Men’s rugby’s Gabriel Wai heads to WWE


Gabriel Wai (left) looks to evade a defender during a home men’s rugby game at Hunter Stadium. Photo provided by Todd Lunow.

Selena Tuilaepa, Reporter

After spending the last two years at Lindenwood University, a student-athlete from the men’s rugby team, Gabriel Wai, has hung up the boots and is training for his debut in the World Wrestling Entertainment industry.

Gabriel Wai, the 6’6”, 260lbs, front/second-rower (rugby positions) has delivered a force through the men’s rugby team clocking in heavy shifts against tactically aggressive opponents in the conference.

Wai contemplated a future with rugby but found more potential and desire in pursuing a career with the WWE.

The WWE is an American integrated entertainment industry that showcases professional wrestling.

When WWE reached out to Wai, he was drawn to the possibilities the industry would bring for his future.

In the last weeks of January, Wai was flown out to Florida for a week-long tryout where he received the third call and was selected in the first round to join the WWE. Similar to that of a first-round NFL draft pick.

His tryout was against top-of-the-line athletes such as former professional football players who have played with Tom Brady and former Colts players. Heading into the tryout, Wai felt out of place but was excited to see his potential play out.

The tryout consisted of an acting performance and a combination of two-heavy in-ring sessions. It was the ultimate test on if the wrestlers would sink or swim. The final day brought forth a one-minute promo against big wrestlers from the WWE, in which Wai was paired with five-time World Champion, Roman Reigns.

“For a little while, acting was my passion—which I think is something not a lot of people know about, “Wai said. “Getting into the WWE brings out old passions with [fortunate] opportunities that can absolutely launch me into the acting world.”

After experiencing the tryout, Wai felt more confident and looks to bring out his “goofy” side into his character. Wai believes being a Community Advisor has helped him get back to being more outgoing and social than he has been recently.

Wai wants to use his platform to influence kids and bring up topics like mental health.

“I would love to tie my character outside of the ring into a mental health awareness/mental health in sports advocate by going around to schools and speaking about those topics and my own experiences,” Wai said. “I want to make sure kids are doing the right things to make sure they are okay by the time they get up to college/college sports.”

Wai looks back on his journey at Lindenwood University and says he will always be thankful for the family that he has created here. Wai thanks the people like Cam Meechan, Setu Vole, Evan Conlan, John “Flex” Stewart, Ava Denner, and others who have backed him from the start.

“They believed in me more than I did in myself,” Wai said. “The countless practices I’ve had to get better, the urge to want to get better, the urge to outwork myself. There’s so much that [my Lindenwood family has done for me to get me to this opportunity and at this point in my life.] It wasn’t ‘oh I went and tried out and it was all me’—100 percent was God, 90 percent was the people around me, and 10 percent myself.”

Wai has made the move back home to prepare for the next chapter with the WWE in which he will then head to the WWE training center in Florida, on Feb. 27. His journey will officially begin on March 11.