WWE releases Gable Steveson, closing a chapter for former Gophers sensation

Gable Steveson, the Olympic wrestling champion and two-time NCAA titlist for the Gophers, has been released from his World Wrestling Entertainment contract, several pro wrestling-focused websites reported Saturday.

Steveson, a former Apple Valley High School star, won the men's heavyweight freestyle gold medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021 and signed with WWE shortly after. While training with WWE, he returned to the Gophers and won the second of his back-to-back NCAA heavyweight championships in 2022, then retired from amateur wrestling.

Steveson continued to train with WWE in Florida and made his pro debut in July 2023. Still, he flirted with returning to the Gophers for his final season of eligibility in 2023, then got back on the mat by winning a berth in the world championships. He withdrew 10 days before that tournament last September.

When he's in Minnesota, Steveson often trains with the Gophers wrestling team. He could not be reached for comment Saturday.

Steveson, one of 11 cuts made by WWE, never became popular with pro wrestling fans. He had only one televised match since signing with the organization.

Wade Keller, who runs the Pro Wrestling Torch website, said Steveson didn't develop the personality traits needed to make a mark in pro wrestling.

"There were just some intangibles he didn't have in terms of charisma and ring timing and emoting in a way that's necessary to pull fans emotionally to the stories that athletes tell in the ring during matches," Keller said. "I'm sure the WWE didn't make the decision lightly given how much they did invest in him."

What's next for Steveson? He still has a year of collegiate eligibility remaining, so that's one option. As for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, Steveson did not enter the U.S. Olympic trials, which were held in April. Mason Parris won the trials at 125 kilograms and is set to represent the United States in Paris.

Despite not participating often in amateur wrestling since 2022, Steveson, 23, still might be the best freestyle heavyweight in the world. At the Final X tournament in 2023, he swept Parris 6-2 and 5-0 for a spot on the U.S. world championship team. After Steveson withdrew, Parris went on to win the bronze medal.

While Steveson might not have supplied the drama that WWE wanted, he certainly showed a flair for the dramatic in amateur wrestling. He won his Olympic gold medal in 2021 in thrilling fashion. Trailing three-time world champion Geno Petriashvili of Georgia 8-5, Steveson scored two takedowns in the final 10 seconds for the win. He secured the decisive takedown with 0.2 seconds left, setting off a wild celebration in Minnesota and Japan.