Xia Li is SmackDown’s newest Superstar. Along with several other NXT names she was called up to the main roster in the WWE Draft.
Xia Li first came to the attention of the WWE Universe in 2017. Li was a participant in the inaugural Mae Young Classic and wowed audiences with her lightning-fast martial arts skills.
During her time in WWE, Li has performed in both the 2019 and the 2020 Women’s Royal Rumble matches. More recently she reinvented herself as a threatening badass with deadly striking ability. Her new killer attitude saw her rip through the NXT women’s division. Now she gets the opportunity to do so on the big stage and bright lights of Friday Night SmackDown.
Here are five things you didn’t know about Xia Li.
5. Xia Li is a Wushu Champion
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Xi Li is an outstanding martial artist. From a very young age, Li trained in Chinese Kung-Fu, Sanda (Chinese Boxing), Mui Thai and Cross-Fit. In Sheamus’ Warrior Workouts she revealed she became obsessed with fitness, which led her to be a personal trainer for ten years where she ran her own fitness studio.
Li achieved a plethora of accomplishments throughout her martial arts and fitness career. She boasts first-place finishes in the Second World Traditional Chinese Wushu Championship, Nike Challenge Competition and First China Throw Down: Battle on the Bund.
No wonder she impressed Triple H at her WWE tryout!
4. Xia Li wanted to fight in RAW Underground
Last year WWE launched the knockdown drag-out, fight club-inspired RAW Underground. The segments featured wrestlers fighting in an edgy and grungey warehouse on a ropeless ring while Shane McMahon whooped and hollered around the action.
Fighters such Braun Strowman, Erik and Ivar, Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax got to show off their skills. Xia Li’s combat fighting experience and Wushu expertise would have been perfect for the format of the show. Li took to Twitter to express her interest in throwing down on RAW Underground but unfortunately never got the chance.
— Xia Li (@XiaWWE) August 7, 2020
3. Xia Li was trained by Tyler Breeze and Shawn Spears
Xia Li was already an incredibly gifted combat athlete when she signed for WWE, however, wrestling was something alien to her.
In order to improve in the ring and her chances of getting a higher position on the card Li knew she had to go out of her own way to get better, which is exactly what she did. Li’s grind and determination saw her attend Tyler Breeze and Shawn Spears’ Flatback wrestling school.
“Xia Li is a very good success story that we’ve had. She’s been part of NXT for three or four years and kinda went, ‘look, what am I doing? Why am I not on TV and being used?’ She came to me and asked (to be trained) and we were like, ‘Cool, this is what we need to do.’ She did the entire eight-week course, I wrestled a match with her and taped it, showed it to Triple H, and two or three weeks later, she’s getting booked to what she’s doing now and doing vignettes. Xia is fantastic. She’s definitely one of ours.”
After her call up from NXT to SmackDown, Li tweeted both Breeze and AEW’s Spears for all of their encouragement that helped her to get where she is today.
— Xia Li (@XiaWWE) October 5, 2021
2. Xia Li was pulled from an amateur kickboxing tournament by WWE in 2020
Xia Li was set to make her amateur kickboxing debut at Combat Night Orlando on Saturday, October 24 of last year. The SmackDown Superstar was set to face Anna Housel in a 125-pound contest. However, WWE only learned about the fight just days before the event when it was reported online. Upon finding out about Li’s extracurricular activities WWE pulled her from the show.
The news came as a huge blow to Li who had been training for months for the show. Li trained at The Jungle, a mixed martial arts gym run by former UFC fighter Seth Petruzelli. She can often be seen honing her craft and throwing her signature vicious offence on her Instagram account.
WWE removing her from the competition actually led to Li confronting Triple H to express that she was ready for an opportunity, and he appreciated her initiative. Not long after she was seen on NXT TV regularly in the Tian Sha angle that sky rocketed her wrestling career.
— Xia Li (@XiaWWE) September 25, 2019
1. Xia Li risked being disowned by her family to join WWE
The wrestling business is an extremely demanding industry in which those involved must make huge sacrifices in order to achieve their dream and Xia Li is no different.
Speaking on the post-NXT TakeOver: In Your House media call, Triple H spoke about the huge sacrifices Xia Li endured to sign with WWE:
“People underestimate what it takes to be in this business. When we went to China, however many years ago it was and had the tryout, Xia came from a village where she didn’t know what WWE was. She was this incredible athlete involved in Mixed Martial Arts, involved in all kinds of different types of fighting skills, CrossFit, incredibly fit, her personality was huge, even though she barely spoke English.
“She came from a small place where she had never heard of what WWE was and I remember them saying to her, “it’s like Kung Fu Theater.” And her, “Oh, okay.” She came in for the tryout and just watching her over the course of two or three days just fall in love with it. By the end of that week, she was in a place where I think her soul would have been crushed if we didn’t bring her to the States with us.
“When we told her that she was going to come, there was a moment before we told her that…The day before when I was doing an interview over there, and she did the interview and they were telling me about her part of the interview and they asked her, ‘Does your family know you’re here?’ She said, ‘No.’ What would happen if you get this opportunity and are going to have to move to the United States? It was like they would disown her. She said, ‘At this point, now this has become my dream. I would have to tell them that this is my dream and I have to do this.’
“In a place where that is not how it works for women, in a small village where none of that is a direction that she would have been allowed to go in and told no. We gave her the call and she had to go handle all of that with her family and, against everybody’s wishes, sort of follow her dreams and come here to a place where she knew just the other nationals that came with her, and learn the language and learn every aspect of this and she’s been grinding ever since.