.” And as for that all-important finishing move?

“I think I got one in mind,” he said. ” … It’s crazy how long I’ve been following them and now I’ve reached that point where I’m going to be walking out in front of WrestleManias and SummerSlams and people are going to do my signature look when I’m an old man, too.”

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How Olympic gold medalist Gable Steveson became your favorite wrestler’s favorite wrestler

[ad_1]

How many 275-pound men do you know who can do a backflip?

While you’re ruminating on that seemingly trivial question, let’s take this thought exercise a step further: How many 275-pound men do you know who can backflip and capture the attention of Triple H and Ric Flair with their athletic prowess?

I reckon not many come to mind. That’s because Olympic gold medalist Gable Steveson is a rare breed. Scratch that, the tantalizing U.S. wrestler is one-of-a-kind, a bona fide original.

“When and if I can win, put on a good show for America, that flip is coming,” Steveson teased to NBC Chicago of his signature post-victory backflip ahead of his awe-inducing Tokyo run.

On Friday, the ultimate showman made good on his promise.

There’s a fine line between confidence and hubris, and Steveson walks it masterfully. The 21-year-old’s keen sense of self and his belief in his otherworldly abilities is what enabled him to cruise through the first three matches of his Olympic debut without giving up a point.

It’s a feat that’s particularly impressive when you consider one of his opponents was Taha Akgul of Turkey, the defending Olympic champion. Steveson — The University of Minnesota Gophers’ heavyweight, reigning NCAA Division I National Champion and winner of the Dan Hodge Trophy — made light work of Aiaal Lazarev of Kyrgyzstan in his opening match, taking only 2 minutes, 2 seconds to win 10-0. He followed that up with an 8-0 drubbing of Akgul before winning his semifinal match against Lkhagvagerel Munkhtur of Mongolia 5-0 to advance to the men’s freestyle 125kg wrestling final.

“He’s the best heavyweight wrestler to probably ever step foot (on the mat),” Steveson said of Akgul after their quarterfinal showdown. “But his time is up. I came here for business. I came here to win. … Ain’t nothing going to be given to me. I’ve got to go get it.”

And that’s exactly what he did in an incredible comeback win over Geno Petriashvili — the 2016 bronze-medalist and three-time world champion (2017-19) of Georgia — in the final.

Steveson was born in 2000, and America hadn’t won an Olympic gold medal in men’s heavyweight in his lifetime (Bruce Baumgartner, 1992). If you know his story, it’s not surprising that the Apple Valley, Minnesota, native would be the one to get it done.

I’m not saying the Team USA standout’s mom set this all in motion by choosing to name her son after wrestling legend Dan Gable (Steveson’s middle name is Dan), who was a two-time national champion wrestler at Iowa State and an Olympic gold medalist in 1972.

Who am I kidding? That’s exactly what I’m saying. This whole thing feels preordained. Maybe that’s why the charismatic superstar was so fearless and brash about what he intended to do. He was born for this.

“You can see that when the lights get bright, Gable comes to perform,” he told the Associated Press. “And I think that’s number one with me. And I think that’s what people can expect with me wherever I go.”

If the wrestler choosing to address himself in the third person and the above quote gave you strong Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson vibes, you’re on the right track. The pinnacle of athletic achievement, winning an Olympic gold medal, was just the first item on a long list of aspirations for Gable.

The wrestler plans to use the accomplishment to launch his WWE career and eventually hopes to be afforded opportunities like The Rock and his mentor, fellow Minnesota great and WWE champion, Brock Lesnar.

“When you’re a kid, you don’t really know how to make it to the WWE, but when I got to the University of Minnesota, I learned how Brock went about things and how to make connections,” Gable told Gopher Sports.

“My relationship with Brock has been awesome. It’s outstanding that a guy like that has noticed me and has gone out of his way to be there for me and guide me in the right direction.”

It’s not a matter of if he will go down the professional wrestling route, but when.

Steveson has already made a lot of noise in the professional wrestling space without ever stepping in the ring. From appearing in the crowd at NXT TakeOvers and WrestleMania to waving at Vince McMahon on Twitter, Gable has kept his name top of mind among the WWE brass and stars alike.

Then there’s the famed picture of the Team USA standout with Roman Reigns and his manager Paul Heyman.

“The picture of me, Paul (Heyman), and Roman Reigns is gonna go down as maybe one of the best wrestling photos in history,” Steveson said. “Just because the path that I’m taking with it and the path that Roman Reigns has set in stone being a champion, that’ll probably never be defeated again. The path that Paul Heyman has done for wrestling. He’s probably the greatest spokesperson. (He’s going to the) Hall of Fame.”

Steveson’s expectations for his future are larger-than-life, but why shouldn’t they be? He’s a walking, back-flipping testimonial for the benefits of doing it big.



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No experience needed: Titans ink NCAA wrestler

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Titans have signed three-time All-American wrestler Adam Coon to play on the offensive line.

Coon compiled a 116-15 record in college while wrestling at Michigan, but never played football for the Wolverines. A four-time high school state champion in wrestling, Coon was named the Detroit Athletic Club High School Athlete of the Year as a senior in high school.

Coon has no college football playing experience but was an all-state linebacker in 2012 at Fowlerville High School in Michigan and was an honorable mention offensive lineman in 2010 and 2011.

Tennessee also placed cornerback Kevin Johnson on the reserve-retired list. Johnson signed a one-year, $2.25 million contract with the Titans on March. The team also waived (injured) offensive tackle Anthony McKinney.

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