Gable Steveson’s Debut

Ever since the NCAA started allowing its players — I mean, student athletes — to actually make money on the side, WWE has been calling dibs on amateur talent left and right.

Without a doubt the biggest name to sign with WWE while still in college has been Gable Steveson, who in 2021 became the youngest super-heavyweight wrestler to ever win the Olympic gold medal.

On paper, this was a huge coup for WWE.

(like signing the inspiration behind Disney’s Million Dollar Arm)

WWE’s only other Olympic gold medalist, Kurt Angle, didn’t sign until he was nearly 30.

Gable Steveson was 21.

Kurt Angle didn’t sign until two years after the Atlanta games, his name long out of the news.

Gable Steveson signed a month after winning the gold in Tokyo.

And Kurt Angle had never even watched pro wrestling until shortly before he signed.

(Do you think Kurt knew who the guy on the left even was before joining the WWF?)

Gable Steveson, on the other hand, is a lifelong fan of the genre.

But Gable Steveson is no Kurt Angle, and not just because of his super-heavyweight frame, or the equally massive skeleton in his closet.

Steveson made his much-anticipated debut at NXT’s Great American Bash, a star-spangled affair with red, white, and blue everywhere.

It was the kind of event tailor-made for an American Olympian so the crowd wouldn’t boo the s**t out of him.

Would you care to guess what happened?

The match went off without a hitch for the first fifteen seconds or so.

Then Steveson tripped Corbin, let him lie there, and smiled. That was enough for the crowd to start chanting, “Let’s go Corbin!

For the record, Corbin was the heel in this match. And the match before that. And the match before that one, and so on.

And not a cool heel, either. This was a man who, since debuting on WWE’s main roster, had called himself a Constable, a King, and Happy.

When Raw was at its nadir of creativity and viewership in late 2018, the McMahons came on TV and blamed it all on Baron Corbin.

The point is, no one had ever even considered rooting for Baron Corbin… except on this night, against WWE’s most hyped prospect.

“You hear the NXT Universe in this match-up,” said Vic Joseph, not realizing they were cheering the wrong guy.

The crowd piped down for a while as Gable did a perfectly fine leapfrog and floatover.

But when he went for the ankle lock, the place erupted like Mt. Vesuvius…

…and Gable Steveson was the guy getting buried in the middle of a self-indulgent act.

Outside the ring, Steveson hit a German suplex and posed to little reaction until Baron Corbin backed him into the ring post. In lieu of sympathy, the crowd told Steveson, “You’re not Angle!”.

The announcers, caught up in their analysis (“That’s called a Shucky Ducky Quack Quack moment”), ignored the unflattering chants.

Corbin continued battering Steveson, smacking his head against the ring post. The crowd popped.

Finally, after yet another pro-Corbin chant, the commentators took notice and chalked it up to free speech.

As Steveson punched his way out of the corner, fans booed.

As Corbin lifted him up for a fireman’s carry slam, fans cheered.

As Corbin made the cover, the crowd counted along.

When Steveson kicked out, they booed again. A pattern was beginning to emerge. Instead of lauding Steveson as their next Olympic hero, the crowd was pooping on his parade.

Corbin standing over a downed Steveson?


Steveson hanging him up on the ropes?


Corbin stomping in Steveson’s chest?


As Corbin shoved Gable Steveson’s face like a schoolyard bully…

…the former King earned his third positive chant of the night (and his career).

Fans then booed Steveson’s entire comeback…

…from the punches to the suplexes to the clothesline over the ropes.

A Baron Corbin leap off the announce table popped the fans once more…

…before the referee counted to ten, ending the match in a double countout.

If WWE wasn’t going to have Corbin put over Gable Steveson, why have the match at all? To showcase what Steveson could do? If so, shouldn’t they have made sure Steveson could actually, you know, do things?

Bulls**t!” yelled the crowd, wanting to see Steveson lose outright.

After Steveson took out Baron Corbin in the ensuing scuffle, he posed in the ring as the crowd jeered some more (before they were cross-faded into cheers).

There were any number of reasons why the fans in Austin, TX turned against Gable Steveson. Maybe they tired of seeing Steveson being hyped all over NXT.

Maybe they’d brushed up on the allegations against Steveson

(pictured here drinking a mystery beverage with Matt Riddle)

Or maybe they resented Steveson trying to be Kurt Angle. If so, it’s more than a bit ironic, considering that Angle was booed in his debut after weeks of calling himself a “real athlete”.

The difference was the fan backlash back then was intentional, and Angle then wrestled every night for the next year until he won the WWF title.

Gable Steveson, on the other hand, vanished immediately from NXT television.

After the match, WWE tried to salvage Steveson’s debut with a highlight video on Youtube —

— fully a third of which is Baron Corbin’s entrance, which has never been the highlight of anything.

The remaining “highlights” are simply the only clips where he’s not getting booed too obviously. And even then, a “You’re not Angle” chant slipped in there.

WWE has made a lot of strange decisions regarding Gable Steveson…

…like signing his brother and giving him the same name as a murderer…

…but the choice to book his very first match for a Premium Live Event ranks as the second-worst decision of Gable Steveson’s career.


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