Speaking on the post NXT TakeOver: In Your House media call, Triple H revealed just how far Xia Li was willing to go to succeed in WWE.
Xia Li joined WWE in 2017 competing in the Mae Young Classic where she was defeated by Mercedes Martinez. The deal to bring Li to the United States was put in place after the NXT Superstar impressed during a try-out when WWE visited China in 2016.
Reflecting on the try-out and his first meeting with Li, Triple H explained that at the time, Li didn’t know what WWE was but it quickly became her passion.
“People underestimate what it takes to be in this business,” Triple H began. “When we went to China, however many years ago it was and had the try-out, 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 Theatre.” And her, “Oh, okay.” She came in for the try-out 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.”
As Li impressed during her try-out it became apparent that she would be heading to the United States to chase her new dream. There was only one problem. Her family had no idea she was even at the try-out, let alone that she might actually be successful. Something which could potentially have led to Li’s family disowning her.
“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.”
At TakeOver: In Your House, Xia Li finally got her revenge on Martinez for her defeat back in 2017. Reflecting on the match, Triple H said that it was like coming full circle.
“There’s moments where you give them little bits and pieces. 4 years ago we put her in the Mae Young Classic and wrestled Mercedes (Martinez), and she did spectacular and she cried that night. To see that come full circle to where she is right now and have the moment she had with Tian Sha, the storyline and everything else, which has had little sputter starts here with COVID and injuries and everything else. But just to see that. We say this all the time, but there is moments like that which is why you do this. There’s moments like her tonight — rehearsals today, I felt like she was having trouble with her entrance, knowing where she was going and it felt like she was having a hard time keeping it together. It can swallow you up, but then she delivers and people have no idea what that feels like, and it makes everything so meaningful and so worthwhile.”
Elsewhere Inside The Ropes‘ Lead Writer Gary Cassidy asked Triple H and Shawn Michaels about the Tian Sha storyline which saw the reputedly thousands-of-years-old Mei Ying brutalise Mercedes Martinez after the latter’s encounter with Xia Li, and if there was hesitance to bring a supernatural storyline to such a typically pure wrestling show.
Triple H said he’s a fan of variety– noting the subtlety of “Johnny Wrestling” and how Gargano can flip between being a “serious” wrestler and incredibly entertaining.
H/t to Fightful for the transcription.