I think it’s more than fair to say that Kurt Angle is one of the most decorated athletes in the history of combat sports.
- 1987 Pennsylvania State Amateur Wrestling Champion
- 1987 USA Junior Freestyle Amateur Wrestling Champion
- 1988 USA International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles Junior World Freestyle Amateur Wrestling Champion
- 1990 NCAA Division 1 Amateur Wrestling Champion
- 1992 NCAA Division 1 Amateur Wrestling Champion
- Three-time NCAA Division 1 All-American
- Gold Medalist at the 1995 FILA Amateur Wrestling World Championship
- Gold Medalist at the 1996 Summer Olympics
- 13-time World Champion in pro wrestling, through his time with the WWF, TNA, and New Japan
- One-time WCW United States Champion
- One-time WWF Tag Team Champion
- One-time WWF Intercontinental Champion
- One-time WWF European Champion
- One-time WWF Hardcore Champion
- One-time WWF King Of The Ring Winner
- Two-time TNA World Tag Team Champion
- Two-time TNA King Of The Mountain Winner
- One-time TNA X-Division Champion
- One-time New Japan IWGP Heavyweight Champion
- WWE Hall Of Famer, Class Of 2017
- TNA Hall Of Famer, Class Of 2013
- USA Amateur Wrestling Hall Of Famer, Class Of 2001
- National Amateur Wrestling Hall Of Famer, Class Of 2001
- International Sports Hall Of Famer, Class Of 2016
- George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall Of Famer, Class Of 2012
That’s insane. For decades, he was successful in the world of wrestling, both amateur and professional. He has made a very strong case for being the best wrestler of all-time in both worlds. The man was put on the map when he won his gold medal… with a broken freakin’ neck, by the way… at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. He was a few months short of 28 years old at the time, and would then go on to transition into pro wrestling two years later.
The story of him going pro is pretty famous by now. He attended an ECW event three months after the Olympics, but was immediately turned off by seeing a segment where Raven placed a bloody Sandman on a cross with a barbed wire crown on his head, mimicking the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Vince McMahon and the WWF would then come calling, offering Angle a ten-year contract. That deal fell through when Angle, who wasn’t a fan of pro wrestling, told Vince that he refused to lose any matches. It would take two years for Angle to come around, attending a WWF tryout in 1998 after he started warming up to the pro business once he began watching episodes of Raw. He signed a deal after the tryout, and the rest, as they say, is history.
For years, Vince McMahon has gone back to the amateur wrestling well, with varying success. Brock Lesnar, Shelton Benjamin, Dolph Ziggler, Jack Swagger, Bobby Lashley, and Riddle are just some of the post-Angle names that the company has signed who have had success as amateur wrestlers. These men have been State and/or National Champions in high school and various levels of college athletics. Angle, however, remains the only Olympic gold medalist in WWF/WWE history.
Folks, I present to you… Gable Steveson.
The 21-year-old won Olympic gold last week as a freestyle wrestler in the super heavyweight (125kg) division. It’s the same event Angle won gold in, but Angle wrestled in the heavyweight (100kg) division. Steveson is one of the youngest gold medal winners in the event’s history. At his young age, he is already building up quite the list of accomplishments, as well:
- Four-time High School State Amateur Wrestling Champion
- Two-time Cadet Worlds Amateur Wrestling Champion, Under-17 Division
- 2017 Junior Worlds Amateur Wrestling Champion, 20 & Under Division
- Three-time NCAA Division 1 All-American (he still has two more years of eligibility)
- Two-time Big Ten Conference Amateur Wrestling Champion
- 2021 NCAA Division 1 Amateur Wrestling Champion
- 2021 Dan Hodge Trophy Winner (awarded to the nation’s best collegiate wrestler)
- Gold Medalist at the 2021 Pan American Championships
- Gold Medalist at the 2020 Summer Olympics (event was postponed a year due to COVID, but kept the 2020 name)
Just a wild amount of success, and he hasn’t even graduated college yet. I am jumping the gun a bit, as he isn’t under any sort of professional wrestling contract right now, but it’s a matter of when, not if, with this guy. A lifelong fan of pro wrestling, Steveson has gone on record multiple times saying that he wants to work for WWE. Does that mean AEW or another promotion is out of consideration? Possibly? Maybe not? WWE seems to be the favorite, though, for multiple reasons. For one, Brock Lesnar is his mentor and sometimes training partner, with Steveson attending Lesnar’s alma mater, the University Of Minnesota. Two, Steveson has referred to himself as a “Paul Heyman Guy” on numerous occasions, and Heyman himself has agreed with that. More importantly, though, is the fact that Gable’s older brother, Bobby, is under WWE contract as a Performance Center trainee.
That last point intrigues me a lot. Even though Bobby didn’t match the level of success that Gable has had an an amateur, he was still a solid performer at the University Of Minnesota, winning smaller tournaments. Putting these two badass amateur wrestling brothers together could make for a Steiner Brothers type of vibe. Rick and Scott Steiner were standout amateurs at the University Of Michigan, and would then go on to become one of the greatest tag teams in pro wrestling history. Using their amateur background, the Steiners dominated just about every tag team of their era, throwing people around like sacks of potatoes.
I’m not predicting that the Steveson brothers will form a team, nor am I necessarily saying that’s the direction things should go. All I’m saying is that there are similarities.
It’s very possible that WWE would prefer Gable to be a singles worker. The company did, after all, “debut” him by himself…
They created quite the buzz back in April when they had Steveson introduced to the audience. NXT does something like that a lot, but usually, it’s to announce a new signing to the brand. At Takeover: Stand & Deliver, this was seemingly NXT saying “get used to this man, world.” He has everything needed to become a star. At 6’1″ and 260 pounds, he’s approximately the same size as men like John Cena (6’1″ and 250), Kevin Owens (6’0″ and 266), Brian Cage (6’0″ and 270), Eddie Kingston (6’1″ and 245), and the aforementioned Scott Steiner (6’1″ and 275). Not a giant, but not exactly tiny, either. At that size, though, he has uncanny athletic ability. I mean, obviously, because he’s a world-class wrestler, but this is a man who has a signature victory celebration… a cartwheel into a picture-perfect backflip. Imagine for a moment, if you will, seeing Cena, Owens, Cage, Kingston, or Steiner pulling that off. You’d lose your mind.
Size? Check. Speed? Check. Athletic ability? Check. A top-of-the-line amateur background? Check. Co-signs from Kurt Angle and Paul Heyman? Check. He’s also “built” for the world of pro wrestling, as a charismatic showman who admits that one of his goals is to go out there, each and every time, and entertain the fans. If he picks up on the pro game at even a fraction of the speed that Kurt Angle did, watch the fuck out.
There is one hurdle standing in the way here. As I said, Steveson is a big-time fan of pro wrestling and has mentioned his desire to join WWE on many occasions. However, he was already a rising star before winning Olympic gold, but now, his name is in the stratosphere in the combat sports world. His price is going up, and he knows that. He has said that he is ready to start “fielding offers” from anybody who will offer them, and that includes Dana White and UFC. If you’re Tony Khan, why wouldn’t you reach out and make contact? The same goes for any wrestling or MMA organization, just to check the temperature and see how things go. He’s having the time of his life here.
Gable has said that his next step will be revealed soon. He’s still riding the high of the Olympics, so it’s not a surprise that he isn’t rushing into things. With two more years of collegiate eligibility left, he might feel as though he has a lot left to achieve in school. Staying in school could also signal that he’s aiming to wrestle in the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, France as he looks for back-to-back gold medals. If he aims for the Olympics, he would be 24-years-old when the Paris games are over and done with. That’s still plenty young to get into a different sport.
If he’s going to follow the money, though, that’s where WWE and the UFC come into play. With as much as he’s accomplished already, I wouldn’t fault him one bit if he decided to sign on the bottom line to bring in a significant chunk of change. While I think he could have a tremendous future in MMA with the proper striking and submission training, you’ll have to forgive me if I’m secretly hoping that he goes from amateur wrestling to the pros. He’s a future superstar that is unlike anyone pro wrestling has ever seen, with the type of game-changing potential that Vince McMahon would kill to have under contract. Maybe Vince will have a chance to kick things off soon, as Steveson announced he will be in attendance at SummerSlam. Time will tell.
I’m not saying you have to take my word for it, folks. However, if you’ve been a long-time reader of my columns, you know my track record on this stuff is second-to-none. I’ve been doing this for a long time. When I say that someone is the future, they’re the future, and right here and now, I’m saying that Gable Steveson is the future. It might be as a pro wrestler, or it might be in MMA, but it’ll be somewhere.
Weekly Power Rankings
- Ilja Dragunov vs Pete Dunne: It was, technically, Dragunov’s second non-live event match for NXT (Worlds Collide 2020 against Finn Balor being his first), but it was sure treated like a debut. What a fantastic, UK-style match this was. I’ve seen a lot of complaints about Dunne coming out victorious here, and I do understand where those people are coming from. Dragunov has a huge NXT UK Title match against WALTER coming up at Takeover 36, so he probably should’ve won a match here to look strong. That also means I wouldn’t have had him face Dunne here, because Dunne shouldn’t be taking a loss right now, either. Dragunov’s match should’ve been against someone like Oney Lorcan, who could put on a very good match with him, but can take the loss without any problems. Either way, this was a lot of fun.
- Malakai Black: Black looked an absolute serial killer, and was then booked to be one in his match against Cody Rhodes. It was total domination. Then, we got what appeared to be a retirement tease from Cody, only to have Black lay him out with a crutch. My problem here is that it’s already too similar to what we saw in 2020 with Cody and Brodie Lee. Brodie picked up a surprise squash match victory over Cody, sending Cody off of television for a while to film the Go-Big Show. Fast forward almost a year to the day as the Brodie squash, and you have Malakai Black squashing Cody, sending Cody… off of television to film the Go-Big Show. Last year, Cody was away for almost two months before returning to get his revenge. So, if we see Cody return in October to get his revenge on a seemingly unstoppable Black, everyone should ridicule this something fierce.
- Randy Orton Is Back: Raw was really missing Orton’s level of star power over the last several weeks. He returned and was entertaining in everything he did. His chemistry with Riddle was very strong in the show-opening promo and the backstage segments, and he had himself a good match with AJ Styles in the main event. I don’t think him hitting Riddle with an RKO to close the show was a “turn” for him, like some are thinking. It came across more as Orton telling Riddle to be careful what he was asking for, and telling him that he’s not this nice guy that will be his best friend.
- Ricochet vs Sheamus: Oh, look, another really good Sheamus match. There really might not be a hotter act in all of WWE when it comes to putting on good match after good match after good match, no matter who he’s in the ring with. It was also the continuation of a mini hot streak for Ricochet, too, who has been booked to look strong for the last few weeks, even in losses.
- Sarray vs Dakota Kai: This kinda goes back to what I said about Dragunov vs Dunne. Ideally, with Dakota Kai set to face the monster Raquel Gonzalez for the NXT Women’s Title at Takeover 36, she should be picking up more decisive wins, and not taking almost 15 minutes to defeat an NXT newcomer. At least it was a very entertaining 15 minutes, though, so there’s that.
- John Cena In The Suicide Squad: It really seems as though Cena, like The Rock, simply is playing himself in every movie he’s in. As long as you understand that, you can get a ton of entertainment out of their work. The Suicide Squad was a great movie all around, but Cena really stood out. The goofy comedy, and then a much more serious stretch, worked well.
- Leyla Hirsch: If you’ve been reading my stuff, you’d know I’ve been pushing for Leyla Hirsch to get a push. It appears that she’s finally getting one, even if it’s just a brief one. She defeated The Bunny to earn a shot at the NWA Women’s Title at the NWA’s upcoming all-women’s pay-per-view, EmPowerrr, on August 28th. What a visual in the post-match, with the 4’11” Hirsch, in wrestling boots that aren’t giving her a height boost, toe-to-toe with the NWA Women’s Champion, Kamille, a 5’10” woman who was wearing high heels to make her taller. Toe-to-toe is true, but Hirsch’s head was no higher than Kamille’s chest. It’s not often you see a height difference of a foot-and-a-half in women’s wrestling. We’ll see if Hirsch actually captures the title, but at least it’s a start.
- Bianca Belair vs Zelina Vega: This was definitely Zelina’s best match since making her return to WWE, and one of her best matches, period. It’s just comical that Vega is out there and demanding a title shot, as she was 0-4 since her return, and 0-10 overall since September 2020.
- Elias Getting Rebranded: The gimmick had run its course. I’m glad to see a vignette where Elias throws a guitar into a fire and declaring that Elias is “dead.” He hasn’t really had a chance to show it for a while, but he’s actually a pretty good wrestler. If the rebrand is done right (I know, I know), there’s potential here.
- Matt Hardy’s Sperm: Matt and Reby Hardy became parents on June 23rd, 2015. They had their second child on June 8th, 2017. Their third child was born on December 4th, 2019. They had their fourth child on July 11th, 2021. With a simple “#5” tweet, Reby has now sparked rumors that she’s pregnant again. Do the math… she made the tweet on August 10th, which was 30 days after she gave birth. That would mean these two pretty much went to work the SECOND they were physically able to do so. Reby would go on to say that her tweet was a response to some joke that Matt made at some point, but social media has continued to let the jokes fly nonetheless.
This Week’s Playlist: The latest “Ask Eric Anything” episode of the 83 Weeks With Eric Bischoff podcast… The “Triple H 1995-96” episode of the Grilling JR podcast with Jim Ross… The “Ahmed Johnson” episode of the Something To Wrestle With Bruce Prichard podcast