I reported earlier this week how WWE had appeared to sign Olympic Gold Medalist (the company's first since Kurt Angle) and NCAA National Champion in freestyle wrestling, Gable Steveson after reports from The Wrestling Observer and a cryptic tweet from Steveson himself announcing he had "just put pen to paper". Well, now it's all official from the WWE themselves, as they have announced today that they have signed the NCAA and Olympic heavyweight champion to a multi-year deal.
In an official press release, WWE said the following on the multi-year signing of Gable Steveson:
"WWE signs Olympic gold medalist and reigning NCAA wrestling champion Gable Steveson to an exclusive agreement. In the company's first-ever NIL deal, Steveson will join the WWE roster while defending his NCAA title for the University of Minnesota."
Nick Khan, WWE President and Chief Revenue Officer expanded on the statement when speaking with ESPN.com today.
"We all saw his physical ability prior to and at the Olympics. 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. So our investment is based on how much we think of Gable now and how much bigger we think he can become."
Paul "Triple H" Levesque, WWE legend and WWE EVP of Global Talent Strategy and Development continued on how WWE views Gable Steveson's future with the company.
"Gable impressed us well before he became a U.S. Olympic gold medalist. 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."
For those unfamiliar, NCAA athletes were previously barred from any sort of financial compensation while attending college. But with a new rule change effective July 1, 2021, NCAA athletes are now able to capitalize on their name, image, and likeness rights (NIL). Steveson's deal with WWE is the first of its kind, but probably not the last, as you have to imagine WWE and other wrestling companies will be scouting student and amateur athletes pretty heavily going forward.
WWE obviously has bigs plans for the 21-year-old Gable Steveson. Aside from being a world-famous sports figure, he also fits perfectly with the company's ideal prospects going forward, which are guys with size and athletic ability, but no background in pro-wrestling so the company can train and mold them to work in the WWE way. At 6'1" and 265lbs and an NCAA National Championship and Olympic Gold Medal on his resume, Steveson obviously fits the bill.
While Steveson has said he always dreamed of a career in WWE, that didn't stop UFC from making a big pitch to sign him, with UFC President Dana White meeting with him personally.
Ultimately though, the gold medalist's heart was in WWE as he told ESPN today.
"I've been on WWE since I was really young. 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."
So what does the future WWE superstar do now? He will head back to the University of Minnesota for his senior year and then his WWE deal will officially kick in upon graduation. But WWE isn't waiting to get Gable Steveson both ready for WWE action and familiar with WWE fans, as the company will set up a remote training facility near his campus so WWE coaches can begin his training while he finishes his degree.
WWE says they will also begin featuring him in their programming going forward, where it's not hard to imagine (I must emphasize this is purely speculation by me and not based on anything from WWE) a one-man Tough Enough show on Peacock where viewers will track his progress training with WWE coaches and also competing for his University team. This would create a ready-made star for WWE who can debut on Raw or SmackDown immediately next Summer.
Aside from all of that, Steveson will have full access to the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida, where his brother Bobby Steveson has begun his training for WWE.
Even with all of this pressure on him, Gable Steveson remains excited and confident that he will indeed be WWE's next big thing.
"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. 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."