The journey of WWE's first Chinese recruits
5 reasons Leo Gao might become your favorite WWE recruit
Training to become a WWE or NXT Superstar is never easy, but that almost impossibly tough challenge is made all the more difficult if you’re a stranger in a strange land, unfamiliar with your surroundings and not well-versed in the language.
Such is the scenario that faces some of the WWE Performance Center’s international recruits when they first arrive to Orlando, Fla. Still, the daunting circumstances haven’t stopped Leo Gao — a 5-foot-10, 300-pounder from Inner Mongolia who was one of several Chinese nationals signed by WWE last year — from embracing his new life as a WWE recruit.
In fact, Gao has already started winning over the WWE Universe, even before having his first official match. Here are five reasons you need to keep an eye on the charismatic newcomer.
He makes his own dress code
When WWE Introduced seven new Chinese recruits during an in-ring ceremony in Shanghai last September, the freshly signed athletes opted for formal attire to celebrate the big occasion, wearing suits, polished wingtip shoes and the like.
Not Leo Gao, however. Instead, he gave the WWE Universe an early glimpse into his outsized personality, channeling East-West Connection-era Adrian Adonis with a denim-and-leather combo, work boots and aviator sunglasses. It might not be corporately pleasing, but Gao’s outfit reminded us there’s more than one way to be stylish.
He live-tweeted getting lost in Florida
Nothing captures Gao’s charm better than his Twitter account, @LeoGaoWWE. And, on the afternoon of April 20, his followers stayed glued to their feeds as the grappler documented his struggle to get home after an ill-fated bus-ride dropped him off several cities away from his intended destination. With his phone losing power and his English still a work in progress, Gao nonetheless promised that nothing would stop him from returning home.
Thankfully, the recruit was eventually directed to a train that brought him where he needed to be. On the way, he made new friends, gushed over the aesthetic beauty of America’s railcars and encountered a backpacker whom he hypothesized might “yearn for freedom.”
Today important things,Leo had drive license,Leo was lose way.Leo first time by train，beautiful train!clean,nice.Leo Orlando Crusoe！ pic.twitter.com/7BkaH7Huqn— Leo Gao (@LeoGaoWWE) April 20, 2017
As Superstars like Noam Dar and Wolfgang chimed in (Wolfgang asking for somebody to ring him when Gao got home safe), Gao capped off the adventure with a decidedly optimistic slant, quoting Forrest Gump and noting that life can, indeed, be like a box of chocolates:
Today's everything let me seem to remember a line：Life was like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get. Good luck Leo! pic.twitter.com/4fq43CbUE5— Leo Gao (@LeoGaoWWE) April 21, 2017
He’s a gentle giant, but he can still snap you in half
Leo Gao sure seems like a sweetheart of a man, but that doesn’t mean he’s not dangerous. For all of his sunny tweets and playful demeanor, it’s important to remember what helped get him signed in the first place: The dude’s a top-notch grappler.
A onetime captain of Inner Mongolia University’s wrestling team, Gao has won championships in various traditional forms of wrestling. His 300-pound frame might be huggable, but it’s also plenty capable of steamrolling the competition.
He appreciates “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s brand of hellraising
At a recent WWE Performance Center event, Gao entertained NXT Superstars and his fellow recruits with a lovable interpretation of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s antics.
As The Texas Rattlesnake’s music blared over the loudspeakers, Gao stomped from one corner of the ring to another, climbing the turnbuckles and saluting the onlookers as if he were a certain expletive-dropping, mud-hole-stomping Superstar and the year was 1999. By the time he finished soliciting “Hell yeahs” and clinking together two water bottles like makeshift “Steve-weisers,” there wasn’t a single person in the room who didn’t seem to approve.
He values the opportunity to be part of WWE
Whether it’s thanking WWE for helping arrange his living accommodations, praising the “peace and fanaticism” of the WWE Universe, or cherishing his supporters for giving him strength, Gao certainly seems to appreciate the coveted position he is in, as a member of WWE’s talent development program.
Four days after experiencing his first WrestleMania, Gao tweeted that the event was nice, if fleeting, “like a dream.” He then noted that his path to happiness was “through the gate of the WWE Performance Center” before vowing to work hard. Will Gao's humility lead to greatness inside the ring someday? Who knows, but for now, it sure makes him easy to root for.