After watching some fun matches to start off the show, Shawn Michaels, Booker T, and the rest of the WWE creative department watched with bated breath to see how Gable Steveson would fare in his first-ever professional wrestling match.
Would the new-aged “Olympic Hero” find immediate success, getting the crowd behind him in a bout tailor-made for success against experienced-yet-reviled career heel Baron Corbin? Or would he instead flounder under the bright lights of The Great American Bash in Austin, Texas, looking green around the gills in a match designed to make him look good? Well, as it turns out, the match went over like gangbusters, with Steveson looking like a star, Corbin crying from all of the Suplexes he received, and the fans carrying the Minnesota standout out of the arena through the crowd like a true Olympic hero.
… just kidding, Steveson got booed for the entirety of the match, leaving Corbin as the most unlikely of all babyfaces, before the match ended in a double-count-out. No one went home happy, at least from that match, and even the most staunch Steveson fans had to wonder if maybe, just maybe, this wasn't going to work out.
Discussing what he saw from his spot-on commentary on his Hall of Fame podcast, Booker T noted that, after watching The Great American Bash, he's “on the fence” about Steveson's future in WWE and professional wrestling.
“They booed that boy out of the building,” Booker T said via Fightful. “Baron was a big babyface. I’m on the fence with this kid, Gable Steveson. I’m not bought in. If I was jury, the verdict would still be out. The kid, he’s got one foot in, he’s got one foot out. These fans, they are rabid. They want to know if you’re here to stay, man. They ain’t looking for no part-timers. We ain’t looking for guys that just want to hang around and look good. No, you gotta get in there and show me something, son. You know what, you better do it quick.”
So why didn't Steveson connect with the audience? Like Booker's co-host Brad Gilmore said, Steveson is an NCAA Champion, an Olympic Gold Medalist, and a charismatic talker, even if he's still a bit quiet in his delivery. In the opinion of “King” Book, it might be because, unlike Kurt Angle, who jumped right into professional wrestling when his amateur run came to an end, there is still plenty for the 23-year-old to accomplish in the ring.
“Well, he ain’t no Kurt Angle [laughs],” Booker T said. “Kurt Angle came in, and he was willing to really fall in and dive into learning this business. Not that Gable Steveson isn’t, but I really think Gable Steveson has some unfinished business still left in the amateurs, I think he got unfinished business in the Olympics. That right there, that’s a legacy in itself. For him to be a two-time Olympic gold medalist, come on. That’s the Wheaties box. He’s never got to do nothing ever again in his life. So I understand.”
Have professional wrestlers recovered from horrible first matches? In a word, yes; Dominik Mysterio's first match wasn't exactly great against Seth Rollins when they linked up at SummerSlam 2020 in a street fight, and yet, now he's one of the hottest young performers in the entire WWE Universe. Still, for Steveson to get there, he desperately needs to pick up reps, which might be easier said than done if he's nothing more than a glorified part-timer.
oh man the NXT Great American Bash 2023 crowd were not buying Gable Steveson pic.twitter.com/oSjzzPIpV3
— forever botchamania (@Maffewgregg) July 31, 2023
Booker T talks the difference between calling matches on NXT vs. the main roster.
Elsewhere on his podcast, Booker decided to discuss the difference between calling matches on the main roster versus NXT, where he currently works alongside Vic Joseph. While Booker is happy to be on the mic wherever afforded the opportunity, he called the main roster a bit too “politically correct” in that he couldn't rip off his now infamous “Booker-isms.”
“I think that’s the difference. When I was on RAW, when I was on SmackDown, everything had to be politically correct.” Booker T said via Fightful. “Of course I had something [or someone] in my ear. [laughs] Sometimes you couldn’t be yourself and I find myself at NXT being like I am here at Reality Of Wrestling, throwing my clipboard, but then I’m having fun at the same time. With NXT, I can go out there and be serious, but then I can talk about how to [become] hotter than Scotty, shucky ducky quack quack. It’s just all about having balance and trying to think about one thing first and foremost, and that’s the young guys, the talent, trying to put a spotlight on those guys and hopefully give them the rub.”
What is Booker T without “shucky ducky quack quack” and “champagne wishes and caviar dreams?” Fortunately, NXT fans won't have to find out any time soon, as it would appear the Booker-Joseph booth isn't going anywhere any time soon.