Canadian freestyle wrestler Erica Wiebe won the hearts of Canadians after winning gold at the Olympic Games in Rio this year.
Now, she might have her sights set on a gold belt to go with her medal.
Wiebe has always had adoring fans in Calgary where she trains, but thanks to that worldwide exposure in Brazil, an unexpected opportunity in the sports entertainment world presented itself to her.
She caught the eye of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) recruiters when she reached the top of the podium in heavyweight wrestling in Rio.
They insisted the 27-year-old University of Calgary student visit their headquarters in the United Sates for a two-day camp, where all their next generation WWE athletes train.
“If I were to do it, it would probably be a pretty big learning curve,” Wiebe says.
Ironically, Wiebe has spent her entire life explaining to people that she isn’t a WWE wrestler, but rather a freestyle wrestler. Now, both worlds have an opportunity to learn from each other.
“I think bringing freestyle wrestling, which is what I love, into the context of the WWE… it’s going to inject legitimacy into their organization,” she says. “It’s entertainment, it’s like this cultural phenomenon and it’s so interesting how people are so hooked on the WWE.”
The Stittsville, Ontario native hopes to change the game for women trying to jump over the ropes in the pro ring.
“It’s interesting about the way they portray women, about the way that they portray violence, and I think that there’s a lot of discussions there that we can have,” Wiebe says.
It some ways, Wiebe could lay down her own style of smackdown.
“What I identify as is a strong female athlete. I think it would be interesting to see how that fits into the WWE and how I can control the narrative around my body and who I am,” Wiebe says. “Calgary has such a strong wrestling connection, or pro wrestling connection with the Hart family (Bret “The Hitman” Hart). It’s interesting that I’ve simultaneously been following in their footsteps.”
Wrestling fans have seen how pro wrestling can be one of the most powerful platforms in the world.
Former CFL player and Calgary Stampeder Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s first match in the WWE changed his life, in one night. He’s now been named the highest-paid actor in Hollywood, has 71.9 million followers on Instagram and has appeared in dozens of blockbuster films and hit TV shows.
“I think The Rock has really shown that he can transcend what his experience is in wrestling and entertainment and this is such a strong cultural phenomenon, that I think there’s a lot of opportunity there,” Wiebe says. “As a Canadian athlete, we earn about $1,500 a month from the Canadian government to do what we do. I didn’t get into wrestling to earn a lot of money, it’s my passion and I’ve been extremely lucky and fortunate over the last couple of years to be more supported.”
Wiebe is now off to compete in India’s professional wrestling league next week. She will be wrestling in front of hundreds of thousands of people if she gets drafted.