Gable Steveson, an Olympic gold medalist freestyle wrestler, is now training on a full-time basis at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida, after an ablation was performed on his heart last month to treat Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome, he told ESPN.
Steveson said the health issue was discovered last year before he traveled to Tokyo for the Olympics, but he didn't undergo the procedure until WWE's medical staff advised him through the process. That included the recommendation of top cardiologists to treat his condition. The process spanned many months, which delayed his full-time start at the Performance Center.
WPW is a rare congenital heart defect, present at birth, in which an extra electrical pathway causes a rapid heartbeat. An ablation is a procedure that uses small burns or freezes to cause scarring on the inside of the heart to help break up the electrical signals and maintain a normal heart rhythm.
Steveson will now ply his craft in hopes of joining WWE's weekly programs "Monday Night Raw" and "Friday Night SmackDown."
"We're just excited to get this journey started, it's been a long road to get to this point," Steveson said. "... I feel that I'm capable of being in that top spot and I feel that I'm capable of handling that position in the right way.
"I'm a competitor, I'm an entertainer," he added. "I can do things that a lot of other big guys can't. I look forward to putting that on display and sooner or later, taking over that top spot and being the guy that people want to see."
The 6-foot-1, 265-pound Steveson held talks with the UFC and contemplated a career in the NFL. He was a hot commodity coming off an Olympic gold medal win last year in the men's freestyle 125-kilogram wrestling class in Tokyo, a last-second victory over Geno Petriashvili that he celebrated with a back flip.
While Steveson pursued a second NCAA championship at the University of Minnesota last winter, WWE set up a remote training facility for him near campus so he could get a head start on training. In Orlando, Steveson said his training will be led by former WWE superstar Fit Finlay.
"Right now, I'm just hammering out wrestling with the other WWE superstars and being able to diversify myself in there with my amateur wrestling and mixing in the pro wrestling, too, is going to be a big thing for me," Steveson said.
"I think right now, a big thing for me is taking in everything and being like a sponge and soaking everything in and just listening, keeping my ears open, keep my eyes open, and at the end of the day, if you do that, you can only go forward."
WWE has a rich history of transforming top freestyle wrestlers into main event superstars. Kurt Angle won a gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and parlayed that success into a long run as both a WWE champion and a headline act. Brock Lesnar, like Steveson, won the national championship at Minnesota, and is currently signed with WWE, where he's featured as one of the biggest stars in the company.
Steveson said he's 100 percent committed to becoming the next big thing in WWE, a lifelong dream that he's now ready to realize.
"We're glad to see that Gable is healthy and training full time at our Performance Center in Orlando," said Paul "Triple H" Levesque, a WWE Hall of Famer who is the company's chief content officer. "WWE takes pride in our best-in-class medical team which guided Gable through this process to ensure that he has a long, healthy career with WWE."