The changes to Name, Image, and Likeness rules have paid off in a big way for a number of college athletes. One superstar wrestler, Minnesota‘s Gable Steveson, just signed a deal that could set him up for an awesome professional opportunity down the road.
Steveson is one of the world’s best freestyle wrestlers. After winning back to back Big Ten Championship gold medals, he won the NCAA National Championship at 285 pounds, and took home the Dan Hodge Trophy for the best collegiate wrestler of the year.
In May, he won the 2021 Pan American Continental Championship in Guatemala City, and then last month, took home Olympic Gold in Tokyo, which vaulted him into true international stardom. There has been plenty of speculation about his future, but today he took a step towards his dream of competing in the WWE.
We’ve seen a number of vaunted Olympic wrestlers take their turn with the sports entertainment company. With today’s NIL news, that appears to be the path forward for Gable Steveson.
"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." https://t.co/U4GwRIFpiL
— Mike Coppinger (@MikeCoppinger) September 9, 2021
Childhood dream accomplished.. I have officially signed with the @WWE!!! Thank you for the opportunity!! LETS WORK 💪🏽
— Gable Steveson (@GableSteveson) September 9, 2021
There are certainly those who would like to see him compete in the sport itself, though the WWE undeniably offers him a ton of exposure, and the potential to become a star in a number of other fields. We’ve seen WWE superstars like The Rock, John Cena, and Dave Bautista parlay their success in the ring into major Hollywood roles.
This also opens up yet another possibility in the NIL space for Olympic athletes, proving once again that opportunities are not at all limited to sports like football and basketball.
Best wrestler in the world coming to the best wrestling company in the world!!! Love to see it! Gable Steveson is WWE! https://t.co/CDDttbwX8J
— Seth Rollins (@WWERollins) September 9, 2021
Every reason to believe Gable Steveson is going to be huge, huge signing for WWE.
If he’s got any aptitude for pro wrestling at all he’s got star written all over him. https://t.co/QDOVxhcGpL
— Alex McCarthy (@AlexM_talkSPORT) September 4, 2021
Yo, what Gable Steveson just did for the sport of wrestling is ridiculous. He just straight up but the wrestling community on his back by returning. @WWE fans will have no choice but to watch these collegiate wrestling monsters work.
We owe you dawg! Thank you 🙏🏾 https://t.co/XCF9oTucOu
— Nate Jackson ✍🏾 (@natejackson__) September 9, 2021
Bro Gable Steveson signing an NIL with WWE while wrestling for Minnesota is huge for NCAA wrestlers every where. I’m excited for the future of NCAA wrestlers and professional wrestling as a whole!
— Denzel Dejournette (@DesmondTroyWWE) September 9, 2021
Gable Stevenson considered heading in another direction, and taking his skills to the MMA Octagon. UFC wanted him to go through regional fights before giving him the shot to compete for a contract, per ESPN. He says he did not have talks with the company about the path he’d have to take to the UFC.
The 6-foot-1, 265-pound Steveson 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 back flip.
Sources told ESPN’s Marc Raimondi that the UFC wanted Steveson 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. But Steveson said, “We never talked about that, so I have no clue.”
Their loss is the WWE’s gain. One has to imagine Vince McMahon’s team will look to fasttrack him, assuming he proves to be as natural in the world of wrestling entertainment as he is the actual sport.