New SmackDown Superstar Xia Li is willing to embrace the weight of expectations that come with being the first-ever Chinese woman to compete inside a WWE ring.
In a recent interview with Character Media, Li said she is proud to represent her country, and hopes to inspire other Chinese women to follow in her footsteps.
“I know more girls, more women have [these dreams],” Li said. “I want to prove myself and make my dreams come true. And second of all, there’s my family, my people from my country. They are supporting me and I want to do it [well]. I’m representing my country. Also, I want to show the world who I am, where I’m from.”
Earlier this month, Li made her SmackDown debut, saving Naomi from a beatdown at the hands of Natalya, Shayna Baszler and Sonya Deville. Li revealed that her “Defender of the vulnerable” and “Destroyer of oppressors” monikers are not just part of a WWE gimmick, and that she created “The Protector” character as a 4-year-old child in China.
“I had some issues when I was a child, so I want to protect myself and I want to protect my family,” Li said. “My dad died when I was 4 years old, and I have two sisters and one brother. My father’s job was to protect my family. When I feel I have power, I need to help people around me or just do what I can do, do my best to help people. There’s the culture of martial arts—when you have power, you should use your power to protect people, to do good things.
“Actually, I had a dream when I was a child. I wanted to be a superhero. When I started martial arts, [I thought,] ‘Oh, I can do this to protect myself and my family.’ So then I kept doing martial arts and competing, and I had a gold medal, a silver medal. I was competing a lot, so that gave me a lot of power [and made me] feel safe.”
Li joined WWE in 2017 after impressing talent scouts at a tryout in Shanghai. Growing up as a huge fan of The Rock, she never truly expected to fullfil her dream of becoming a WWE Superstar.
“I was a fan [of WWE] when I was a child, because my role model is The Rock,” Li revealed. “I really love him, so that’s how I know about WWE. But I never thought I was going to be part of that. [laughs] One day I got the news that WWE was coming to China and having try-outs. I thought, ‘I know I don’t have that experience, but I want to try.’ So, I had a four-day try-out in China, and I’m the one who got hired! I moved to America and the WWE Performance Center to train, practice and be part of the WWE family.”
Xia Li competed in the first two Mae Young Classic tourneys before joining NXT, where she would become a part of the Tian Sha stable. She was drafted to SmackDown as part of the 2021 WWE Draft in October.
Have a news tip or correction? Send it to [email protected]