Gable Steveson is the only man in the world to win gold medals at the Olympics, WWE World Heavyweight Champion and now, WWE Hall of Famer. Steveson’s path to the WWE might not be as unique as it appears—after all, he started as an amateur wrestler and was named USA Wrestling’s Male Freestyle Wrestler of the Year in 1998. But the unique thing about Steveson is that he started his career as a gymnast.
There are so many athletes who have won gold medals, but there’s only one Gable Steveson. Imagine you wake up one day and realize that you’re the world’s most famous wrestler. Not only that, you’re one of the most successful wrestlers in the history of the industry. Going back to Olympic gold is no longer an option, and every match you’re in is sold out.
Most people know Gable Steveson as a part of the WWE’s “The Shield” with member Roman Reigns, but he has a long history of wrestling, dating all the way back to his days as a freestyle wrestler at the University of North Carolina – Charlotte. In addition to his time as a wrestler, Gable has also competed in the Olympics as a member of Team USA, and has won gold in wrestling.
ESPN Editor Tory Barron
- Tory Barron is an ESPN.com writer and editor located in Bristol. After retiring from lacrosse at UConn, the Washington, DC native decided to try her hand at writing about athletes.
Perform you know any 275-pound guys that can do a backflip?
Let’s take this thinking exercise a step further while you’re pondering that apparently insignificant question: How many 275-pound guys do you know who can perform a backflip, win an Olympic gold medal, and sign a multiyear contract with WWE before graduating from college?
Apart from Gable Steveson, I doubt many others spring to mind.
That’s because the seductive heavyweight freestyle wrestler is a one-of-a-kind original.
A childhood wish has come true. I’ve got a contract with the @WWE!!! Thank you very much for the chance!! LET’S GET TO WORK!
September 9, 2021 — Gable Steveson (@GableSteveson)
Steveson teased NBC Chicago about his famous post-victory backflip ahead of his awe-inspiring run in the Tokyo Olympics in August, saying, “When and if I can win, put on a nice show for America, that flip is coming.”
The greatest showman delivered on his promise in due time.
PERFORM A FLIP! @GableSteveson x #TokyoOlympicspic.twitter.com/PpSNj8wUSc @GableSteveson x #TokyoOlympics
6 August 2021 — Team USA (@TeamUSA)
Steveson skillfully straddles the thin line between confidence and arrogance. The 21-year-strong old’s sense of self and confidence in his supernatural talents are what allowed him to win his first three Olympic matches without conceding a point.
It’s a remarkable achievement, especially since one of his opponents was Turkey’s reigning Olympic champion, Taha Akgul. Steveson, the heavyweight for the University of Minnesota Gophers, is the reigning NCAA Division I National Champion and recipient of the Dan Hodge Trophy. In his first match, Steveson made quick work of Kyrgyzstan’s Aiaal Lazarev, winning 10-0 in only 2 minutes and 2 seconds. He then thrashed Akgul 8-0 before winning his quarterfinal bout against Mongolia’s Lkhagvagerel Munkhtur 5-0 to get to the men’s freestyle 125kg wrestling final.
They have a one-in-six chance of encountering me. Don’t get it mixed up. https://t.co/pDWkFRgVD7
April 22, 2021 — Gable Steveson (@GableSteveson)
“After their quarterfinal matchup last month, Steveson remarked of Akgul, “He’s arguably the greatest heavyweight wrestler to ever set foot (on the mat).” “However, his time is over. I came to do business. I came here with the intention of winning…. Nothing is going to be handed to me. ‘I have to go get it.’
And that’s precisely what he accomplished in the final, coming back to beat Georgia’s Geno Petriashvili, the 2016 bronze winner and three-time world champion (2017-19).
When Steveson was born in the year 2000, the United States had never won an Olympic gold medal in men’s heavyweight boxing (Bruce Baumgartner, 1992). It’s hardly unexpected, given his background, that the Apple Valley, Minnesota, native would be the one to pull it off.
That’s not to suggest Steveson’s mother started it all by naming her son after wrestling great Dan Gable (Steveson’s middle name is Dan), a two-time national champion wrestler at Iowa State and an Olympic gold winner in 1972.
I mean, who am I kidding? That is precisely what I am implying. It seemed as though everything had been planned ahead of time. Perhaps this is why the flamboyant celebrity was so bold and outspoken about his plans. He was destined for it.
He told the Associated Press, “You can tell that when the lights become bright, Gable comes to perform.” “That, I believe, is number one with me. And I believe that is what people can expect from me no matter where I go.”
You’re on the correct track if the wrestler addressing himself in the third person and the above statement made you think of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Winning an Olympic gold medal was only the beginning of Gable’s lengthy list of ambitions, a stepping stone on the road to his ultimate dream of becoming a WWE superstar.
It’s fair to say that the wrestler’s strategy to utilize the victory to launch his WWE career was a smashing success. Steveson signed a NIL contract with WWE on Thursday, allowing him to finish his senior year at the University of Minnesota and defend his Division I national title at heavyweight. Steveson will also get access to a remote training facility near school where he can study the finer aspects of in-ring technique from WWE trainers.
While only time will tell whether he will be given the same chances as The Rock or Steveson’s coach, another Minnesota great and WWE champion Brock Lesnar, his rise to superstardom seems as inevitable as a post-victory backflip.
“You don’t really know how to make it to the WWE when you’re a child,” Gable told Gopher Sports, “but when I came to the University of Minnesota, I understood how Brock went about things and how to build contacts.”
“My friendship with Brock has been fantastic. It’s remarkable that a man of that caliber has taken notice of me and gone out of his way to assist me and point me in the correct path.”
Could @GSteveson have a better training partner than @DCBROCKLESNAR? #GopherFamily #GopherTough pic.twitter.com/X7YKlc4Kzb
January 16, 2019 — Minnesota Wrestling (@GopherWrestling)
Steveson’s decision to pursue a career in professional wrestling was never a question of if, but when. Which is the same enthusiasm I’m bringing to the debate about whether or not we’ll ever see him fight Lesnar.
August 27, 2021 — Gable Steveson (@GableSteveson)
Without even stepping into a ring, Steveson has already created a lot of commotion in the professional wrestling world. Gable maintained his name in the spotlight among WWE brass and performers alike, from being in the audience at NXT TakeOvers and WrestleMania to waving at Vince McMahon on Twitter (and ultimately meeting up with him at SummerSlam 2021 following his Olympic triumph).
@StephMcMahon is aware of this. @GSteveson, it’s great to see you! pic.twitter.com/JSygZP44ys #NXTTakeOver
April 9, 2021 — WWE NXT (@WWENXT)
@WWE pic.twitter.com/Klc4nsE9i0 The Man I Wanted To See
August 22, 2021 — Gable Steveson (@GableSteveson)
Then there was the photo of the Team USA star with Roman Reigns and his manager Paul Heyman, which went viral.
“The shot of myself, Paul (Heyman), and Roman Reigns will go down in wrestling history as perhaps one of the greatest,” Steveson added. “Because of the road I’m on and the one that Roman Reigns has carved out for himself as a champion, I’m certain that I’ll never be beaten again. Paul Heyman’s contribution to the sport of wrestling. He is, without a doubt, the best spokesman. He’ll be inducted into the Hall of Fame.”
Steveson’s ambitions for the future are colossal, and why shouldn’t they be? He’s been a walking, back-flipping testimony for the advantages of going large thus far.