The path to a WWE ring is forever changing and the next generation of talent entering the company isn’t necessarily coming from the gridiron or the mats.
Traditionally, the WWE superstar comes from the indie wrestling scene or has some type of collegiate wrestling experience that could catapult them to the pro wrestling ranks. Sometimes, pro wrestling has been so deeply embedded into a family’s history that the only logical move is to make it into the WWE. Other times, a pro football career doesn’t work out but a pro wrestling career does.
Sol Ruca is among the next generation of WWE talent who are changing the traditional mold of how performers get in between the ropes and become the next big thing. While Ruca isn’t about to headline WrestleMania just yet, she is a part of the new wave making inroads in the company.
Ruca, whose real name is Calyx Hampton, was one of the 14 WWE hopefuls who reported to the Performance Center in Orlando, Florida, in March. She was a part of a class that included Bianca Carelli, the daughter of former WWE star Santino Marella, independent superstar Mitchell Lavalley and two former NXT wrestlers in Theresa Schuessler and Kayla Inlay, among others. And unlike her classmates, Ruca didn’t have a football background or prior wrestling experience.
“I babysat these kids who were like huge fans. They would trey and bodyslam each other all the time and they had all the rings, all the action figures. I obviously knew who all the biggest stars were but that was kind of the extent of what I knew,” she explained in a recent interview with Fox News Digital. “As soon as I got the tryout, I liked Google searched a bunch of stuff and I watched some of like the highlight reels from previous tryouts just to know what I was getting myself into.
“And, I actually have a video that my boyfriend has of me where I’m in the kitchen and I learned how to get up like the wrestling way and I like showed him because that’s one of the things you do on the first day is learn how to get up. And I knew how to do the rolls with my gymnastics background. I didn’t have to worry about the rolls so much but those little things that are so big in wrestling, I kind of wanted to at least know what I was getting myself into before showing up.”
Ruca was a champion gymnast for Wildfire Gymnastics in California before she even got to the University of Oregon in 2018. When she joined the Ducks’ acrobatics and tumbling team, she was a part of a squad that earned the synchronized pyramid individual event national championship. In 2019, Oregon was 7-3 and finished runner-up in the NCATA National Championship. She put together two perfect 10s in the compulsory pyramid and compulsory toss in one meet.
The options for gymnasts are very limited after school is over. Not everyone can go off to the Olympics and vie for a gold medal.
Instead, Ruca went to Hawaii and started to build her social media following full-time. She attracted an audience who was interested in her adventures at the gym while she sculpted her physique and kept up with some gymnastics training, all while on the beautiful beaches of Hawaii.
That’s when WWE came calling.
“I got a DM on Instagram from the WWE recruiting page and at first I thought it was not real because I didn’t know how people got into WWE,” Ruca told Fox News Digital. “I wasn’t a super big fan at the time. So, when I saw that, I was like there’s no way. So, I showed my boyfriend and he’s like you have to do this. That’s insane. I looked into it and figured like, if I go to the tryout and don’t make it, it’s one of hell of a story to tell people. I got the opportunity to try out, how crazy is that? If I do make it, then we’ll see what happens.”
Ruca recalled the tryout being “one of the hardest things” she’s ever done. She said putting together a promo for herself was just as tough as learning how to maneuver inside a WWE ring. The Ontario, California, native said she didn’t expect to be chosen but to her surprise she was offered and accepted a WWE contract.
“It was a bit of a struggle at first, definitely a huge learning curve being able to have those moments in the ring and being able to be a character in the ring whereas like sports, you’re supposed to be serious the whole time. If you’re talking and making facial expressions and that type of stuff is a big no-no,” she said. “Learning how to do that and being comfortable with that was like the biggest learning curve.
“But now that I’m here, I’m slowly but surely finding that love for it. I just think that everything that I’ve been through and all the sports that I’ve done, and even social media entertainment aspects, has led me to this. I wish I would’ve been involved in WWE before, at least been a bigger fan. But now that I’m here, I’m like, this is exactly what I should be doing.”
And she’s definitely getting the hang of it.
Ruca went viral earlier this month for one of her finishing maneuvers. Ruca went up against Valentina Feroz on NXT Level Up on Dec. 9 and landed what she called the “Sol Snatcher.”
She was positioned in the corner when Feroz tried to grapple with her. Ruca countered with a boot to the midsection and an elbow to the head and neck area. She then went to the middle rope and flipped forward for a devastating neck breaker.
The move caught the attention of the pro wrestling world, including WWE COO Triple H.
“When I saw that I literally didn’t even know what to do,” Ruca said. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, do I reply to him? Do I quote tweet?’ Like, I was freaking out. It’s like insane. Especially it being on Level Up, which is like the development of NXT. It was crazy. I did not expect it to go viral. I was shocked.”
Ruca is poised to be on the main NXT show in 2023 but she said her dreams aren’t going to stop at Tuesday nights or even headlining pay-per-views. She told Fox News Digital she wants to do more than that.
“I really want to kind of set a bar for the women’s division,” Ruca said. “I kind of want to bring a different style and different level of competitiveness. Same with like Katana Chance. She is so different from everyone else, like her moves is so different. And I think that there needs to be more women out there in the women’s division that can do those sort of moves and stuff like that. And I want to be a part of that.”