By Erin Chew, AsAmNews Staff Writer
Her stage name is Xia Li – The Protector, and she made her debut in the WWE Smackdown ring Friday night in Los Angeles with her imposing and badass presence. Originally from Chongqing, China, Zhao Xia (aka Xia Li ) came onto the stage dressed in green with her costume reminiscent of the character Chun – Li from the Street Fighter arcade game.
Her entrance interrupted an ongoing WWE feud between characters Sonya Deville and Naomi. After acknowledging Naomi, she started to rumble with Deville and other female characters in defense of Naomi. The fight ended with Li and Naomi bowing towards each other as a mark of respect. In all honesty, it was absolutely riveting, and Li showed off her skills, living up to all expectations of a WWE badass female character.
Li’s journey to becoming a WWE entertainer (they don’t call themselves wrestlers, but prefer entertainers) happened in 2016 when she was working a WWE tryout in Shanghai. In 2017, WWE signed her on and she made her debut in the 2017 Mae Young Classic, becoming the first Chinese woman to compete in a WWE ring. In a recent interview with AsAmNews conducted in Mandarin, Li spoke about the pressure that comes with having the label of the first.
"Actually, there is a lot of pressure being known as the first Chinese woman to represent WWE. It is like all of China and WWE fans have their eyes on me. I hope that I have and will in the future represent my country well and live up to everyone’s expectations," she said.
Her character name Xia Li- The Protector was not a random choice but something she meant to be a tribute to her father. Li expressed that she chose her character to be The Protector because that is what she aspires to be for her family, friends, and everyone who supports her.
"I am a “protector” because that is what I have always wanted to do, and I hope people can see me this way. My father protected me and my family growing up and I plan to return this protection not just for my family, but also for myself, my friends, and those who support me unconditionally," said Li.
Despite being entertainers, to keep up with the WWE requirements and the fans means that keeping up fitness and stamina is a must. Li spoke about the strict and rigorous training she goes through to maintain the expectations of her character.
"I have to do a lot of training to keep up, and if I want to be even better, that means I need to keep up my training. In the past, before I became a WWE entertainer, my training wasn’t as strict.
"Now I have a training plan which includes martial arts, kickboxing, CrossFit, etc. It is important that I maintain how I look, keep up my fitness and health levels, and have enough stamina to do well in WWE," she said.
Being part of WWE wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision, but it was one that was cultivated when Li was young. She talks about her journey from being a Wushu expert, a bodybuilder, and finally a WWE entertainer and how it was Dwayne Johnson – The Rock, who inspired her to achieve her passion for a WWE career. Li remembers growing up and seeing The Rock perform in the ring. It allowed her to fully understand her calling and was what helped develop her future goals and dreams.
"I really want to leave my mark for young Chinese boys, girls, men and women. I want them to believe in themselves in the hope that one day, like me they will achieve their goals and dreams," said Li.
Li will be participating in more WWE events next year and beyond, so keep an eye out for her.
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